Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sunday book review

Richard Dawkins has written a number of rather controversial books. "The Blind Watchmaker" really shouldn't be one of them. Passage after passage he spells out the theory of evolution by natural selection in the most basic terms possible. If more convincing argumentation for the widespread acceptance of evolution exists, i am not aware of it.

Especially important is his treatment on "irreducible complexity". The often trotted out idea that something that requires several different protein structures (for example) could not function as anything less than a whole. The simple and abundantly clear argument Dawkins makes is that often things get re-purposed in nature. What is now a flagella motor was once a much simpler proton pump that has been augmented many times over millions of years. Basically, nothing is truly irreducibly complex when you have millions of years and millions of years of changing environmental conditions leading to changes in selection pressures to work with.

Dawkins, while not a text book biologist, is probably one of the greatest writers on the subject of our time. I have several of his books in my library, but for anyone who has had to deal with backward anti-evolutionists this book is a must read. While not the most current of literature (the passage on his computer model inspires images of an apple 2E slowly trodding down a path written on a 5 1/2" floppy disc) it is not relegated to the history of acceptance of Darwinian theory section just yet.

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