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Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion" Hardcover – 6 Sep 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books; First Edition edition (6 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846680484
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846680489
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.1 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,039,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This book is a piece of sheer heaven. It kicks Richard Dawkins' self-aggrandising polemic, The God Delusion, into touch with featherlight footwork and is deliciously wise, witty and intellectually sharp into the bargain. (The Times)

...he (Dawkins) might find some of the (other) arguments made by Cornwell in this short and elegantly written response (more) worthy of consideration. (Sunday Times)

It's an ace for Cornwell. (New Scientist)

Cornwell has done an excellent job in providing a book that should, in an ideal world, be sold taped to every copy of The God Delusion as an essential corrective. (Peter Stanford Independent)

Book Description

Richard Dawkins' apologia for atheism has attracted huge attention, and sales, all over the world. In a telling critique cast in the classical form of a letter to Dawkins John Cornwell takes issue with it. 'Monkeys make men ... Men make angels' - Charles Darwin --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 111 people found the following review helpful By John Anderson on 16 Sept. 2007
Format: Hardcover
I approached this book with some glee; it has generally had good reviews and I had high hopes of it. There have been several previous books, attempting serious criticisms of Richard Dawkins's highly popular (currently 51 weeks on the US `Bestseller list') The God Delusion. These earlier books disappointed me; they either failed to rebut Dawkins, they misrepresented him or, it appeared, their authors had not read TGD. So, how does Cornwell's Darwin's Angel compare? Unlike other writers, Cornwell has clearly read TGD; but to what effect? I had some surprises. The seraph writes:

Two natural philosophers, Diderot and d'Holbach, invoked atheism in reaction to theology's continued sway over physics, mathematics and medicine. These philosophers... were convinced that the autonomy of the sciences must be achieved by denying the existence of God. (DA, p. 158)

This misrepresents the French Enlightenment. The philosophes railed against the Church (not `theology') for its stifling of rational inquiry and it's cruel, authoritarian nature. In writing the Encyclopedie, the attempt to record the sum of human knowledge at the time, the philosophes did not `deny the existence of God' to achieve the autonomy of science; some may have concluded `there is no God' but others, perhaps the majority, were actually Deists and believed in a non-interventionist, non-personal God. And the Encyclopedie was about far more than science.

You may not see this as important and think that such differences do not matter. But they do. It is an example of how Cornwell twists things. Virtually the whole of Chapter 10 is a mis-representation of Dawkins's writing about Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

Then there is Chapter 4, the `Beauty' argument.
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86 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on 25 Sept. 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a small book, printed on thick paper with big margins - which sounds like a criticism, but, since it makes its case succintly, stylishly and, for the most part, carefully, really functions as a dig at Richard Dawkins' big book, The God Delusion, which brims with ideas apparently cribbed from stage 1 philosophy notes - the implication being that a more careful and detailed exposition would be lost on the sort of reader who was impressed with Richard Dawkins' original arguments.

Cornwell's book strikes just the right tone - faintly amused and rather derisive of Dawkins' great foray into religious studies: treating a dogmatic zoologist as a serious entrant in the philophy of religion would be to afford him too much respect: a courtesy Dawkins himself wouldn't extend for a moment if confronted with a dogmatic religious fundamentalist wishing to discuss biology (famously, Dawkins refuses to even debate such people).

Cornwell is also wise not to get dragged too far into the merits of the issue (i.e., whether there actually is a God) and instead spends his few pages more profitably remarking that, whatever ones position on that question, Dawkins' arguments simply can't carry the day, unless you really want them to.

That's important because Cornwell can therefore carry along skeptics like me, who don't personally subscribe to religious belief, but still find Dawkins' dogmatic essentialism a crashing bore.

Along the way Cornwell makes some thumping scores and while, as other reviewers have noted, he may misconstrue Dawkins' arguments in a couple of places, they don't really make a difference and, in any case, for a Dawkinite to make that protest really is to call the kettle black.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By P. Brown on 5 April 2010
Format: Paperback
I have just finished reading 'Darwin's Angel' having read Dawkins' 'The God Delusion' a couple of years ago. I ask myself why I left it so long to get round to reading an alternative view. I think it was largely due to wanting to avoid reading a religious defence that preached all the age old arguments about why one should 'believe' rather than not. It is easy to read Dawkins book and enjoy the ride, even though one sees through the arrogance and definitive views he presents. I found Cornwell's reply to be carefully researched, yet engaging a light tone - such a relief after the arrogant anger of Dawkins. He presumes that Science has already provided us with all the answers - but it hasn't, even Stephen Hawking, our modern giant in mathematical physics, who has pushed the boundaries of knowledge further than most, has admitted this. 'Darwin's Angel' placed Dawkins and his views firmly on the 'burning plains' of Matthew Arnold's poem, 'Empedocles': Dawkins reduces Darwin's theory's to the known world of material thinking rather than allowing it its place in the continuing search to explain our existence within the mysteries of the still unknown. Established religion, in my view, is still trapped in physical materialism, but the ancient search for 'truth' even within it still goes on for some, in one form or another, as Cornwell so well points out. If anything I rate this book on Cornwell's ability to put into words what for most people is the main driving force of how we try to live our lives: despite the aberrations and mistakes in history of mankind's ignorance, to find a way towards 'agape' through whichever cultural 'meme' we have been exposed to; and on the grander scale, to seek an understanding of 'why there is something rather than nothing'.Read more ›
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