Naomi Sherer reviews...
The Blind Watchmaker
by Richard Dawkins
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY, 1986.
"This book is written in the conviction that our own existence once presented the greatest of all mysteries, but that it is a mystery no longer because it is solved. Darwin and Wallace solved it, though we shall continue to add footnotes to their solution for a while yet. I wrote the book because I was surprised that so many people seemed not only unaware of the elegant and beautiful solution to this deepest of problems but, incredibly, in many cases actually unaware that there was a problem in the first place!"
"The watchmaker of my title is borrowed from a famous treatise by the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley. His 'Natural Theology - or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature' published in 1802, is the best-known exposition of the "Argument from Design' always the most influential of the arguments for the existence of a God."
"Paley's argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of his day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong. The analogy between telescope and eye, between watch and living organism, is false. All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way."
"A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind."
"It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the BLIND watchmaker."
"The basic requirement for an advanced information technology is some kind of storage medium with a large number of memory locations. Each location must be capable of being in one of a discrete number of states. This is true, anyway, of the DIGITAL information technology that now dominates our world of artifice."
"The information technology of the genes is digital."
"It is raining DNA outside. On the bank of the Oxford canal at the bottom of my garden is a large willow tree, and it is pumping downy seeds into the air."
"Not just any DNA, but DNA whose coded characters spell out specific instructions for building willow trees that will shed a new generation of downy seeds. Those fluffy specks are, literally, spreading instructions for making themselves."
"It is raining instructions out there; it's raining programs; it's raining tree-growing, fluff-spreading, algorithms. That is not a metaphor, it is the plain truth. It couldn't be any plainer if it were raining floppy disks."
**Dawkins patiently and clearly identifies those aspects of evolution that people find hard to believe, and removes the barriers to credibility one by one. Read it and see for yourself.
Buy it now
- Naomi Sherer