RICHARD DAWKINS is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford and was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008. He is the author of 15 books includingUnweaving the Rainbow, A Devil's Chaplain, and The God Delusion.Dawkins lives in Oxford.,
Oxford don Dawkins is familiar to readers with any interest in evolution. While the late Stephen Jay Gould was alive, he and Dawkins were friendly antagonists on the question of whether evolution "progresses" (Gould: No, Dawkins: Yes, depending on your definition of "progress"). Dawkins's The Selfish Gene has been very influential, not least for his introduction of the "meme," sort of a Lamarckian culturally inherited trait. In this, his first collection of essays, Dawkins muses on a wide spectrum of topics: why the jury system isn't the best way to determine innocence or guilt; the vindication of Darwinism (or what he insists is properly called neo-Darwinism) in the past quarter-century; the fallacy in thinking that individual genes, for instance a "gay gene," can be directly linked to personality traits; what he sees as the dangers of giving opponents the benefit of the doubt just because they wrap their arguments in religious belief; several sympathetic pieces on Gould; and a final section on why we all can be said to be "out of Africa." Fans of Dawkins's earlier books should snap up this collection. Readers new to him may find that the short format (many of these essays were originally forewords to books, book reviews or magazine pieces) doesn't quite do his reputation justice. Dawkins will antagonize some readers by his attacks on religion: his tone in these essays may fall just short of intellectual arrogance, but he certainly exhibits an intellectual impatience not always beneficial to his argument. Still, Dawkins's enthusiasm for the diversity of life on this planet should prove contagious. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A major Darwinian apologist, Dawkins put forth the idea that genes play a role in natural selection and dismissed so-called intelligent design theories of creation. This collection of disparate writings and essays, first published in scholarly monographs, newspapers such as the Guardian, and the electronic edition of Forbes, reinforces his position. In some selections, he eloquently pits scientific endeavors such as genetic engineering against what he sees as muddled and uninformed critics. In others, he ridicules pseudoscience as exemplified by "crystals" and misuse of scientific terminology in the social sciences. In "Darwinism Triumphant," Dawkins promotes his view that Darwin's theories have a universality-the question of how life evolved on earth-unmatched by thinkers such as Marx or Freud. His criticism of religion ("a dangerous collective delusion") reaches a crescendo of invective in his response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. A highlight is "Son of Moore's Law," which makes a striking analogy between increasingly inexpensive computing power and increasingly inexpensive genetic sequencing. At its best, the book reflects both the author's delight in science and the range and extendibility of his knowledge. It will complement any popular science collection in a public or academic science library and delivers an illuminating portrait of an extremely challenging and multifaceted contemporary scientist. (Many of these essays are also available on the unofficial Dawkins web site, www.world-of-dawkins.com.)-Garrett Eastman, Rowland Inst., Harvard Univ. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
[A] pleasure-inducing voyage into scientific principles . . . brilliantly presented and celebrated. Kirkus Reviews, Starred
Dawkins's enthusiasm for the diversity of life on this planet should prove contagious. Publishers Weekly His discussions of religious issues are intensely thought-provoking....Dawkins is creative, articulate and, above all, emotional. --Christine Kenneally The New York Times Book Review