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The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (Reissued in 2006 and 1996) Paperback – September 17, 1996
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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.
“Dawkins has done more than anyone else now writing to make evolutionary biology comprehensible and acceptable to a general audience.”
- John Maynard Smith
“As readable and vigorous a defense of Darwinism as has been published since 1859.”
- The Economist
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Top customer reviews
Some of the key concepts that Dawkins puts forward (which I was impressed with) include arguments for non blended, "particulate" inheritance and how this relates to sex. Also, he describes how one sees in sexual selection an unusual positive feedback, leading to such things as apparently inefficient long tails, and this is contrasted with the usual negative feedback that one tends to see in nature. The positive feedback loop results from the linkage between preference genes and the trait genes themselves.
There was a very nice discussion of genes and the environment and how the environment of genes includes other genes both within an individual and in other organisms, and this, in turn, leads to complex types of cooperation, arms races and the famous red queen effect. Finally, I liked the discussion of sensory systems such as vision and bat echolocation and how we can learn from these areas where nature has adapted to such a great degree and how we can see that in this process using less refined systems sometimes is evolutionarily advantageous.
Overall I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read and I would highly recommend it to anybody else. It is a great classic.