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. 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)
"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.
"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.
"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.
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