9780618335404 / 0618335404

A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love


Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt



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About the book:

Those unfamiliar with the writings of Richard Dawkins could do worse than begin with The Devil's Chaplain-a collection of pieces selected from the many articles, lectures, book reviews, polemics, forewords, essays and tributes written over a 25-year period.

The book is divided into seven sections containing a mixture of pieces of varying lengths covering several themes-- including Darwinism, morality, education, justice, history of science and, of course, religion. Dawkins provides a brief preamble to each of the seven sections while the pieces themselves, selected by Editor Latha Menon, show Dawkins at his captivating best and sometimes his angry, self-righteous side.

Dawkins at his best is peerless as an expositor of the wonders of science, a man for whom science is, as he put it "a source of living joy" and this shines through in many, if not most, of the essays.

He is of course Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and while he denies that scientists have special ethical qualifications he does insist that a proper understanding of our animal heritage ought to change the way we think about ourselves--in particular the way we arbitrarily draw the line between species, between, for instance, the human ape and our brothers the Great African apes. Dawkins is generous in his evaluation of his supposed scientific enemies, such as the late Stephen Jay Gould, and genuinely moving when paying tribute to his own heroes, people such as Douglas Adams and WD Hamilton.

Dawkins is also the current vice-president of the British Humanist Association and, in certain moods, he turns into a savage anti-religious polemicist. Religious folk for Dawkins are, at best, intellectually irresponsible or existentially immature and, at worst, a bunch of cowardly, irrational, dangerous ignoramuses. Religion itself is likened to a disease, or, more accurately, a deadly virus for which the cure is good, clean scientific habits of mind. The aggressively atheistic side of Dawkins is, in any event, as much a call for intellectual independence as it is a call to arms and he is just as eager to take on the quackery of crystal healing, as he is to expose the pretentious verbosity of postmodernist enemies of scientific truth. But whether Dawkins is writing for his fellow professionals or for the general public, he is considered--by friend and foe alike--he's one of the most intelligent, imaginative and inspirational educators alive. As a whole this collection of pieces conveys a faithful impression of the man and his passions. --Larry Brown

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