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on April 15, 2008
Dawkins' frequently claims that there is a much richer contemplative nature to a scientific view of the universe than in a view dominated by a "notion of a 'supreme being'." This anthology delivers the punch to this claim and does so with an amazing spectrum of ideas. If science were the basis of theology, this anthology contains the kind of writing one might read. This is not a collection about science theory, it is a collection of scientific ideas and dreams. It is prose for any lover of science, by some of the most eloquent and ardent scientists of our times (sans any topical contributions by Dawkins himself, by his own omission, though he nicely introduces each of the authors in the anthology and explains some of the reasons why they were chosen). Spanning many disciplines within the scientific community, not merely Dawkins' own field of biology, this anthology explores the many implications that make suffering through learning scientific fundamentals so very worthwhile. While I thoroughly loved reading this book as a middle-aged science buff, I would think this volume would be an equally great read for the scientifically minded college-bound-high-school student who has yet to decide which scientific discipline they may wish to specialize within. It is a collection that specializes in those blow-your-hair-back kind of answers we often got in science class, when frustrated with learning the basics, and dared to ask the professor, "why do I need to learn this stuff anyway?" It is precisely the kind of anthology one would imagine coming from a professorship that focuses on the *public understanding* of science. It is a fully accessible volume that demonstrates just how elegant and numinous the thoughts of strictly material and humanistic minded people are without abandoning the scientific discipline itself.
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on June 12, 2008
In the simple and friendly little book entitled Richard Dawkins, How a scientist changed the way we think [Oxford University Press 2006], edited by Alan Grafen and Mark Ridley, scientists and writers heaped praise upon a brilliant and illustrious fellow scientist and writer. In The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing [Oxford University Press 2008] by Richard Dawkins, we encounter the inverse process. The Oxford guru of ungodly genetics offers us a personally-chosen digest of 83 literary variations -- one might say prose poems -- on scientific themes. And each extract is prefaced by a brilliantly terse introduction by the Master of Ceremonies, who invites us to look over his shoulder -- over his reading glasses, one might say -- to take voluptuous literary and didactic pleasure in the modern Word (logos) of Science. Dawkins is never nicer than when he talks of others: of other scientists and writers, of other bright survival machines with a zoological quill in their hands. He is a Renaissance scholar inviting us to a celebration of his scientific and artistic brethren. Dawkins and Oxford (its university, its press) are lights in the murky metaphysics of the modern world.
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on June 12, 2008
Without wishing to detract from the value of Dawkins' more polemical writings on atheism, it's good for a change to see this contribution to the understanding of science. The field is so vast that for the informed but non-academic reader (or even for the specialist in a limited science field) this compendium, with its instructive and insightful introductory comments is a real boon. Highly readable and "dippable" and thoroughly recommended.
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on July 2, 2008
As one who is convinced that Spinoza's monism provides the philosophical basis for all the sciences, reading The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing and seeing Spinoza's view (that God and Nature are one and the same thing, under the dual aspects of thought and matter) confirmed over and over again was enthralling.

While reading it I repeatedly inserted markers into articles that I wished to re-read. In fact, I shall probably read the whole book again and refer to it repeatedly. What particularly fascinated me was the revelation that a quantum of energy appears to us under two aspects: as a wave or as a particle, but never both at the same time. This discovery accords perfectly with Spinoza's dual aspect theory.

My selection of five-star articles is as follows: `Life Itself', by Francis Crick; `One Self: a Meditation on the Unity of Consciousness' by Nicholas Humphrey; `The Language Instinct', by Steven Pinker; `Avoid Boring People' by James Watson; `Consciousness Explained' by Daniel Dennett; `The Fantastic Combinations of John Conway's new solitaire game "Life"' by Martin Gardner; `Computing Machinery and Intelligence' by Alan Turing; `The Goldilocks Enigma' by Paul Davies; `The Elegant Universe' by Bryan Green, and `Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid' by Douglas Hofstadter.

Having been brought up in an evangelical environment, and having had a taste of Roman Catholicism as well, I can only say that there is no contest between the brilliance, lucidity, humility and open-mindedness of the scientists quoted in this anthology and the tendentious, hubristic, convoluted, ill-founded speculations of theologians - few of whom will have the courage to read this book.

The introductions by Richard Dawkins are excellent. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Basic Flying Instruction: A Comprehensive Introduction to Western Philosophy

A Good Boy Tomorrow: Memoirs of A Fundamentalist Upbringing

Iota: God as Nature, Nature as God
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on January 18, 2009
Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene, The Ancestor's Tale, and The God Delusion, needs no introduction having established himself as a reputable voice when discussing science in its many forms. His latest effort is The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing, in a hefty tome, where Dawkins attempts to present a concise view of science to the world in many short passages from many different scientists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries that tessellate together to form a beautiful volume of writing.

The book is divided into four parts, as Dawkins organizes the vast wealth of science writing available not in chronological order, but groups the extracts into the following categories: "What Scientists Study," "Who Scientists Are," "What Scientists Think," "What Scientists Delight in." Organizing it this ways serves to make the book more entertaining in the variety of subjects that are presented when the book is read from cover to cover. Should the reader want to use the book more as a reference tool or to look up some specific authors or terms, there is a thorough index at the end of the book. With each extract, Dawkins offers up his own commentary and reason for choosing the specific piece.

All the great scientists make an appearance here: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Francis Crick, Brian Greene, Jared Diamond, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Primo Levi, the list goes on and on. But this list is not reserved for the greats of science, but many of the women and men who have worked hard in their lives to further the knowledge of science in areas such as genetics, evolution, string theory, relativity, and mathematics. The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing is a weighty, comprehensive book with almost everything science has had to offer in the last hundred years or so, and while it may not be for the science novice, the ideas, theories, and hypotheses expressed in this book have reshaped science, and offered up hope and ideals for future answers and theories that will continue to change the world as we know it.

Find more reviews, as well as a selection of my writing, and a link to the book review podcast BookBanter at[..]
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on August 28, 2008
This book is a must read for every science lover. Moreover for every person who is truly interested about the wonders, mysteries and surprises of science. A book of intellectual honesty that should belong to any private or public library.
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on December 18, 2010
This is an anthology of writings excerpted from books on biology, math and physics. The excerpts were selected because Richard Dawkins found the writing compelling for one reason or another. However, in some cases he selected passages from conclusions and without having read the books, these were meaningless. If you do not have sufficient background in some or all of the areas discussed then I strongly recommend not reading this book. However, for the area that I was most familiar with (biology/evolution), the excerpts were interesting and I added four books to my wish list. To quote Dawkins, "one measure of this anthology's success will emerge later if it entices readers to seek out the original books..." and therefore this anthology was successful.
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on December 30, 2011
If you want to know how scientists think and want to explore broadly many of the things that science has discovered, this is the book. Richard Dawkins, author of two of my favorite books, The Ancestor's Tale and The God Delusion, has compiled numerous essays by science writers intended for the public. And boy, what a valuable resource this is, unless you are inclined to spend alot of time at the public library or spend your time looking for books that may or may not be out of print.

There are a couple of themes you get out of this compilation. One is that science is really a way of thinking rather than a compilation of mere facts. The other is that science is incredibly interesting, full of dynamic disciplines that are constantly adding to our knowledge and dispelling myths along the way. By tapping into the knowledge and sometimes downright enthusiasm of other authors, Dawkins seeks to help the general public have a broad understanding and appreciation for science.

Dawkins provides an introduction to each essay in order to provide some context to what is being discussed. As a non-scientist, I found these introductions very helpful. Admittedly, not all writings are not created equal. However, the vast majority of the writings in this book are accessible to the non-scientist if they are atleast modestly educated. And I know of no other source where you can get such a wide diversity of writings in on book. I highly recommend this book.
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on July 9, 2008
Folks often wonder where the scientists draw the energy to spend all those hours studying descriptive models and terminology about the natural world. The answer is in this book!

These essays break down notions of busy work behind science and let you get a flavor for the spirit and curiosity behind all of it. Unadulterated curiosity is key to learning science, so its a great start for undergraduates struggling to understand their field of science.
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on September 1, 2015
What a fine compilation of texts from witty scientists; a bunch of smart people sharing thrilling breakthroughs and the means they used to do so. This may stretch your view of nature widely together with a boost on your itching curiosity. Not to mention that my reading list was generously updated.
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