“The Blind Watchmaker, 2nd Edition” (Norton & Company; 1996) is not exactly light reading. This is a difficult book that will challenge you mentally and, due to small print, physically. If you are of the spiritual persuasion, then you will also be challenges spiritually. Although a book about evolution, “The Blind Watchmaker” also elegantly proves in the non-existence of God.
The first edition, which was published in 1986, was one of celebrated evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ earliest books. Unfortunately, “The Blind Watchmaker” is nowhere near as readable as “River Out of Eden” (1995) or his most famous book to date, “The God Delusion” (2006.) Dawkins is a gifted writer but does often ride off on a tangent (a habit he self-mockingly points out in his most famous book.)
What’s the Point?
The point of “The Blind Watchmaker” is to show how evolution works. This takes several hundred pages to just scratch the surface of the topic. Dawkins takes many interesting examples from nature such as bats developing radar but also takes time to refute the day’s biggest arguments against evolution, even among scientists.
One problem with the later editions of Charles Darwin’s classic, “On the Origin of Species” (the book that started all of the fuss) is that later editions spent considerable time debating the critics of the day. Many of these arguments have since been rendered moot and therefore make for confusing reading. This makes the first edition of “On the Origin of Species” much more readable than the next ones. “The Blind Watchmaker” suffers from taking such a large amount of time to debate some critics of the day. These arguments can sometimes go off of the topic.
Dawkins is not only a writer, a pubic speaker and an evolutionary biologist, but also a computer programmer. A good part of the beginning of the book is spent on a computer program Dawkins helped to develop about evolution. Fortunately, there are many illustrations to help Dawkins explain himself. He is able to compare the eye-opening results of the computer program to life on earth.
However, that’s nowhere near the end of Dawkins’ arguments, which go on for quite a while. Take notes about the names of theories; counter-arguments and scientists because Dawkins does refer back to them at unusual times. It would be helpful if later editions included a glossary.
The title of the book refers to the classic creationist argument that if you came across a watch in a field, you could assume the watch had to have a watchmaker. If watches are complicated, then how much more so is the human body? This argument was first posed by William Paley in “Natural Theology” (1802.)
Dawkins makes a clear case that over millions or even billions of years, natural selection could and did make a human body. It did not just happen overnight.