44 of 56 people found the following review helpful
A worthy goal... unfulfilled,
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This review is from: Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (Penguin Press Science) (Paperback)
Dawkins tends to set up a dialectic in his books - its always science versus religion and if I had to choose a side I would be on the former whole heartedly which I feel I should make clear first of all.
The idea of this book is to show that there is more wonder in the reality of science than there is in mysticism and delusion. I believe in that wholeheartedly as do most scientists I imagine. The problem is Dawkins intolerance of antiscientific views is not an embracing philosophy but an exclusionist one that makes books such as this difficult. The frequent quotes from romantic poets such as Blake and Keats does little to turn the text in to much of a symphony. There is much of interest here. The discussion of skinner boxes and pigeon behaviour are informative and incredibly amusing. If you see someone doing something odd because he thinks its lucky and will make his favourite team win - you cant call him brainless - he is at least as intelligent as a pigeon (but maybe not much more so)
Sadly it also becomes apparent that although Dawkins knows a fair amount of physics it is not his forte. He is a biologist and seems out of his depth talking about quantum mechanics and particle physics. Now that is not to say that what Dawkins tries to do is impossible, Carl Sagan does it marvellously and books such as Pale Blue Dot and Cosmos do what Dawkins attempts here.
There is a lot of interesting information here but the recurrence of poets and their poetry only distracts from the science. Dawkins has been so long on the defensive regarding evolution and defending science against irrationality ('intelligent design' for example) that he is left eminently unsuitable for an embracing, populist view of the wonder of science. A humorous book which does exactly such a thing is the 'Can Reindeer Fly' subtitled the science of Christmas by Roger Highfield. The science of Star Trek by Krauss does the same sort of thing for the sci-fi fans.
A noble effort from Dawkins but its best to stick to his insightful and fascinating explorations of neodarwinism such as the selfish gene, climbing mount improbable etc. Worth reading, but the book does not seem to accomplish its goals. There is much wonder in science but look for a less angry author to reveal it to you.