05 June, 2008

When We Were Younger & Better

Having just finished and mostly enjoyed Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, which I'd agree is a masterpiece but certainly a rather dense one, I embarked this morning upon The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins.

This is Dawkins c. 1986, a book as old as I am, and it's difficult to forget that he has yet to become a cause célèbre or go on the offensive. It predates The God Delusion by twenty years. That it was a different world is made evident by this sentence, on the first page of the preface:

"The computer on which I write these words has an information storage capacity of about 64 kilobytes"

I'm still only a couple of chapters in, but my first impression is that this version of Dawkins is much more constructive. I'm coming to think that he is foremost an evolutionist, and would not be at all interested in his present christian-baiting had they not 'started it.'

Here he is positive and wastes no time in celebrating the natural world. He goes so far as almost to praise William Paley, theologian and originator of the "watchmaker analogy," concluding that Paley has reached the wrong conclusion but understandably so, and in praising the diversity and apparent design of nature they are almost united!

It would be interesting to see how he felt about Paley now.

His extraordinary ability to introduce and explain scientific principles with the written word is astounding to me, and something nearly any science writer could learn a lot from. Even though I am well acquainted with the subject, I'm very much looking forward to my reading time in the coming week.

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