I am very glad I read this book, although I must point out at the beginning that I do not agree with Richard Dawkins in his preference for atheism. However, I have to thank Dawkins for this book because it really and truly made me think. and I respect his obvious intelligence (although at times his tone is a bit condescending, which is a shame.)
*Before I go any further with this review, I want to get the obligatory apology for discussing religion and/or plea for mercy out of the way.*
In all seriousness, it is very difficult for people to control their emotions when it comes to religious topics, and I recognize that. However, I am a “truth-seeker” in the sense that I am always questioning my beliefs and reading about the beliefs of others. One thing that I have learned is that it is not healthy to sit on your beliefs without questioning. Questioning is what ultimately leads us to greater understanding and truth, whether we end up changing or beliefs or solidifying them. Questioning is not the same as abandoning.
Now that my public service announcement is done, let us return to the book review!
Dawkins really rests his entire case on evolution. His explanations are very well written, but he does not fully demonstrate how religion and evolution are actually incompatible. It is no secret that many Christians accept evolution as God’s method of creation. Additionally, he does not satisfactorily answer how the universe could begin without a “first mover’ to get it started. Dawkins claims that God is too complex and only makes the problem worse, but I think that this logic is counter intuitive. The idea of the first mover as a physical being is what does not make sense (because of the very problem of complexity that Dawkins rightly points out). However, if the first mover is a spiritual being, then we can remove those constraints that normally apply to the physical world.
Most of Dawkins’s arguments are very logical and well considered. He does veer off into a concept called memetics which undermines his case in one of the the chapters. A meme (not the internet joke) is an interesting concept, but its existence seems to also be highly questionable from a scientific standpoint. DNA and genes are real, whereas memes and his concept about idea transfer (as far as my own admittedly brief and likely inadequate research into these topics shows) do not seem to be real in the physical sense. I do want to point out that I am not a scientist and may simply be wrong on this point. There is a reason why I choose to work with words instead of numbers, after all!
Regardless, Dawkins makes great points in this book about completely literal interpretations of religious texts and successfully questions those who challenge the scientific age of the earth, etc. I also respect his idea that children need to choose for themselves rather than be indoctrinated by parents. It is certainly important to teach your children HOW to think rather than WHAT to think.
In summary, Dawkins does a wonderful job of refuting the claims of certain types of religious believers, such as extremists. However, he fails to explain why belief and science are truly incompatible. I must highly recommend this book, however, because it will challenge your beliefs and make you Think with a capital “T.” Isn’t that scary?
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