The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design (Reissued in 2006 and 1996)
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"The best general account of evolution I have read in recent years."―E. O. Wilson. With a new introduction.
Twenty years after its original publication, The Blind Watchmaker, framed with a new introduction by the author, is as prescient and timely a book as ever. The watchmaker belongs to the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley, who argued that just as a watch is too complicated and functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. Charles Darwin’s brilliant discovery challenged the creationist arguments; but only Richard Dawkins could have written this elegant riposte. Natural selection―the unconscious, automatic, blind, yet essentially nonrandom process Darwin discovered―has no purpose in mind. If it can be said to play the role of a watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker in nature.
also being chosen. What this means is that genes that make females choose male tails of a particular length are, in effect, choosing copies of themselves. This is the essential ingredient of a self-reinforcing process: it has its own self-sustaining momentum. Evolution having started in a particular direction, this can, in itself, tend to make it persist in the same direction. Another way to see this is in terms of what has become known as the 'green-beard effect'. The green-beard effect is a
choosing long tails are being selected in concert with genes for having long tails) the females' ideal preferred tail gets longer too. After a generation of this dual selection, both average tail length and average preferred tail length have become longer, but which has increased the most? This is another way of asking what will happen to the choice discrepancy. The choice discrepancy could have stayed the same (if average tail length and average preferred tail length both increased by the
once heard on the radio berating his club's committee for employing a librarian. The library had got along for a hundred years without organization, and he didn't see why it needed organizing now. The interviewer mildly asked him how he thought the books ought to be arranged. 'Tallest on the left, shortest on the right!', he roared without hesitation. Popular bookshops classify their books into major sections that reflect popular demand. Instead of science, history, literature, geography,
bodies that catch the air, lizards with flaps along their bodies; and several different kinds of mammals that glide with membranes stretched between their limbs, showing us the kind of way bats must have got their start. Contrary to the creationist literature, not only are animals with 'half a wing' common, so are animals with a quarter of a wing, three quarters of a wing, and so on. The idea of a flying continuum becomes even more persuasive when we remember that very small animals tend to
been subjected to natural selection. Histone is vitally important for survival. It is used in the structural engineering of chromosomes. Maybe lots more mistakes in copying the histone H4 gene occurred, but the mutant organisms did not survive, or at least did not reproduce. To make the comparison fair, we should have to assume that built into each typist's chair is a gun, wired up so that if he makes a mistake he is summarily shot, his place being taken by a reserve typist (squeamish readers