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Dawkins forceful over monkey business - Comments

transylvanian's Avatar Comment 1 by transylvanian

Am pre-ordering the book tonight.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 00:45:00 UTC | #396427

Bala's Avatar Comment 2 by Bala

"...though not always for his tone and style. "

What's he talking about? It's the style that sells science. Here in India our school textbooks have lengthy chapters on evolution, but its written so badly and dull. Most of the time its upto the teacher to make it interesting. Whereas Dawkins' style, I find, engages reader and take them on a journey.

I must admit though, I am at page 166 - the missing link chapter but I haven't encountered the "theorum" after it was described long back. Maybe it will resurface again.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 01:53:00 UTC | #396436

Uhtred's Avatar Comment 3 by Uhtred

Just finished my first reading and am going back for more. The information and the style make the book, for me, almost unputdownable.
Thanks, Richard, for a masterwork.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 03:02:00 UTC | #396443

bigkoala's Avatar Comment 4 by bigkoala

Scientific method > any other current methodology for determining truth

Truth > style

People who cling to anti-evolution falsehoods are either < smart or < sane.

Given the frustrations of dealing with the less than smart or less than sane on a daily basis, Dawkins is amazingly civil in tone and style. No one objects to derisive dismissal and harsh tones when dealing with whack jobs who believe the Earth is flat. Believing the Earth is 6000 or 10000 years old, and that evolution doesn't exist, is like believing the Earth is flat.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 03:06:00 UTC | #396445

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 5 by SaintStephen

Nothing untoward about Mark Broatch's angle on TGSOE, until this "jibe" :

He should also avoid the biblical jibes he slips in; it's beneath him.
What the hell does that even mean, "beneath him"? Is Broatch implying that it's beneath Dawkins's dignity to keep women from being sexually mutilated? Beneath his dignity to prevent fundamentalist wackos from murdering doctors? Beneath his dignity to ridicule the relentless religious slaughter in Israel, Gaza, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Serbia, Croatia, Sudan, or Lebanon? What the heck are you talking about, Broatch? Please listen to Stephen Colbert again; after all, it is you who quoted him:

"Remember kids, in order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant."

There must be an editorial conspiracy against Dawkins. It's like every favorable review proceeds along swimmingly, until the very end and then OUCH! What the hell just bit me? And it's always some trivial little snipe about his disdain for religion.

I'm so tired of this crap I'm just going to stop this post right now and go find a Christian to argue with.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 03:40:00 UTC | #396448

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

The threadbare status of accommodationism is easily seen in that someone who recognises the "Swiss cheeses of logic that are the major religions" nonetheless richly tells off someone else for being even a little critical of religion. I repeat a question I have raised before: can one defend evolution without saying something that could be construed in such a way? Given that evolution contradicts creationism, which is religious, the answer would seem to be no. But if all these reviewers disagree with me, I'd be happy to see them write the book any better.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 07:01:00 UTC | #396472

Ubiquitous Che's Avatar Comment 7 by Ubiquitous Che

"It is disappointing that several hundred years after the dawn of the age of Enlightenment, huge numbers of people still doubt that we share a common ancestor with the ape."

I find it disappointing that several hundred years after the dawn of the age of Enlightenment, a journalist covering a book for the evidence of evolution doesn't understand that we don't share a common ancestor with 'the' ape - we are apes.

But still - baby steps are good.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 07:14:00 UTC | #396476

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 8 by SaintStephen

6. Comment #414510 by Jos Gibbons on September 13, 2009 at 8:01 am

...can one defend evolution without saying something that could be construed in such a way?
I think you're right, Jos. Simply broaching the subject of evolution is an automatic dispute with any of the Big 3 (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism).

I'm almost lucky, in a way, to have a Mum who is still a very devout Catholic. (Catholics claim to believe in evolution, as I'm sure you know.) Mum goes along with this, but when I begin questioning biblical claims that run counter to evolutionary principles, she just can't seem to make the next leap which would be that the entire bible just becomes a big parable, and thus any real foundation for the Christian God simply vanishes.

I can tell she's thinking about the implications, but she just can't let herself go there. I suppose that's over 70 years of brainwashing at work.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 07:15:00 UTC | #396478

fossil-fish's Avatar Comment 9 by fossil-fish

Like most of the reviews so far it is overall very favourable. Also like most others there is an element of looking really hard for some negative point to make. Surely that is just a good reviewer trying to do their best and present some sort of balanced result. Do we really want flattering, patronising gush. Perhaps the fact that, as in other cases, they have to look so hard for such minor unimportant issues is what really tells of their overall opinion. Most reviews I have seen, even with their niggles, would still most deinitely encourage someone to buy this book.

BTW,loved the Colbert quote, never heard that before.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 09:16:00 UTC | #396502

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 10 by Paula Kirby

Well, as others have pointed out, there's always the obligatory dig somewhere in these reviews, but this one strikes me as not quite as guilty as others in this respect. A couple of comments, though:

Trouble is, he is speaking only to the converted, to the few who are wavering, and to creationists looking to poke holes in the evolutionary argument. He will not make a dent in the worldview of the loudest fundamentalists, which he identifies in the book as coming from the Christian and Muslim faiths, who believe the earth is only 10,000 years old. The wrong people are listening.
That is inevitably true, but it can't be helped. In order to stop the spread of creationism, it isn't absolutely essential to convince the creationists themselves (though that would be nice), but it IS essential to arm their potential victims with knowledge about why we can be absolutely certain that evolution is a fact.
Dawkins is sometimes accused of being cold-hearted, and in The Greatest Show he could have waxed more lyrical about the very real miracle of life that becomes apparent through the book ..
Well, it's true: Dawkins is sometimes accused of being cold-hearted, joyless etc. But not, I think, by anyone who has actually read his books! I distinctly remember reading A Devil's Chaplain and Unweaving the Rainbow (they were my very first foray into reading science), and being literally unable to contain my excitement and, yes, joy at the wonders I found in them. They are love letters to life, the world and the laws of nature. Anything less 'cold-hearted' it is impossible to imagine! TGSOE is a different kind of book: a simple setting-out and explanation of the evidence for evolution. But even here, the last chapter is a gloriously poetic celebration of his subject. Perhaps the reviewer didn't quite make it that far?

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:01:00 UTC | #396505

Consciousmess's Avatar Comment 11 by Consciousmess

I love this book and I'm well over half way through it. I must thank you, Richard, for this as it has given be a perfect resource to use in class and I teach in a multi-cultural school.

Many many thanks, and good luck with all the reaction you will face around the world.

I'm so glad you do what you do!

For anyone else who hasn't seen the following website, please visit as I've gone and bought myself one of these T-shirts!!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/shoppingandfashion/6167833/20-coolest-atheist-T-shirts-for-sale-on-the-web.html

Jon

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:11:00 UTC | #396506

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 12 by MrPickwick

I'm dedicating the whole day today to the book!

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:14:00 UTC | #396507

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

This seems to be a reasonable review. I don't agree with some of it, but it at least (unlike some other reviews) it seems to be dealing with the book that Richard actually wrote. Perhaps we should be grateful for that!

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:22:00 UTC | #396509

bnightm's Avatar Comment 14 by bnightm

Let's not pretend all who have something less than completely ingratiating to say about Dawkins' books, haven't actually read any of them.

I found 'The God Delusion' a rather dull read without an original point, but at least it was more engaging than Stenger's 'God - the failed hypothesis'.

Just because the debate is old, doesn't excuse a book's material.

I've ordered The Greatest Show on Earth. Anxious to see if it'll be another dry read or if the author's passion will shine through. Like it does in the works of Sagan and Feynmann, or the speeches of Christopher Hitchens and Neil deGrasse Tyson, though they have vastly different things to say.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:39:00 UTC | #396511

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 15 by KRKBAB

11. Comment #414544 by Consciousmess- I read those Atheist T-shirt slogans. The one that reads: "I Love Roman Lions"- wow! So dark, so cruel, so delicious.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:40:00 UTC | #396512

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 16 by KRKBAB

14. Comment #414549 by bnightm- Your point is well taken and needs to be said, I think. I am thoroughly impressed and enchanted with Dawkins's style of speaking, debating and his overall knowledge and message- but- I found T.G.D. to be a little uninspired and dare I say it- slightly dull. Not so with Carl Sagan's and Sam Harris's books. I am looking forward to reading TGSOE and hope to see a little more passion come through in that book, because he obviously shows passion and style in his debates and speaking engagements.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:48:00 UTC | #396514

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 17 by Paula Kirby

bnightm: Let's not pretend all who have something less than completely ingratiating to say about Dawkins' books, haven't actually read any of them.
If you mean me, I don't, and that's not what I said. But it is impossble to have read RD's scientific books and conclude that he is 'cold-hearted' and 'joyless', no matter what else someone may conclude about him. His passion for and delight in the world around us are palpable.

I think many people have only read TGD or, even worse, have only read the various responses to TGD, and think they know him on the basis of that. Many of the epithets regularly applied to him would never have become so common without TGD: I don't actually find TGD 'cold-hearted' or 'joyless' either, but many people do assume that life without religion must be both.

By the way, I would defend Stenger's book too: I enjoyed it enormously and found it covered some ground not found in the 'core' atheist books. There were bits of it (the heavy cosmology) that I found hard-going just because I'm not a natural scientist, but they weren't too long and they never caused me to lose interest.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:55:00 UTC | #396515

Apathy personified's Avatar Comment 18 by Apathy personified

Dawkins is sometimes accused of being cold-hearted,

By who? Anyone who's read Unweaving the Rainbow could never, ever declare RD to be 'cold-hearted'. However, regardless of the opinion of the reviewer, it is nice to read a review that spends over 60% of the article discussing the book in question.

I'm only 50 pages into TGSOE so i can't really comment on it... please could nobody spoil the end for me.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 10:57:00 UTC | #396517

fossil-fish's Avatar Comment 19 by fossil-fish

Apathy, it was the butler. Sorry.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 11:32:00 UTC | #396521

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Paula-

But it is impossble to have read RD's scientific books and conclude that he is 'cold-hearted' and 'joyless', no matter what else someone may conclude about him. His passion for and delight in the world around us is palpable.


That is certainly present in TGSOE.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 11:36:00 UTC | #396523

Follow Peter Egan's Avatar Comment 21 by Follow Peter Egan

He does get sidetracked by the fact that a "theory" in science means something different in everyday life


Sidetracked? The reviewer doesn't think it's important and relevant to counter the depressingly omnipresent argument: "Well, it's only a theory."?

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 11:45:00 UTC | #396526

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 22 by Nunbeliever

Of ALL the reviews I have read so far the ONLY criticism they've managed to come up with is Dawkins' "tone" and "style", as this author calls it.

My question is whether ANYONE would criticize, say, a political commentator for being honest and straight forward??? I don't think so! Talk about having double standars. Or in other words "we agree with what you're saying, but we don't want you to say it... because.... well, because!!"

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 11:52:00 UTC | #396528

KRKBAB's Avatar Comment 23 by KRKBAB

I'm certainly not one who thinks that Dawkins is cold hearted and joyless. These are baseless remarks abou Dawkins. But so far I have read TGD and The Ancestor's Tale and found them both to be enormously informative and interesting, but a little dry in style. I know his intention is to be a populizer and not just write to scientists and scholars and he succeeds on so many levels. Im assuming by the remarks so far that TGSOE will not disappoint.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 11:59:00 UTC | #396531

Apathy personified's Avatar Comment 24 by Apathy personified

He will not make a dent in the worldview of the loudest fundamentalists,
And whose fault is that? I never think it's particularly relevant to bring this up in a book review, as it's independent of the quality of the book. There's a limit to what RD can do to actually get people to read the book, some people are just too willfully ignorant to even consider another possibility.

fossil-fish,
I thought it was Snape, who then escaped on rosebud.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 12:08:00 UTC | #396536

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 25 by Nunbeliever

Comment #414514 by Ubiquitous Che

I find it disappointing that several hundred years after the dawn of the age of Enlightenment, a journalist covering a book for the evidence of evolution doesn't understand that we don't share a common ancestor with 'the' ape - we are apes.


Well quite clearly he meant the modern apes... Humans are not modern apes. I think he succesfully showed his point. What you are doing is nit-picking. Quite childish in my opinon. For goodness sake, It is a book review NOT a scientific paper.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 12:13:00 UTC | #396539

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 26 by MrPickwick

Comment #414555 by Apathy personified

Sorry Apathy, spoiler ahead: God is innocent; he didn´t do nothing.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 12:23:00 UTC | #396544

dsainty's Avatar Comment 27 by dsainty

I'm not reading this book to learn if evolution is true, I already know that. I'm not reading this book to question whether God exists, any God hypothesis is childish.

I'm reading it because Richard puts on a fantastic, thrilling and witty show in every book he writes, and because life in the universe is dear to my heart, and it's a privilege to be able to learn about it.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 12:43:00 UTC | #396546

Vaal's Avatar Comment 28 by Vaal

Even to some thoroughly rational people, the fact that we did share a common ancestor with apes is a bit perturbing

Why? I have never regarded it as perturbing. The Biblical myth of us appearing from nowhere, divorcing ourselves from nature, I do regard as perturbing, nothing less than intellectual capitulation.

I find that we have a common ancestor with apes, indeed, all life, as something to be celebrated, something to be in awe of, that all living animals share an extraordinary historical legacy with each other. What a tremendous story, diminishing religious arrogance to a small strutting stage, not harvesting the true scale, beauty, and power of our shared evolutionary heritage.

Stephen Colbert said it best: "Remember kids, in order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant."

Encapsulating creationism in one brief quote. Bravo!

Nice to see a newspaper review, that doesn't jump off at a tangent with a snide remark, or an incorrect and libelous quotation. It makes a pleasant change to read some responsible journalism, in this day of celebrating untruth.

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 13:17:00 UTC | #396552

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 29 by Border Collie

There, I did it again ... lost my mind and read another review. I don't read reviews of anything except Richard's books! I think I only read these things so that I can read the comments from you guys. Damn, I love this site ... I can sit here all day and read smart, witty, humorous people rip reviewers, superstition, religion and fleas apart. My God, it's like free ice-cream cone and Christian day at the Roman coliseum!!!

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 14:58:00 UTC | #396565

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 30 by Paula Kirby

To be fair, Border Collie, Mark Broatch has done a pretty good job with this review and doesn't deserve to be 'ripped up' (and hasn't been, either). Some of the other reviewers now ... :-)

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 15:17:00 UTC | #396572