Dawkins is such a figurehead that to say anything about him seems pointless. While most people of my generation will know him as author of "The God Delusion," that same is to be said for this book for any previous generation. However, this book hits more closely to what Dawkins is actually expert in. (This is not intended to be a slant towards Dawkins understanding of theology or philosophy. What is meant by this is that Dawkins was actually educated as a zoologist. He seems to be well versed in Theology enough to speak intelligibly about it, though his social perspective is profound enough.)
The Selfish Gene presents an evocative formulation of the genetic world. And creates a huge foundation for how genetic life affects the entire world around us. It is an intelligent, persuasive presentation of evolutionary biology. Dawkins also has great respect for his reader. As he explains in his preface, the book is for the general public, but it is not dumbed down so as to not be engaging. I do not think that from reading this I can profess any proficient knowledge in evolutionary biology, but I can engage in the discussion of the Selfish Gene. Being so, I do not find the Selfish Gene entirely convincing, but something fundamental does seem to be present in Dawkins theoretical apparatus.
The narration of this piece is purposefully disjunctive. This is the first audiobook I've encountered that was like this. The foot notes are read in as they occur in the text and the updated text is read by a differing voice. All of this is explained at the beginning of the book (forget now who reads what, but all footnotes are indicated by Dawkins saying "Footnote"). It took me a second to get used to this style, but once acclimated I flowed on pretty smoothly. The only drawback of this is that when the footnote is particularly long it does become hard to recall what prompted the footnote. Having a text nearby, I suppose, would be an easy remedy. Though, any textless listeners, like me, will probably have little trouble with this.
In many respects this book is a gateway to modern-thought. I highly recommend any one to at least be familiar with Dawkins set-up of genetic evolution.
Isaac Newton and the Royal Society (and Leibniz) present a really captivating subject. In terms of the history of ideas, arguments for and against progress, philosophical uncertainty and the like this time period is perfect. However, Dolnick's characterization of the late 17th Century is just that: a characterization. Its presentation is horribly naive and often anachronistic. Dolnick frequently uses unnecessary anachronistic metaphors in order to relate, I presume, to lowest denominator readers when there are plenty of periodic examples that would be commonsensical enough for any reader.
It's hard to say whether Dolnick is doing this because of poor historical research or in order to be more of a pop-history for the sake of higher sales. All that said, I do not think Dolnick is naive or a poor historicist in general, that is another question altogether. What is evident is that he simplifies a time period drastically and with no apparent means. The most disappointing aspect of Dolnick's characterization is that it lacks respects for the reader's intelligence. However, once Dolnick gets into the profound ideas of these figures, the whole book is much more enjoyable. It is apparent he had a deep relationship with their ideas. While I'm not convinced he understands the history of ideas or the gravity (no pun intended) of them, it is apparent his knowledge of science and mathematics is proficient. And he'd probably make a pretty great teacher (especially since he seems like the kind of guy who would go off on some pretty great tangents).
After listening to the book and writing this review, I think it is fair to say that I am just not the audience Dolnick was writing for. I expected a lot more from the historical part of this book and much less from the comical side notes part. But this book was certainly enjoyable even though I did not find it very accurate.
The narration of this book is, overall, pretty great. I have an odd liking for older voices. I doubt I would have given up on this book, but it certainly helped to have Sklar forging forward. He seemed to realize Dolnick's whimsical tone and kept a pretty quick pace. Sklar definitely brought the words to life. Like a grandfather's tale, while I may not have fully agreed with everything I heard, I certainly enjoyed it.
This books seems like a good starting point. It is somewhat superficial. But definitely a nice find for someone that does not know much or anything about this subject.
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