With the publication of the international bestseller The Selfish Gene some thirty years ago, Richard Dawkins powerfully captured a newly emerging way of understanding evolution--a gene's eye view. Dawkins went on to publish five more bestselling books, including The Blind Watchmaker and Unweaving the Rainbow . He is one of the most high profile public intellectuals today and any attempt to understand the scientific view of the world must grapple with his ideas.
Now, in this exciting collection of original essays, some of the world's leading thinkers offer their take on how Dawkins has changed the way we think. Readers will find stimulating pieces by Daniel Dennett, the renowned philosopher of mind and author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea ; Steven Pinker, the brilliant Harvard linguist who wrote The Language Instinct and The Blank Slate ; Matt Ridley, author of the bestselling Genome ; and James Watson, who with Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, arguably the greatest scientific discovery of the last century. Dawkins' widely admired literary style forms the subject of several pieces, including one from novelist Philip Pullman (author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy). As one of the world's best known rationalists, Dawkins' stance on religion is another theme in this collection, explored by Simon Blackburn, Michael Ruse, Michael Shermer, and the Bishop of Oxford. Numbering twenty in all, these articles are not simply rosy tributes, but explore how Dawkins' ideas have shaped thinking and public debate, and include elements of criticism as well as thoughtful praise.
Richard Dawkins' work has had the rare distinction of generating as much excitement outside the scientific community as within it. This stimulating volume is a superb summation of the depth and range of his influence.
Reading this volume, it is evident that The Selfish Gene-Richard Dawkins's seminal text that described how "genes have evolved the means to transform the world's resources in ever more ingenious ways"-continues to have a powerful impact on the scientific community. These 26 essayists offer a glistening blend of praise and personal reflection on both the nature of the author and on the reach of his work. "A phenomenon such as Dawkins' The Selfish Gene can be seen from many points of view and set in many contexts," notes co-editor Grafen. So, while Helena Cronin (The Ant and the Peacock) writes, "Like Einstein's imagined ride on a beam of light, this is an invitation to journey into unreachable worlds for a clearer understanding of reality," Philip Pullman invokes Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes in his rumination on why Dawkins's books are infectiously readable. Readers looking for a distilled regurgitation of Dawkins's life and works will be disappointed, as this book provides neither a complete biography nor a comprehensive appraisal of his science. This collection succeeds, however, as a tribute: Dawkins appears here majestically, if not prophetically.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
March 08, 2006
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