Look out, creationists. There’s a new sheriff in town, and he talks like an Oxford don.
In fact, Dawkins (The God Delusion, 2007, etc.) gave up the Oxford chair in the Public Understanding of Science in order to write full-time, and to spend more time agitating against antiscience and pseudoscience. The author opens with guns a-blazing, demanding what we might think of a Latin teacher’s being forced to prove that the Romans ever existed and, more provocatively, a history teacher’s having to give equal time to Holocaust deniers: “Fashionably relativist intellectuals chime in to insist that there is no absolute truth: whether the Holocaust happened is a matter of personal belief; all points of view are equally valid and should be equally ‘respected.’ ” Nonsense and balderdash, cries Dawkins, adding, against those who deny the factuality of evolution, “Evolution is a fact in the same sense as it is a fact that Paris is in the Northern Hemisphere.” As such, it would seem that the battle for evolution should have long been over, but there are still deniers aplenty. For them, Dawkins provides careful explication of selection—natural, adaptive, human-induced et al.—and of evolutionary notions such as the (much misquoted) survival of the fittest. The author writes with terrific wit (“Cabbages are a vegetable affront to essentialism and the immutability of species”) and considerable learning, but what is interesting here is his fire. Without the strictures of academia, it seems, he relishes the opportunity to light into his opponents. Whether anyone will stand up to refute his notions remains to be seen, but for now Dawkins wins on points.
A pleasure in the face of so much scientific ignorance—biology rendered accessible and relevant to the utmost degree.