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Forget Design, It's All About Adaptations: Review of The Greatest Show on Earth - Comments

PJG's Avatar Comment 1 by PJG

"Science's most outspoken advocate is eloquent but also patronising in his latest crusade against creationists".

"Patronising"? What is he supposed to be, "respectful of their intelligent and reasoned argument"?

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:18:00 UTC | #395107

abhisheksaxena's Avatar Comment 2 by abhisheksaxena

Newspapers throw around terms like "patronizing" in such a matter-of-fact way. Do they ever think of what alternative Richard has?

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:29:00 UTC | #395110

mattincinci's Avatar Comment 3 by mattincinci

yeah right Richard is such a nasty bully and patronising also...thats bull crap!

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:44:00 UTC | #395115

GBile's Avatar Comment 4 by GBile

The soon to appear comment by MechaTengu:

Theorum is smelly, theorum is cheesy, theorum is finnicky, theorum is squishy, theorum is fluffy, theorum is splashy/blushy/smootchy/blyme/cottony/privvy/gnashy/growly.

So why Richard, why ?

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:44:00 UTC | #395116

crusader234's Avatar Comment 5 by crusader234

Thank goodness for Richard Dawkins.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:49:00 UTC | #395118

MechaTengu's Avatar Comment 6 by MechaTengu

Mecha Tengu, LET'S GO!

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:50:00 UTC | #395119

ioneagle's Avatar Comment 7 by ioneagle

Why don't theses idiots just get over it and give up

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:50:00 UTC | #395120

andysin's Avatar Comment 8 by andysin

PJG, after reading the last couple of paragraphs I don't think the author of the article means patronizing towards creationists but to the readers of this book. Still, it ends on a positive note.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:51:00 UTC | #395121

gobes's Avatar Comment 9 by gobes

"Science's most outspoken advocate is eloquent but also patronising in his latest crusade against creationists".

I would imagine It's pretty hard not to sound patronising - if you are explaining something, which at heart is very very simple, and which a child should be able to grasp... to what is essentially a very large group of complete and utter IDIOTS. A group of people, and lets be fair, who are at the very thin end of the IQ stick.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 17:58:00 UTC | #395122

Mayhemm's Avatar Comment 10 by Mayhemm

Yes. At what point can we finally, as Sam Harris puts it, call a spade a spade?

The creationist argument boils down to a drawn out "Nu-uh!" and a foot stomp. How do you possibly treat that with any kind of respect and maintain intellectual honesty?

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:06:00 UTC | #395124

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 11 by Nunbeliever

Science's most outspoken advocate is eloquent but also patronising in his latest crusade against creationists


Well, as he does not put forward that Dawkins is factually wrong in his judgment Jonathan Rée seems to think we should rather PITTY or sympathize with these people who clearly don't have a clue about science. Rather like we sympathize with a mentally challenged person who just don't know better. And that clearly is NOT patronising according to Rée.

edit:
And yes... now when I actually READ the article i see that the autor is actually refering to the reader when he is saying patronising ;-) Guess I should alter my method of writing first reading later ;-)

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:13:00 UTC | #395125

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 12 by Sally Luxmoore

I don't know how the rest of you can read this - it's too small, even in the enlarged version. Is there any other way of seeing the text?
In the meantime, I'm happy that the book is described as 'Book of the week'. That's good.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:16:00 UTC | #395126

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 13 by God fearing Atheist

On the whole this was a positive review. The comments about "patronising" were "patronising the reader" not "patronising IDiots". I will have to read TGSoE to judge for myself.

However, the number of reviews in the press are encouraging. The more publicity the better.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:17:00 UTC | #395127

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 14 by God fearing Atheist

12. Comment #413153 by Sally Luxmoore


Quite!

Click "Click to enlarge", Firefox gave me a "magnifying glass mouse cursor". Left click to magnify again. I could then read it using a magnifying glass on a 1920*1080 pixel 23" monitor!

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:22:00 UTC | #395129

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 15 by Steve Zara

Comment #413152 by Nunbeliever

Well, as he does not put forward that Dawkins is factually wrong in his judgment Jonathan Rée seems to think we should rather PITTY or sympathize with these people who clearly don't have a clue about science
.

Why not pity ignorance? Most people don't have a clue about most science. Pick someone at random even in a supposedly reasonably-educated Western country and ask them how a plane flies, what radioactivity is, what a gene is.

Matters like the MMR vaccine have shown that there is a considerable need for vastly improved public education in science.

But this is not the fault of the public. It is the education system. This is why we need highly skilled educators like Richard.

I have to say I found the supposed example of Richard being patronising: "If it is late at night ... it might be an idea to resume tomorrow" rather amusing.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:27:00 UTC | #395130

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 16 by Sally Luxmoore

God fearing Atheist

Aha! Thank you. That did help.
Not a bad article, I suppose - since it's really meant for tired commuters on the train / bus home. I like the picture. It is similar but not identical to a large colour plate in the book.
I don't agree that Richard is patronising to the readers. There are actually some parts of the book that require careful attention and since Richard, like his hero, Darwin, is very keen to be understood, I took the quoted comments about reading those bits when feeling 'fresh' as merely a kindly concern. People are SO ready to take offence where none is meant!
Being exasperated with creationists, on the other hand, is positively necessary not just for Richard, but for any person with any desire to understand. The 'History deniers' not only don't want to know what they don't like, they don't want others to know either. That is just plain wrong and should be opposed by all of us.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:33:00 UTC | #395131

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 17 by Jos Gibbons

I agree this was a largely positive review, as well as a largely good one. Much of the prose describing evolution was good science writing in its own right. Still though, one or two gripes:

Patronising? Since only some creationists are despicably systematic liars it must be possible in principle for someone to be “patronising” in his/her treatment of them*, so let’s see whether JR shows RD does just that when this “militant” (not this again!) figure acts as a “persecutor of benighted “creationists”” (scare quotes his; what purpose they serve I cannot ascertain, since it’s usually their own preferred label, but at least he didn’t put scare quotes around benighted, which is what they are). Patronising? Persecutor? Unfortunately JR never quotes anything RD says about them, so offers no evidence that RD is, as his critics would allege, up to his old tricks again!
* Maybe he meant RD patronises the reader. Again: shame JR has no quotations to back it up. Mind you, perhaps I shoudln't blame him: it could become rather laborious.

Interestingly, JR seems more anti-creationist than RD: JR misrepresents them, only recognising the YEC variety; and the book extracts and earlier works of RD’s which I have read do not fit JR’s allegation that RD considers them all “truckle-headed” (any ideas what that even means?) or “deluded by bigotry”.

Maybe JR is right to complain about RD’s tangents. Maybe, just maybe, the late at night quotation is indicative of RD realising this, as opposed to being, for example, an out of context quotation of something said before a long, technical discussion of the book’s hardest-to-understand ideas. Those of you who have read it can probably say.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:46:00 UTC | #395132

krhes's Avatar Comment 18 by krhes

Here's to the "persecutor of benighted creationists"!!! If anyone needs to 'lighten-up' it's Mr. Ree it seems, or does he feel that only such witty and perceptive newspaper commentators have access to gentle putdowns and seemingly “patronising” commentary?

[further rant: BBC Radio 4's Martha Carney (7-9-09) equally annoying parting comment about 'people of faith may disagree about that' after a last-minute-crammed-in, yet very interesting piece about the early social function of religion being all but a mechanism for controlling larger tribal units. Commentators please keep your thoughts to yourselves in such circumstances]

Muppets, muppets everywhere...

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 18:58:00 UTC | #395135

Big City's Avatar Comment 19 by Big City

I'm beginning to think that, if you write an article about Richard or review one of his books, then it's mandatory to tack on a bit calling him pretentious.

...he patronises readers like a bored, sarcastic schoolmaster.
Seems like somebody got Richard confused with Ben Stein.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 19:41:00 UTC | #395139

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 20 by Border Collie

Sally ... Maybe you an right click on it and convert it to a PDF.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:07:00 UTC | #395142

BadScooter's Avatar Comment 21 by BadScooter

I believe the problem is that many people just don't plain care. Some people don't care about politics, don't care about who's fault the finance crisis is, don't care about the never-ending debate on nuclear power, don't care about sports, don't care about whatever. And some people don't care about this kind of science questions. It's a kind of So-what-I'll-live-my-life-anyway-attitude.
That kind of a person could write this kind of book review and focus on stuff like "why is he so angry all the time!?", or "I wish he wouldn't be so patronising!", because he/she probably (most likely) already believe in evolution and reacts with a "well isn't there anything new in here cuz evolution is like old and stuff".
What im saying is basically that if you don't have any interest in squashing the last IDiot on earth, or think that its not even needed, then this kind of a review will be the end product.

Anyway, still, great to see all the attention and "Book of the month" is at least something.

My 2 cents.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:08:00 UTC | #395143

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 22 by Paula Kirby

Jos Gibbons: Maybe JR is right to complain about RD’s tangents. Maybe, just maybe, the late at night quotation is indicative of RD realising this, as opposed to being, for example, an out of context quotation of something said before a long, technical discussion of the book’s hardest-to-understand ideas. Those of you who have read it can probably say.

It does indeed come immediately before an already complicated but fascinating story becomes decidedly more complicated. (It's page 128 of the UK edition, if anyone wants to look it up; towards the end of the long section on Lenski's experiments with bacteria.)

It didn't strike me as remotely patronising: the next section does indeed become more complex and require a bit of extra concentration. (It's worth it though!)

Honestly, some of these reviewers seem to be really scraping the barrel in order to find something, anything, derogatory to say! Why should this particular comment be deemed to be patronising and therefore negative, as opposed to simply an example of Richard's burning desire to be properly understood and therefore positive? Is it likely that a similar comment in a similar context from a different author would have been condemned as 'patronising'? I doubt it somehow.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:09:00 UTC | #395144

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 23 by Border Collie

krhes ... 'Muppets, muppets everywhere ...' Thank, God, I thought I was the only one seeing them!
Seriously, I can hardly count the good things I would have missed (books, movies, plays, exhibits, etc.) had I based my behavior on some reviewer's opinion. Buy the book. I will.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:24:00 UTC | #395148

Bribase's Avatar Comment 25 by Bribase

patronizing huh?

As arguably the most important populariser of science today trying to explain a concept which is at the same time extremely intuitive but at the same time requires the reader to get their head around colossal expanses of time (which he in the book admits he has a hard time fathoming). He has to draw together multiple specialisations (biochemistry, taxonomy, geology, paleontology e.t.c), all of which he needs to explain to laymen like us. He has to micro-edit each sentence to avoid the relentless quote mining from the enourmous groundswell of IDiots who in the end will simply say 'Nah, it's all bollocks' anyway. He has spent an enourmous part of his life trying to communicate the story of the the entire planet earth to people with no specialised knowledge because it is being threatened by a relentless PR battle to dismantle in entirety the human career of science and replace it with bronze age theology.

Dawkins, patronising?

The Einstein was just an egghead

B

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:29:00 UTC | #395151

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 24 by Steve Zara

Comment #413172 by Paula Kirby

Honestly, some of these reviewers seem to be really scraping the barrel in order to find something, anything, derogatory to say!


I believe that may be what is expected by the editors! There has to be at least one snark about style somewhere.

I am beginning to wonder if Richard poses a real problem for those reviewing science books. Although things have improved considerably in terms of writing quality in such books in recent years, reviewers may find it hard to deal with real passion about a science subject. Science books are supposed to be a gentlemanly read, a polite and possibly even witty discourse on a subject of interest to those with the appropriate intellect.

But Richard really writes. He uses such bold imagery and metaphor. He writes about science as a subject of vital importance, and not as a hobby. He does not do 'coffee table' books. This must come as a shock to those who only expect to find such vigorous writing in poetry or literature. So they assume that Richard must be writing in a state of high emotion, and every phrase is read as hyperbole. And so, he is patronising, he is strident, he is shocking.

They are reading him wrong.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:29:00 UTC | #395150

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 26 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #413172 by Paula Kirby

I knew it! (I guess I'm getting good at spotting quote miners.) Lenski's work would warrant it. Thank you for verifying.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:38:00 UTC | #395153

tong_zhi's Avatar Comment 27 by tong_zhi

If Richard giving advice to follow his examples with a clear mind is patronising: then guilty. I guess the reviewer "had" to find something to balance an otherwise favourable article...

For what it's worth, I found reading Richards words was like listening to him speak - clear, structured, and aimed at keeping it understandable for the reader.

I'm glad that Australia had the book since at least August 28 - weeks before the potential primary audience of 40 percenters in the US!

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 20:54:00 UTC | #395155

gobes's Avatar Comment 28 by gobes

Perhaps Richard should do a pop-up version for them ;-)

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 21:08:00 UTC | #395157

Wadsworth's Avatar Comment 29 by Wadsworth

"Comment #413167 by Big City on September 7, 2009 at 8:41 pm

I'm beginning to think that, if you write an article about Richard or review one of his books, then it's mandatory to tack on a bit calling him pretentious".

--and be sure not to forget "shrill".

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 21:15:00 UTC | #395158

Hegelmon's Avatar Comment 30 by Hegelmon

On balance, I think this was a pretty good review. It's unfortunate that the editor decided to put the one minor criticism into the sub-header.

Mon, 07 Sep 2009 21:19:00 UTC | #395161