The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design

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Overview

"The best general account of evolution I have read in recent years."—E. O. Wilson. With a new introduction.
Twenty years after its original publication, The Blind Watchmaker, framed with a new introduction by the author, is as prescient and timely a book as ever. The watchmaker belongs to the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley, who argued that just as a watch is too complicated and functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be ...

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Overview

"The best general account of evolution I have read in recent years."—E. O. Wilson. With a new introduction.
Twenty years after its original publication, The Blind Watchmaker, framed with a new introduction by the author, is as prescient and timely a book as ever. The watchmaker belongs to the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley, who argued that just as a watch is too complicated and functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. Charles Darwin’s brilliant discovery challenged the creationist arguments; but only Richard Dawkins could have written this elegant riposte. Natural selection—the unconscious, automatic, blind, yet essentially nonrandom process Darwin discovered—has no purpose in mind. If it can be said to play the role of a watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker in nature.

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Editorial Reviews

John Maynard Smith
“Dawkins has done more than anyone else now writing to make evolutionary biology comprehensible and acceptable to a general audience.”
The Economist
“As readable and vigorous a defense of Darwinism as has been published since 1859.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Oxford zoologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype trumpets his thesis in his subtitlealmost guarantee enough that his book will stir controversy. Simply put, he has responded head-on to the argument-by-design most notably made by the 18th century theologian William Paley that the universe, like a watch in its complexity, needed, in effect, a watchmaker to design it. Hewing to Darwin's fundamental (his opponents might say fundamentalist) message, Dawkins sums up: ``The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the evolution of organized complexity.'' Avoiding an arrogant tone despite his up-front convictions, he takes pains to explain carefully, from various sides, why even such esteemed scientists as Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, with their ``punctuated equilibrium'' thesis, are actually gradualists like Darwin himself in their evolutionary views. Dawkins is difficult reading as he describes his computer models of evolutionary possibilities. But, as he draws on his zoological background, emphasizing recent genetic techniques, he can be as engrossing as he is cogent and convincing. His concept of ``taming chance'' by breaking down the ``very improbable into less improbable small components'' is daring neo-Darwinism. Line drawings. (November 24)
Library Journal
Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene ( LJ 12/1/76), persuasively argues the case for Darwinian evolution. He criticizes the prominent punctuationist school, and takes issue with the views of creationists and others who believe that life arose by design of a deity. Using the evolution of various animals as examples and drawing parallels from improvements in modern technology, Dawkins demonstrates the logic of the selection process and of an incremental evolution whose end products are the highly complex, functional organisms we know today. This provocative work is likely to generate further controversy in the scientific community. Recommended for informed laypersons, undergraduates, and scholars. Joseph Hannibal, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Booknews
Reprint of the 1987 original with a new introduction & preface. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393315707
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/2004
  • Edition description: Subsequent
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 111,587
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins taught zoology at the University of California at Berkeley and at Oxford University and is now the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position he has held since 1995. Among his previous books are The Ancestor's Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, and A Devil's Chaplain. Dawkins lives in Oxford with his wife, the actress and artist Lalla Ward.
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Table of Contents

Introduction to the 1996 edition
Preface
Ch. 1 Explaining the very improbable 1
Ch. 2 Good design 21
Ch. 3 Accumulating small change 43
Ch. 4 Making tracks through animal space 77
Ch. 5 The power and the archives 111
Ch. 6 Origins and miracles 139
Ch. 7 Constructive evolution 169
Ch. 8 Explosions and spirals 195
Ch. 9 Puncturing punctuationism 223
Ch. 10 The one true tree of life 255
Ch. 11 Doomed rivals 287
Bibliography 321
Index 327
Appendix I An Application for the Apple Macintosh Computer 335
Appendix II [1991] Computer Programs and 'The Evolution of Evolvability' 351
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 23 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 23 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2007

    good addition to The Selfish Gene

    Published ten years after The Selfish Gene, this book is just as enlightening and entertaining as that first book by Dawkins. More examples of evolution in the natural world, and more evidence that evolution has indeed shaped the diversity of living things, past and present, on the earth. Very well written, it's a pleasure to read. One criticism of this and especially The Selfish Gene: Dawkins seems to think that there's no or very little selection at the level of the group, and that natural selection takes place at the level of the individual or even his or her DNA. However, I think it's clear that there is a good deal of selective pressure at the level of the group or tribe, and even to some degree at the level of the entire species. If a group of animals dies, that includes every member of the group, so it stands to reason that there should be some selection at the level of the group, even if that selection runs counter to the immediate goals of the individual within that group. In spite of this criticism, any curious person should give this, and The Selfish Gene, a read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2006

    Refutation of 'Intelligent Design'

    This book is an outstanding refutation of 'Intelligent Design', a religious pseudo-science masquerading as true science. Dawkins shows the logical fallacies and innumeracy at the base thereof. Very readable - more so than his masterwork 'The Selfish Gene'.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2002

    amazing book

    Dawkins is amazing at explaining things in simple english. This books isn't only about evolution but more important is about it's process which is natural selection.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Important, Readable and Comprehensible

    This is an important book to anyone who wants to understand how life works. I found it readable and comprehensible. I picked it up because it is referenced in other books I've read. I placed it on my "100 Book List" My subjective list of the 100 books I think everyone should read in their lifetime.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2008

    Blind produces design?

    The whole thesis of "The Blind Watchman" is that there is no design in nature.<BR/><BR/>Yet we see design everywhere. Is it merely an illusion?<BR/><BR/>The human body is an amazingly designed machine. It is perfectly designed for human life and activities in the environment in which it is surrounded.<BR/><BR/>There is unity of design, intent and purpose in the whole universe, from quark through cellular structure to the 500 million galaxies.<BR/><BR/>Richard Dawkins' specialty, cellular biology is one tiny segment of the total universe.<BR/><BR/>He does not know the origin of the cell. He knows only how it works.<BR/>He does not know the origin of matter. He knows only that it is there.<BR/><BR/>He cannot explain why the universe does not consist of hydrogen and helium.<BR/>He cannot explain the emergence of the carbon atom.<BR/>He has no exlanation for the hydrosphere and atmosphere of the earth.<BR/><BR/>The evolution process is not adequately explained by "Natural Selection".<BR/>That is like saying that a car runs on gas.<BR/>I am not saying that it is not true. I am saying that it does not explain what mechanisms are at work in the process.<BR/><BR/>Nor does he distinguish between a single cell and multi-celled organisms.<BR/>In other words, what are the sufficient causes of the selection, and how clear is it that acquired characteristics are passed on? <BR/>If so, describe the mechanism of the transfer.<BR/><BR/>As for "chance" - "The word "chance" is used for various sorts of happenings that are characterized by our incomplete insight into their causal connections. The lack of insight can be of a fundamental nature, as is the case with the information that is restricted by the lack of definition at the quantum mechanical level, or else it may be due to information that is incomplete or capable of supplement'.<BR/>Peter Schuster, cf. ""Darwin und Chemie: Die chemiken Grundlagen der biologischen Evolution", Vienna, Picus Verlag, 2006<BR/>and "Ulirich Kkutschera, "Evolutionsbiologie", Stuttgart Verlag, Eugen Ulmer, 2006.<BR/><BR/>The key to the mysteries of evolutionary biology are "causal connections". For instance, there is no factual evidence of the descent of the human body from the biological descent of any of the higher primates. Similarities, yes, but no evidence of descent. The causal connection is presumed, not demonstrated. What can be demonstrated is a relationship of similarity, not of biological descent.<BR/><BR/>Richard Dawkins dominates the English-speaking world in his particular fieldl, but he is not the only voice in evolutionary biology. We need a wider net and more detailed and intimate physical, biological, somatic and chemical facts. <BR/><BR/>cf. August Weismann, "The Evolution Theory", 1905 and his "Studies in the Theory of Descent." <BR/><BR/>Blind only expresses a lack of detailed information on the causal connections of certain phenomena.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2008

    A MUST READ FOR EVOLUTION BUFFS ....

    A fascinating read that really makes you think. So interesting to see an esteemed scientist like Dawkins taking on this subject so successfully, getting into the nitty gritty of what evolution is and what it is not. The only problem was that at times it could be quite dry and sometimes slow to read. On that note, I just finished another book that also really made me think. NATURAL SELECTION by Dave Freedman. It's a Jurassic Park type book - a science-based action-thriller about the evolution of a new species of flying predator. What made it special - besides how incredibly fast those pages turned - was how fun, relatable and easy-to-understand it made evolution, a great 'fictional compliment' to anything by Dawkins.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2005

    A good read for those already converted to evolutionism

    Dawkins' writing style is always engaging and persuasive. However, as someone who has always been fascinated with the debate between science (here naturalistic evolution) and religion (creationism), i found this book surprisingly lacking in substance. I found no good arguments against the creationist worldview and little good evidence for Darwinism as an alternative. As i said, it is still a good book and an interesting use of your time, but i would steer away from this one if you are seeking for the truth.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    One of the best books ever written

    This book, together with The Selfish Gene, by the same author, are the best two books I ever read. After reading this book, you will understand for example that the concept of species is not well founded, it makes no sense at all, because the boundaries between species are indeed arbitrary. Species is a continuous variable, and we are able to tell one species from another just because the intermediate ancestors between them are dead. If this weren't the case, our society would be totally different: we would not grant social rights to humans alone, because there would be a continuous fade between apes and humans, as there really was in the past. In other words, the evidence for evolution would make this thing ridiculous. As Dawkins himself explains very well in the selfish Gene, this belief, shared by creationists, Catholics, Christians, etc, is nothing more than racism. This book is a miracle. It nearly moved me to tears. Together with the other great book from Dawkins, the selfish Gene, it is a must read. I dare say everyone should be morally obliged to do so; everyone should know which are the mechanisms of the world, in order to think better and to act better socially. I think this book is better read after the selfish Gene, but many others do not think so. IT is a lot easier to follow that the selfish genes. Anyone could read it. Dawkins is unparalleled in explaining things clearly. Perhaps this book is slightly more obvious than the selfish Gene if you are already in the matter, but it is addressed to different groups of people.:-) If you are interested (and you morally should ) in how evolution really works, the final chapter of the book is a real gem: it explains many misunderstandings on the theory, misunderstandings that everybody has still today. For example, the communication between the body and the DNA is strictly unidirectional: than this, no matter how strongly you become during a life, no matter how much you learn, your son will inherit nothing of all this. The reason for this is simple, once you understand that the bodies are just machines used by DNA in order to preserve itself inaltered. In other words, DNA is a ¿recipe¿ to create bodies, not a ¿blueprint¿. Once the bodies are created, what happens to them does not modify the recipe, because there would be no easy mechanical method to do this. For example, if a cake is made from a recipe, and later one slice is eaten, the recipe cannot be modified (in a simple mechanical way) in order to create a cake with one slice already eaten! If DNA were not a recipe, but a blueprint, every single part of the body would be easily indentified in the blueprint, so the blueprint COULD be modified to reflect the changes in the body. But that simply doesn¿t happen in nature. Dawkins explains why it CANNOT happen: if DNA were a blueprint evolution could not work. The reason is that our children would tend to inherit ALL changes of the body, even the worsenings, so they would be soon destroyed. I have been very simplistic on this; read the book. :-) Dawkins also answers to ¿group selectionists¿: this people - if they still exist - think that the animals (and us) act for the welfare of the species: Dawkins clearly proves that this is absurd: trees in a forest are all equally tall, very tall. If they really acted for the welfare of the species, they would be equally short, because it would be cheaper. The reason why they are not equally short is that the state of being equally short is not a stable state: it is highly probable that a mutant individual who is slightly taller would get more sun, so he would have more descendants, and eventually the forest would be once again full of trees all equally high, slightly higher than before. That process would endlessly repeat, until the disadvantages begin to overweight the advantages , so the population stands still at the same height. So we can learn that, in nature, individuals act for their immediate adva

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent book on evolution. The evidence is overwhelming. 

    Excellent book on evolution. The evidence is overwhelming. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

    Richard Dawkins explains evolution in a simple and reliable way,

    Richard Dawkins explains evolution in a simple and reliable way, this book is essential and extremely important for teenagers and 
    young adults because it basically explains the way in which life works. Although the theme seems to be scientific and intellectual;
    I found it to be readable and very comprehensible. (Alejandro)

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  • Posted June 5, 2013

    Brilliant beyond description! (Although I have doubt whatsoever

    Brilliant beyond description! (Although I have doubt whatsoever that Dawkins himself could do the description justice, ha!)
    The author clearly and thoroughly explains how and why natural selection works in a very comprehensible fashion. His writing is superb and his subject matter is thoroughly researched and highly thought-provoking.
    I fully believe that any religious person who reads this book (or any of Dawkins’ books) and understands it will begin to have major doubts.
    I would highly recommend this book as well as everything by Richard Dawkins and also God or Godless by John Loftus/Randal Rauser.

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