I am spending some time dealing with family business so I am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days. These could be useful with Christmas coming up.
Here’s an ideal Christmas present for the aspiring young scientist in your family – or someone you would like to encourage in that direction.
Book Review: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True by Richard Dawkins. Illustrated by Dave McKean
Price: US$16.49; NZ$37.50;
iPad app US$13.99, NZ17.99.
Audio vers. US$ 19.79.
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Free Press (October 4, 2011)
I have posted on this book before (see A reminder of reality’s magic). It’s now available in New Zealand so a review is in order. Fortunately I have had an audio version of the book for a week, have listened to it all and am happy to recommend it. I can especially confirm my earlier recommendation as a sciency book for young people – perhaps a Christmas present.
Richard Dawkins himself says he aimed the book at young people from 12 years old to 100 years old. Younger children may also enjoy it, especially with parental help.
Each of the book’s twelve chapters are built around a question – the sort of questions young and other inquisitive people ask. “Who was the first person?”, “What is a rainbow?”, “What is the sun?”, “What is reality? What is magic?”, “When and how did everything begin?”, “Why do bad things happen?” “What is a miracle?” and so on.
Most chapters start with the traditional or mythological answers. Some of those will not be new, coming from our own tradition or religion. New Zealanders will recognise a number of Maori or Christian myths. Others will be new, refreshing, intriguing, or even plain silly from our point of view. But, of course, there is no reason to suppose any mythological tradition is any more correct, or of any more value, than another. This helps develop a rational perspective.
Richard Dawkins’ latest book is due out next September. The title – Childhood, Boyhood, Truth: From an African Youth to The Selfish Gene
It’s yet a new genre for Dawkins – autobiography. Mind you he has reached the age where people do tend to write memoirs and autobiographies.
Richard says this book covers his life up to the writing of The Selfish Gene. There will be a second volume, published in 2015, covering the second half of his life.
I have enjoyed his other books and am looking forward to this one – especially as I have a special interest in scientific biography.
These two volumes will be a good read – he is an excellent writer and has had an interesting life, scientifically.
I wonder if it will get the same sort of emotional attacks his earlier books received?
Posted in book review, creationism, Darwin, Dawkins, evolution, Expelled, god, intelligent design, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged autobiography, Books, evolution, Richard Dawkins, SciBlogs, Selfish Gene
Well, that’s how someone described them.
But I have generally found the discussions between Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins stimulating. I first commented on these almost 5 years ago (see Lawrence Krauss – Richard Dawkins discussion).
They have had a number of discussions recently, in a range of countries. Someone has now put these together in a single movie. Here’s the movie trailer. Looks interesting
THE UNBELIEVERS (2013) – Official Movie Trailer
Thanks to: Dawkins & Krauss making kick-ass new atheism doc
By the way, the movie includes discussions with others too. here’s a description from the YouTube site:
‘The Unbelievers’ follows renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world – encouraging others to cast off antiquated religious and politically motivated approaches toward important current issues.
The film includes interviews with celebrities and other influential people who support the work of these controversial speakers, including:
Posted in atheism, belief, creationism, Darwin, Dawkins, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Lawrence Krauss, Lawrence M. Krauss, Paul Provenza, Richard Dawkins, SciBlogs, Unbelievers
I am working my way through the videos of the discussions at the Moving Naturalism Forward Workshop (see At last – Moving Naturalism Forward videos). I really appreciate these philosophical and scientific discussions because they aren’t weighed down, or diverted, by theistic and supernaturalist philosophy.
As Daniel Dennett said in the introductions, what he really like about the workshop was not only the people participating, but also that certain philosophers were not participating.
Here’s the discussion on morality. I don’t think they covered everything they could have but what they did cover was interesting. It’s also a pity that Patricia Churchland had to withdraw from the Workshop – her contribution to this discussion would have been very helpful. I would have also like contribution from a good evolutionary psychologist.
The next discussion on meaning was also very wide-ranging and often insightful. I liked Owen Flanagan‘s description of Aristotle’s approach. When asked how he could prepare a suitably complete obituary for someone who had just died he said that one could gather all the information available but it would still not be enough. To really pass judgement on a person’s life you have to wait to see how the grandchildren turn out.
Posted in atheism, Dawkins, Dennett, evolution, philosophy, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Aristotle, Daniel Dennett, ethics, evolutionary psychology, morality, Owen Flanagan, philosophy, SciBlogs
Participants in conferences and workshops all seem to use laptops these days. So I find myself trying to establish if Apple or Windows dominate when I watch videos of these meetings. It seems to vary according to the subject. I think Apple dominates at this meeting.
Moving Naturalism Forward workshop
Sean Carroll has announced that videos from the October Moving Naturalism Forward workshop are now on-line (see Moving Naturalism Forward: Videos and Recap). See my posts Moving Naturalism Forward and Reports from the Moving Naturalism Forward workshop for more information on the workshop.
There are ten videos of about an hour-and-a-half each. I haven’t watched any of them yet – but plan to get started this weekend.
You can find all the videos at the Workshop web-site.
Sean describes the workshop this way:
The format of the meeting was a relatively small group of people sitting around a table and discussing things. Each session had someone say something to kick things off, but in general the discussion was central, not formal presentations. Participants included Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Terrence Deacon, Simon DeDeo, Daniel Dennett, Owen Flangan, Rebecca Goldstein, Janna Levin, Massimo Pigliucci, David Poeppel, Nicholas Pritzker, Alex Rosenberg, Don Ross, Steven Weinberg, and me. A good cross-section of philosophers, physicists, biologists, and assorted other specialties. From start to finish the conversation was lively, informative, and at a very high level.
Nicholas Pritzker, who helped support the workshop, attended the sessions as a participant. Jennifer Ouellette also attended some of the sessions. Richard Dawkins had to leave early on the second day, due to travel complications caused by Hurricane Sandy. Hilary Bok, Patricia Churchland, and Lisa Randall were scheduled to attend but each had to cancel for different reasons.
This is the third and last video in the series Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life. It’s about “meaning.”
Richard Dawkins sets out to answer the question he often gets asked - “How do you get up in the morning?”
Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life Episode 3.
Another laid-back coverage by Dawkins. He gives plenty of space to the religious attempts to find meaning but is personally not convinced. I find his own description of meaning in understanding and observing reality, experiencing human art and culture, and appreciating the awe provided by our surroundings, far more attractive.
Posted in agnostic, atheism, Dawkins, philosophy, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged evolution, Richard Dawkins, SciBlogs, Sex Death And The Meaning Of Life
Here’s the second episode in the series Sex, Death and the Meaning of life – fronted by “everyone’s favourite Strident Atheist.” See Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life – Sin for Part 1
It’s another laid back, non-threatening presentation of an important issue. A chance to consider different religious/philosophical approaches and to also learn some science.
Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life Episode 2.
For such an evil atheist Dawkins seems to spend a lot of time in cemeteries and churches. Seems quite at home there.
The 3rd and final episode on The Meaning of Life screens in the UK next week.
Posted in atheism, belief, Dawkins, diversity, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged evolution, god, Meaning of Life, philosophy, Richard Dawkins, SciBlogs
Sex, Death and The Meaning of Life is a new series of TV documentaries fronted by Richard Dawkins. I welcome this – partly because Dawkins is an excellent communicator. But also because it’s about time some of the current ideas in the science of morality and ethics were more widely known.
The first programme in the series, SIN, was screened last Monday, on Channel 4 in the UK. I have embedded it below. It’s very informative.
There’s even a bit of humour – look out for the David Attenborough moment where Dawkins gives a description of evolution social customs around animal mating while watching humans performing on a dance floor
Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life Episode 1.
There are at least two other programmes in the series. LIFE AFTER DEATH and MEANING OF LIFE.
See Death – part 2 of a series for the second episode.
Clear Story – Sex, death and the Meaning of Life
Channel 4 – SIN
Channel 4 – LIFE AFTER DEATH
Channel 4 – THE MEANING OF LIFE
British Atheist Richard Dawkins Explores Sin and Morality in New TV Series
Posted in Christianity, Dawkins, evolution, god, philosophy, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Channel 4, David Attenborough, philosophy, Richard Dawkins, SciBlogs, science of morality
Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution is True highly recommends this video (see Dawkins on Al Jazeera). I watched it over lunch and can second his recommendation.
It’s an Al Jazeera talk back show – The Stream – where Richard Dawkins is interviewed and other people from around the world are linked in for comments and questions. The basic question was “Is there room for religion in science?”
I think Dawkin does an excellent job of calmly and sensibly answering the questions (so much for the “strident” myth). But I was also fascinated by the way the programme was integrated with Twitter and Google+ to get real-time feedback from viewers. Those comments themselves are intriguing.
Quite a unique experience – and fascinating to see such a well done programme presented on an international news media channel. Dawkins really seems to be getting his message across internationally.
New Atheism’s most polarising figure? – YouTube.
Must admit I wondered if I had the colour balance wrong – or does Richard have a touch of sunburn?
Update: Richard has confirmed that it was a colour balance problem. He added: “They could presumably have fixed it “in post” but perhaps they rather enjoyed the association of red face with strident anger!”
Posted in agnostic, agnosticism, atheism, belief, creationism, Dawkins, diversity, evolution, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Al Jazeera, Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, SciBlogs, Stream
I have commented several times that the debate format is very unsatisfactory and have favoured a discussion format for public discussion. Richard Dawkins has tried out a number of such discussion formats, I think successfully.
But I think this one is actually quite ambitious – four personalities in discussion, on stage, in front of an audience of 4000. It actually comes out very well. With no chairperson or moderator, everyone seems to get a fair go. No one dominates. And the discussion is fascinating. I would love to have been there.
It’s the panel discussion between Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali which occurred at the 2012 Global Atheist Convention
held in Melbourne last April.
Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris & Ayaan Hirsi Ali – YouTube.
It’s an hour-long – but very interesting.
Posted in atheism, belief, creationism, Dawkins, Dennett, evolution, faith, religion, SciBlogs, science, Science and Society
Tagged Ayan Hirsi Ali, Daniel Dennett, Melbourne, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, SciBlogs