Unweaving the Rainbow and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
 
 
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.

Used - Good | See details
Sold by EuCo.
Access codes and supplements are not guaranteed with used items.
 
   
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading Unweaving the Rainbow on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder [Hardcover]

Richard Dawkins
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)


Available from these sellers.


‹  Return to Product Overview

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Why do poets and artists so often disparage science in their work? For that matter, why does so much scientific literature compare poorly with, say, the phone book? After struggling with questions like these for years, biologist Richard Dawkins has taken a wide-ranging view of the subjects of meaning and beauty in Unweaving the Rainbow, a deeply humanistic examination of science, mysticism, and human nature. Notably strong-willed in a profession of bet-hedgers and wait-and-seers, Dawkins carries the reader along on a romp through the natural and cultural worlds, determined that "science, at its best, should leave room for poetry."

Inspired by the frequently asked question, "Why do you bother getting up in the morning?" following publication of his book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins set out determined to show that understanding nature's mechanics need not sap one's zest for life. Alternately enlightening and maddening, Unweaving the Rainbow will appeal to all thoughtful readers, whether wild-eyed technophiles or grumpy, cabin-dwelling Luddites. Excoriations of newspaper astrology columns follow quotes from Blake and Shakespeare, which are sandwiched between sparkling, easy-to-follow discussions of probability, behavior, and evolution. In Dawkins's world (and, he hopes, in ours), science is poetry; he ends his journey by referring to his title's author and subject, maintaining that "A Keats and a Newton, listening to each other, might hear the galaxies sing." --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Keats complained that Newton's experiments with prisms had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow. Not so, says Oxford biologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene) who, in an eloquent if prickly defense of the scientific enterprise, calls on the "two cultures" of science and poetry to learn from each other. Yet Dawkins cautions against "bad poetic science," i.e., seductive but misleading metaphors, and cites as an example " 'Gaia': the overrated romantic fancy of the whole world as an organism," a hypothesis proposed by atmospheric scientist James Lovelock and bacteriologist Lynn Margulis. Dawkins (continuing a celebrated battle that has been raging in the New York Review of Books) also lambastes paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould for "bad poetry," rejecting Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium, which holds that new species emerge during relatively short bursts of evolutionary advance. In these conversational, discursive essays, Dawkins is, as always, an elegant, witty popularizer, whether he is offering a crash course in DNA fingerprinting, explaining the origins of "mad cow disease" in weird proteins that spread like self-replicating viruses or discussing male birdsong as an auditory aphrodisiac for female birds. However, in venturing into realms beyond the immediate purview of science, he reveals his own biases, launching into a predictable, rather superficial assault on paranormal research, UFO reports, astrology and psychic phenomena, all of which he dismisses as products of fraud, illusion, sloppy observation or an exploitation of our natural appetite for wonder. Dawkins is most interesting when he theorizes that our brains have partly taken over from DNA the role of recording the environment, resulting in "virtual worlds" that alter the terrain in which our genes undergo natural selection. Agent, John Brockman. 50,000 first printing; first serial to the Sciences.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this discussion of scientific methodology, Dawkins quotes liberallyAnot fellow scientists, but poets like Keats, Coleridge, and Dickinson. The message is clear: scientific thinking may be structured and rigorous, but it never lacks a fundamental sense of beauty and wonder.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Scientific American

The book's a rousing read. Those who have read Dawkins's earlier works will find some ideas repeated, even in a similar exposition, but there is still much to learn from and enjoy. There are many literary quotations, and the discussion of those sometimes rises above the pedestrian. But Dawkins is most comfortable as a polemicist, with a hair-trigger, all-guns-blazing defense of science against its detractors...

From The New Yorker

"Brilliance and wit." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Dawkins takes to heart his title of Charles Simonyi Professor of Public Understanding of Science at Oxford in this thoughtful exegesis on the nature of science and why its detractors are all wrong. More with pity than anger, he takes Keats to task for faulting ``cold philosophy'' for unweaving the rainbow in the long poem Lamia. On the contrary, Dawkins observes, Newton's use of a prism to split white light into the spectrum not only led to our understanding of how rainbows form in raindrops, but enabled astronomers to read the make-up of stars. Dawkins devotes a few chapters to debunking astrology, magic, and clairvoyance, arguing that, as rational adults, we need to be critical about ideas. This notion serves him handily in chapters on coincidence: He explains the exacting calculations of probabilities to show that coincidences arent so unusual. Yet people have a penchant for finding patterns where there are none, which leads Dawkins also to address superstitions, the class of errors known as false positives and false negatives, and a wealth of cultural practices from rain dances to human sacrifice. He takes to task what he calls bad poetic science, in which he includes the theories of his rival Stephen Jay Gould in relation to what Gould sees as the three perennial questions in paleontology: Does time have a directional arrow? Do internal or external forces drive evolution? And does evolution occur gradually or in jumps? The spleens so heavy here that one can anticipate a debate, if not a duel. Final chapters provide him with a platform for reweaving the rainbow, enlarging on his earlier themes and metaphors in relation to memes, genes, and evolution. The speculative writing here is less rooted in complex gene analysis than in philosophy of the Dennett school. A sharp mind is much in evidence, delighting in exposing fraud, providing instruction, baiting a colleague, and indulging in his own high-wire acts of evolutionary dreaming. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Review

"A spellbinding storyteller." The New York Times

"Brilliance and wit." The New Yorker

"An extended rebuttal - not so much by argument as by radiant example - of perennial anti-science convictions. Few among us are better qualified for the job. If any recent writing about science is poetic, it is this." The Wall Street Journal

"Like an extended stay on a brain health-farm . . .You come out feeling lean, tuned and enormously more intelligent." The Times of London

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

"We can get outside the universe. I mean in a sense of putting a model of the universe inside our skulls. Not a superstitious, small-minded, parochial model, filled with ghosts and hobgoblins, magic and spirits. A big model, worthy of the reality that regulates, updates, and tempers it. A powerful model capable of running on into the future and making accurate predictions of our destiny and that of our world. We are alone among animals in foreseeing our end. We are also alone in being able to say, before we die: Yes, this is why it was worth coming to life in the first place." -- Copyright (c) 1998 by Richard Dawkins. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
‹  Return to Product Overview