A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love

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9780618335404: A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love
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One of the most renowned evolutionary biologists at work today, Richard Dawkins has written passionately for years on subjects that matter deeply to him - and matter urgently to all of us. A Devil's Chaplain brings together the best and most provocative of his essays, on subjects ranging from evolution to ethics, from travel to literature, from education to religion. The result is an intriguing portrait of one of the finest minds in science.
With eloquence and vigor, these essays put forward Dawkins's most fundamental axiom: seek truth. He speaks out against pseudoscience and deftly dissects religion and mysticism. In a powerful letter to his ten-year-old daughter, he argues for the necessity of basing any belief on solid evidence. And he doesn't shy away from skewering the loftiest institutions, whether judicial or educational. "To hell with . . . your fact-stuffed syllabuses and your endless roster of exams," he proclaims with refreshing directness. He writes infectiously of his awe at the marvelous complexity of the universe, pays moving tribute to dear friends and worthy colleagues, and tenderly recalls his boyhood in Africa. Uncompromising, even ruthless as Dawkins famously is when defending scientific truth and reason, this collection also shows a gentler, more contemplative side which may surprise his many readers.
Here we meet the essential Richard Dawkins: inspirational in both his unswerving attention to rationalism and his abiding passions.

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Review:

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

About the Author:

Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and is now the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995. Among his previous books are The Ancestor’s Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil’s Chaplain. Dawkins lives in Oxford with his wife, the actress and artist Lalla Ward.

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