THE BLIND WATCHMAKER

WHY THE EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION REVEALS A UNIVERSE WITHOUT DESIGN

A zoologist/author (The Selfish Gene) defends Darwin with passion and elegance, but fails to wholly persuade. Troubled by the persistent resistance to orthodox Darwinism from creationists, revisionist scientists, and the general public, Dawkins sets out to show how Darwin provided "the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence." He begins by identifying three sources for the resistance: a misunderstanding of evolution's randomness; a misperception of the enormous time span within which evolution has worked; and humanity's propensity to presume conscious design behind every complex object (hence the title). Through computer calculations, a lucid discussion of the nature of chance, and an insistence on a new sense of time scale, Dawkins makes his case for nature's complexity as the inevitable result of an untold number of minute, random mutations interacting over an almost unimaginable length of time. He argues particularly against the punctuated equilibrium theories so popular among today's evolutionists. But in stating that ". . .all mammals—humans, whales, duck-billed platypuses, and the rest—are exactly equally close to fish, since all mammals are linked to fish via the same common ancestor," he unwittingly exposes his defense's Achilles' heel: humans are reading this book, not platypuses. Dawkins' argument, brilliantly rendered, is that of the zoologist only, dealing solely with physical form; nowhere does the author tackle the mind, a phenomenon perhaps not quite so easily attributed to randomness, and nowhere does he convincingly demonstrate that random evolution is the only viable explanation. A superb exposition of Darwinian theory, but one that misses its aim of laying to rest the perennial doubts about how, exactly, our world came to be.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 1986

ISBN: 0393315703

Page Count: 386

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS

Italian theoretical physicist Rovelli (General Relativity: The Most Beautiful of Theories, 2015, etc.) shares his thoughts on the broader scientific and philosophical implications of the great revolution that has taken place over the past century.

These seven lessons, which first appeared as articles in the Sunday supplement of the Italian newspaper Sole 24 Ore, are addressed to readers with little knowledge of physics. In less than 100 pages, the author, who teaches physics in both France and the United States, cogently covers the great accomplishments of the past and the open questions still baffling physicists today. In the first lesson, he focuses on Einstein's theory of general relativity. He describes Einstein's recognition that gravity "is not diffused through space [but] is that space itself" as "a stroke of pure genius." In the second lesson, Rovelli deals with the puzzling features of quantum physics that challenge our picture of reality. In the remaining sections, the author introduces the constant fluctuations of atoms, the granular nature of space, and more. "It is hardly surprising that there are more things in heaven and earth, dear reader, than have been dreamed of in our philosophy—or in our physics,” he writes. Rovelli also discusses the issues raised in loop quantum gravity, a theory that he co-developed. These issues lead to his extraordinary claim that the passage of time is not fundamental but rather derived from the granular nature of space. The author suggests that there have been two separate pathways throughout human history: mythology and the accumulation of knowledge through observation. He believes that scientists today share the same curiosity about nature exhibited by early man.

An intriguing meditation on the nature of the universe and our attempts to understand it that should appeal to both scientists and general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-18441-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more