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The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design | [Richard Dawkins]

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design

The Blind Watchmaker, knowledgably narrated by author Richard Dawkins, is as prescient and timely a book as ever. The watchmaker belongs to the 18th-century theologian William Paley, who argued that just as a watch is too complicated and functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. Charles Darwin's brilliant discovery challenged the creationist arguments; but only Richard Dawkins could have written this elegant riposte.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Richard Dawkins and his wife, actor Lalla Ward, give a highly entertaining read of Dawkins's 1986 critique of creationism, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. The audiobook follows an updated edition of the book from 2006 and provides intricate explanations, by way of witty examples, of why random, infinitesimal gene changes over millions of years have produced us and the world we live in. Dawkins's writing contains a self-deprecating, dry sense of humor that comes to life as he reads his best-selling book. Alternating voices between Dawkins and Lalla Ward provides nice listening contrast while also setting apart examples, clarifications, and segments of greater detail. Dawkins and his wife live in a world that is perhaps more scientific on a daily basis than ours so the book takes great care to vary the delivery of information for greater emphasis and easy understanding.

Dawkins's goal in The Blind Watchmaker is to "remove by explaining" any doubt that anything but scientific fact is behind the origin of the universe. Just because something — like human beings or the universe — is complex does not mean that it cannot be explained. Dawkins works hard to help listeners understand the smaller-than-microscopic changes that evolved through staggering amounts of time, changes humans have a hard time intuitively comprehending. To paraphrase the author, do not draw conclusions from your own inability to understand something. The truth of Darwinism comes in its acceptance of physics, probability, and the unending march of time. Dawkins helps listeners out by using examples that are easier to grasp: for example, the evolution from wolves to domesticated dogs. Or how echo location in bats clearly shows the evolution of a trait necessary for survival of a species.

The Blind Watchmaker, read by the author and by Lalla Ward, is an example of an audiobook best listened to while not driving or operating anything requiring devoted attention. Dawkins calls upon us to think about complex concepts that are not necessarily part of daily life. Led by the author, The Blind Watchmkaer is a lively, humorous explanation of the seemingly mystical yet ultimately understandable maze of evolution that is our world. Along the way it is nice to know that a scientist such as Dawkins can, like us, forget to save information on his computer. Re-creation of his data simply leads to another example of probability and complexity that makes, as Dawkins reiterates, the circumstances of any of us being here surprisingly unique, but scientifically not unusual. —Carole Chouinard

Publisher's Summary

The Blind Watchmaker, knowledgably narrated by author Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward, is as prescient and timely a book as ever. The watchmaker belongs to the 18th-century theologian William Paley, who argued that just as a watch is too complicated and functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. Charles Darwin's brilliant discovery challenged the creationist arguments; but only Richard Dawkins could have written this elegant riposte. Natural selection - the unconscious, automatic, blind, yet essentially nonrandom process Darwin discovered - is the blind watchmaker in nature.

©1986, 1987, 1996 Richard Dawkins (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"As readable and vigorous a defense of Darwinism as has been published since 1859. (The Economist)

"The best general account of evolution I have read in recent years." (E. O. Wilson, Professor in Entomology, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University)

“Dawkins’s explanation of the evolutionary process continues to be timely and revelatory…This dual reading is an interesting model for a scientific text. It helps to clarify and emphasize points… this is a commendable production, and an excellent primer on how evolution works.” (AudoFile)

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  •  
    Eric 01-15-12
    Eric 01-15-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Challenging textbook more than an enjoyable listen"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is the type of book I'd recommend to someone who is struggling to understand how evolution works. For example, friends who are religious ONLY because they can't believe that evolution could create humans. However, it's not a book to casually enjoy.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Richard Dawkins? Why or why not?

    Yes. Dawkins has an incredibly indepth understanding of biology, genetics, evolution, etc. I learned vast amounts from this book, even though it was something of a struggle to get through. I especially appreciated Dawkins' narration - he's clearly excited about the material, and has a very pleasing voice. He would be an excellent person to hear a lecture from. Lalla Ward is similarly well spoken.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Hell no. It was exhausting in some places, and I needed to increase the narration speed to 1.25x just to finish it. This is not an easy book.


    Any additional comments?

    I got exactly what I wanted out of reading this book. I learned how evolution works, and I learned how we came to exist without the existence of any particular deity. Though this isn't a specifically atheist book, its purpose is to explain life without intelligent design. And it succeeds at this thoroughly.

    18 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 04-17-12
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 04-17-12

    "... there are times when silence is a poem." - John Fowles, the Magus ^(;,;)^

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    "Not NEARLY as polemical as I expected it to be."

    Not nearly as polemical as I expected it to be. A good solid piece of science writing on, and defense of, Darwinian evolution. The audiobook shows how back and forth reading between Dawkins and Ward worked (and probably made production time minimal).

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ken METAIRIE, LA, United States 08-20-12
    Ken METAIRIE, LA, United States 08-20-12 Member Since 2011

    kberke

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    "A Book for Specialists"

    Blind Watchmaker was read by the author and his spouse—wonderful readers both. The book appealed to me because I had enjoyed The God Delusion and hoped for a similarly enjoyable and educational experience. I had also read The Selfish Gene, which seemed to me harder to read than Delusion. Watchmaker turned out to more like Selfish than Delusion. All good books, but if you don’t come to Watchmaker and Selfish with a burning desire to understand Darwin, you may, by the end of your reading, grow numb, as I did, with the details.

    By way of pointing out the elements I found most enjoyable in Watchmaker:

    1) The author’s reasoning skills are impressive. He has thought and researched deeply about every subject presented. Dawkins plainly announces that he means to convince his reader that Darwinian evolution presents the only rational explanation of the world’s complexity. Dawkins is anything but dispassionate.
    2) Dawkins often presents a view of things that seems to me non-intuitive, yet correct. A brief example: He states that cheetahs are the enemies of gazelles and that gazelles are the enemies of cheetahs. My reaction is, No they’re not. Gazelles don’t hunt cheetahs! Dawkins goes on to say that, from the point of view of the cheetah, if the gazelle can out run the cheetah, the cheetah starves to death. The success of the gazelle, therefore, brings about the extinction of the cheetah, which is the cheetah’s definition of “enemy.” Another: Are cows the enemy of grass? Well, yes, I suppose. In fact, no. Grass has a more formidable enemy than cows—weeds are that enemy. Cows eat grass, but also eat weeds. Voila. I hadn’t thought of that. And on and on.
    3 The description of a bat’s ability to hunt and navigate is worth the price of the book. And then Dawkins postulates humans from the bat’s point of view. Almost laugh-out-loud funny.

    I read Delusion when it was first published in 2008—the first of his books I had read. Perhaps it too had its more detailed elements, now not recalled, elements that I might have found tiresome—not that the fault was with Dawkins, but rather with a reader, not so interested in the details as he might or should be.

    So, a very good book, although not one to be enjoyed in its entirety with a merely passing interest in evolution.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffery T. Harris 01-06-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Withstanding the Test of Time"
    Where does The Blind Watchmaker rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Out of all of the non-fiction books I've listened to, this ranks as the best one yet. This is the second book by Dawkins that I've listened to. I am fascinated by evolutionary biology so I have a natural bias to this book and probably any book on the subject. While some parts of this book are dry, they are necessary for giving a complete picture to what is being discussed.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I enjoyed the discussion on the cumulative selection early in the book. It is a very important concept that helps explain Darwinian evolution.


    Any additional comments?

    Dawkins is often viewed as an atheist paragon seeking to always tear down religion but this book does not do that. His focus is on evolution and why it properly describes how we as humans came to be rather than just attacking opposing views.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 01-09-12
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 01-09-12 Member Since 2013

    Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!

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    "Great Dawkins book for a college grad"

    Start the kids out with a Dawkins book that's a little easier to digest, like "Greatest Show on Earth" or "Magic of Reality". Since I believe that EVERY human being should read Dawkins' work, I think it's only fair that I classify WHO should read this one. If you're a logical adult, with a decent education, then this is a must have for your library.

    If you are not familiar with Dawkins, then I cannot be clear enough about whether or not you should read this book. IF you are interested in Evolution AT ALL....even a little tiny bit...then READ THIS BOOK! It is the bible of evolution!

    11 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Zamora Clifton, NJ, United States 09-07-11
    Zamora Clifton, NJ, United States 09-07-11 Member Since 2015
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    "Great Information"

    I have read the God Delusion and The Greatest Show on Earth. Professor Dawkins referenced this book and I wanted to listen to it on my commutes to work to further my understanding of evolution. This work has great information and good flow. I usually don't like when there is more then one narrator but this works out very well as there are times he is quoting something and then the narrator switches. This makes it easier to know this is occurring when you hear the voice change. Both narrators are wonderful to listen to.

    19 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 02-16-12
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 02-16-12 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

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    "Science Faction"

    Until relatively recently (the last decade, say) I thought that the only entertaining science was Science Fiction. Dawkins proved to me (yet again) that the best of fact is so much better than most of fiction. Of course, like any argument, one doesn't have to accept the conclusion to recognise a good argument. That I do accept the conclusion probably helped me enjoy this work, but I could have been the Bishop of Birmingham and, I hope, still have recognised a well structured, logical and persuasively argued thesis when heard this one.

    The argument is presented so that you don't need to understand all the science to enjoy the cut and thrust. And cut and thrust there most surely is! Dawkins is not afraid to tilt at apparently well respected opinion and, generally, he doesn't mince his words. I found this occasionally annoying when it seemed a bit mean spirited and an immediate reposte was not available from the butt of the comment, but I was able to get online and see if there was a response from, say, Gould to the criticism and this helped weather the frustration. That said, these flourishes were few and far between. Most of the criticism was obviously carefully considered and well reasoned. I particularly liked the examples. The bat was my favourite, and I did enjoy the bat with angel wings paradoy (even though I had to play it a few times to get the nuance - as I would have had to if I'd read it and had to re-read). Even though the paradoy wasa bit of a flourish, it wasn't personal (or it didn't appear to be so to me).

    As for the performance, I was abit apprehensive at first about Lalla Ward's role. Of course she is Dawkins wife, but I just wasn't sure a second voice was necessary, except to highlight quotations and examples. As the performance proceeded, I changed my mind. The change of reader added interest and, after all, Ms Ward has a wonderful voice. As for Dawkins, his infectious enthusiasm is literally bubbling up in his voice. I will never forget the fantastic end to Chapter 10 as a consequence. I am looking forward to listening to him read his Selfesh Gene (one of the first books that opened my mind to Science Faction).

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 04-12-12
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 04-12-12 Member Since 2011

    I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!

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    "Quality"
    What made the experience of listening to The Blind Watchmaker the most enjoyable?

    One of the great modern thinkers - straight from the horse's mouth


    What other book might you compare The Blind Watchmaker to and why?

    The Selfish Gene. No prizes for guessing why


    What about Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward ’s performance did you like?

    Great narration. The switching added interest


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    No, it was just sustained high quality


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Emil Bogdanov Rockford, IL USA 08-10-11
    Emil Bogdanov Rockford, IL USA 08-10-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Brilliant!!!"

    Richard Dawkins is absolutely brilliant! This is one of the most intelligent and educational books I have ever listened to or read. He is showing with an excellent examples and associations how nature works. Listen to this book if you are interested in understanding how natural selection is the driving the evolution on our planet. Everything will make so much more sense!

    16 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 03-09-15
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    "How to grind a very interesting topic to dust"
    Would you ever listen to anything by Richard Dawkins again?

    I've listen to Dawkins narrate On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and that was great. Dawkins is a very clear speaker and quite pleasant to listen to.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm about half way through and I want to tear my hair out. I WILL FINISH THIS BOOK IF IT KILLS ME. Because I like this topic. Because it's an intelligent argument and there's a lot of interesting information in the book. Because it's one of those books that you kind of "have" to read.

    But GOD this is a tedious read. The hilarious irony is that Dawkins spends a good couple paragraphs talking about how while analogy is a good way to explain complicated concepts, but it is important not to become so crack brained as to use TOO many analogies. I AGREE!!! I guess his idea of a reasonable number of analogies is very different from mine.

    I felt like stopping at least a 100 times. Not because I disagree with things he is saying. Only that after his initial explanation, he goes on to press and push and provide another 5000 words on something that I ALREADY GOT THE FIRST TIME.

    Is he trying to "persuade" people about Darwinian evolution? I wish there was a short version for people already convinced of this, where he just includes the first 100 words of each chapter and that way we don't have to subject ourselves to 1001 extra examples and cases of something we got in the first example.

    Anyway he's laying out his argument "for" in a way that a very boring high school debate team would when arguing a case "against"

    - First, define what we mean by "evolution" (not necessarily "getting better" but becoming more adapted (to the environment, predators, disease etc) and passing on more genes
    - Establish the concept of "cumulative" change vs. one-shot genetic change (build an eye by tiny incremental steps)
    - Lay out the case that this process took a LONG long time (more than the human concept of scale can easily grasp, but that we can compute)
    - Tiny probabilities may not be that tiny given enough time to occur

    ...that's as far as I've got. As I said, very clearly laid out. I wish it wasn't as pedantic and boring as it ends up being...

    I will prevail...

    UPDATE: I finished this and then had to lie around like a trauma victim because my brain became so bored it almost shut itself off. How can such an interesting topic have become so hashed up. How can such intelligent writing be so dang boring. That is all and never again.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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  • Jeremy
    Malvern Wells, United Kingdom
    8/10/11
    Overall
    "Sparkling with life!"

    This is a wonderful audiobook, literary full of wonder at the ingenuity of nature. It brought back memories for me as a student of being similarly stunned reading "The Selfish Gene". Early on in this book, Dawkins declares that he prefers the miraculous wonderment of William Paley, to the atheist who cannot see that anything needs explanation about the origins of complex life.

    Yet, in "The Blind Watchmaker", he makes the case with brilliant clarity, that the process that has given rise to the creative diversity and seeming design in nature is as much a physical nonrandom process as the sifting of pebbles from sand on a beach. This book explains the principles of Evolution with sparkling clarity.

    The audiobook version is read alternately by Richard Dawkins and his wife, Lalla Ward, and initially I found this change odd. However, within a chapter, I came to enjoy the conterpoint of male and female reading voices. It was kind of soothing, and a great innovation. I look forward to other audiobooks being read in this way.. One effect of this was a feeling of familiarity with the author. I came to admire his quest for the Truth, and his contempt for those who would fudge the difficult questions and the evidence to preserve their old beliefs.

    And so, there is the unavoidable "G" question. Paley's God is clearly shown by Dawkins to be as redundant to the process of evolution, as to the apparent motions of the planets. Yet, given (possibly) infinite universes, with N dimensions of space and time, one might speculate on the evolution of some transcendent intelligence pulling on our strings in the present!

    Perhaps Paley's God too can still be glimpsed in the elegance and power of the principles of evolution itself? But then, as Darwin saw in the ichneumon wasp, there is then the problem of theodicy. After listening to this book, I was left with a vivid impression both of the sheer creative intelligence of Nature, and the cost in pain and death of previous generations.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Matthew
    United Kingdom
    11/16/11
    Overall
    "Read the Selfish Gene instead"

    The Blind Watchmaker is an interesting listen. As with the Selfish Gene, the duo of Dawkins and Lalla Ward makes for excellent narration. It covers a great deal of interesting material, and if you haven't listened to the Selfish Gene, I recommend it.

    The premise of the book is a rebuttal of the Watchmaker argument for an intelligent designer. The theory of evolution itself is an excellent rebuttal of most of this argument, so I was hoping this book might concentrate on the principal weakness of arguments for life without design: the origin of life. Instead, this is covered in a part of one chapter, and in no great depth. I was left disappointed.

    The Selfish Gene is an excellent introduction to evolution, and mostly covers the same topics as Blind Watchmaker. The Blind Watchmaker has more examples, but they're really going over much the same ground.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Balor of the Evil Eye
    Éire
    2/14/14
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    "Intelligent design my rear!"

    Yet another compelling presentation by Dawkins,The Blind Watchmaker tackles the idea, perhaps most prominently promoted by Creationists, that intelligent design has informed how humans gained much of the form with which we are all so familiar. As ever Dawkins rubbishes his detractors with his practiced aplomb, demanding that they recognise the obvious truth behind his theories, or admit that they just don't believe in a scientific approach to answering questions about human development.
    Perhaps the most popular organ for those espousing the intelligent design hypothesis, the eye, is singled out by Dawkins for treatment, treatment that could leave few listeners with the impression that his thesis lacks substance.

    As with his other titles, the narration by both himself and Lalla Ward is competently performed and easy to listen to. The fact that Dawkins gets so exercised about certain topics comes through in the narration, and is actually a bit of a bonus, especially if you are used to rather flat readers presenting scientific topics.

    A good book. Buy it after The Selfish Gene.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    UK
    7/11/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Darwinian Evolution as a religion"
    What made the experience of listening to The Blind Watchmaker the most enjoyable?

    The narration by the author and Lalla Ward makes for a good combination.
    The chapters are mostly interesting - with a few over the top explanations.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Darwin - because he is right - only he is right - all the rest are wrong - according to Dawkins - Darwin's prophet.


    What about Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward ’s performance did you like?

    The split in reading the material.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it requires digestion time - to comprehend the ideas presented.


    Any additional comments?

    While I am convinced by most arguments in the book, the zealous following of Darwin - and rebuttal of all other evolutionary views smacks a bit like religion - my god is the only god!.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Rainer
    7/24/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Slow start (if you listened to the selfish gene)"

    I got this audio book after having listened to Dawkins' Selfish Gene. Admittedly I like the way him and Ward read his books, however in the beginning I thought that many of his arguments were already made in the Selfish Gene and only some more examples or different explanations are given. I kept listening though and after a while it started exceeding the spectrum of the Selfish Gene and became very interesting again. I guess that the early repetition of many of the Selfish Gene's arguments are necessary to make this a self-contained book, given that the aim of this book overlaps with the aim of the Selfish Gene.

    Much like the Selfish Gene, the Blind Watchmaker is very elaborate in the argumentation and gives many examples and explanations. Dawkins and Ward do a fantastic job at making this a very enjoyable 16 (or so) hours. The book is very comprehensible and all concepts that are not completely intuitive are very well explained.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • rachel merrell
    4/20/15
    Overall
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    Story
    "Another fantastic Dawkins book"

    Great book, great narration. Richard Dawkins is such a brilliant writer and this book is definitely one of his best.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Martin Harland
    1/26/15
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    Story
    "Excellent truth"

    All I expected from the most honest and brave champion of truth and reason in advancing the fact of evolution

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • M
    United Kingdom
    1/3/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Very interesting book"

    The material is very in and is beyond what I learned at school, have learned a lot even though I'm not a fan of biology I found this fascinating

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Anders
    Denmark
    7/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Makes you think"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Some arguments but that is rather a silly thing, as I am not the author, and do not have the privilege to do so. So I would leave it and both enjoy to agree and disagree.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Blind Watchmaker?

    The general picture, in which arguments are presented.


    What does Richard Dawkins and Lalla Ward bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

    Firstly, the author's voice gives the correct connotations, which you might skip, miss or change in your own personal reading. Secondly, they have good reading voices that brings the book to a level, where you do not feel like falling asleep, which I find to be the strive of any good reader.


    Could you see The Blind Watchmaker being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

    No, but a documentary/debate program, though I find that there is a lot of these things around.


    Any additional comments?

    Even though I do not agree with all arguments I, as an Atheist, found it very useful and good for both mind and relaxation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Gustav
    London, United Kingdom
    8/18/12
    Overall
    "Dry but good overview of evolution"

    This is a very dry, slow and methodological overview of evolution. It takes its time to make its points, and it does so convincingly, but it isn't a fast and fun book. Neither does it have to be, if you have a bit of patience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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