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A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings by…
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A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Richard Dawkins

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1,438167,618 (3.91)11
Member:Drumlin
Title:A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings
Authors:Richard Dawkins
Info:Phoenix (an Imprint of The Orion Publishing Group Ltd ) (2004), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 304 pages
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A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love by Richard Dawkins (2003)

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About the author: quoting from the book's back cover, "Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He has written many highly acclaimed books, including, 'Unweaving the Rainbow', 'The Blind Watchmaker' and 'The Ancestor's Tale.'" About the book: quoting from the book's back cover, "The first collection of essays from renowned scientist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins is an enthusiastic declaration, a testament to the power of rigorous scientific examination to reveal the wonders of the world. In these essays Dawkins revisits the meme, the unit of cultural information that he named and wrote about in his groundbreaking work 'The Selfish Gene.' Here also are moving tributes to friends and colleagues, including a eulogy for novelist Douglas Adams, author of 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'; correspondence with the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, and visits with the famed paleoanthropologists Richard and Maeve Leakey at their African wildlife preserve. The collection ends with a vivid note to Dawkins's ten-year-old daughter, reminding her to remain curious, to ask questions, and to live the examined life."
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  uufnn | Jun 24, 2017 |
Richard Dawkins more often than not is labeled arrogant, whther in print, in lecture or in person. Having read, listened and talked to Dawkins, I would be hard pressed to argue the contrary. Nevertheless, I still like him and what he has to say, even if I don't understand everything.

The Devil’s Chaplain is a collection of essays published in 2003, that according to the backleaf of the paperback, is “an enthusiastic declaration, a testament to the powers of rigorous scientific examination to reveal the wonders of the world.” Well, I think it is a wonderful collection ranging from the pedantic to the candid, from righteous to humble (if you look close, you’ll see this). He can be wittily entertaining and maddeningly academic, but never boring. And he doesn’t pull punches (no expects that anyway).

Dawkins grouped his essays into six (actually seven) sections and provides a foreword to each, explaining his choices for inclusion.

In “Science and Sensibility” he talks about Darwin (of course). He examines the relativity of truth as related to perspective, with science as the only real truth. He looks at the human ape family tree, ethics in genetic studies, relates his experiences as a jury member (prompting me to rethink the jury concept). Two of my favorite essays in this section look at quackery of new age crystal proponents and a brilliant review of “Intellectual Impostures” by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont (published in the US as “Fashionable Nonsense”)offering Dawkins’ Law of Conservation of Difficulty and a web link to a hilarious site: The Postmodernism Generator (http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/postmodern/” that “will spontaneously generate for you, using faultless grammatical principles, a spanking new postmodern discourse, never before seen.”

In “Light Will Be Thrown”, the chapters look at Darwinism’s effect outside biology and Darwinism as a universal truth. He also relates with palpable distaste his experience with the “murky underworld of creationist propaganda.” Within that chapter is a fascinating look at information transfer, one of the best, if dry, reads in the book.

In “The Infected Mind”, Dawkins concentrates all barrels on religion. He revisits memes and his view of religions as viruses of the mind. He dismisses claims of the convergence of science and religion, and does a number on the tendency to afford religious spokesmen a “privileged platform”, such as including their opinions in scientific discussions where they have no place.

“They Told Me, Heraclitus” is a collection of tributes and eulogies to Douglas Adams, W.D. Hamilton and John Diamond, the last exposing some of the snake oil masquerading as “alternative medicine.”

“Even the Ranks of Tuscany” blows the lid off the exaggerated conflict between Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. Dawkins freely admits he was neither close friends with Gould nor in agreement on their respective views of evolution, but he was highly respectful of Gould’s scientific approach and laudatory of Gould’s writing. The chapter contains some reviews of Gould’s books, both favorable and unfavorable, and concludes with a sad recounting of a final collaborative effort against the intelligent design movement that was cut short before publication by Gould’s death.

After a chapter on Africa, he concludes with a moving letter to his (then) ten year old daughter entitled "Good and Bad Reasons for Believing" ( )
  Razinha | May 23, 2017 |
Meh. It's a useful read, and I did fine it useful at the time I read it. He's better when he sticks to evolutionary science. ( )
  Michael_Rose | Jan 10, 2016 |
It would no doubt discomfit Dawkins to know that I revere the words he writes with an almost religious zeal. I love his belligerence, I love his conviction, I love his passion. And I believe he's correct in his science. The closing essay is a letter to his daughter about how to decide what to believe, and it's brilliant. I liked learning more about the alleged feud between Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. I found myself taking notes about books mentioned in passing. A delightful book which reinforces all my prejudices. ( )
1 vote satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Delightfully stimulating essays about a good variety of topics. Some (justified!) distrust of relativism and pseudoscience, but also tender loving parts and waxing philosophical about science, his friends, and family. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618485392, Paperback)

Richard Dawkins has an opinion on everything biological, it seems, and in A Devil's Chaplain, everything is biological. Dawkins weighs in on topics as diverse as ape rights, jury trials, religion, and education, all examined through the lens of natural selection and evolution. Although many of these essays have been published elsewhere, this book is something of a greatest-hits compilation, reprinting many of Dawkins' most famous recent compositions. They are well worth re-reading. His 1998 review of Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont's Fashionable Nonsense is as bracing an indictment of academic obscurantism as the book it covered, although the review reveals some of Dawkins' personal biases as well. Several essays are devoted to skillfully debunking religion and mysticism, and these are likely to raise the hackles of even casual believers. Science, and more specifically evolutionary science, underlies each essay, giving readers a glimpse into the last several years' debates about the minutiae of natural selection. In one moving piece, Dawkins reflects on his late rival Stephen Jay Gould's magnum opus, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, and clarifies what it was the two Darwinist heavyweights actually disagreed about. While the collection showcases Dawkins' brilliance and intellectual sparkle, it brings up as many questions as it answers. As an ever-ardent champion of science, honest discourse, and rational debate, Dawkins will obviously relish the challenge of answering them. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:51 -0400)

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"One of the most renowned evolutionary biologists at work today. Richard Dawkins has written passionately for years on subjects that matter deeply to him - and matter urgently to all of us. A Devil's Chaplain brings together the best and most provocative of his essays, on subjects ranging from evolution to ethics, from travel to literature, from education to religion. The result is an intriguing portrait of one of the finest minds in science." "With eloquence and vigor, these essays put forward Dawkin's most fundamental axiom: seek truth. He speaks out against pseudoscience and deftly dissects religion and mysticism. He writes infectiously of his awe at the marvelous complexity of the universe, pays moving tribute to dear friends and worthy colleagues, and tenderly recalls his boyhood in Africa. Uncompromising, even ruthless, as Dawkins famously is when defending scientific truth and reason, this collection also shows a gentler, more contemplative side which may surprise his many readers."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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