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
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.
"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)
While I think this text may be mildly offensive to fundamentalist theologians, it was highly instructive and a pleasure to listen to. It's easy to understand and has numerous easily digestible examples that do not lose quality for lack of visual aid. As a teacher of intro biology I've used a number of the examples from this text to great effect. I will likely read this again.
The Blind Watchmaker is a very thorough explanation of the ideas behind evolution. Very clearly explained.
Having recently travelled to the Galápagos Islands, I downloaded this audio to hear more about the academic arguments concerning evolution. Performance by both the author and his wife was very good although the material itself was quite dense and would not be appropriate for the casual reader.
Dawkins dose an excellent job explaining some of the more complex ideas and arguments of evolution. This book gives modern answers to modern questions that did not exist in Darwin's time.
Darwin's explanation succeeds.
I liked the chapter on sexual selection and the Peacock's tail. (I think it was this book. I get Dawkins's books confused, because I have read so many of them!)
Dawkins sets up by taking about William Paley's metaphor for life as a watch, requiring a watchmaker. Dawkins then talks about many seemingly unrelated subjects, all related to the complexity of life. Sexual selection, abiogenesis, the green beard effect, ect. These all culminate with Dawkins's conclusion that evolution is a blind watchmaker, working through the mechanisms he describes in the book, and capable of making complexity which appears designed. Although the title talks about revealing a "universe without design", Dawkins doesn't talk much about God.
While I was listening to this book, I was reading a book for Honors Philosophy of God at school (I go to a catholic school and took an honors religion class, however I am an atheist). The book for the class was God: The Oldest Question, by William O'Malley. O'Malley is a catholic who believes in evolution, but also has room for intelligent design. O'Malley criticizes Carl Sagan's explanation of the evolution of eyes in Sagan's book, and mentions The Blind Watchmaker in a criticism of Dawkins. Reading O'Malley's book, I got the idea that he had not read Dawkins's book. The Blind Watchmaker eloquently explains the powerful explanatory process of evolution, and how inelegant a god who uses evolution with a few miracles interspersed is. I did read Dawkins's book, and I came away with a great reverence for the power of blind process of evolution to explain the staggering complexity of life on earth.
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.
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.
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