Dawkins sings to the choir, though like-minded unbelievers will find ample support for their beliefs—or lack thereof.



Atheist proselyte and biologist Dawkins (Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, 2017, etc.) sounds well-tested themes against the existence of supreme beings.

In the author’s view, religion is a species of “pigeon-like superstition,” something that parents tell children because their parents told them things were how they were because—well, because some god or gods made them so. In times past, we might have believed in pixies, sprites, or Olympian gods; now monotheistic strains of religion are the order of the day. Once a person learns about natural selection, writes Dawkins, things change. When it becomes clear that human DNA is, among other things, “a set of instructions for how to build a baby,” then some of the old mystery wears off and the thinking adult finds no need for belief in invisible deities. Dawkins scores some good points, observing, for instance, monotheism as practiced by Christianity and Islam is “rather suspect,” since its belief in an almost equal but opposite devil is ipso facto polytheistic, and the whole trinity thing of Christianity “sounds like a formula for squeezing polytheism into monotheism.” The author’s dismissal of religion, to say nothing of religious impulses, may well strike some readers as cavalier. And in some ways, his reasoning has not evolved substantially since he, as a former Church of England lad, decided that if he had been born to Vikings, he would be worshipping Odin, and if to Jewish parents, he would still be awaiting the messiah. In the end, Dawkins characterizes religion as fake news, the kind of thing that the internet proves daily—namely, that “people simply make stuff up.” A little Dawkins-ian snark—believers believe because ”they aren’t well educated in science”—goes a long way, but there’s plenty of food for thought here.

Dawkins sings to the choir, though like-minded unbelievers will find ample support for their beliefs—or lack thereof.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984853-91-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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