A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and by Richard Dawkins

By Richard Dawkins

Some of the most popular evolutionary biologists at paintings this present day, Richard Dawkins has written passionately for years on topics that subject deeply to him - and subject urgently to we all. A Devil's Chaplain brings jointly the easiest and so much provocative of his essays, on topics starting from evolution to ethics, from shuttle to literature, from schooling to faith. the result's an interesting portrait of 1 of the best minds in science.

With eloquence and energy, those essays recommend Dawkins's such a lot primary axiom: search fact. He speaks out opposed to pseudoscience and deftly dissects faith and mysticism. In a strong letter to his ten-year-old daughter, he argues for the need of basing any trust on good facts. And he doesn't turn away from skewering the loftiest associations, no matter if judicial or academic. "To hell with . . . your fact-stuffed syllabuses and your unending roster of exams," he pronounces with fresh directness. He writes infectiously of his awe on the tremendous complexity of the universe, can pay relocating tribute to pricey acquaintances and invaluable colleagues, and tenderly remembers his boyhood in Africa. Uncompromising, even ruthless as Dawkins famously is while protecting medical fact and cause, this assortment additionally exhibits a gentler, extra contemplative aspect which could shock his many readers.

Here we meet the fundamental Richard Dawkins: inspirational in either his dependable recognition to rationalism and his abiding passions.

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

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Allowing one yard per person, we arrive at the ancestor we share with chimpanzees in under 300 miles. We've hardly started to cross the continent; we're still not half way to the great Rift Valley. The ancestor is standing well to the east of Mount Kenya, and holding in her hand an entire chain of her lineal descendants, culminating in you standing on the Somali beach. The daughter that she is holding in her right hand is the one from whom we are descended. Now the arch-ancestress turns eastward to face the coast, and with her left hand grasps her other daughter, the one from whom the chimpanzees are descended (or son, of course, but let's stick to females for convenience).

Perhaps there is something to be said for the collective wisdom that emerges when a group of people thrash out a topic together, round a table. But this still leaves the principle of independent data unsatisfied. Should all cases be tried by two separate juries? Or three? Or twelve? Too expensive, at least if each jury has twelve members. Two juries of six members, or three juries of four members, would probably be an improvement over the present system. But isn't there some way of 40 TRIAL BY JURY testing the relative merits of such alternative options, or of comparing the merits of trial by jury versus trial by judge?

Ethics I have already touched on some ethical issues. Science has no methods for deciding what is ethical. That is a matter for individuals and for society. But science can clarify the questions being asked, and can clear up obfuscating misunderstandings. This usually amounts to the useful 'You cannot have it both ways' style of arguing. I'll give five examples, before turning to a more unusual interpretation of the phrase 'science and ethics'. Science cannot tell you whether abortion is wrong, but it can point out that the (embryological) continuum that seamlessly joins a nonsentient foetus to a sentient adult is analogous to the (evolutionary) continuum that joins humans to other species.

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