Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Two quotes from Dawkins

A Devil's Chaplain (Boston: Mariner, 2003), like everything from the pen of Richard Dawkins, is an excellent read. It is a little bit different from his other books, in that it is an anthology mostly of previously published popular articles, and covers much more varying ground, but the characteristic Dawkins voice is there, throughout. Here are two little selections (of many) I liked in particular:

Here, Dawkins comments on the view that the Cambrian explosion was profound merely because it generated new phyla, while today we see only species-level variation:
It is as though a gardener looked at an old oak tree and remarked, wonderingly: 'Isn't it strange that no major new boughs have appeared on this tree recently. These days, all the new growth appears to be at the twig level!' (215 - 216)
And here, Dawkins writes to his little daughter about the old canard that we can know we are loved only through faith:
People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you'd never be confident of things like 'My wife loves me'. But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn't a purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favours and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.

Sometimes people have a strong inside feeling that somebody loves them when it is not based upon any evidence, and then they are likely to be completely wrong. There are people with a strong inside feeling that a famous film star loves them, when really the film star hasn't even met them. People like that are ill in their minds. Inside feelings must be backed up by evidence, otherwise you just can't trust them. (246)
Read it all.

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