Listing books published by W. W. Norton

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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 End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason [permalink]
Language English
Author Sam Harris (author)
Publisher W. W. Norton
Category Religion
Publication year 2004
ISBN 0-393-32765-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 348
Synopsis

The central thesis in End of Faith is that faith is dangerous, because beliefs unsupported by evidence, when put into action, can't be reasoned with. Harris gives a lot of historical examples of this (indeed, the book has a pretty extensive bibliography in the back), and the book is peppered with endnotes (and a few pages-long ones, at that!).

The last two chapters are called A Science of Good and Evil (where Harris tries to map out an emerging science of morality) and Experiments in Consciousness (where Harris basically advocates meditation as a rational way of garnering knowledge about subjectivity, and where he doesn't reject the notion of consciousness surviving physical death). While I reject the notion that personhood survives death (that is, I think consciousness is dependent upon the brain being able to function properly and that when it eventually succumbs to decay, that'll be the end of us), I can wholeheartedly join Harris in admitting ignorance on that question.

Review

While I can't say the book was an entirely enjoyable read, it's definitely well-written and engaging. What turned me off was the incessant referencing to past atrocities. However, that was in part (I think) the intent of the book, and in that sense it succeeded. I can definitely recommend it, nonetheless.

Images Back of The End of Faith.Spine of The End of Faith.Front of The End of Faith.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  1. Reason in Exile
  2. The Nature of Belief
  3. In the Shadow of God
  4. The Problem with Islam
  5. West of Eden
  6. A Science of Good and Evil
  7. Experiments in Consciousness
  • Epilogue
  • Afterword
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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