The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
book, review, science
This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later with next to no spell/grammar checking.
I am deeply ambivalent about this book.
It is not clear to me who the target audience is here. The book itself claims to be aimed at the religious people, intending to show them that atheism is an option and even if they end up not following, at least they can’t say they hadn’t known there was another way. On the other hands, every mention of this book I heard came from an atheist. Indeed one of the first goodreads comments claims it’s an essential reading for all atheist, essentially providing discussion fodder.
This lack of focus is prevalent throughout the book.
It delves into arguments for and against the supernatural, various philosophical approach, whether certain famous people really believe in a personal deity, the science of evolution, the memetics theory, ethics with and without religion and whether you can gain them from the Bible, potential ways how the seemingly human need for religion may have evolved, Dawkins' personal stance on various issues and a host of other topics.
The God Delusion is strongest when it discusses science. The evolutionary section is absolutely amazing and I’m definitely going to see whether there’s a purely scientific publication by Dawkins.
When it delves into philosophy, it is at its weakest. Where the scientific sections are clearly written and full of fascinating stories and information, the philosophy sections are mostly about quoting other people and books, often without providing enough context.
It is also there where he gives in to rhetorics. Abandoning facts and ironclad logic, he starts throwing platitudes such as "no theologian would…" or "every atheist has…" all of which need a single contrary example to be falsified. Indeed, myself or people I know are often the counter examples.
Overall, I’m glad I read it. Its high points are absolutely fantastic. However, the rest is not to my liking. I kept comparing it to Sean Carroll’s Big Picture. Both books offer science and philosophy in equal measure, but the latter book is brilliant all the time.