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Blind Watchmaker [Paperback]

Richard Dawkins
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 25 2006
From the author of "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins' "The Blind Watchmaker" has been acclaimed as the most influential work on evolution in the last hundred years. In 1802 the Rev. William Paleys argued in "Natural Theology" 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 Richard Dawkins, and in this brilliant and controversial book, the acclaimed evolutionary biologist sets out to demonstrate that the theory of evolution by natural selection - the unconscious, automatic, blind yet essentially non-random process discovered by Charles Darwin - is the only answer to the biggest question of all: why do we exist? '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'. To Dawkins, "The Blind Watchmaker" is nature itself, gradually forming order from the very building-blocks of life: DNA. "This might just be the most important evolution book since Darwin". (John Gribbin). "Richard Dawkins has updated evolution ...his subject is nothing less than the meaning of life". ("The Times"). "Enchantingly witty and persusive ...pleasurably intelligible to the scientifically illiterate". ("Observer"). Richard Dawkins is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature, and Vice President of the British Humanist Association. He was first catapulted to fame with The Selfish Gene, which he followed with a string of bestselling books: "The Extended Phenotype", "The Blind Watchmaker", "River Out of Eden", "Unweaving the Rainbow", and an impassioned defence of atheism, "The God Delusion".

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Blind Watchmaker + The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary edition + The God Delusion
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Product Description

From Amazon

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Oxford zoologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype trumpets his thesis in his subtitlealmost guarantee enough that his book will stir controversy. Simply put, he has responded head-on to the argument-by-design most notably made by the 18th century theologian William Paley that the universe, like a watch in its complexity, needed, in effect, a watchmaker to design it. Hewing to Darwin's fundamental (his opponents might say fundamentalist) message, Dawkins sums up: "The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the evolution of organized complexity." Avoiding an arrogant tone despite his up-front convictions, he takes pains to explain carefully, from various sides, why even such esteemed scientists as Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, with their "punctuated equilibrium" thesis, are actually gradualists like Darwin himself in their evolutionary views. Dawkins is difficult reading as he describes his computer models of evolutionary possibilities. But, as he draws on his zoological background, emphasizing recent genetic techniques, he can be as engrossing as he is cogent and convincing. His concept of "taming chance" by breaking down the "very improbable into less improbable small components" is daring neo-Darwinism. Line drawings.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars General in Content Aug. 24 2003
This is a good book for the general public, but for those with a four year degree in Biology or who are well read in the life sciences, it is not particularily stimulating. It does well covering the basics of biological evolution, and it affectively addresses the conventional creationist arguments, but I don't think this book demonstrates in the end what it seeks to establish.
I strongly recommend another book by Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene", a book which presents a very useful paradigm for viewing the biological world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good addition to The Selfish Gene Dec 1 2007
Published ten years after The Selfish Gene, this book is just as enlightening and entertaining as that first book by Dawkins. More examples of evolution in the natural world, and more evidence that evolution has indeed shaped the diversity of living things, past and present, on the earth. Very well written, it's a pleasure to read. One criticism of this and especially The Selfish Gene: Dawkins seems to think that there's no or very little selection at the level of the group, and that natural selection takes place at the level of the individual or even his or her DNA. However, I think it's clear that there is a good deal of selective pressure at the level of the group or tribe, and even to some degree at the level of the entire species. If a group of animals dies, that includes every member of the group, so it stands to reason that there should be some selection at the level of the group, even if that selection runs counter to the immediate goals of the individual within that group. In spite of this criticism, any curious person should give this, and The Selfish Gene, a read. Author of Adjust Your Brain: A Practical Theory for Maximizing Mental Health.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins Meets Darwin Jan. 2 2004
By Stephen Pletko TOP 50 REVIEWER
This book (first published in 1986) by Richard Dawkins (born: 1941) explains and "fine-tunes" for the general but educated reader Charles Darwin's (1809-1882) Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
This is not a definitive guide to evolutionary theory and the author explains this immediately: "This book is not a dispassionate scientific treatise. Other books on Darwinism [that is, Darwin's Theory of Evolution] are, and many of them...should be read in conjunction with this [book]."
What are the purposes and aims of this book? They are numerous and some are as follows:
(1) "To convey...the sheer wonder [or mystery] of biological complexity to those whose eyes have not been opened to it."
(2) "To remove [the mystery of (1) above] explaining the solution."
(3) "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."
(4) "To destroy [the]...myth that Darwinism is a theory of [random or blind] 'chance'."
(5) To help readers make the "leap" in logic that "complex [biological] 'design' [can] arise out of primeval simplicity" and that this complex design is not due to a "supernatural deity."
(6) "To resolve the paradox" that even though natural selection appears to have an ultimate goal (like a watchmaker whose goal is to make a working watch), it, in fact, does not. That is, "natural selection is the blind watchmaker."
(7) To help the reader answer questions like the following: "Could the human eye have arisen directly from no eye at all, in a single step?" or "Could the human eye have arisen directly from something slightly different from itself?
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Explanation of Evolution Jan. 11 2007
By Oliver TOP 500 REVIEWER
Back in the 18th or 19th Century, a man named William Paley came up with a very clever argument to prove the existance of god: Say you find a watch lying on the beach. Just by looking at the watch, you "know" it was made for a purpose. Such an odd collection of materials did not assemble itself. It is not an accident, and it must have been designed by someone specially for the purpose of telling time. Where there is a watch, there must be an intelligent watch maker. Well, human beings are much better designed than watches, so we too must have been created by an intelligent designer. That designer is god.

That's a brilliant argument, and it sure would have convinced me. Dawkins takes that argument, and smashes it to pieces. (He does not insult Paley, of course. Neither did Einstien insult Newton).

Dawkins explains how an object (or plant or animal) can be "designed" by the simple process of natural selection, without anyone to do the selecting. All it takes is replication (sexual reproduction) and limited resources. The laws of physics do the rest. The species that are most successful at surviving tend to survive -- it sounds so simple when you think of it that way. So, each generation has more of the successful models and less of the unsuccessful ones.

Once in a while random copying errors occur. Most of these make the plant or animal less successful, and those genes are not passed on. Once in a while, however, the error leads to a better design, and the new gene wins out. Over long, long periods of time, very efficient and very complicated designs can and will show up, even though they have not been designed by anyone. Just as the Grand Canyon was created by a long slow process, so were we.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes you step by step into understanding Darwinian Evolution
You can't be a lazy reader with this one. You will be forced to think and understand, and you'll be grateful for it.
Published 3 months ago by Joseph Csaszar
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins is clear, logical, and thoughtful
Highly recommended, produced by an enlightened secular Humanist populist pioneer.

Resplendent writing style that provided lucid concepts. Read more
Published 7 months ago by #1Reviewer
4.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins is great or just wrong??
I can't decide, I think he is right in most of this theories but genetics only can account for so much in my view. Gifted write though. I could be proved wrong of course lol
Published 22 months ago by Dean Wirth
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent. A marvelous read. In _The Blind Watchmaker_, Richard Dawkins explains how evolution works, touches on how it doesn't work, and he does so in a way in which just about... Read more
Published on July 22 2010 by Hex1a4
5.0 out of 5 stars Chapter by chapter summary and critique
This is an accomplished and deeply challenging book. Here is an abridged and revised version of my review in Zygon September 1989. Read more
Published on Oct. 7 2009 by Roger Smook
5.0 out of 5 stars Great and informative read
The book also goes over and debunks many of the things creationists say prove that the theory evolution is either impossible or just made up garbage. Read more
Published on June 5 2007 by Jonathan Rekve
5.0 out of 5 stars A non-teleological evolution classic
This is one of the books I have enjoy the most. I won't say it blows down all and everyone of the arguments creationists had ever construct, but it gives you the logical background... Read more
Published on June 21 2004 by Sergio A. Salazar Lozano
3.0 out of 5 stars The Random Bookwriter:
I have heard that educated people believe that a monkey typing randomly could write the Encyclopedia Brittanica, given enough time. Read more
Published on June 20 2004 by Joe Young
4.0 out of 5 stars A Universe Without Design
The debate as to whether or not the world as we know it has some omnipresent, omniscient creator, unfortunately, continues to this day. Read more
Published on June 1 2004 by CreepyT
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful
Good for refuting creationist (including "intelligent design") nonsense. Over the years, though, I've become convinced that Dawkins' worldview is in many ways a mirror... Read more
Published on May 21 2004 by J. F KRADEL
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