908 of 1,019 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2000
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.
To paraphrase Dawkins in this book: If I don't understand Quantum Mechanics or Relativity the last thing I should reasonably expect to be able to do is get away with criticising it as though my opinion had as much weight as that of a person who spent a professional lifetime studying it. Yet, alone amongst the sciences, the theory of evolution is considered fair game for criticism by people of any level of ignorance.
In the middle ages at least people had an excuse for such ignorance. In this age of high technology and scientific breakthoughs, the ingrained, bigoted and ill-thought out repostes to evolution can only be described as willful ignorance. And that's the worst kind.
212 of 235 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2005
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.
847 of 971 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2001
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.
Oh, yes... It is excellent, I'm still amazed by his ability to deconstruct complex topics and discuss them in a simple way.
115 of 129 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2004
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.
64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2005
Few books have such a concentration of insights per chapter.
I was glued to "the blind watchmaker" from almost the beginning. Bats sonar-recognition system, genetic algorithms, there are captivating stuff almost at every page. :-)
Richard Dawkins seems to be able to write about just any subject both an interesting *and* simple&clear way; even about the more complex ones.
Now, when I came here, I wondered why this book is rated only 3,5/5. But it's pretty clear. It angers/afraids some deeply religious people, because the author outlines (quite a persuasive way as far i am concerned) why lots of wonders of this world can be explained without a God. Some would like to banish it, like Galileo's (and many other's) works, but the world has changed!
That's why there are so much 1-star reviews.
(By the way I think amazon shouldn't count reviews from account which have reviewed only one article. It would limit fake, and multiple rewiews from one person.)
I warmly recommend this book. If you are afraid, take it at the library. You won't be disappointed.
72 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2005
Format: Audio Cassette
Some of the reviews written about this book are a bit disheartening. This book is not an attempt to explain the origins of everything. It's not stating that there is an agency "out there" called the blind watchmaker that randomly whips up complex organisms like a tornado going through a junk yard and forming a car after the chaos. Basically, it goes far down the line of truth (far to us) stoping where it has to stop. Not because Dawkins wants to stop. But because further technology and scientific evidence is needed in order to proceed.
We know there was a bang of some sort that took place about 12 to 15 billion years ago. We know that this "explosion" provided the basic materials needed in order to support galaxies, nebulas, planetary systems, life, etc. As scientists, and humans, we do not know the origins of this "explosion". It would be ridiculous to assert that the "big bang" had no origin or starting point. However, many theist erroneously assert that non-theistic scientist hypothesize that the universe had no origins. It's obvious that the bang had some type of "beginning". However, there is absolutely no evidence suggesting that this origin was a god. If you'd like to assume that, that is your privledge. But up until now there is absolutely no evidence suggesting that a god did it. Yes, the universe is very complex. But, again, this does not imply that a god did it. To assume this would be a non-sequitur.
The truth is...it is a great and wonderful mystery. Ultimately, we may have no purpose. However, locally, on Earth, we definitely have purpose and responsibility. Our responsibility is to do what is condusive for all animals (including humans, of course) and a smooth running society. We should rid the "morality" system of religion/santa claus. That is, we should not be good for personal gain and avoid being bad to dodge punishment. We should not be good so we can go to heaven and avoid being bad so we don't go to hell. We should do good because doing good is what facilitates knowledge and growth. Earth is not just a stepping stone to paradise or eternal punishment. It is our only home and we should love and take care of it. For us and future generations.
This book does a great job in explaining how evolution occurs. And, yes, maybe down the road some of these ideas will no longer hold or become obsolete. But to assume evolution is false based on this is a fallacious argument. Our humanly concepts are not unbreakable laws that govern the universe. Concepts can be replaced by new concepts if they can show to describe nature/reality more accurately. Also, we are not slaves to words. We are the masters of words. They're for us to use and refine until they've become as finely tuned into the physical universe as possible.
Science in it's current form is only a candle in the dark. But, it is also the best system devised by humans to discern reality from fantasy. Dawkins is a defender of this reality.
As Einstein said, after studying the universe, life, and death, "I am content in leaving it a mystery."
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2007
The Blind Watchmaker is first and foremost an important book about evolutionary biology. If you are interested in evolutionary biology, then The Blind Watchmaker is a must have. It is entirely focused on a modern Darwinian view of biology i.e., Neo-Darwinism.
The Blind Watchmaker is often advertised as an Intelligent Design rebuttal when in fact this is a book purely about evolutionary biology that directly, but mostly indirectly, confronts creationists by being one of the most detailed accounts of evolutionary biology and its processes ever written. Much of the evolution here is a development of the technical discoveries of R.A Fisher which are based on the Darwin/Wallace discovery of natural selection.
Dawkins premise for The Blind Watchmaker is a considerably simple one with profound implications. Dawkins believes that by offering absolutely any plausible solution (any at all) to a question, simply wins over an excuse not to answer a question or any attempt at an answer that isn't really an answer at all. One of the most popular types of answers for life form complexity, turns out isn't really an answer at all. These are appeals to supernatural causations. This simply paves the way for science to come up with any, absolutely any, answer that is reasonable, that doesn't include the supernatural. That alone gets attention. Dawkins takes things a few step further. What happens when science not only offers natural plausible solutions to major questions, but starts to provide heaps of evidence to back it up? The Blind Watchmaker is that presentation.
1 - Explaining the Very Improbable
Richard Dawkins explains how complex organic life forms require a very different explanation to formations such as planets, solar systems, mountains and things that human beings make. He goes through Paley's explanation of Intelligent Design in Paley's work `Natural Theology' before explaining that biologists have uncovered an alternative, more powerful, explanation called Natural Selection which was discovered by Darwin and Wallace at the same time. He energizes the reader with concepts such as all the possible combinations of things that do not live. Dawkins sees death as the situation of being unable to maintain a body temperature greater than the world around you. He pulls out an amazing line of reasoning for hierarchical reductionism. Dawkins doesn't argue against Intelligent Design in this chapter, he merely sets up the framework for the argument that will follow.
2 - Good Design
Dawkins displays his talent as an expert biologist by giving a detailed description of the echolocation properties of bats compared with modern sonar. He goes through the history of each discovery and runs a contrast between them using the physics of each. The Doppler Effect gets good coverage. It's an incredible adventure story and makes biology amazingly interesting. Dawkins rounds off by commenting on the argument from incredulity as a bad argument for something. The bad argument is very simple to understand and its ramifications are immense. Because you don't understand something doesn't mean that it isn't true. This realization has an enormous impact on the reader who discovers that lots of people, including proponents of intelligent design, use these types of bad arguments a lot.
3 - Accumulating Small Changes
Dawkins sets up the obvious problem with high complexity in a single step. The chance of it happening is unimaginable. However he shows how hereditary combined with natural selection reduces the chance to an order that gradually evolves in complexity. He tells the story of how he created a computer program, biomorphs, in the 1980s to run a series of inherited traits through successive generations with a simple stick model and began to see the creation of complex designs like insects at rare intervals. Dawkins then brings us into the world of genetic spatial relationships and shows how the complexity of living things is a colossal range of possibilities, in which only an inconceivably tiny quantity that could exist, have ever existed.
4 - Making Tracks through Animal Space
Convergent evolution is explained by natural pressures that cause similar traits to form independently around the planet at different stages in the development of life. Dawkins explains how electric eels work. He gives a quick rundown of plate tectonics and continental drift. This is followed by a heavily comprehensive account of advanced convergent evolution in sporadic parts of the animal kingdom. Dawkins has proved himself not only a profound biologist, but a leading evolutionist that is at least on par with Darwin, if not more so because of recent scientific advancement. This chapter is like something out of The Origin of Species and is one of the many reasons why The Blind Watchmaker is considered a modern scientific masterpiece.
5 - The Power and the Archives
Dawkins takes us into the world of biological data storage and development, DNA. This walkthrough is very immersive and concentrates on Mendel's laws of inheritance before going into extensive detail on molecular biology, especially DNA RNA replication. Chemicals can naturally combine to produce replication qualities and these qualities often produce variation that not only lead to replication, but evolved ones. Dawkins cites several scientific discoveries that verify these findings. This natural mechanism of chemical combinations producing replication properties really hits home. Not only does he prove that evolution will almost certainly arise from these properties but that these properties are expected in a natural environment such as a planet undergoing chemical transformation due to the laws of physics.
6 - Origins and Miracles
Dawkins is good at building up to bigger things. This chapter is just that. Dawkins does two things at once, he shows how human concepts of low probability don't equate to the cosmic reality of low probability, and instead of the primordial soup explanation for replication in molecular biology, uses the Cairns-Smith theory of crystals and their organic relationships. This crystal alternative also paves the way for natural selection in non-living things, in this case river clay spores. He then explains why this low probability cosmic view is the one that represents the universe we live in. He discusses how even with low probability, the chances of hitting on the odds early, maybe more times than once, is why we see low probability emerging earlier and more often than predicted. The way Dawkins carries natural selection into geology is nothing short of mind-blowing.
7 - Constructive Evolution
This chapter deals with the gene centered view of life and evolution where genes combine and find their existence continued in environments where they do well. He describes the Red Queen effect in detail. Using the analogy of an arms race Dawkins depicts how evolution pushes for the development of bodies with complex functions and features. This chapter drives home the power of natural selection in developing complex organisms. It makes too much sense to simply be brushed aside. Only the ignorant or die hard creationist will reject it. At this point any thinking religious person will have to accept that their deity designed the world to work this way whether they like it or not. Many will already be left convinced that there is something seriously bad about arguing a supernatural cause for complex life forms when this kind of quality science explains it so well, so easily.
8 - Explosions and Spirals
Using the Fisher/Lande evolutionary model of sexual selection Dawkins reveals how males carry genes that their daughters will use for the selection of males, and how females carry genes that their sons will use for the selection of females. The result is that Dawkins illustrates why some birds have such large tails, which seem to jeopardize evolutionary utility, to be understood instead in terms of a bravado expression (look at me struggle to survive with this big pretty tail) that attracts female attention. Dawkins then describes how the evolution of the human brain and intelligence is linked to this same evolutionary model of sexual selection. The chapter is rich in analogies that carry forward into cultural and social developments. Once again Dawkins raises our consciousness to things that are in front of our very eyes and yet pass us by. This style of scientific revelation is the hallmark of The Blind Watchmaker and other works by Dawkins.
9 - Puncturing Punctuationism
Dawkins describes schools of thought, both right and wrong, in relation to the topic of evolution, the geological record and dating fossils. Dawkins discusses his classic stretched DC8 analogy. Ernst Mayr gets coverage. The types of evolution in the debate include gradualism, punctuationism, saltationism, macroevolution, speciation, catastrophism, speedism, stasis and discretists. The chapter is mainly a rebuttal to, and an interpretation of, Gould and Eldredge's modern views on punctuated evolution. Dawkins makes you feel like evolution and natural selection are so concrete that evolutionary biologists are a way beyond proving it and are in much deeper territory like discussing how transformations occur in respect to time.
10 - The One True Tree of Life
This is a nice treat. Dawkins covers several ways in which biologists manage to classify living things. Evolution uses phylogenetic taxonomy (or cladistic taxonomy) but there are credible reasons to use other systems such as numerical systems. However Dawkins warns the reader that some of these systems have been used by some biologists to deny evolution. More importantly, Dawkins shows how molecular biology has been employed to refine our understanding of taxonomy. The result is a perfectly nested taxonomy with respect to ancestors based on chemical differences at the molecular level. This is just another way of saying that DNA firmly establishes biological evolution to the point that we can make enormous use of that information and benefit from it, greatly.
11 - Doomed Rivals
Dawkins really drives home natural selection as the only mechanism by which complex organism can evolve by dealing with alternative suggestions for evolution such as Lamarckism, neutralism and mutationism. This chapter harnesses the creative power of natural selection as the only answer to any and all life form complexity, even on a cosmological scale. Dawkins also leaves a resounding assertion that even the idea of a deity has behind it a complexity that needs to be explained. Only the Darwinian solution is one we can apply to any forms of life.
The Blind Watchmaker is powerhouse book on evolution. It doesn't have the full armory of illustrations that many of his other works on evolutionary biology carry and it doesn't have any photographs, so be prepared for lots of reading and lots of thinking. It's a book for brains. You will rarely come across a book designed for the public that makes you work as hard as this does but the reward for doing so is well worth the effort... that is if you can handle its conclusions and implications. Many still find it hard to accept the idea, let alone the reality, that our bodies, minds and families are the products of natural selection. If you can, then this Dawkins hot topic is nothing short of the meaning of life.
48 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Professor Dawkins has made an exceptional effort at an impossible task. He attempts to explain evolutionary theory in lay terms, aimed at explaining the science to those whose minds are not utterly closed to understanding.
For those who can say, with a straight face, "Evolution is only a theory." or "Evolution is not science." this book will not make much of a difference. Mostly, those folks who see evolution as a challenge to their faith or dogma won't bother to read the book. Although it's pretty clear from earlier reviews that the omission doesn't stop them from writing "criticism." But for anyone whose world view allows them to think critically, this may be the best work to date explaining the why and how of evolution.
Rev. William Paley probably invented the watchmaker metaphor. Dawkins set out to demolish it. From the title to a detailed explanation of the history and mechanism, form natural selection to detailed genetics, he demonstrates that evolutionary theory is not only overwhelmingly accepted but the only known theory that explains and unifies biological sciences.
But Dawkins doesn't stop there. As if to demonstrate the critical difference between science and faith, he devotes a substantial portion of his argument to challenging and analyzing Punctuationism, the theory developed by the late Steven Jay Gould. Apart from his other points, he is demonstrating that science accepts nothing uncritically. Faith, by contrast, does not permit such critical analysis. It requires you to accept premises without criticism.
Subtle and whithering; sarcastic and reassuring. This is at once an excellent explanation of evolution's precepts and a formidable rebuttal to those whose attacks on evolution mask faith as science. In particular, his rebuttal of "intelligent design" and its proponents is masterful.
For those who must face religious and other non-scientific attacks on science, this book is indispensable. For those who are honestly baffled by the controversy, this is an excellent analysis. For those who would presume to discredit evolutionary science: you must rebut these arguments or concede.
Highly recommended. Critical to educators.
43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2006
Occam's Razor states that entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. All things being equal, one should go with the simplest solution (not "the most simplistic"--a telling slip!). So the universe exists: all but the most extreme solipsists will agree to that. It can be considered one "entity." So how did it get there? Oh, you see, some invisible, intangible, unverifiable being put it there. Now, that's two "entities" and one mystery "solved" by the introduction of another mystery. The next question must be: How did this invisible, intangible, unverifiable being come into existence? Oh, you see, She was "simply" there all along and has no origin. If that seems plausible, why not simplify matters further and imagine that the universe (or multiverse, if you prefer) "was there all along and has no origin"? (The Big Bang is not necessarily an absolute origin and does not imply "supernatural" intervention.) That's sticking with the verifiable and not multiplying one's entities beyond necessity. To summarize: Occam's Razor supports a monist (materialist) view of the universe, not a dualist (theist) view.
None of this, as anyone who has actually READ Dawkins's book will know, has much to do with _The Blind Watchmaker_. Dawkins is interested in showing how evolution--and more specifically Darwinian selection--is the only plausible explanation human beings have ever developed for the complexity and diversity of life. In the final chapter, "Doomed rivals," Dawkins clearly demonstrates how Lamarckism, creationism, and other pseudo-scientific and false views of biology do not and cannot offer such an explanation. If you want some of the latest thinking on cosmology, turn to Brian Greene's _The Fabric of the Cosmos_. Meanwhile, if you are interested in understanding the development of life on this planet, Dawkins's _The Blind Watchmaker_ remains indispensable.
43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2004
The title above is not used carelessly.
This book was a revelation in the way I understand the world and reasons for the existence of life itself.
First, however - you'll notice that 90% of reviews for this book are either 5 full stars or a dismal one. Reading the one star reviews, you'll find few of them discuss the actual book, and the fact that some raise questions that were swiftly dealt with by Dawkins in his first chapter suggests many have not in fact even READ it!
Dawkins approach cleverly avoids getting into hair splitting theological questions, and rather than explicitly arguing *against* a divine creator (again - did some of the reviewers here read the book, or are they simply attacking Dawkins well known beliefs?), he simply shows that the observed chemical, physical and mathematical properties of the universe CAN provide an explanation of the life we observe without HAVING to resort to religious explanations. Consequently, Occam's razor raises the obvious question : if a 'simpler' and more complete explanation for life can be given that the religious one, should we not conclude it is probably the right one, or at the very least a 'more' correct one?
Dawkins book gives us this 'other' explanation, and gives it in such detail and so patiently you can almost picture him anticipating every single 'yes, but' that theists might try to hurl at him. By applying the laws of physics, chemistry, mathematics and understanding thermodynamic, anthropic and other principles, Dawkins shows how complex systems (such as life) can evolve from simple, disordered states. The essential argument of the book is not that there is not a 'creator', but simply that humans are no more special achievement of the forces of creation than any other replicating devices, from the simplest bacteria to large eco-systems. And we share the same fate.
Read this book : if you can approach it with an open mind, understand it, and walk away happilly disagreeing with Dawkins, then you will have done so much more than many reviewers on this site (hardcore atheists included). Disagree by all means, but, damn you, THINK!