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A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love Paperback – October 27, 2004
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The first collection of essays from renowned scientist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins.
Richard Dawkins's essays are an enthusiastic testament to the power of rigorous, scientific examination, and they span many different corners of his personal and professional life. He revisits the meme, the unit of cultural information that he named and wrote about in his groundbreaking work The Selfish Gene. He makes moving tributes to friends and colleagues, including a eulogy for novelist Douglas Adams; he shares correspondence with the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould; and he visits with the famed paleoanthropologists Richard and Maeve Leakey at their African wildlife preserve. He concludes the essays with a vivid note to his ten-year-old daughter, reminding her to remain curious, to ask questions, and to live the examined life.
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I found nothing really new in it (after reading the God Delusion, the Selfish Gene, the Blind Watchmaker, and Climbing Mount Improbable before), but I was happy to find this principal statement: he is a scientific Darwinist, but politically an anti-Darwinist. That needed to be clarified, although it should also be obvious (and although in this short version it looks like a slight on Darwin, which is not intended). He uses the good analogy of the medical researcher who as a scientist understands cancer, and as a practitioner fights it. Or in other words: things are not becoming right by wanting them to be so, or in reverse, they don't become wrong because you don't like them.
I can not follow him everywhere though. His comments on "speciecism", as an equivalent of racism, go too far for me. Maybe once the Jurassic Park Authority has reconstructed Lucy, I may change my mind on this, but I am not sure that I will live long enough to witness that.
He employs his analytical passion to raise some mind-blowing questions and does not back down from challenging what many people consider as fundamental truths. He analyzes very intricate topics and situations through a scientific lens and is able to do it with clarity and simplicity. Although he has been criticized for some strong anti-religions standpoints and instances were his bias affects his writing; I believe that his work, even if you don't agree with it, is worth reading for he definitely makes some very valid points.
I believe Richard Dawkins is one of the elite essayist because of his ability to take on such complex beliefs, brake it down systematically and with the use of some philosophy prove his point; all while keeping a clear and simple style. He displays mastery in several subjects including, but not restricted to physics, biology and philosophy.
This book is divided into seven sections, each with a preamble. These sections are themselves made up of short and varied articles enabling reader is also able to jump from section to section and read different pieces since the order is not overly central. This complemented by his concise style making for a very easy read.
This book is not only a great read but it could change the way you think about some of the most basic things in you're life and will force you to re-analyze several aspects of today's society. I trust that this book made me a more knowledgeable person and taught me to question everything, extending to the things society considers self evident.
My favorite article titled "Trial by Jury" scientifically analyzes the system of trial by jury. This is a system in which the vast majority of the world ardently believes in, and is regarded as the closest humanly possible method of reaching justice. Growing up in America I was a firm believer that it was the ultimate system but after having read the article, in which Dawkins makes some undeniable points against it, I have come to question this system. However, this is the same reaction I had to many of his other articles where he questions things such as truth, religion, and the existence of god.
It is definitely a great introduction to anyone that is interested in Richard Dawkins work. It is one of his more concise pieces in which he reaches concert solutions, and a great prologue to his more intricate and ideological works.