Listing books by Richard Dawkins

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Full title A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Mariner Books
Categories Anthology, biology, essay and science
Publication year 2004
Original publication year 2003
ISBN 978-0-618-48539-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 263
Images Back of A Devil's Chaplain.Spine of A Devil's Chaplain.Front of A Devil's Chaplain.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction to the American Edition
  1. Science and Sensibility
    • 1.1 A Devil's Chaplain
    • 1.2 What is True?
    • 1.3 Gaps in the Mind
    • 1.4 Science, Genetics and Ethics: Memo for Tony Blair
    • 1.5 Trial By Jury
    • 1.6 Crystalline Truth and Crystal Balls
    • 1.7 Postmodernism Disrobed
    • 1.8 The Joy of Living Dangerously: Sanderson of Oundle
  2. Light Will Be Thrown
    • 2.1 Light Will Be Thrown
    • 2.2 Darwin Triumphant
    • 2.3 The 'Information Challenge'
    • 2.4 Genes Aren't Us
    • 2.5 Son of Moore's Law
  3. The Infected Mind
    • 3.1 Chinese Junk and Chinese Whispers
    • 3.2 Viruses of the Mind
    • 3.3 The Great Convergence
    • 3.4 Dolly and the Cloth Heads
    • 3.5 Time to Stand Up
  4. They Told Me, Heraclitus
    • 4.1 Lament for Douglas
    • 4.2 Eulogy for Douglas Adams
    • 4.3 Eulogy for W. D. Hamilton
    • 4.4 Snake Oil
  5. Even the Ranks of Tuscany
    • 5.1 Rejoicing in Multifarious Nature
    • 5.2 The Art of the Developable
    • 5.3 Hallucigenia, Wiwaxia and Friends
    • 5.4 Human Chauvinism and Evolutionary Progress
    • 5.5 Unfinished Correspondence with a Darwinian Heavyweight
  6. There is All Africa and her Prodigies in Us
    • 6.1 Ecology of Genes
    • 6.2 Out of the Soul of Africa
    • 6.3 I Speak of Africa and Golden Joys
    • 6.4 Heroes and Ancestors
  7. A Prayer for My Daughter
    • 7.1 Good and Bad Reasons for Believing
  • Endnotes
  • Index
Full title The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Mariner Books
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2004
ISBN 978-0-618-61916-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 623
Synopsis

A history book about life, in reverse chronology.

Review

This 600+ pages book could easily be called Dawkins' magnum opus. It's a history of life, written in reverse chronology, starting with humans and working backwards to the common ancestor to all life. The book is divided into chapters, called Rendezvous, and each rendezvous would be where two twigs on the tree of life meet. If you picture the tree of life, then the book starts at one tip of the tree, humanity, and moves progressively backwards (inwards) to the root of the tree. (Actually, this is slightly misleading. The entire tree of life is an unrooted phylogenetic tree, not a rooted one.) At each rendezvous, a joining pilgrim (sometimes several) gets a chance to tell its Tale, and the tale usually illustrates a point about biology. This is what makes this book such a joy to read. While you're reading you can (and are in fact encouraged to) imagine that you're on a pilgrimage (see subtitle), à la Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. But unlike The Canterbury Tales, this isn't a work of fiction, and you'll inevitably learn a lot of biology while you're at it.

In the book, like with most of Dawkins' books, he doesn't shy away from using technical words, but he's very meticulous about explaining ones that may be unfamiliar to the reader. Being a hobby etymologist, this is the kind of writing that I love. (The word 'Neanderthal', for instance, comes from Neander, the valley in Germany in which the original fossil was found, and 'thal', which is German for 'valley'.) And besides, it's a fun challenge for the reader to go look up the words she doesn't understand.

This is a thoroughly excellent and riveting book, but be warned that it's also a long and difficult book. Set aside a good chunk of uninterrupted time for it. I read about one-fifth of it (straight) in bed, and the rest during a thirteen-hour bus trip, and I was in a daze for a week. (Maybe partly because I read it on a bus, but mostly because the book itself is so eye-opening.)

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Full title The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher W. W. Norton
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 1986
ISBN 978-0-14-102616-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 358
Review

The Blind Watchmaker demolishes the argument from design, which was first advanced by the theologian William Paley. In short, it goes like this: If you're walking somewhere and you find a rock, you don't require an explanation for why it's there. But if you find a watch, you'll assume that the watch had a maker. Organisms are complex things, like a watch, so they, too, should require a maker (evolution is the blind watchmaker that the title alludes to). The book introduces biomorphs, creatures in a computer program that can evolve a multitude of shapes based on nine different "genes" (variables) which control how the form grows. Even with only nine genes, the number of forms that can be generated is huge, and the reader is invited to imagine walking through the (nine-dimensional!) space of possible shapes.

Images Back of The Blind Watchmaker.Spine of The Blind Watchmaker.Front of The Blind Watchmaker.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction to the 2006 edition
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1 Explaining the very improbable
  • Chapter 2 Good design
  • Chapter 3 Accumulating small change
  • Chapter 4 Making tracks through animal space
  • Chapter 5 The power and the archives
  • Chapter 6 Origins and miracles
  • Chapter 7 Constructive evolution
  • Chapter 8 Explosions and spirals
  • Chapter 9 Puncturing punctuationism
  • Chapter 10 The one true tree of life
  • Chapter 11 Doomed rivals
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix (1991): Computer programs and 'The Evolution of Evolvability'
  • Index
Full title Climbing Mount Improbable [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher W. W. Norton
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 1996
ISBN 978-0-393-31682-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 326
Images Back of Climbing Mount Improbable.Spine of Climbing Mount Improbable.Front of Climbing Mount Improbable.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Acknowledgements
  • Picture Acknowledgements
  • 1 Facing Mount Rushmore
  • 2 Silken Fetters
  • 3 The Message from the Mountain
  • 4 Getting off the Ground
  • 5 The Forty-fold Path to Enlightenment
  • 6 The Museum of All Shells
  • 7 Kaleidoscopic Embryos
  • 8 Pollen Grains and Magic Bullets
  • 9 The Robot Repeater
  • 10 'A Garden Inclosed'
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Full title The God Delusion [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Category Religion
Publication year 2006
ISBN 978-0-618-68000-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 406
Synopsis

The God Delusion unapologetically criticizes religion (as the title implies, belief in gods is a delusion, on the same level as believing you're Napoleon). First off, he tries to avoid confusion with the way Einstein and Hawking have used religious terms to express their appreciation of contemplating the universe, by invoking what he calls Einsteinian religion (neither Einstein nor Hawking are theists, by the way). In that respect, Dawkins tells us that he's a deeply religious non-believer, but dislikes using the word, instead preferring to reserve it for traditional religion.

Images Back flap of The God Delusion.Back of The God Delusion.Spine of The God Delusion.Front of The God Delusion.Front flap of The God Delusion.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface

1: A Deeply Religious Non-Believer

  • Deserved respect
  • Undeserved respect

2: The God Hypothesis

  • Polytheism
  • Monotheism
  • Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion of America
  • The poverty of agnosticism
  • NOMA
  • The Great Prayer Experiment
  • The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists
  • Little green men

3: Arguments for God's Existence

  • Thomas Aquinas' 'proofs'
  • The ontological argument and other a priori arguments
  • The argument from beauty
  • The argument from personal 'experience'
  • The argument from scripture
  • The argument from admired religious scientists
  • Pascal's Wager
  • Bayesian arguments

4: Why There Almost Certainly is No God

  • The Ultimate Boeing 747
  • Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser
  • Irreducible complexity
  • The worship of gaps
  • The anthropic principle: planetary version
  • The anthropic principle: cosmological version
  • An interlude at Cambridge

5: The Roots of Religion

  • The Darwinian imperative
  • Direct advantages of religion
  • Group selection
  • Religion as a by-product of something else
  • Psychologically primed for religion
  • Tread softly, because you tread on my memes
  • Cargo cults

6: The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?

  • Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin?
  • A case study in the roots of morality
  • If there is no God, why be good?

7: The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist

  • The Old Testament
  • Is the New Testament any better?
  • Love thy neighbour
  • The moral Zeitgeist
  • What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren't they atheists?

8: What's Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?

  • Fundamentalism and the subversion of science
  • The dark side of absolutism
  • Faith and homosexuality
  • Faith and the sanctity of human life
  • The Great Beethoven Fallacy
  • How 'moderation' in faith fosters fanaticism

9: Childhood, Abuse and the Escape From Religion

  • Physical and mental abuse
  • In defence of children
  • An educational scandal
  • Consciousness-raising again
  • Religious education as a part of literary culture

10: A Much Needed Gap?

  • Binker
  • Consolation
  • Inspiration
  • The mother of all burkas
  • Appendix: A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping from religion
  • Books cited or recommended
  • Notes
  • Index
Full title The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Bantam Books
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2009
ISBN 978-0-593-06173-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 470
Synopsis

A book about the evidence for evolution.

The first chapter begins by inviting the reader to imagine that they're a teacher of Roman history, and that they have to waste their time with a rearguard defense against people who try to persuade your pupils that there never was a Roman empire (which is akin to how biologists today have to spend their time).

The rest of the book is devoted to laying out the actual evidence for evolution, while debunking some claims against it (for instance, that there are missing links, which is simply based on a Victorian misunderstanding). I found the chapters dealing with radiometric dating and dendrochronology especially enlightening.

The last chapter takes the last paragraph of Darwin's On the Origin of Species and unpacks and explains it, with each sentence being a sub-heading.

Review

Dawkins says in the book that he wrote this book, a book about the evidence for evolution, because none of his other books explicitly lay this out (they only assume evolution is true). In contrast, this book lays it all out, in meticulous detail.

It's a relatively light read, but as with most books of this kind, you have to pay close attention when reading, or you might miss important points. I definitely recommend it.

Images Back flap of The Greatest Show on Earth.Back of The Greatest Show on Earth.Spine of The Greatest Show on Earth.Front of The Greatest Show on Earth.Front flap of The Greatest Show on Earth.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1 Only a theory?
  • Chapter 2 Dogs, cows and cabbages
  • Chapter 3 The primrose path to macro-evolution
  • Chapter 4 Silence and slow time
  • Chapter 5 Before our very eyes
  • Chapter 6 Missing link? What do you mean, 'missing'?
  • Chapter 7 Missing persons? Missing no longer
  • Chapter 8 You did it yourself in nine months
  • Chapter 9 The ark of the continents
  • Chapter 10 The tree of cousinship
  • Chapter 11 History written all over us
  • Chapter 12 Arms races and 'evolutionary theodicy'
  • Chapter 13 There is grandeur in this view of life
  • Appendix: The history-deniers
  • Notes
  • Bibliography and further reading
  • Picture acknowledgements
  • Index
Full title The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True [permalink]
Language English
Authors Richard Dawkins (author) and Dave McKean (illustrator)
Categories Children's and science
Publication year 2011
Images Back flap of The Magic of Reality.Back of The Magic of Reality.Spine of The Magic of Reality.Front of The Magic of Reality.Front flap of The Magic of Reality.
Full title The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Anthology and science
Publication year 2008
Pages 395
Synopsis

This is an anthology book of post-1900 science writings (essays, anecdotes, poetry) written by working scientists, as opposed to written by non-scientists, and it is supremely excellent. Richard Dawkins has collected them, sorted them, and written introductions to each of them, which put them in context.

Review

I liked this book so much that I transcribed a few of these and put them on my Essays page ("On Being the Right Size", "One Self", an extract from Man in the Universe, "Seven Wonders", and an extract from The Periodic Table); you could read those if you want a short taste of what the book is about. I strongly recommend this book.

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Featured Writers and Extracts
  • Introduction

PART I
What Scientists Study

  • James Jeans from The Mysterious Universe
  • Martin Rees from Just Six Numbers
  • Peter Atkins from Creation Revisited
  • Helena Cronin from The Ant and the Peacock
  • R. A. Fisher from The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection
  • Theodosius Dobzhansky from Mankind Evolving
  • G. C. Williams from Adaptation and Natural Selection
  • Francis Crick from Life Itself
  • Matt Ridley from Genome
  • Sydney Brenner Theoretical Biology in the Third Millennium
  • Steve Jones from The Language of the Genes
  • J. B. S. Haldane from On Being the Right Size
  • Mark Ridley from The Explanation of Organic Diversity
  • John Maynard Smith The Importance of the Nervous System in the Evolution of Animal Flight
  • Fred Hoyle from Man in the Universe
  • D'Arcy Thompson from On Growth and Form
  • G. G. Simpson from The Meaning of Evolution
  • Richard Fortey from Trilobite!
  • Colin Blakemore from The Mind Machine
  • Richard Gregory from Mirrors In Mind
  • Nicholas Humphrey One Self: A Meditation on the Unity of Consciousness
  • Steven Pinker from The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works
  • Jared Diamond from The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee
  • David Lack from The Life of the Robin
  • Niko Tinbergen from Curious Naturalists
  • Robert Trivers from Social Evolution
  • Alister Hardy from The Open Sea
  • Rachel Carson from The Sea Around Us
  • Loren Eiseley from How Flowers Changed the World
  • Edward O. Wilson from The Diversity of Life

PART II
Who Scientists Are

  • Arthur Eddington from The Expanding Universe
  • C. P. Snow from the Foreword to G. H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology
  • Freeman Dyson from Disturbing the Universe
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer from War and the Nations
  • Max F. Perutz A Passion for Crystals
  • Barbara and George Gamow Said Ryle to Hoyle
  • J. B. S. Haldane Cancer's a Funny Thing
  • Jacob Bronowski from The Identity of Man
  • Peter Medawar from Science and Literature, Darwin's Illness, The Phenomenon of Man, the postscript to Lucky Jim, and D'Arcy Thompson and Growth and Form
  • Jonathan Kingdon from Self-Made Man
  • Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin from Origins Reconsidered
  • Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey from Lucy
  • Stephen Jay Gould Worm for a Century, and all Seasons
  • John Tyler Bonner from Life Cycles
  • Oliver Sacks from Uncle Tungsten
  • Lewis Thomas Seven Wonders
  • James Watson from Avoid Boring People
  • Francis Crick from What Mad Pursuit
  • Lewis Wolpert from The Unnatural Nature of Science
  • Julian Huxley from Essays of a Biologist
  • Albert Einstein Religion and Science
  • Carl Sagan from The Demon-Haunted World

PART III
What Scientists Think

  • Richard Feynman from The Character of Physical Law
  • Erwin Schrödinger from What is Life?
  • Daniel Dennett from Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained
  • Ernst Mayr from The Growth of Biological Thought
  • Garrett Hardin from The Tragedy of the Commons
  • W. D. Hamilton from Geometry For the Selfish Herd and Narrow Roads of Geneland
  • Per Bak from How Nature Works
  • Martin Gardner The Fantastic Combinations of John Conway's New Solitaire Game 'Life'
  • Lancelot Hogben from Mathematics for the Million
  • Ian Stewart from The Miraculous Jar
  • Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver from The Mathematical Theory of Communication
  • Alan Turing from Computing Machinery and Intelligence
  • Albert Einstein from What is the Theory of Relativity?
  • George Gamow from Mr. Tompkins
  • Paul Davies from The Goldilocks Enigma
  • Russell Stannard from The Time and Space of Uncle Albert
  • Brian Greene from The Elegant Universe
  • Stephen Hawking from A Brief History of Time

PART IV
What Scientists Delight In

  • S. Chandrasekhar from Truth and Beauty
  • G. H. Hardy from A Mathematician's Apology
  • Steven Weinberg from Dreams of a Final Theory
  • Lee Smolin from The Life of the Cosmos
  • Roger Penrose from The Emperor's New Mind
  • Douglas Hofstadter from Gödel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid
  • John Archibald Wheeler with Kenneth Ford from Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam
  • David Deutsch from The Fabric of Reality
  • Primo Levi from The Periodic Table
  • Richard Fortey from Life: An Unauthorized Biography
  • George Gaylord Simpson from The Meaning of Evolution
  • Loren Eiseley from Little Men and Flying Saucers
  • Carl Sagan from Pale Blue Dot
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index
Full title River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life [permalink]
Language English
Authors Richard Dawkins (author) and Lalla Ward (illustrator)
Publisher Basic Books
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 1995
ISBN 978-0-465-06990-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 161
Synopsis

This is only partly a book about evolution. In the last chapter (The Replication Bomb) Dawkins speculates on ten thresholds that life goes through on its way to interstellar emigration. (The analogy is to a supernova. Just as a star can go supernova, a planet might explode with life.)

The book also goes through some very neat experiments on bees and the evolution of a bee dance that codes for location of food.

Images Back of River Out of Eden.Spine of River Out of Eden.Front of River Out of Eden.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • 1 The Digital River
  • 2 All Africa and Her Progenies
  • 3 Do Good by Stealth
  • 4 God's Utility Function
  • 5 The Replication Bomb
  • Bibliography and Further Reading
  • Index
Full title The Selfish Gene [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 1976
ISBN 978-0-19-929115-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 360
Synopsis

A pretty comprehensive guide to evolution, and the second book that introduced the gene-centric view of evolution (namely, that genes use bodies — survival machines — to pass themselves on, rather than organisms using genes to pass their traits on). The main goal of the book is to explain altruistic behavior and to dispel the myth that just because genes are selfish, we must (or should) be selfish, and I think it succeeds. The book also introduced the concept of memes (supposed to rhyme with genes), which are units of culture (like a catchy tune or a piece of trivia or a certain way of walking) that are capable of being copied from mind to mind.

Images Back of The Selfish Gene.Spine of The Selfish Gene.Front of The Selfish Gene.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction to 30th anniversary edition
  • Preface to second edition
  • Foreword to first edition
  • Preface to first edition
  1. Why are people?
  2. The replicators
  3. Immortal coils
  4. The gene machine
  5. Aggression: stability and the selfish machine
  6. Genesmanship
  7. Family planning
  8. Battle of the generations
  9. Battle of the sexes
  10. You scratch my back, I'll ride on yours
  11. Memes: the new replicators
  12. Nice guys finish first
  13. The long reach of the gene
  • Endnotes
  • Updated bibliography
  • Index and key to bibliography
  • Extracts from reviews
Full title Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Astronomy, biology and science
Publication year 1999
Original publication year 1998
ISBN 0-14-026408-6 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 336
Synopsis

This book is a celebration of science, and an explanation of its beauty.

Dawkins discusses the probability of your birth (it turns out to be very low), the notion that knowing things about the universe diminishes its beauty (like Feynman before him), sound waves, DNA fingerprinting, astrology (always witty to condemn), genes, brains, and, finally, memes.

Images Back of Unweaving the Rainbow.Spine of Unweaving the Rainbow.Front of Unweaving the Rainbow.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  1. The Anaesthetic of Familiarity
  2. Drawing Room of Dukes
  3. Barcodes in the Stars
  4. Barcodes on the Air
  5. Barcodes at the Bar
  6. Hoodwink'd with Faery Fancy
  7. Unweaving the Uncanny
  8. Huge Cloudy Symbols of a High Romance
  9. The Selfish Cooperator
  10. The Genetic Book of the Dead
  11. Reweaving the World
  12. The Balloon of the Mind
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index

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