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86 of 122 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars These dogmatists, they don't like it up 'em!
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...
Published on 25 Sept. 2007 by Olly Buxton

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80 of 112 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Darwin's Angel gives Dawkins a pasting?
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...
Published on 16 Sept. 2007 by John Anderson


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8 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Undone by an Angel, 11 Jun. 2008
By 
J Grainger - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion" (Hardcover)
This was an enjoyable book because it addressed specific aspects of the God Delusion succinctly and without unecessary embellishment. One can only wonder how Dawkins would respond to these points. There again, someone (Dawkins) who gets his wife to read out loud his own book - twice - is hardly likely to take kindly to criticism of it. Dawkins's myopic views seem mirrored by the reviews of some of his supporters. Dr V Stewart [Real Name, apparently] finds Cornwell's 'patronising tone repellent'. You couldn't make it up! Has Dr Stewart ever read anything Dawkins has written? If he had he'd easily recognize patronising words. S Page [Real name, apparently] accuses Cornwell as "deliberately misrepresenting Dawkins' argument". Anyone who had actually read the book could hardly make this claim with any objectivity. If anyone wants a precis of the book they could do worse than read Chapter 2 'Your Sources' to evaluate the background to Dawkins' views and Chapter 9 'Theories of Everything' for a robust and, arguably, unanswerable challenge to Dawkins' firmly held belief that science will one day provide an answer to everything.
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17 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Towards a calm polemic, 25 Sept. 2007
By 
Pugin (Stourbridge) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion" (Hardcover)
When I read this book I was impressed first of all by the degree of its convergence with Dawkin's negative critique of religion. The next thing I noticed was that it was written at breakneck speed, which is just what one would expect of a polemic. These two salient facts should give us pause before we enter too quickly into mutual denunciation, particularly about motivation.

Of course 'everyone agrees' about how dreadful 'religion' can be, and how dangerously easy it is to manipulate traditional and intemperate believers. One thing that Cornwell's critics correctly observe is that dangerous religion is hugely widespread and cannot be ignored or dismissed. But then the question is, whether there is anything to salvage, whether anything 'intelligent' is embedded in religious language and poetry, whether there is any intellectually respectable form of religious belief and practice. This seems to be at the real heart of the debate between Cornwell and Dawkins, and it seems to me that on the whole Cornwell has a stronger grasp of the alternative possibilities than Dawkins does, and this mostly because he offers an interpretation of the traditional biblical myth that Dawkins seems not to address. Everything then turns on the possibilities of interpretation. In particular, it would be disappointing if religious language and imagery were found to be reducible to what any good secular humanist would want to defend anyway, though in less quaint language. Does religious lnguage intimate human possibilities just beyond our normal grasp? It is one thing to acknowledge, as Dawkins does, though he does it with an air of honest bafflement, that 'decent people' can be 'religious', and quite another to show how that decency can be inspired and fostered by the possibilities inherent in the religious traditions. It seems to me that this is where Cornwell excels, and one does not have to agree with everything he says to see this excellence at work. Cornwell shows that it is not mad or idiotic to be a theist, and I say this as one who is no theist. But a rational case for theism is not a rational case for literalism and creationism. As far as the 'expressive' or 'symbolic' content of religion is concerned everything depends on what it is to unpack the metaphors and myths of the biblical traditions. It should not be assumed that it is to be unpacked in terms that one already grasps and understands: there is more than one sense of transcendence, as may be witnessed in that unexpected switch in perspective about what is important and what is trivial, about what is just there before one's eyes, as Dennis Potter reports, when one is in the presence of death. To put it another way, what were the ancients seeking to capture in their stories of creation? What insights, if any, were they seeking to express? That seems to me a better kind of question than one which asks what the evidence is for a creator God. Of course there is no evidence becaause it is not an evidential claim. We are or they were telling stories round the camp fire.

As for the breakneck speed ... Cornwell is certainly careless in places, as Dawkins points out on his website. Dawkins does not say that the famous remark 'if God is dead, then everything is permitted' expresses a view of Dostoevsky. It is a remark made by one of the characters. On the other hand, Sartre made the same careless mistake. However, the exclusive alternatives are not stupidity or mendacity: simply carelessness, a fault, no doubt, but not of the order too rapidly assumed. But the real issue, which is wholly obscured by all the indignation, is how one understands the dramatic significance of the remark in the context of the novel, how one relates it to the figure of Fr Zossima, for instance, and this is where the creative and imaginative work about what constitutes religion needs to be done, and Cornwell's comments here cannot be dismissed with the impatience of critics who say, look, I am clever and well qualified and I don't understand what on earth he is saying. It is easy to dismiss a position as vague when really it is the vagueness of one's understanding that needs to be addressed. It is difficult to understand Fr Zossima. That is the point. But it is not the end of the story.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring, 6 July 2009
By 
S. Arif (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion" (Hardcover)
I naively expected some rational and genueinly critical arguments against the God Delusion. There are none. Cornwell makes a handful of arguments which make you think 'ok that's an interesting way of looking at things' but it falls a long way short of been a 'response' to Dawkins. An example: he states 'religious' scientists will remain in the closet in today's world because science would 'ex-communicate' such individuals. Just as in the past, Dawkins argued that it was the other way around, athesist scientists would remain in the closet for risk to their lives of challeging the Church. Whereas Dawkins gives hints of evidence of the belief tendency of certain past great scientists, Cornwell does not cite any evidence for a single scientist. A good book to entrench my view that religon is for people that can't/don't want to think for themselves.
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22 of 46 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Creepy comeback, 21 Sept. 2008
By 
M. Kneebone (Amsterdam) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Honestly, this is creepier than Stephen King. It's an attack on Dawkin's book while trying to disguise itself as a friend - the result is a kind of illness of the intellect. Because this is so transparent it's a little bit funny, and certainly a textbook on malicious spin doctoring - but when the writer's motive is more obvious to the reader than the author you know you're dealing with a bit of a nutter. A very stupid book.
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21 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dose of common sense, 18 Sept. 2007
By 
RW (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion" (Hardcover)
In a short, easily readble book, John Cornwell reminds the reader that there is more to life than the often rather bleak reductionism of Richard Dawkins. Its good to see quotes from poets and writers as well as philosophers and theologians brought to bear on the question of what makes a life worth living. Plenty of avenues for further reflection are introduced here.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawkins the dork, 7 April 2014
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Your brilliant erudition makes Dawkins appear rather stupid.We must pray for that man even Voltaire made his peace with God This is no time to make enemies.
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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Angelic Speciousness, 24 Feb. 2009
By 
John Rudkin (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Religious belief is essentially subjective, and it is difficult task to justify an alternative to the objective view that, if there was ever a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent god, it must now be mad, malevolent or dead. In relying heavily on selective quotations of other people's opinions and special pleading, Cornwell fails to provide any convincing arguments to counter Dawkins' thesis. Much more interesting and coherent in this respect are the views of scientists Peter Russell in "From Science to God") and Bernard Haisch in "The God Theory".
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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I hoped for better; I was disappointed. Another critic bites the dust., 26 May 2008
By 
This review is from: Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion" (Hardcover)
I thought John Cornwell would do so much better than this. Often sly and rarely convincing. He is playing out of his league in taking on Dawkins although this is much better than most of the boring, extended Christian tracts which, delivered ex cathedra, merely repeat, "I know best and Richard Dawkins is ignorant."

To any Dawkins haters reading this all I would say is, "Keep on practising but success in undermining Dawkins with any fair minded readers is a long way off. I suppose you could try prayer except that it is Dawkins who seems to be on the side of the angels."
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A snide, creepy angel with no argument but plenty of blather, 25 July 2012
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There is much wrong with this book in terms of tenor, argument, thrust and integrity and to list all it's faults would be tedious; so I'll confine myself to the more obvious howlers.

First the style. You can't read Darwin's Angel without feeling patronised and queasy at its mawkish tone. Cornwell's central conceit of the caring angel is condescending, disingenuous and grating the final dedication: "with affection from Darwin's Angel and Yours." sounding frankly creepy. The conversational style palls quickly with lines such as: "I want to explore with you..." reading as if he were an awkward uncle talking down to a child; the combination of professed compassion for Dawkins in constant conjunction with blatant ad hominem attack seem like the ramblings of an incompetent passive aggressive.

But what of substance, this book is subtitled as a riposte to TGD so you expect to enjoy meaty argument but to follow the thread of his thought is problematic. Cornwell enjoys rambling from one thing to another often losing us (and himself) in pointless tangential peregrinations. For example chapter 18, ostensibly about a Darwinian account of religion, dissolves into a long digression on the uses of church buildings which adds nothing but tedium. In another chapter he picks up on a quote from Dostoyevsky which Dawkins employs to illustrate a certain point in an argument- but instead of engaging with the actual argument Cornwell chides Dawkins for misunderstanding Dostoyevsky's overall theme which cues a completely irrelevant précis of The Brothers Karamazov. This obsession with splitting hairs and arguing the toss when it comes to quotes again surfaces on page 114: Dawkins uses a line from Yeats, Cornwell again ignores the main point Dawkins is trying to make and argues that the poem has a different theme- well, who cares- these quotes are illustrative of points, window-dressing, not arguments themselves!

His eagerness to engage only with the petty and trivial is demonstrated further as he gets lost in discussions about whether atheists are really cleverer than theists (chapter 16)- the lacklustre conclusion (sans argument natch) is that there are different kinds of intelligence; but really who cares? Or when he takes Dawkins to task for employing purpose-laden words in evolution discussions: "Your addiction to teleological explanations of natural functions is patently unscientific" (page 133)- this simply betrays an ignorance of Dawkins' assertions repeatedly stated that such phrasing is just an accident of language- metaphors which would be awkward to avoid and imply nothing about purpose.

Cornwell prefers insinuation to argument, there are multiple ad hominem attacks on Dawkins with allegations of egoism, self-delusion even messiah-complex. But when he does engage he often misunderstands what Dawkins is driving at. On page 54 he brands Russell's Teapot as `arbitrary' and pulls out one of Aquinas' prime mover arguments as a riposte. But the whole point of the teapot story is that it IS arbitrary, it is a device to show that the theists claim that atheists can't disprove God is a hollow one- Cornwell's choice of counter argument (with one of the ineffectual Five ways of Aquinas) just shows how little he has understood the point made. In fact Cornwell seems confused on even basic points of terminology as when he conflates Theism and Deism on page 12 and again on page 158.

Much in Darwin's Angel is simply asserted rather than argued as when later in the same chapter he characterises Mutiverse theory as "hardly a compelling scientific argument"- try telling that to the hundreds of scientists currently theorising just such a thing. He counters Dawkins Ultimate 747 with the line that God is simple and can therefore be a legitimate candidate for ultimate cause, but does he reinforce with robust evidence; do we hear reasoned argument- of course not, why bother with such tedious frippery when you can just assert (page 60) that: "theologians deny that God is made up of parts... they insist on his simplicity". You might question how a god without parts could design, build and maintain a universe not to mention listen to the prayers of billions and intervene on a day to day basis (not only on this planet but throughout creation) but it will do you no good against the ruthless assertion that god is SIMPLE. Theologians say so! That does for Cornwell's Angelic alter ego, and it should do for you!

Some things are expected in this type of book- so it comes as no surprise that we get the usual Hitler and Stalin were atheists therefore... Try telling him that atheism is not a positive doctrine that it entails nothing; engenders no belief, no dogma rather it is a LACK of belief- he won't hear you though. No, instead he will in a breath-taking calumny (chapter 19) infer that Dawkins' meme theory of religious induction would ultimately lead to Nazi-esque `solutions' for religious believers if ever power was given to those of Dawkins' persuasion- what an Angelic accusation!

The central challenge for the apologist is to layout the case for God, we await Cornwell's attempt with bated breath and when it finally comes (chapter 20) we cannot fail to be impressed by it's simplicity. "Why is there something rather than nothing", no need for argument of course, just the assertion that science can't address the issue but somehow theologians can. Somehow without the use of, logic, objective reason, and evidence based common sense (all of which are the province of science) theologians can ascertain this great truth of the cosmos.

So there you have it- a typical piece of theological claptrap, a vainglorious attempt to dismiss in the crudest possible way the New Atheist agenda and disingenuous, dissembling devil in the guise of a wheedling, mawkish angel.
Angels are a man-made fiction, and this book is similarly a disappointment, as a riposte to Dawkins it has no substance.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and measured, 8 Aug. 2009
I came to this book after reading Cornwell's autobiography which is burned through with honesty. Darwin's Angel is an elegant challenge to the fevered imagination of Professor Dawkins. Cornwell also injects a gentle humour into proceedings and gentle humour is not something one associates with Professor Dawkins and his groupies. A refreshing addition to the discourse.
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Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion"
Darwin's Angel: An Angelic Riposte to "The God Delusion" by John Cornwell (Hardcover - 6 Sept. 2007)
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