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The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of…

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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Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
This was a hard read... as in it was hard for me, because I'm stupid. I haven't studied Biology for over 30 years and I gave up because they kept trying to make me draw an eye. I was terrible at drawing eyes. So I got as much of this as my brain was able to process and there was a ton of goodness, but I could have done with more anecdotes and slightly less God-bashing. I get that God-bashing is Dawkins' superpower, but his arguments for natural selection stand on their own without them having to be a refutation. ( )
1 vote asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
This was the book that first introduced me to Dawkins-- and what a book it was! An incredible account of non-fiction that goes beyond what is expected. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Dec 24, 2018 |
In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins writes, "Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning. The purpose of this book is to resolve this paradox to the satisfaction of the reader" (pg. 29). He works to allay any misconceptions about evolutionary theory, writing, "Evolutionary change in a species largely consists of changes in how many copies there are of each of the various possible contents at each addressed DNA location, as the generations pass... what matters in evolution is changes in frequency of alternative possible contents at each address in populations" (pg. 169). He draws extensively upon computer simulations to help put scientific concepts that take billions of years or occur on the molecular level into terms the reader may understand. Further, he demonstrates his mastery of molecular genetics in explaining the way genes shape evolutionary paths. Through these explanations, Dawkins demonstrates how life and our place in the living world can be explained through science without resort to superstition and how, through an understanding of that science, we can better appreciate the variations of life. The Blind Watchmaker should be read as a companion to the first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species as it fills in the details that Darwin did not know but that would have served as further proof of his discovery. This 30th Anniversary Edition features a unique biomorph (see Chapter 3 for more details). ( )
1 vote DarthDeverell | Jun 26, 2018 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (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.
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.
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random mutation
and natural selection
slowly change species

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

An edition of this book was published by W.W. Norton.

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