Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Light blue touch paper and retire!

Remember the old instructions that went with fireworks: "light blue touch paper and retire!" Well, I am looking forward to seeing the explosion when this book, by the fearless Fern Elsdon-Baker, hits the shops in a few months' time:
The Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin's Legacy

Of course, I have to declare a conflict of interest, in that
(1) Fern is part of the team running the British Council's Darwin bicentenary celebrations, which is funding our Darwin Day activities in Birmingham (but I have no idea how well she writes or whether any of her points are well made).
(2) I have read and enjoyed (but not uncritically) all of Dawkin's books (well, all apart from The Extended Phenotype).

I eagerly await Fern's analysis. But given the negative responses evoked by my one throwaway remark about a defence of evolution not needed to get entangled in atheism, I am looking forward even more to firestorm of comments that are going to follow publication of the book!



Janet said...

I'd be interested to see this. I never found Dawkins a very engaging writer - a personal response which might be unjust - and felt that everything he said was implicit in Darwin's own work anyway.

Deano said...

What did you mean by your comment on the 'Extended Phenotype'? that you hadn't read it, or didn't enjoy it? It's my personal favourite, even if it is perhaps the most challenging of his books.
The speil for the 'Selfish Genius' on Amazon is just awful - various strawmen and ad-hominem attacks. This does like a case of someone trying to cash in on the name of someone with rather more talent.

More comment here:


Mark Pallen said...

I meant that I hadn't read The Extended Phenotype, so have had no chance to enjoy it.

And I guess the spiel was written by a publicist or editor. I got wrong-footed the other day on the radio when they asked me about Cartman from South Park, who was given a prominent place in the spiel about my book, but features only fleetingly in the book and hardly at all in my consciousness. Let's see what Fern has to say when the book comes out!

Anonymous said...

I don’t understand how someone could judge a book on its spiel, complain that it contained ad-hominem attacks and straw men (something Darwkins does himself in many books) then go onto to speculate accusations about the author’s motivations. This is hypocritically itself an ad-hominem attack!