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The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of…
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The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe… (1986)

by Richard Dawkins

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Richard Dawkins is a well known evolutionary biologist and prominent advocate for atheism. In The Blind Watchmaker, he seeks to “persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence”—an ambitious project, indeed. In my case he was preaching to the choir, and although I think he succeeds in proving the truth of evolution, he may fall a little short in showing that it is the only possible explanation of the complex forms of life we find on earth.

The title of the book comes from a famous treatise by the 18th century British theologian, William Paley, who argued that the complexity of the living world could be explained only by positing a creative designer, in other words, God. Paley contrasted the experience of finding a stone on the ground compared to finding a watch in the same place. To him, the stone could have “lain there forever.” But “the watch must have had a maker…who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.” Paley found a similar need to intuit the existence of designer of the complex entities we see as animal life.

Dawkins, on the other hand, contends:

“Paley’s argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of his day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong.”

Dawkins then proceeds to explain how Darwin’s theory of evolution through blind natural selection provides a consistent and cogent explanation of how complex life arose and came to its current state. Along the way, he explains the role of randomness in evolution: mutations are random, but the ones that survive and flourish are due not to randomness, but to their fitness or adaptation to their environments. In fact, only a tiny minority of mutations improve the adaptation of species.

Dawkins also discusses the mechanism and role of genetics in passing on random variation in animal structure (the phenotype). Further, he demolishes the arguments of Lamarck, who taught that acquired characteristics could be inherited.

Darwin’s theory makes it possible to be a intellectually satisfied atheist since, as Dawkins correctly points out, evolution provides a sufficient explanation for complex life forms. However, he falls short of proving it is a necessary (that is, the only possible) explanation. But then science has rarely if ever provided necessary explanations. It is good enough to provide a sufficient explanation that is also plausible.

(JAB) ( )
2 vote nbmars | Jun 1, 2017 |
I agree with the blurb on the back of this book, from The Good Book Guide: "This might be the most important book on evolution since Darwin". ( )
1 vote | hcubic | Aug 2, 2015 |
Dawkins levererar som vanligt med bred insikt inom hela biologins och ger förhållandevis klara argument för att icke-kreationism, likväl som allmän förklaring av neo-darwinismens ibland lätt missförstådda delar. Rekommenderas! ( )
  zojjz | Sep 29, 2014 |
After reading The Selfish Gene, God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker, I think it's safe to say 'You can read just about any book written by Richard Dawkins'. ( )
  nmarun | Mar 11, 2014 |
Great: if you find evolution difficult to understand, this is the book to read.
  AMcBurnie | Nov 27, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Almost everything about this book – the instances, the writing, the passion, the lyrical imagery – confirms again and again that there is nothing dry about science, nothing heartless about research, and nothing unfeeling about the way a biologist looks at an animal.
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Dawkinsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Olbinski, RafalCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pyle, LizIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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We animals are the most complicated things in the known Universe.
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The Argument from Personal Incredulity is an extremely weak argument, as Darwin himself noted. [...]

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I personally, off the top of my head sitting in my study, never having visited the Arctic, never having seen a polar bear in the wild, and having been educated in classical literature and theology, have not so far managed to think of a reason why polar bears might benefit from being white. (p.38)
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L'evoluzione, sostiene Richard Dawkins in questo saggio ricco di sense of humour, è cieca: non vede dinanzi a sé, non pianifica nulla, non si pone alcun fine. Eppure, come un maestro orologiaio, ha prodotto risultati di straordinaria efficacia e precisione, organi perfetti e funzioni raffinate in un crescendo di complessità che distingue nettamente gli esseri viventi dagli oggetti della fisica. L'orologiaio cieco è un libro originale, ricco di informazioni, paradossi, osservazioni inaspettate e costituisce la più completa e chiara spiegazione della teoria dell'evoluzione e della selezione naturale, oltre che una circostanziata difesa del darwinismo dai numerosi attacchi di cui oggi è fatto segno.
(piopas)
Haiku summary
random mutation
and natural selection
slowly change species
(Munchkinguy)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393315703, Paperback)

Richard Dawkins is not a shy man. Edward Larson's research shows that most scientists today are not formally religious, but Dawkins is an in-your-face atheist in the witty British style:

I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence.

The title of this 1986 work, Dawkins's second book, refers to the Rev. William Paley's 1802 work, Natural Theology, which argued that just as finding a watch would lead you to conclude that a watchmaker must exist, the complexity of living organisms proves that a Creator exists. Not so, says Dawkins: "All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way... it is the blind watchmaker."

Dawkins is a hard-core scientist: he doesn't just tell you what is so, he shows you how to find out for yourself. For this book, he wrote Biomorph, one of the first artificial life programs. You can check Dawkins's results on your own Mac or PC.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:48 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

The watchmaker belongs to the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley, who made one of the most famous creationist arguments: Just as a watch is too complicated and too functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. It was Charles Darwin's brilliant discovery that put the lie to these arguments. But only Richard Dawkins could have written this eloquent riposte to the creationists. Natural selection - the unconscious, automatic, blind, yet essentially nonrandom process that Darwin discovered - has no purpose in mind. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. Acclaimed as perhaps the most influential work on evolution written in this century, The Blind Watchmaker offers an engaging and accessible introduction to one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

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