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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
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...
Published on Dec 1 2007 by Paul J. Fitzgerald

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars General in Content
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...
Published on Aug. 24 2003 by Christopher Boyce


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars General in Content, Aug. 24 2003
By 
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
This review is from: Blind Watchmaker (Paperback)
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 "Uncle Stevie" (London, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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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]...by 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?"
(8) To underscore the importance of animal genetics (DNA, RNA, protein, genes) and animal embryology.
(9) To explain gene and environmental adaptation interaction.
(10) To explain that "events that are...called miracles are not supernatural, but are part of a spectrum of...improbable natural events."
(11) To explain the importance of geological time that is measured in eons or "thousands of millions of decades."
(12) To explain "that we don't need to postulate a designer in order to understand life, or anything else in the universe."
(13) To explain that "all animals and plants and bacteria, however different they appear to be from one another, are astonishingly uniform when we get down to molecular basics."
(14) To help the reader realize "that only natural selection can drive evolution in adaptive directions."
Dawkins in his very readable writing style fulfills all of these goals and, as well, he explains much more.
There are two aspects of this book I especially enjoyed:
(i) Dawkins selects certain anti-Darwinian arguments and analyzes them using the principles he has developed to show that they could not be true. In this way, the reader gets to practically use the information that Dawkins has introduced us too.
(ii) This book is filled with examples of various animals (including humans) that have undergone evolutionary change. These examples provide concrete validity to Darwin's theory.
The last chapter of this eleven chapter book is my favorite. It deals with rival theories to Darwinism. Such theories as 'mutationism' and creationism are analyzed and commented on.
There are three ways to improve this book so as to make reading it easier. First, Dawkins, when he presents unfamiliar terms initially, defines or explains them in his narrative. After this he assumes, when he presents these terms later on, that the reader will remember their definition accurately or take the time to look in earlier chapters to refresh his or her memory. For myself, this assumption was false. Thus a glossary at the end of the book would have been most helpful. Second, Dawkins explains everything in word pictures. I felt that clear, labelled drawings would have made key concepts easier to understand and decreased the amount of wordiness. Lastly, most chapters contain numerous elaborations, recapitulations, and digressions. I felt that each chapter could have been broken up into sections to accomodate this, thus allowing the reader to follow the discussion more easily.
Dawkins says that "even if there was no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory...[then] we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories." I disagree with this statement and was surprised that Dawkins made it. The only reason this theory is preferred is that there is scientific evidence for it. Accepting a theory on the basis of no evidence is called (blind) faith.
Finally, Dawkins speaks of possible life elsewhere in the universe. Thus, once you read this book, I strongly recommend the book "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe" (2000) by scientists Ward and Brownlee.
In conclusion, this is an excellent book that makes Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection understandable. The single most exciting idea that you can take from this book is that the diversity of life we see around us is not incredible, but inevitable.
<=====>
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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 (Los Angeles) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Blind Watchmaker (Paperback)
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.

If you want to understand evolution, this is the place to start (Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker and many others will pick up from there). If you believe in intelligent design, and want to keep believing, do NOT read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the origin of idiots, April 27 2000
This review is from: The Blind Watchmaker (Diskette)
...Dawkins never claims his "biomorphs" to bebiological, their sole purpose is to show how small changes over aperiod of time can make huge changes in the end product; no more, noless. He turns trees (yes, just the shapes) into grasshoppers, and dragon flies, and satelites (yes, satelites, which are never claimed to be biological). His "quasi-biological forms" (see the forms?) do an excellent job of making his point, and you shall never convince this 'skeptic' otherwise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins rich of mental image, Oct. 11 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Blind Watchmaker (Diskette)
I actually read this book 5 years ago. It's a book full of imagination! Of the numerous scientific books I have ever read, this is the one that I will never forget. It evoked a series of mental images in my mind. Compare with many biology book burdened with citations and experimental data, this tiny book frequently provides fresh insights by using thought experiment in biological reasoning. I am looking forward to reading it again, with new surprse and definetely, enjoyment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science and Religion, April 17 2004
By 
Some of the "one star" reviewers think that a lot of what is in this book is based on speculation and theory and it has no basis in facts.
To me that is like someone driving along a highway and coming upon a car crash then pretending that no crash occurred. It makes no sense. One cannot ignore some scientific observation, like the car crash, since perhaps in the Bible or some other religious book there was never a mention of a car crash.
Darwinian theory is perceived by some to be compatible with religious views of evolution. But Darwinian theory itself might be wrong. It is probably still too soon to tell.
Some of the scientific observations have taken decades of careful analysis in the laboratory to sort out. I strongly recommend a related book "Wonderful Life" by Stephen Jay Gould that lays out how a typical scientific analysis is undertaken, and how mistakes can be made, but how they are eventually corrected after numerous researchers draw the same conclusions. That book deals with 500 million year old fossils. In that study the scientists find more diversity among the early animals than we have today, not less, which is contrary to evolution theory. In fact evolution is probably much about completely random decimation (like a meteor hitting the earth) and survival than it is about adapting and evolving to complicated life forms by a guided hand or unguided hand.
Jack in Toronto
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine, Jan. 17 2004
>His key experiment is a highly dubious experiment using a computer program to produce objects with different morphologies. The problem is that the program doesn't really prove anything.
It does not ATTEMPT to "prove" anything. It attempts to ILLUSTRATE something, and it illustrates it well. (Though perhaps Dawkins is a bit too enamored of his own program.)
>Perhaps if he spent less energy and rhetoric railing against punctuated equilibrium. Dawkins is hyper-critical of any evolutionary theory that doesn't follow strict gradualistic Darwinian evolution. Once you have made up you mind that you have the 'one true answer' you stop questioning. If you cannot question objectively you cannot do good research.
Nonsense. Dawkins is almost always questioning here. He is not at all doctrinaire or preachy. If anything, he is too glib. He doesn't "rail" against "punctuated equilibrium", he refutes it calmly, succinctly, and convincingly.
Don't get the idea I agree with all of Dawkins opinions. (He clearly differentiates opinion and fact, by the way. There is no problem there.) I don't subscribe to the notion that theism and evolution are necessarily irreconcilable, and I don't believe that theism is at root the reason a large contingent remains unable at this late date to accept evolution despite the overwhelming body of scientific evidence amassed in its favor since Darwin's time. I think those who reject evolution suffer from some sort of existential vertigo and are clinging to religion merely to cloak that existential vertigo.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A morass of intuition, June 22 2001
What you won't find in this book, is an abstract model of Natural Selection theory. In a few quick quips a definition of Natural Selection theory is jotted down, the rest of the book containing highly philosphical meanderings based around these quips.
An extreme example of this philosphical meandering, is when he redefines biology as the study of complexity. He then goes to write about how he feels that mountains are less complex then organisms, but provides no argumentation how this is the case. Having meandered this way about complexity for numerous pages, he then drops the subject in the rest of the book, leaving the reader miffed about the whole thing.
A basic error that shows through, is his view of chance. That is, his many views of chance. Dawkins shifts and gears between many different definitions of chance, as can be deduced by the way he uses the word. This gets to be quite problematic in the end of the book when he explicitely and strongly denies that Natural Selection is a chance event. This is simply not true by any standard definition of chance, and not true by professional biologists using Natural Selection in a statistical way, based on the chance of reproduction. When looking at any unit of selection biologists theorize about the reproductive chance it has, and what selective events would influence that reproductive chance. Certainly reproductive chance can't reasonably be called the "antithesis of chance", can it? But this curious redifinition is what you absolutely *have to* accept, by the authority of the rather demanding and defensive professor Dawkins.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Universe Without Design, June 1 2004
By 
The debate as to whether or not the world as we know it has some omnipresent, omniscient creator, unfortunately, continues to this day. There are still those who refuse to yield to science, logic, and observable fact, and feel as though science and religion must be mutually exclusive. Richard Dawkins points out that this is not the case. Whether or not there is an ultimate creator is left up to the reader, yet at the same time it should be noted that evolution has occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur. Furthermore, it occurs without a predestined design. Evolution by natural selection is no longer regarded as theory by most in the field. It has been observed both in the laboratory and in nature.
The "Blind Watchmaker" of this book refers to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. For, the watch is an intricate piece of machinery that surely requires a watchmaker to piece together all it's inner workings. The analogy has been made (specifically in Rev. William Paley's "Natural Theology") that the universe as we know it can be seen as an intricate working similar to that of a watch, and thus the universe must also have a maker of it's own. Dawkins points out that if one chooses to go along with this analogy, then evolution by natural selection would be the watchmaker, and this maker is indeed blind. Blind in the sense that evolution has no direction, no goals, and no predetermined stopping point.
Dawkins uses extremely convincing analogies such as the intricacies of the eye, the sonar used by bats, and even several computer simulations, using programs he wrote, to support his arguments. Small changes, mutations, give rise to phenotypic traits that are advantageous to a particular species, or a subset of a species, and thus this mutation persists. Over geologic time, then, a few small photoreceptor cells may eventually become the eyes we know of today.
As a biology major, this book was a must-read. However, one thing I really loved about this book is that you don't have to be a biology major to understand and appreciate the points Dawkins makes. He draws the reader through his analogies and explanations using simple layman's terms, and everyday examples that are easily understood. My only complaint is that some of his examples can be rather long-winded, redundant, and circuitous. Indeed, Dawkins can be rather verbose at times. Nonetheless, I feel that this is a must-read book for anyone who is either still on the fence with regards to creationist theory, or anyone who wants to open their eyes to some easily digestible science. Overall this was a very well written argument for a universe without design, and this theory, if not this book, should not be overlooked.
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Blind Watchmaker
Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (Paperback - April 25 2006)
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