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A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love Paperback – October 27, 2004
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Richard Dawkins has an opinion on everything biological, it seems, and in A Devil's Chaplain, everything is biological. Dawkins weighs in on topics as diverse as ape rights, jury trials, religion, and education, all examined through the lens of natural selection and evolution. Although many of these essays have been published elsewhere, this book is something of a greatest-hits compilation, reprinting many of Dawkins' most famous recent compositions. They are well worth re-reading. His 1998 review of Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont's Fashionable Nonsense is as bracing an indictment of academic obscurantism as the book it covered, although the review reveals some of Dawkins' personal biases as well. Several essays are devoted to skillfully debunking religion and mysticism, and these are likely to raise the hackles of even casual believers. Science, and more specifically evolutionary science, underlies each essay, giving readers a glimpse into the last several years' debates about the minutiae of natural selection. In one moving piece, Dawkins reflects on his late rival Stephen Jay Gould's magnum opus, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, and clarifies what it was the two Darwinist heavyweights actually disagreed about. While the collection showcases Dawkins' brilliance and intellectual sparkle, it brings up as many questions as it answers. As an ever-ardent champion of science, honest discourse, and rational debate, Dawkins will obviously relish the challenge of answering them. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Oxford don Dawkins is familiar to readers with any interest in evolution. While the late Stephen Jay Gould was alive, he and Dawkins were friendly antagonists on the question of whether evolution "progresses" (Gould: No, Dawkins: Yes, depending on your definition of "progress"). Dawkins's The Selfish Gene has been very influential, not least for his introduction of the "meme," sort of a Lamarckian culturally inherited trait. In this, his first collection of essays, Dawkins muses on a wide spectrum of topics: why the jury system isn't the best way to determine innocence or guilt; the vindication of Darwinism (or what he insists is properly called neo-Darwinism) in the past quarter-century; the fallacy in thinking that individual genes, for instance a "gay gene," can be directly linked to personality traits; what he sees as the dangers of giving opponents the benefit of the doubt just because they wrap their arguments in religious belief; several sympathetic pieces on Gould; and a final section on why we all can be said to be "out of Africa." Fans of Dawkins's earlier books should snap up this collection. Readers new to him may find that the short format (many of these essays were originally forewords to books, book reviews or magazine pieces) doesn't quite do his reputation justice. Dawkins will antagonize some readers by his attacks on religion: his tone in these essays may fall just short of intellectual arrogance, but he certainly exhibits an intellectual impatience not always beneficial to his argument. Still, Dawkins's enthusiasm for the diversity of life on this planet should prove contagious.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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.