To hear him discussing and introducing this book, I had arrived at the Oxford Union early; it was already packed and more benches and chairs were brought in. After an hour and a half's wait, during which he appeared at the door at regular intervals, it began. (In the interlude, the outside court had been packed, right along and out on to Broad Street and St Giles. The police had been called to control the - generally - orderly crowd and to explain there was no more room.) I had never seen that before or since; not many people can attract that high level of interest for a book dealing mainly with science and how humanity should determine what is true. Of course, the result of the crowd and the wait was, inevitably, a shorter lecture.
Science and Sensibility Light Will be Thrown The Infected Mind They Told Me, Heraclitus Even the Ranks of Tuscany There is All Africa and Her Prodigies in Us A Prayer for My Daughter
It is a book of thirty plus essays on a wide range of subjects but loosely linked on truth in science and the world. "In the face of these profound and sublime mysteries (nano science at atomic and molecular scale, string theory - my brackets) the low grade intellectual poodling of pseudo-philosophical poseurs seems unworthy of adult interest." (P 19) Never one to mince words as the foregoing illustrates, "Viruses in the Mind" deals with his concept of "memes", first mentioned in "The Selfish Gene", and the analogies of an infected computer and infected minds. The final essay is a charming but Dawkinsian letter to his daughter, ending "Your loving Daddy".
He has always been a clear, pleasing and poetic writer, yes, even on science! In an essay entitled "Snake Oil" dealing with cancer, John Diamond and Prince Charles' request for more money for alternative medicines, he writes: "When the pathologists have read the rune; when the oracles of X-ray, CT scan and biopsy have spoken and hope is guttering low; when the surgeons enters the room accompanied by 'a tall man ... looking embarrassed ... in hood and gown with a scythe over his shoulder', it is then that the 'alternative' and 'complimentary' vultures start circling." Over-dramatic, mixed-metaphors, perhaps; but writing of that quality needs consideration and explains why he has been recognised and awarded for the writing as well as the content.
Always an intelligent, challenging read his works often seem like that little chef's knife used to pry open clam shells, shells designed to keep the world out.
You may not agree with everything or the strength of his convictions but he will make you think. Recommended.