A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love

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Essays on morality, mortality, and much more from the New York Times–bestselling author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion.

This early collection of essays from renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins is an enthusiastic declaration, a testament to the power of rigorous scientific examination to reveal the wonders of the world.
 
In these essays, Dawkins revisits the meme, the unit of cultural information that he named and wrote about in his groundbreaking work, The Selfish Gene. Here also are moving tributes to friends and colleagues, including a eulogy for novelist Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; correspondence with fellow biologist Stephen Jay Gould; commentary on the events of 9/11; and visits with the famed paleoanthropologists Richard and Meave Leakey at their African wildlife preserve.
 
Ending with a vivid note to Dawkins’s ten-year-old daughter, reminding her to remain curious, ask questions, and live the examined life, A Devil’s Chaplain is a fascinating read by “a man of firm opinions, which he expresses with clarity and punch” (Scientific American).
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About the author

Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Oxford University. He was the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford until 2008, a position he founded in 1995. Among Dawkins’s books are The Ancestor’s Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil’s Chaplain. He lives in Oxford with his wife, actress and artist Lalla Ward.
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Additional Information

Publisher
HMH
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Published on
Oct 27, 2004
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780547416526
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Atheism
Science / Essays
Science / Ethics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Our future was with the collective, but our survival was with the individual, and the paradox was killing us everyday. John Le Carre Smiley's People (1979) Since the time of Ancient Greek lyrical poetry, it has been one of man's dreams to explain his own conduct. This is the background to all his activities, from literature to speculative philosophy, including those odds and ends which, for want of a better name and more precise boundaries are called "human science". Over the past nine or ten years a new member has been added to this inquisitive family, one which, moreover, claims to be scientific to an extremely high degree: biology. This is in fact a recurrent event, since theses designed to introduce causal biological expla nations into the general field of human action had already been formulated on at least two occasions (in original Darwinism and the Neo-Darwinist synthesis). Ethologists and sociobiologists are today taking over and as suring us that they have the necessary tools to provide an answer to what perhaps seemed the most slippery subject in the hands of science: the social being. As might be expected, philosophers have reacted with some scepticism. Though human conduct is undoubtedly subject to determinants, the lion's share of responsi bility lies with society itself. At the time when biology was beginning to develop the theories necessary to overcome cre ationism, Karl Marx had already managed to construct highly sophisticated interpretive models of human social behaviour.
Should we believe in God? In this brisk introduction to modern atheism, one of the world’s greatest science writers tells us why we shouldn’t.

Richard Dawkins was fifteen when he stopped believing in God. 

Deeply impressed by the beauty and complexity of living things, he’d felt certain they must have had a designer. Learning about evolution changed his mind. Now one of the world’s best and bestselling science communicators, Dawkins has given readers, young and old, the same opportunity to rethink the big questions.

In twelve fiercely funny, mind-expanding chapters, Dawkins explains how the natural world arose without a designer—the improbability and beauty of the “bottom-up programming” that engineers an embryo or a flock of starlings—and challenges head-on some of the most basic assumptions made by the world’s religions: Do you believe in God? Which one? Is the Bible a “Good Book”? Is adhering to a religion necessary, or even likely, to make people good to one another? Dissecting everything from Abraham’s abuse of Isaac to the construction of a snowflake, Outgrowing God is a concise, provocative guide to thinking for yourself.

Advance praise for Outgrowing God

“My son came home from his first day in the sixth grade with arms outstretched plaintively demanding to know: ‘Have you ever heard of Jesus?’  We burst out laughing. Maybe not our finest parenting moment, given that he was genuinely distraught. He felt that he had woken up one day to a world in which his peers were expressing beliefs he found frighteningly unreasonable. He began devouring books like The God Delusion, books that helped him formulate his own arguments and helped him stand his ground. Dawkins’s new book is special in the terrain of atheists’ pleas for humanism and rationalism precisely since it speaks to those most vulnerable to the coercive tactics of religion. As Dawkins himself says in the dedication, this book is for ‘all young people when they’re old enough to decide for themselves.’ It is also, I must add, for their parents.”—Janna Levin, author of Black Hole Blues
 
“When someone is considering atheism I tell them to read the Bible first and then Dawkins. Outgrowing God—second only to the Bible!”—Penn Jillette, author of God, No!
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The legendary biologist and bestselling author mounts a timely and passionate defense of science and clear thinking with this career-spanning collection of essays, including twenty pieces published in the United States for the first time.

For decades, Richard Dawkins has been a brilliant scientific communicator, consistently illuminating the wonders of nature and attacking faulty logic. Science in the Soul brings together forty-two essays, polemics, and paeans—all written with Dawkins’s characteristic erudition, remorseless wit, and unjaded awe of the natural world.

Though it spans three decades, this book couldn’t be more timely or more urgent. Elected officials have opened the floodgates to prejudices that have for half a century been unacceptable or at least undercover. In a passionate introduction, Dawkins calls on us to insist that reason take center stage and that gut feelings, even when they don’t represent the stirred dark waters of xenophobia, misogyny, or other blind prejudice, should stay out of the voting booth. And in the essays themselves, newly annotated by the author, he investigates a number of issues, including the importance of empirical evidence, and decries bad science, religion in the schools, and climate-change deniers.

Dawkins has equal ardor for “the sacred truth of nature” and renders here with typical virtuosity the glories and complexities of the natural world. Woven into an exploration of the vastness of geological time, for instance, is the peculiar history of the giant tortoises and the sea turtles—whose journeys between water and land tell us a deeper story about evolution. At this moment, when so many highly placed people still question the fact of evolution, Dawkins asks what Darwin would make of his own legacy—“a mixture of exhilaration and exasperation”—and celebrates science as possessing many of religion’s virtues—“explanation, consolation, and uplift”—without its detriments of superstition and prejudice.

In a world grown irrational and hostile to facts, Science in the Soul is an essential collection by an indispensable author.

Praise for Science in the Soul

“Compelling . . . rendered in gloriously spiky and opinionated prose . . . [Dawkins is] one of the great science popularizers of the last half-century.”—The Christian Science Monitor 

“Dawkins is a ferocious polemicist, a defender of reason and enemy of superstition.”—John Horgan, Scientific American
AN INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
“How To will make you laugh as you learn…With How To, you can't help but appreciate the glorious complexity of our universe and the amazing breadth of humanity's effort to comprehend it. If you want some lightweight edification, you won't go wrong with How To.” —CNET
 
“[How To] has science and jokes in it, so 10/10 can recommend.” —Simone Giertz

The world's most entertaining and useless self-help guide, from the brilliant mind behind the wildly popular webcomic xkcd and the bestsellers What If? and Thing Explainer

For any task you might want to do, there's a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally complex, excessive, and inadvisable that no one would ever try it. How To is a guide to the third kind of approach. It's full of highly impractical advice for everything from landing a plane to digging a hole.

Bestselling author and cartoonist Randall Munroe explains how to predict the weather by analyzing the pixels of your Facebook photos. He teaches you how to tell if you're a baby boomer or a 90's kid by measuring the radioactivity of your teeth. He offers tips for taking a selfie with a telescope, crossing a river by boiling it, and powering your house by destroying the fabric of space-time. And if you want to get rid of the book once you're done with it, he walks you through your options for proper disposal, including dissolving it in the ocean, converting it to a vapor, using tectonic plates to subduct it into the Earth's mantle, or launching it into the Sun.

By exploring the most complicated ways to do simple tasks, Munroe doesn't just make things difficult for himself and his readers. As he did so brilliantly in What If?, Munroe invites us to explore the most absurd reaches of the possible. Full of clever infographics and fun illustrations, How To is a delightfully mind-bending way to better understand the science and technology underlying the things we do every day.
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