Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Defending Darwin

Most of us claim that we understand Darwin's theory. Many amongst us understand it so well that they are ready with their arguments against it. The fact remains that most of us do not have the slightest idea beyond what is very superficially taught in schools.

It is with this background that I never picked up any book that was remotely connected to evolution. I thought I understood the concept of evolution and, in my mind, any book on evolution would be variation of what is shown on National Geographic or Discovery Channel. Until now that is.

(I am not taking into account the one other occasion where I was forced to read Survival Of the Sickest (see here) though I am glad I did.)

The book in my hand right now is The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. It is of 1986 vintage (reissued in 2006 - so perhaps it is not that old).

In his 2006 preface, Dawkins says:

Aside from some vague nonsense about 'monkeys', they simply did not know what Darwinism was.

In his 1986 preface he says:

It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe. Take, for instance, the issue of 'chance', often dramatized as blind chance. The great majority of people that attack Darwinism leap with almost unseemly eagerness to the mistaken idea that there is nothing other than random chance in it. ... One of my tasks will be to destroy this eagerly believed myth that Darwinism is a theory of 'chance'.

I think I am going to enjoy this book.

Picture courtesy: Carsten Issels

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