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A MYTH-BELIEVER'S NIGHTMARE: magic with no...hocus-pocus or abracadabra!!!
on December 4, 2011
"The truth is more magical--on the best and most exciting sense of the word--than any myth or made-up mystery or miracle. Science has its own magic: the magic of REALITY."
The above extract comes at the very end of this extraordinary book by Richard Dawkins with illustrations by Dave McKean. Dawkins is a British ethologist (the scientific study of animal behaviour), evolutionary biologist and author. He is emeritus fellow of New College, a constituent college of the University of Oxford in the UK and was this university's Professor for the Public Understanding of Science from 1995 to 2008. McKean has illustrated and designed many award-winning books and graphic novels.
The chapters of this book are titled by a question like "What is the sun?" or "Why are there so many different kinds of animals?" Most chapters usually begin with some mythical answers to a chapter title question. (Amazingly, many people today believe these mythical answers.) Then a scientific or reality-based answer to the question is provided.
Who can read this book? Anyone aged 120 to 12 (including those adults who still think like children). For those with a solid science background, this book can be regarded as a good review of important concepts.
The myths chosen for this book are from around the world such as Babylonian, Judeo-Christian, Aztec, Maori, Aboriginal, Nordic, Hellenic, Chinese, and Japanese. One chapter includes modern alien abduction mythology and another chapter omits mythology altogether (there is a reason for this omission and Dawkins explains why).
Dawkins details these topics (even though he doesn't use many of these terms):
(2) speciation (evolutionary process by which new biological species arise)
(3) atomic theory (concerned with the nature of matter)
(5) planetary motion
(6) gravitation (or gravity)
(7) stellar evolution (or star evolution)
(8) spectroscopy (study of the interaction between matter and radiation such as visible light)
(9) plate tectonics (describes the large scale motion of Earth's outermost rocky layer)
(10) speculation on exobiology (life beyond Earth)
(11) Chaos theory ("Why do bad things happen?")
(12) Human psychology ("What is a miracle?")
All the science in this book is well-presented. It has to be since it has to appeal to a wide age-range of people (as indicated above).
Finally, all the illustrations in this book are in a word--fantastic. They add to its enjoyment.
In conclusion, this book is truly a myth-believers nightmare. Make no myth-stake about it, this is a good book. I leave you with a key concept from this book:
"Next to the true beauty and magic of the real world, supernatural spells and stage tricks seem cheap and tawdry by comparison. The magic of reality is neither supernatural nor a trick, but--quite simply--wonderful. Wonderful and real. Wonderful BECAUSE real."
(first published 2011; 12 chapters; main narrative 265 pages; index; acknowledgements; picture credits)
<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>