Friday, January 17, 2014
Review of the Seminal Work, The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins
Rate this fascinating wunderkind of a book at least 15 on a 10 point scale! Tale's narrative stretched my brain across a few billion years of earth’s biological history.
And the large volume is almost never dry, but is endlessly fascinating with many biological details from underwater air-breathing spiders (the diving bell spider) to strange plants to the mystifying arrival of human consciousness.
It took me a long while to finish this opus, and sometimes Dawkins left me behind, my brains confused by the more technical parts of biology. But then in those difficult sections he often seems aware of this and so gives powerful, sometimes, humorous metaphors and description to help us non-scientists out.
In the field of evolutionary biology, Dawkins is ever so creative and playful when discussing complex difficult topics. I especially like his use of the Canterbury/Chaucer literary motif to ground his epic story of Life’s evolution. He’s the kind of professor/writer whose presentations induce students to fall in love with a subject.
The book raises theological, spiritual, and philosophical questions minus any superficial harangues, (unfortunately characteristic of his anti-religious book, The God Delusion).
When it comes to biology and evolution, Richard Dawkins is a scholar and expert—his writing deep, brilliant, and lucid. The Ancestor's Tale vastly expanded my knowledge and understanding of Life, evolution, biology and all its many forms.
Now if I could only find a scholar who speaks so clearly, humorously, vividly, knowledgeably about meta issues. Well, there is one powerful contender—Keith Ward, former professor at Oxford. He is the author of God: A Guide for the Perplexed, an amazing book on the history of religion, transcendence, theology, philosophy, ethics, spirituality and more!
And to a lesser degree Hans Kung, the German Roman Catholic theologian who wrote the opus Does God Exist, a 2,000 year journey through human philosophy. But because of Kung's dry convoluted prose, his tome lacks the clarity and lucidity a truly great book needs.
Lastly, with a huge truckload of caution, readers may want to consider David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian and philosopher, but while Hart writes well on Christian history and thought, he seems to obsess on maligning and belittling those with whom he disagrees.
Anybody else read The Ancestor’s Tale recently?
Any other great tomes?
In the Light of Compassion, Mercy, Justice and Peace,
"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness… And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."