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Customer Review

898 of 961 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Magical, October 4, 2011
This review is from: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (Hardcover)
In 1984's film "Ghostbusters," there's a comical scene in which a man is being interviewed for the role of the newest member of the "ghost busting" team, and his interviewer asks him the question, "Do you believe in UFOs, astral projections, mental telepathy, ESP, clairvoyance, spirit photography, telekinetic movement, full trance mediums, the Loch Ness monster and the theory of Atlantis?" He answers, humorously, "If there's a steady paycheck in it, I'll believe anything you say." If you'd asked me the same question at the age of 12 or 13, I would have said "yes" without any hesitation. In fact, I probably would have added some things.

Like most children, I was very curious about how the universe worked and how things had come to be the way they were, and, also like most children, by the time I was in middle school I had outgrown the cute educational kids' shows and picture books about dinosaurs and space. School texts were heavier on bare bones facts than on explaining how scientists knew what they did, and books for adults were dry and simply too difficult to keep up with. (I tried, and abandoned, "The Origin of Species" and "Cosmos" around this time.) Worse yet, I still had the childish tendency to believe most of what adults told me - and to believe virtually all of what I read. In this perfect storm of inquiry and innocence, I was ripe for the plucking for charlatans and pseudo-scientists. And pluck they did! I wasted much of my time during these formative years reading (and believing) that an alien spacecraft crashed in New Mexico in 1947, that populations of plesiosaurs survived in a few scattered lakes around the world (including, of course, Loch Ness), that it was possible to communicate telepathically, that aliens built the pyramids, and so on, and so on... If only there existed some book that could not only explain science at my level, but give me the mental tools to have some sense of what was really science, and what wasn't.

Fortunately for inquiring young minds of today, Richard Dawkins has written that book. "The Magic of Reality" has been written in such a clear, simple manner as to be both understood and enjoyed by boys and girls of middle school age, "caught in the middle" as I was, but it's not at all written in a manner as simple as to "talk down to" them. Dawkins explains lucidly and eloquently (and often humorously) such concepts as evolution, the rotation of the planets, prisms, rainbows, the light spectrum, and a few other things that tend to confuse. A typical chapter begins by posing a question (such as "Why are there so many types of animals?"), summarizing a couple of ancient myths about the subject (a deity vomited them up for some reason), and then explaining what science actually says about it (variation and natural selection cause life forms to diverge over time). And not only does Dawkins "set the record straight," so to speak, but he also explains both the nature and importance of skeptical inquiry and how to use critical thinking to interpret a strange event. He gives a few examples along the lines of "X [an extraordinary event] happened. There are three possible explanations for X: 1.) It was a miracle; 2.) It was a coincidence; and 3.) It was a hoax. 3 is more likely than 2, and 2 is more likely than 1. So it probably wasn't a miracle."

As I imagine you are fully aware, Dawkins is not one to shy away from controversy. This book is bound to be controversial, for Dawkins doesn't just debunk those silly old myths of every religion that isn't yours. Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge are in there, as is the story of Noah's Ark (though in its original "Epic of Gilgamesh" form), and one of the extraordinary events broken down into possibilities is the story of Jesus allegedly turning water into wine. But while Dawkins may refute claims of the supernatural, he's actually a proponent of magic - that is, the "magic" of what is real and what can be studied using real science. This is perhaps the most important thing about the book; it instills (even in myself, a "grown up" studying science at the university level) a renewed appreciation for science and a sense of wonder about nature. The universe is fascinating and beautiful all by itself, without any help from fairy tales. In this sense, reality truly is magical. And so is "The Magic of Reality."
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Showing 1-10 of 98 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 4, 2011 10:20:33 PM PDT
I've been waiting on this book and added it to my cart before I read your review. Now after reading what you have to say I'm even more excited about it. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 7, 2011 8:59:05 AM PDT
Steve Thomas says:
Agreed, this is a great review; very nicely done.

Posted on Oct 8, 2011 9:50:09 AM PDT
LeeHoFooks writing style is exemplary!!!
Sure wish this fellow was a nextdoor neighbor.
Would like to know his thoughts on the world's condition.
His writing style reveals a first-class mind.
~ Guy Felton, Reno, Nevada
Aye can be Googled.

Posted on Oct 11, 2011 2:35:55 PM PDT
LeeHoFooks says:
Thanks for the kind words, everyone. Especially you, Guy. Wow, what compliments!

I don't know about the "first class mind" thing. I'm just an undergrad studying physical anthropology.

Posted on Oct 16, 2011 8:23:05 AM PDT
LTSpike says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2011 9:38:17 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jul 14, 2012 10:25:00 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2011 11:52:33 AM PDT
LeeHoFooks says:
You're right, Spike. What kind of a "review" begins by establishing a personal connection between the "reviewer" and the book, then goes on to explain what the book was about and, finally, to describe what the "reviewer" did or didn't like about it? Honestly... what was I thinking?

Funny though, I never thought of myself as a "Dawkins worshipper [sic]." Maybe it's hard for you fundamentalist types to understand this, but some people don't need something to worship. It's also funny that you would use a "smoke and mirrors" analogy to describe a book about accepting reality rather than finding comfort in fairy tales and false miracles. But then again, I'm willing to bet you haven't actually read the book.

If you want to see "reviews" without substance, check out those giving the book 1 star. They're written by your ilk -- fairy tale believers who haven't read Dawkins, but still feel entitled to criticize him.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 16, 2011 12:07:16 PM PDT
You are not just a "just."
The world will profit from your accomplishments to come.
Please look in your mirror and accept that you are an asset for the Family of Man.
~ Guy

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 1:02:09 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2011 1:06:20 PM PDT
Steve Thomas says:
Life is very simple for you isn't it Marine? You'd rather believe 4,000 year-old creation myths than what can be demonstrated by modern science...incredible really.
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