Hey, so this is a course about religious: the first question you have to read the file that i have uploaded and write 3 lines quote from the passage and write 5 to 7 lines from your own words regarding to the main question. the second questions does not relate to the file that i have uploaded and you can answer it in 5 lines with clear ideas. 1- What is the most convincing point of Dawkins against traditional religious believe, esp. belief in a personal God? — Provide a passage quotation, more than 2-3 lines from the Blind Watchmaker.2- What is your personal view on all the issues of evolutionary science and psychology AND the traditional belief in personal God? Where do you stand in this discussion if not debate?feel free to ask me for clarifying anything
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A B O U T THE AUTHOR
Richard Dawkins was born in Nairobi in 1941. He was educated at
Oxford University, and after graduation remained there to work
for his doctorate with the Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Niko
Tinbergen. From 1967 to 1969 he was an Assistant Professor of
Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1970 he became
a Lecturer in Zoology at Oxford University and a Fellow of New
College. In 1995 he became the first Charles Simonyi Professor of the
Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.
Richard Dawkins’s first book. The Selfish Gene (1976; second edition,
1989), became an immediate international bestseller and, like The
Blind Watchmaker, was translated into all the major languages. Its
sequel, The Extended Phenotype, followed in 1982. His other bestsellers include River Out of Eden (1995) and Climbing Mount
Improbable (1996; Penguin, 1997).
Richard Dawkins won both the Royal Society of Literature Award and
the Los Angeles Times Literary Prize in 1987 for The Blind
Watchmaker. The television film of the book, shown in the Horizon
series, won the Sci-Tech Prize for the Best Science Programme of 1987.
He has also won the 1989 Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of
London and the 1990 Royal Society Michael Faraday Award for the
furtherance of the public understanding of science. In 1994 he won
the Nakayama Prize for Human Science and has been awarded an
Honorary D.Litt. by the University of St Andrews and by the
Australian National University, Canberra.
Chapter I 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 8 Explosions and spirals
Chapter 10 The one true tree of life
Chapter 11 Doomed rivals
Appendix (1991): Computer programs and ‘The
Evolution of Evolvability’
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 problem is that of complex design. The computer on which I am
writing these words has an information storage capacity of about 64
kilobytes (one byte is used to hold each character of text). The
computer was consciously designed and deliberately manufactured.
The brain with which you are understanding my words is an array of
some ten million kiloneurones. Many of these billions of nerve cells
have each more than a thousand ‘electric wires’ connecting them to
other neurones. Moreover, at the molecular genetic level, every single
one of more than a trillion cells in the body contains about a thousand
times as much precisely-coded digital information as my entire
computer. The complexity of living organisms is matched by the
elegant efficiency of their apparent design. If anyone doesn’t agree that
this amount of complex design cries out for an explanation, I give up.
No, on second thoughts I don’t give up, because one of my aims in the
book is to convey something of the sheer wonder of biological
complexity to those whose eyes have not been opened to it. But having
built up the mystery, my other main aim is to remove it again by
explaining the solution.
Explaining is a difficult art. You can explain something so that your
reader understands the words; and you can explain something so that
the reader feels it in the marrow of his bones. To do the latter, it
sometimes isn’t enough to lay the evidence before the reader in a
dispassionate way. You have to become an advocate and use the tricks
of the advocate’s trade. This book is not a dispassionate scientific
treatise. Other books on Darwinism are, and many of them are
excellent and informative and should be read in conjunction with this
one. Far from being dispassionate, it has to be confessed that in parts
this book is written with a passion which, in a professional scientific
journal, might excite comment. Certainly it seeks to inform, but it also
seeks to persuade and even – one can specify aims without
presumption – to inspire. I want to inspire the reader with a vision of
our own existence as, on the face of it, a spine-chilling mystery, and
simultaneously to convey the full excitement of the fact that it is a
mystery with an elegant solution which is within our grasp. More, I
want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view
happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in
principle, solve the mystery of our existence. This makes it a doubly
satisfying theory. A good case can be made that Darwinism is true, not
just on this planet but all over the universe wherever life may be found.
In one respect I plead to distance myself from professional advocates.
A lawyer or a politician is paid to exercise his passion and his persuasion
on behalf of a client or a cause in which he may not privately believe. I
have never done this and I never shall. I may not always be right, but I
care passionately about what is true and I never say anything that I do not
believe to be right. I remember being shocked when visiting a university
debating society to debate with creationists. At dinner after the debate, I
was placed next to a young woman who had made a relatively powerful
speech in favour of creationism. She clearly couldn’t be a creationist, so I
asked her to tell me honestly why she had done it. She freely admitted
that she was simply practising her debating skills, and found it more
challenging to advocate a position in which she did not believe.
Apparently it is common practice in university debating societies for
speakers simply to be told on which side they are to speak. Their own
beliefs don’t come into it. I had come a long way to perform the
disagreeable task of public speaking, because I believed in the truth of the
motion that I had been asked to propose. When I discovered that
members of the society were using the motion as a vehicle for playing
arguing games, I resolved to decline future invitations from debating
societies that encourage insincere advocacy on issues where scientific
truth is at stake.
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, Darwinism seems more
in need of advocacy than similarly established truths in other branches
of science. Many of us have no grasp of quantum theory, or Einstein’s
theories of special and general relativity, but this does not in itself
lead us to oppose these theories! Darwinism, unlike ‘Einsteinism’,
seems to be regarded as fair game for critics with any degree of
ignorance. I suppose one trouble with Darwinism is that, as Jacques
Monod perceptively remarked, everybody thinks he understands it. It
is, indeed, a remarkably simple theory; childishly so, one would have
thought, in comparison with almost all of physics and mathematics. In
essence, it amounts simply to the idea that non-random reproduction,
where there is hereditary variation, has consequences that are
far-reaching if there is time for them to be cumulative. But we have
good grounds for believing that this simplicity is deceptive. Never
forget that, simple as the theory may seem, nobody thought of it until
Darwin and Wallace in the mid nineteenth century, nearly 200 years
after Newton’s Principia, and more than 2,000 years after Eratosthenes
measured the Earth. How could such a simple idea go so long
undiscovered by thinkers of the calibre of Newton, Galileo, Descartes,
Leibnitz, Hume and Aristotle? Why did it have to wait for two
Victorian naturalists? What was wrong with philosophers and
mathematicians that they overlooked it? And how can such a powerful
idea go still largely unabsorbed into popular consciousness?
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. Since living complexity embodies the very
antithesis of chance, if you think that Darwinism is tantamount to
chance you’ll obviously find it easy to refute Darwinism! One of my
tasks will be to destroy this eagerly believed myth that Darwinism is a
theory of ‘chance’. Another way in which we seem predisposed to
disbelieve Darwinism is that our brains are built to deal with events on
radically different timescales from those that characterize evolutionary change. We are equipped to appreciate processes that take seconds,
minutes, years or, at most, decades to complete. Darwinism is a theory
of cumulative processes so slow that they take between thousands and
millions of decades to complete. All our intuitive judgements of what
is probable turn out to be wrong by many orders of magnitude. Our
well-tuned apparatus of scepticism and subjective probability-theory
misfires by huge margins, because it is tuned – ironically, by evolution
itself – to work within a lifetime of a few decades. It requires effort of
the imagination to escape from the prison of familiar timescale, an
effort that I shall try to assist.
A third respect in which our brains seem predisposed to resist
Darwinism stems from our great success as creative designers. Our
world is dominated by feats of engineering and works of art. We are
entirely accustomed to the idea that complex elegance is an indicator
of premeditated, Grafted design. This is probably the most powerful
reason for the belief, held by the vast majority of people that have ever
lived, in some kind of supernatural deity. It took a very large leap of the
imagination for Darwin and Wallace to see that, contrary to all
intuition, there is another way and, once you have understood it, a far
more plausible way, for complex ‘design’ to arise out of primeval
simplicity. A leap of the imagination so large that, to this day, many
people seem still unwilling to make it. It is the main purpose of this
book to help the reader to make this leap.
Authors naturally hope that their books will have lasting rather
than ephemeral impact. But any advocate, in addition to putting the
timeless part of his case, must also respond to contemporary advocates
of opposing, or apparently opposing, points of view. There is a risk that
some of these arguments, however hotly they may rage today, will
seem terribly dated in decades to come. The paradox has often been
noted that the first edition of The Origin of Species makes a better case
than the sixth. This is because Darwin felt obliged, in his later
editions, to respond to contemporary criticisms of the first edition,
criticisms which now seem so dated that the replies to them merely
get in the way, and in places even mislead. Nevertheless, the
temptation to ignore fashionable contemporary criticisms that one
suspects of being nine days’ wonders is a temptation that should not be
indulged, for reasons of courtesy not just to the critics but to their
otherwise confused readers. Though I have my own private ideas on
which chapters of my book will eventually prove ephemeral for this
reason, the reader – and time – must judge.
I am distressed to find that some women friends (fortunately not
many) treat the use of the impersonal masculine pronoun as if it
showed intention to exclude them. If there were any excluding to be
done (happily there isn’t) I think I would sooner exclude men, but
when I once tentatively tried referring to my abstract reader as ‘she’, a
feminist denounced me for patronizing condescension: I ought to say
‘he-or-she’, and ‘his-or-her’. That is easy to do if you don’t care about
language, but then if you don’t care about language you don’t deserve
readers of either sex. Here, I have returned to the normal conventions
of English pronouns. I may refer to the ‘reader’ as ‘he’, but I no more
think of my readers as specifically male than a French speaker thinks
of a table as female. As a matter of fact I believe I do, more often than
not, think of my readers as female, but that is my personal affair and I’d
hate to think that such considerations impinged on how I use my
Personal, too, are some of my reasons for gratitude. Those to whom I
cannot do justice will understand. My publishers saw no reason to
keep from me the identities of their referees (not ‘reviewers’ – true
reviewers, pace many Americans under 40, criticize books only after
they are published, when it is too late for the author to do anything
about it), and I have benefited greatly from the suggestions of
Krebs (again), John Durant, Graham Cairns-Smith, leffrey Levinton,
Michael Ruse, Anthony Hallam and David Pye. Richard Gregory
kindly criticized Chapter 12, and the final version has benefited from
its complete excision. Mark Ridley and Alan Grafen, now no longer
even officially my students, are, together with Bill Hamilton, the
leading lights of the group of colleagues with whom I discuss evolution
and from whose ideas I benefit almost daily. They, Pamela Wells, Peter
Atkins and John Dawkins have helpfully criticized various chapters for
me. Sarah Bunney made numerous improvements, and John Cribbin
corrected a major error. Alan Grafen and Will Atkinson advised on
computing problems, and the Apple Macintosh Syndicate of the
Zoology Department kindly allowed their laser printer to draw
Once again I have benefited from the relentless dynamism with
which Michael Rodgers, now of Longman, carries all before him. He,
and Mary Cunnane of Norton, skilfully applied the accelerator (to my
morale) and the brake (to my sense of humour) when each was needed.
Part of the book was written during a sabbatical leave kindly granted
by the Department of Zoology and New College. Finally – a debt I
should have acknowledged in both my previous books – the Oxford
tutorial system and my many tutorial pupils in zoology over the years
have helped me to practise what few skills I may have in the difficult
art of explaining.
THE VERY IMPROBABLE
We animals are the most complicated things in the known universe.
The universe that we know, of course, is a tiny fragment of the actual
universe. There may be yet more complicated objects than us on other
planets, and some of them may already know about us. But this doesn’t
alter the point that I want to make. Complicated things, everywhere,
deserve a very special kind of explanation. We want to know how they
came into existence and why they are so complicated. The explanation, as I shall argue, is likely to be broadly the same for complicated things everywhere in the universe; the same for us, for
chimpanzees, worms, oak trees and monsters from outer space. On the
other hand, it will not be the same for what I shall call ‘simple’ things,
such as rocks, clouds, rivers, galaxies and quarks. These are the stuff of
physics. Chimps and dogs and bats and cockroaches and people and
worms and dandelions and bacteria and galactic aliens are the stuff of
The difference is one of complexity of design. Biology is the study of
complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed
for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us
to invoke design. At first sight, man-made artefacts like computers and
cars will seem to provide exceptions. They are complicated and
obviously designed for a purpose, yet they are not alive, and they are
made of metal and plastic rather than of flesh and blood. In this book
they will be firmly treated as biological objects.
The reader’s reaction to this may be to ask, ‘Yes, but are they really
biological objects?’ Words are our servants, not our masters. For
different purposes we find it convenient to use words in different
senses. Most cookery books class lobsters as fish. Zoologists can
The Blind Watchmaker
become quite apoplectic about this, pointing out that lobsters could
with greater justice call humans fish, since fish are far closer kin to
humans than they are to lobsters. And, talking of justice and lobsters, I
understand that a court of law recently had to decide whether lobsters
were insects or ‘animals’ (it bore upon whether people should be
allowed to boil them alive). Zoologically speaking, lobsters are
certainly not insects. They are animals, but then so are insects and so
are we. There is little point in getting worked up about the way
different people use words (although in my nonprofessional life I am
quite prepared to get worked up about people who boil lobsters alive).
Cooks and lawyers need to use words in their own special ways, and so
do I in this book. Never mind whether cars and computers are ‘really’
biological objects. The point is that if anything of that degree of
complexity were found on a planet, we should have no hesitation in
concluding that life existed, or had once existed, on that planet.
Machines are the direct products of living objects; they derive their
complexity and design from living objects, and they are diagnostic of
the existence of life on a planet. The same goes for fossils, skeletons
and dead bodies.
I said that physics is the study of simple things, and this, too, may
seem strange at first. Physics appears to be a complicated subject,
because the ideas of physics are difficult for us to understand. Our
brains were designed to understand hunting and gathering, mating and
child-rearing: a world of medium-sized objects moving in three dimensions at moderate speeds. We are ill-equipped to comprehend the
very small and the very large; things whose duration is measured in
picoseconds or gigayears; particles that don’t have position; forces and
fields that we cannot see or touch, which we know of only because
they affect things that we can see or touch. We think that physics is
complicated because it is hard for us to understand, and because
physics books are full of difficult mathematics. But the objects that
physicists study are still basically simple objects. They are clouds of
gas or tiny particles, or lumps of uniform matter like crystals, with
almost endlessly repeated atomic patterns. They do not, at least by
biological standards, have intricate working parts. Even large physical
objects like stars consist of a rather limited array of parts, more or less
haphazardly arranged. The behaviour of physical, nonbiological objects
is so simple that it is feasible to use existing mathematical language to
describe it, which is why physics books are full of mathematics.
Physics books may be complicated, but physics books, like cars and
computers, are the product of biological objects – human brains. The
objects and phenomena that a physics book describes are simpler than
Explaining the very improbable
a single cell in the body of its author. And the author consists of
trillions of those cells, many of them different from each other, organized with intricate architecture and precision-engineering into a working machine capable of writing a book (my trillions are American, like
all my units: one American trillion is a million millions; an American
billion is a thousand millions). Our brains are no better equipped to
handle extremes of complexity than extremes of size and the other
difficult extremes of physics. Nobody has yet invented the
mathematics for describing the total st …
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