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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In Praise of the Scientific Method, 9 Jun. 2004
This review is from: A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (Hardcover)
If you only read one book by Professor Richard Dawkins, I recommend The Selfish Gene. That book is a remarkable tour de force covering the latest thinking about how evolution really works by taking into account our understanding of genetic qualities in reinforcing the evolutionary struggle of the survival of the fittest.
By contrast, A Devil's Chaplain is a book that will appeal primarily to people who have read several books by Professor Dawkins and would like to know more about him as a person and his views outside of neo-Darwinism.
If you have not read anything by Professor Dawkins, I recommend you skip this book unless you have a thorough understanding of the latest evolutionary theories. Much of the book won't make sense to you otherwise.
A Devil's Chaplain is a series of essays (some published before and some not), laments, eulogies and a letter to his daughter. From these materials, you can learn more about how Professor Dawkins sees his colleagues, those who oppose evolutionary teachings, postmodernists, and his personal views on religious beliefs and "alternative" medicine. Much of what he says will not surprise you. As a scientist, he favors the scientific method and is rationally skeptical of anything that cannot be proven by this method. He is also annoyed by a society that grants prominent opportunities to share views that are not proven by scientific methods. As a result, he is also an atheist . . . but one who draws great joy from considering the world around him and the methods by which it has been created.
Many people think of atheists as gloomy people, or people without much emotion. Professor Dawkins is neither. His loving descriptions of relations with his colleagues, rivals and mentors show just the opposite. His concern for using scientific methods is obviously also based on a desire to help people live better lives.
Catholics may find the book a little annoying in that Professor Dawkins likes to challenge some of the "faith"-based beliefs that that religion espouses.
As I finished the book, I found that I was most attracted to the advanced speculations that Professor Dawkins used in his book that speak directly to evolutionary studies. I especially recommend the essay, "Son of Moore's Law," where he describes the timing of when individual genomes will be economically affordable and how that will influence health and medical treatments. I was also drawn to the essays that describe his optimistic belief that we can escape our evolutionary heritage and evolve into people who produce the best possible future for all.
There's much food for thought here. I doubt if any religious believers will be undone by his arguments. I also doubt that he will convert any people who believe in the literal creation as described in the Bible to change their views.
Ultimately, I was left wondering how other prominent scientists bridge the gap between their scientific methods and having a rich religious life.
I graded the book down one star because the editor presumes the reader has a little too much familiarity with the leading lines of thought about evolution. The book could have used more footnotes to explain the background of the points Professor Dawkins is making for those of us who are not evolutionary biologists . . . but simply like to read books about the subject.
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