A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings

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9780297829737: A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings
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A reviewer wrote of The Selfish Gene that it was 'rich with metaphor, passionate arguments, wry humour, colourful examples and unexpected connections'.

This intriguing selection of Richard Dawkins large output of articles, lectures, individual chapters and reviews demonstrates the breadth of his interests, the sheer quality of his writing and the challenging nature of his trenchantly held views. Whether writing on the many aspects of evolution or on science in general - the importance of science, the poetry of science, the fact that science is inspiring (or ought to be) - he is often provocative, sometimes outrageous, never less than highly influential.

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Those unfamiliar with the writings of Richard Dawkins could do worse than begin with The Devil's Chaplain-–a collection of pieces selected from the many articles, lectures, book reviews, polemics, forewords, essays and tributes written over a 25-year period.

The book is divided into seven sections containing a mixture of pieces of varying lengths covering several themes-- including Darwinism, morality, education, justice, history of science and, of course, religion. Dawkins provides a brief preamble to each of the seven sections while the pieces themselves, selected by Editor Latha Menon, show Dawkins at his captivating best and sometimes his angry, self-righteous side.

Dawkins at his best is peerless as an expositor of the wonders of science, a man for whom science is, as he put it "a source of living joy" and this shines through in many, if not most, of the essays.

He is of course Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and while he denies that scientists have special ethical qualifications he does insist that a proper understanding of our animal heritage ought to change the way we think about ourselves--in particular the way we arbitrarily draw the line between species, between, for instance, the human ape and our brothers the Great African apes. Dawkins is generous in his evaluation of his supposed scientific enemies, such as the late Stephen Jay Gould, and genuinely moving when paying tribute to his own heroes, people such as Douglas Adams and WD Hamilton.

Dawkins is also the current vice-president of the British Humanist Association and, in certain moods, he turns into a savage anti-religious polemicist. Religious folk for Dawkins are, at best, intellectually irresponsible or existentially immature and, at worst, a bunch of cowardly, irrational, dangerous ignoramuses. Religion itself is likened to a disease, or, more accurately, a deadly virus for which the cure is good, clean scientific habits of mind. The aggressively atheistic side of Dawkins is, in any event, as much a call for intellectual independence as it is a call to arms and he is just as eager to take on the quackery of crystal healing, as he is to expose the pretentious verbosity of postmodernist enemies of scientific truth. But whether Dawkins is writing for his fellow professionals or for the general public, he is considered--by friend and foe alike--he's one of the most intelligent, imaginative and inspirational educators alive. As a whole this collection of pieces conveys a faithful impression of the man and his passions. --Larry Brown

Review:

There has been a fantastic level of interest in Richard's new book. The bookwas Blackwell's book of the month for February, the Sunday Times no 6 hardback Bestseller for two weeks and number 10 for a further week, and the number 5 hardback bestseller in Ireland. . The publicity campaign started with 3 pages of extracts in the Times with the article flagged in a banner headline on the front page of the paper. On 4th February a 45minute profile of Richard was broadcast on Nightwaves BBC Radio 3. Extracts from the book appeared in theGuardian Saturday Review, 8th February. Richard appeared on Start the Week BBC Radio 4 on the 10th and was also the subject of a critical but ultimately flattering profile by Simon Hattenstone in the Monday Guardian, flagged in a banner headline from the front of the paper. BBC 4 TV broadcast a profile of Richard on 24th February. On 12th February Richard appeared on national IrishRadio - RTE Radio. On 13th February Richard featured in You Ask The Questions in the Independent with his answers being published the next week. The Irish Times published extracts from the book on 17th February with Richard writing the A Little Night Reading column for the Sunday Times, 23rd February. Features on Richard appeared in the Glasgow Herald and Sunday Herald and Richard wrote an opinion piece on the Iraq war for the Independent on 1 March and Guardian on 22 March. Richard appeared on The Sunday Sequence, BBC Radio Ulster on March 16th. An interview was published in Heffers Bookstore Magazine in March. The book was recommended as a key book for 2003 in The Evening Standard,Irish Times and New Scientist Reviews have appeared in Nature, Focus, TLS, New Scientist, Sunday Times, The Observer, Times, GQ, Guardian Review, Sunday Telegraph, Spectator, Scotland on Sunday, Independent, Irish Times, Church Times, Morning Star, Money Week, Evening Standard, New Humanist, Time Out, Sunday Business Post and The Scotsman. '...a punchy collection of articles, reflections, polemics, book reviews, forwards, tributes and elegies...This is the best book of sermons I have read for years.'Richard Holloway, THE GUARDIAN '...intelligent, witty, forceful and at all turns a pleasure to read.'Mark Pagel, NEW HUMANIST '... Dawkins' optimism is a shot in the arm, and his genius for snatching mind-boggling possibilities out of the air provokes, well, yes, wonder.'John Carey, SUNDAY TIMES 'He brings a beautiful clarity to the most difficult of scientific concepts yet does so in a style akin to that of fine literature.'Dick Ahlstrom, IRISH TIMES 'A DEVILS'S CHAPLAIN is a rare treat and it comes in seven servings, each with an introduction by the author.'Roy Herbert, NEW SCIENTIST 'This collection of essays is a rattling good read.'Christopher Lambton, SCOTSMAN 'Whatever his topic Dawkins is always eloquent, passionate and persuasive. The man is a national treasure ...'Charles Fernyhough, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 'A series of brilliant analogies renders most of the science accessible to the non-specialist'Richard Harries, THE INDEPENDENT Richard and his wife Lalla Ward gave an extremely successful reading with over 900 people in attendance on 13th February at the Institute of Education as part of the Times/Foyles Literary Events series. Richard also spoke at the Royal Dublin Society, the Oxford Union at a Blackwell's event, the Aldeburgh LiteraryFestival, the Oxford Literary Festival and Edinburgh Science Festival . He is

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