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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic insight into the hidden world around us, 27 April 2009
This review is from: Climbing Mount Improbable (Paperback)
Climbing Mount Improbable is probably my favourite of Richard Dawkins' pieces on natural selection. This book stands as a testament to the absolute wonder of the natural world around us, taking the reader through several examples of the most inexplicable constructs of nature Professor Dawkins not only unveils the amazing complexity behind each, but reveals how that complexity could easily have come about by natural selection.
From the eye of a bird to the web of a spider Dawkins reveals intricacies you would never have known, from the mating rituals of some species of spiders where fly's are wrapped in webbed parcels as a gift to the female, to the amazing mimicking powers of some species of beetles to look like ants, Dawkins takes the reader on a journey with immense clarity.
The book can be heavy going sometimes, particularly when even Dawkins gift of writing cannot mask the sheer complexity of some of the pieces about the geometry of shells, for instance. That aside this book will show the reader just how amazing the natural world really is, and specifically how there was no need for a creator to instigate any of it.
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Initial post: 16 Jan 2014 04:17:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Jan 2014 04:20:43 GMT
I've just ordered ''the extended phenotype'', I'll see how i get on with that, but this sounds (possibly) more my cup of tea. But then again: ''the mating rituals of some species of spiders where fly's are wrapped in webbed parcels as a gift to the female,'' - heard of that, and '' the amazing mimicking powers of some species of beetles to look like ants,'' - new to me, but is it really more amazing than the bee orchid, or even the well-known ''eyes'' on a butterfly wing?

And more importantly, is it illuminating? What I'm interested in is where ''Dawkins ...reveals how that complexity could easily have come about by natural selection''. This is what I'm asking: how much of this is modern scholarship, not very well known, - does it discuss epigenetics, which I only heard of in the past 2 or 3 years - and how much is this just explaining what is already well-known to someone who is interested in science and not new to the topic? (I may well get the answer when I receive the extended phenotype, my first Dawkins.)

Finally, I could feel cheated if I find I am not impressed with his computer programs, and found myself wanting him to take a leaf out of Darwin's book; I don't have a detailed knowledge, but left to his own devices, wouldn't Darwin have kept on adding more and more examples from the natural world, wasn't he such an irrepressible observer of nature that it was a struggle for him to stop gathering material and write the book? I really hope the computer stuff is enlightening; can anyone tell me, is it just aimed at providing a metaphor, the program illustrating something in a way that will feel less abstract to the unconvinced creationists (which is useful too)?

(My personal stance, unrelated to comments on this book: The reason I don't feel much need to read his more anti-creationist/intelligent design books is: I don't ridicule Christians as a policy, but I know enough theology to know that no-one serious, honest and informed can take the (very Babylonian) story of creation literally, or even claim that it approximately correlates to our current knowledge (do many still claim this? I think we were told this one in school. You don't need any theological training for this one, Genesis says plainly enough, above the sky there is the rest of the sea, which all (sea below, air between, sea above) existed before stars. Not quite what we believe today.) and by definition, creationist/intelligent Design movements propose nothing worthy of scientific consideration, so I don't see the interest for me in a long discussion by Dawkins or anyone else; Creationists are a sophisticated, well-funded pressure group aiming to set the clock back and by infiltrating the education system, to make their religious ideology a dominant force in public life. Look at some of these people: seme believe nothing, not human dignity, not honesty, but absolutely nothing is important when compared to what they call saving people from hell in the afterlife that their version of the Christian tradition believes in.)

So back on topic, I asked two questions, ''how much of this is (very) modern scholarship, not very well known, and how much is this just explaining what is already well-known to someone who is interested in science and not new to the topic? (I may well get the answer when I receive the extended phenotype, my first Dawkins.)''

and ''Might I find the computer stuff enlightening or, is it just aimed at providing a metaphor, the program illustrating something in a way that will feel less abstract to the unconvinced creationists''?

And since you obviously still haven't heard enough from me: to see more about where I am coming from with those two questions, read my short review and long comment discussing L'évolution vue par un botaniste.
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