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Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching

Terry Eagleton: Richard Dawkins, 19 October 2006

The God Delusion 
by Richard Dawkins.
Bantam, 406 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 593 05548 9
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... the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: The Hitchens Principle, 21 March 2019

... it seemed, was the misguidedness, stupidity and sometimes dangerousness of religious belief. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens: over the previous few years each had published a bestselling book condemning religion, and they were all rather pleased with themselves. Dawkins’s The ...

Ways of Being Dead

John Durant, 21 January 1988

The Blind Watchmaker 
by Richard Dawkins.
Longman, 332 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 582 44694 5
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... far beyond the circle of their professional colleagues. One such is the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Significantly, Dawkins’s books defy classification in terms of our specialist categories: professional monograph, student text, popular book, etc. The Selfish Gene (1976) was at once a key document of ...

Why so cross?

Thomas Nagel: Natural selection, 1 April 1999

Unweaving the Rainbow 
by Richard Dawkins.
Penguin, 350 pp., £20, October 1998, 9780713992144
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The Pattern of Evolution 
by Niles Eldredge.
Freeman, 225 pp., £17.95, February 1999, 0 7167 3046 4
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... books have a string of popular works behind them. They also have a history of disagreement, with Dawkins on one side and Eldredge on the other. Eldredge is associated in this controversy with Stephen Jay Gould, his long-term research collaborator.* The disagreement, and the heat that it generates, are difficult for an outsider to understand, but they appear ...

Peacocking

Jerry Fodor, 18 April 1996

Climbing Mount Improbable 
by Richard Dawkins.
Viking, 320 pp., £20, April 1996, 0 670 85018 7
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... that they call ‘hill climbing’ in the computer-learning trade (hence, I suppose, the title of Richard Dawkins’s new book). It’s guaranteed to get you where you’re going so long as the distance between is finite. (And so long as there are no insurmountable obstacles or ‘local maxima’ in the way: nothing is perfect.) Hill climbing is often ...

Darwinian Soup

W.G. Runciman: The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore, 10 June 1999

The Meme Machine 
by Susan Blackmore.
Oxford, 264 pp., £18.99, March 1999, 0 19 850365 2
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... The word ‘meme’, popularised by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, has recently gained entry into the OED as ‘an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation’. But the idea that culture is transmitted by imitation and learning in a manner analogous but not reducible to natural selection has been around for a long time, and many other terms have been used in describing it ...

Genes and Memes

John Maynard Smith, 4 February 1982

The Extended Phenotype 
by Richard Dawkins.
Freeman, 307 pp., £9.95, December 1981, 0 7167 1358 6
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... The Extended Phenotype is a sequel to The Selfish Gene. Although Dawkins has aimed his second book primarily at professional biologists, he writes so clearly that it could be understood by anyone prepared to make a serious effort. The Selfish Gene was unusual in that, although written as a popular account, it made an original contribution to biology ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Melanie Phillips, 13 May 2010

... Hume, Comte, Marx, Bergson, William James, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Gramsci, Rowan Williams, Richard Dawkins, liberation theologians, Princess Diana, Professor Nutt, someone called Matthew Fox, Madonna, Cherie Blair – and Barack Obama. Nor is our gratitude due for her elucidation of why human beings are not in any way responsible for climate ...

On Jonathan Miller

Neal Ascherson: Jonathan Miller, 2 January 2020

... Once we argued about genotypes and phenotypes, and Jonathan rang me two days later to tell me that Richard Dawkins had defined the ‘extended phenotype’ as an artefact that can only be created by a given species incapable of modifying it whereas humans can vary phenotypes endlessly.Sometimes, as his mind began to fade, he would repeat a familiar ...

Life in the Colonies

Steven Rose, 20 July 1995

Naturalist 
by Edward O.Wilson.
Allen Lane, 380 pp., £20, August 1995, 0 7139 9141 0
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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration 
by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O.Wilson.
Harvard, 228 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 674 48525 4
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... time I was working, one floor below his, in collaboration with his formidable ideological critic Richard Lewontin – the second of the remarkable triumvirate who inhabit the Museum (the third, in the basement, is Stephen Jay Gould). Lewontin claims that when the conflict between them was at its most intense, Wilson wouldn’t even get into the lift between ...

From Swindon to Swindon

Mary Beard, 17 February 2011

Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon and Schuster, 438 pp., £20, June 2010, 978 1 84737 798 2
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... world and back again. Here, at the end, Mount is on the trail of one of the book’s heroes, Richard Jefferies, Victorian polymath, nature writer, campaigner against the exploitation of agricultural labourers, fantasist and (in Mount’s semi-serious conceit) a 19th-century avatar of James Lovelock and his Gaia hypothesis. One of Jefferies’s favourite ...

Shock Lobsters

Richard Fortey: The Burgess Shale, 1 October 1998

The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals 
by Simon Conway Morris.
Oxford, 242 pp., £18.99, March 1998, 0 19 850256 7
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... of the divine in the Conway Morris version. The word ‘numinous’ appears in a footnote; how Richard Dawkins would shudder. Do these differences in historical interpretation amount to anything more than the kinds of fiction which can be built around the idea that Hitler won the Second World War? What Gould called ‘re-running the tape of life’ is ...

The Charity Mess

W.G. Runciman, 19 July 2012

... is the public benefit in donations made for the advancement of religion? You don’t have to be Richard Dawkins to query how much of what religious organisations do in the name of a chosen deity or charismatic spiritual leader is of benefit to the rest of us, or to wonder why the beliefs of the members of the British Humanist Association should deny it ...

Disappearing Acts

Terry Eagleton: Aquinas, 5 December 2013

Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait 
by Denys Turner.
Yale, 300 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 0 300 18855 4
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... weren’t very good on the subject of matter. Aquinas believed in the soul, as Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins do not; but one reason he did so was because he thought it yielded the richest possible understanding of the lump of matter known as the body. As Wittgenstein once remarked: if you want an image of the soul, look at the body. The soul for ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin, 7 January 2010

... bulldog’, the Oxford emeritus professor for the public understanding of science, Richard Dawkins, has been called his unmuzzled rottweiler; according to Dawkins, Darwin’s idea wasn’t just a great one (‘the most powerful, revolutionary idea ever put forward by an individual’), it is essentially ...

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