Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE MAGIC OF REALITY by Richard Dawkins


How We Know What's Really True

by Richard Dawkins illustrated by Dave McKean

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-9281-8
Publisher: Free Press

A resounding denunciation of the enemies of science—namely, magical and supernatural thinking.

Dawkins has long been a noted evolutionary biologist—and atheist—who has made his cases in a succession of influential books: The Selfish GeneClimbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, The God Delusion, etc. His argument here takes unaccustomed form: namely, a book seemingly addressed to readers of middle- and high-school age, and illustrated with skillfully rendered cartoons by noted comic artist McKean (CoralineWizard and Glass, etc.). Dawkins can sound a little forced when removing his Oxbridge gown to speak to these novices, as when he writes of the supercontinent of 150 million years ago, “They were all one big land mass called Gondwana (well, it wasn’t called Gondwana then—the dinosaurs who lived there didn’t call anything anything, but we call it Gondwana today).” Tetchy or not, Dawkins gamely jumps into his main subject, which is to consider the universe in all its glory, magical without creator or deity in the sky. He approaches this directly and indirectly: Here he considers why bad things happen to good people (call it randomness—and, Dawkins stresses, the real question is, “Why does anything happen?”), there the belief of some people in past lives, alien abductions and original sin. Dawkins will certainly win no friends among the set of folks inclined to get their science from the Creation Museum, for whom he would seem to have little patience in turn.

Watch for this to be mooted and bruited in school board meetings to come. And score points for Dawkins, who does a fine job of explaining earthquakes and rainbows in the midst of baiting the pious.