Combative, contrarian scientist Dawkins (Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science, 2015, etc.) gathers work from across a range of scholarly and secular interests.
Is there such a thing as objective truth? If there is, it will come through the vehicle of science, and, the author responds in an Oxford lecture, anyone who argues that we make our own truth is guilty of promulgating “fashionable prattlings.” He adds that anti-scientific posturing is the gateway to a new Dark Ages, noting that even if Newtonian physics is only an approximation and Einstein’s theory of relativity is subject to revision, that “does not lower them into the same league as medieval witchcraft or tribal superstition.” There is a touch of the straw man, and perhaps of the ethnocentric, in the author’s ill temper, but he backs his opinions on science and society with hard-edged research while he offers some interesting thought experiments on how science might be applied to life—not just in getting lights to turn on and planes to fly, but in improving the truth of the judicial system by operating jury proceedings as if they were replicable lab tests: “My guess is that if the two-jury experiment were run over by a large number of trials, the frequency with which the two groups would agree on a verdict would run at slightly higher than 50 percent.” Dawkins does not disappoint on the religion front, in which he has become known as a leading light of intellectual atheism (or athorism, as he posits in a satirical note on the worship of Norse gods). He lampoons creationism, the 6,000-year-old Earth, and the “time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking, fecundity-forfeiting rituals of religion.” Ever the Darwinist, he pauses along the way to ponder what possible adaptive purpose religion can have, questioning whether it might be a species of dominance hierarchy, a holier-than-thou pecking order, among other postulations.
For Dawkins fans, a must-have collection of scattered speeches and writings; for foes, more grist for the mill.