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The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design Paperback – September 17, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Richard Dawkins is not a shy man. Edward Larson's research shows that most scientists today are not formally religious, but Dawkins is an in-your-face atheist in the witty British style:

I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence.

The title of this 1986 work, Dawkins's second book, refers to the Rev. William Paley's 1802 work, Natural Theology, which argued that just as finding a watch would lead you to conclude that a watchmaker must exist, the complexity of living organisms proves that a Creator exists. Not so, says Dawkins: "All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way... it is the blind watchmaker."

Dawkins is a hard-core scientist: he doesn't just tell you what is so, he shows you how to find out for yourself. For this book, he wrote Biomorph, one of the first artificial life programs. You can check Dawkins's results on your own Mac or PC.

From Publishers Weekly

Oxford zoologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype trumpets his thesis in his subtitlealmost guarantee enough that his book will stir controversy. Simply put, he has responded head-on to the argument-by-design most notably made by the 18th century theologian William Paley that the universe, like a watch in its complexity, needed, in effect, a watchmaker to design it. Hewing to Darwin's fundamental (his opponents might say fundamentalist) message, Dawkins sums up: "The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the evolution of organized complexity." Avoiding an arrogant tone despite his up-front convictions, he takes pains to explain carefully, from various sides, why even such esteemed scientists as Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, with their "punctuated equilibrium" thesis, are actually gradualists like Darwin himself in their evolutionary views. Dawkins is difficult reading as he describes his computer models of evolutionary possibilities. But, as he draws on his zoological background, emphasizing recent genetic techniques, he can be as engrossing as he is cogent and convincing. His concept of "taming chance" by breaking down the "very improbable into less improbable small components" is daring neo-Darwinism. Line drawings.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393315703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393315707
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (438 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,994 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and is now the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995. Among his previous books are The Ancestor's Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil's Chaplain. Dawkins lives in Oxford with his wife, the actress and artist Lalla Ward.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

888 of 996 people found the following review helpful By "musosteve" on July 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's pretty obvious that a fair few people criticising this book have not read it - and have no intention to. Or if they have attempted to read it they simply haven't grasped the most basic concepts. General assumptions that a pro-evolution stance is just an "opinion", or that evolution is "just a theory" (a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of the word in a scientific context), or statements like "given enough time, dirt can turn into people." show that clearly. One person even takes one of the central aims of the book - where Dawkins takes Paley's watchmaker analogy and attempts to show how a complex object like an eye could evolve by selection - and berates Dawkins because because he apparently doesn't grasp the fact that because a watch or computer has a designer, that life must have a designer as well! Awe-inspiring. If I remember he also accuses Dawkins of circular reasoning!
The whole case of the book is that this "it's all chance" thing is precisely the opposite of what Darwin and Wallace said. As Dawkins writes in the prologue "The trouble with evolution is that everyone *thinks* they understand it". If one thing should be taken from this book, it is the realisation that Natural Selection is *anything* but chance.
I used to think I understood evolution. I did Biology as an elective at university but I didn't really begin to understand the subtleties and elegance of the theory until I first read this book 10 years ago. It's genuinely one of the milestone books of my life - and not because I already had an opinion before I read it - unlike the creationists.
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206 of 229 people found the following review helpful By R. Aamer on April 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Dawkins has said that if you are going to read only one of his books, make it "The Extended Phenotype". That statement has merit but I would say the following. If you are going to read only one book to see how theory of evolution responds to the creationist arguments, make it "The Blind Watchmaker".

The argument Dawkins is dealing with is the well-known argument of Intelligent Design. The basic tenet of the proponents of intelligent design is the assertion that the complexity existing in the nature can not come about without an intelligent designer. Dawkins is primarily dealing with that assertion in this book, explaining how the process of natural selection gives rise to the complexity.

"The Blind Watchmaker", in my personal opinion, is one of the most successful books written by evolutionists. The success of the book lies in the fact that it deals with a very difficult question in a very readable manner. Dawkins prose is flawless and his skill at presenting arguments is unmatched.

Most of the book, obviously, deals with the creationist argument of design but towards the end of the book, Dawkins moves his focus to the other theories that can be considered rival theories of the theory of evolution like neutral Lamarckism, mutationism etc.

My only complaint about this otherwise marvelous book is its rather limited index. That may not sound like a genuine complaint but once you have read the book, you will realize that Dawkins has dealt with a plethora of things and the index of such a book should enable you to look up those things for quick reference.

Beside that one shortcoming, this book is nothing but perfect.
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839 of 963 people found the following review helpful By Royal Tenenbaum on September 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hi, for the un-informed, I'd recommend a search of the phrase "Richard Dawkins" in google.com, which should answer all questions asking if he is a scientist or not.
The book, is an excellent book. I am not an atheist. The reviews with "one" starts have one goal: To prevent you read this book. Because the review writers know - and fear - that people would understand the point of view of Dawkins.
"It is not science". "Evolution Theory is wrong".. These sentences, are nothing but dogmatic claims. Whole books have been written discussing what is science and what is not, and rather comprehensive books have been written to disprove evolution. But as an open-minded person, I'd suggest you to be informed abouth both approaches to the subject, before making an ill-informed judgement about the issue. Don't listen to people who try to prevent you from reaching knowledge.
The book?
Oh, yes... It is excellent, I'm still amazed by his ability to deconstruct complex topics and discuss them in a simple way.
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108 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brooke on December 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
The reviewer on 25 December 2004 is being deeply disingenuous, if not downright dishonest, as anyone who's read even the first few chapters of Dawkins' book will know that he devotes a great deal of time to answering every single one of these points, and backing up his detailed arguments with considerable evidence. For instance, he devotes the better part of an entire chapter to the question of the evolution of the eye, citing numerous examples of still-extant species who rely on far more primitive (i.e. less 'evolved') light-sensitive devices to back up his assertions.

Rather more pertinently, one of the first things that Dawkins discusses - again, in considerable depth - is this whole question of chance and probability, specifically the fact that evolution is categorically NOT a product of random occurrences and statistically unfeasible coincidences. And the reason why he devotes so much space to this is because he knows that people who fail to grasp this point won't be able to understand Darwin's theories at all.

So there are three possible explanations for our anonymous friend to have written the review that he did. The first is offensive: he has read the book, but he's too stupid to understand or even remember its main points. The second is sinister: he has read the book, but wishes to dissuade others from reading it because the arguments are dangerously persuasive, so he makes it sound as though Dawkins ignores these issues when the exact opposite is true. The third is the easiest to grasp, and therefore probably correct: he hasn't read the book at all.

Read it yourself, and draw your own conclusions.
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