An Appetite for Wonder The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins
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With the 2006 publication of The God Delusion, the name Richard Dawkins became a byword for ruthless skepticism and “brilliant, impassioned, articulate, impolite” debate (San Francisco Chronicle). his first memoir offers a more personal view.
His first book, The Selfish Gene, caused a seismic shift in the study of biology by proffering the gene-centered view of evolution. It was also in this book that Dawkins coined the term meme, a unit of cultural evolution, which has itself become a mainstay in contemporary culture.
In An Appetite for Wonder, Richard Dawkins shares a rare view into his early life, his intellectual awakening at Oxford, and his path to writing The Selfish Gene. He paints a vivid picture of his idyllic childhood in colonial Africa, peppered with sketches of his colorful ancestors, charming parents, and the peculiarities of colonial life right after World War II. At boarding school, despite a near-religious encounter with an Elvis record, he began his career as a skeptic by refusing to kneel for prayer in chapel. Despite some inspired teaching throughout primary and secondary school, it was only when he got to Oxford that his intellectual curiosity took full flight.
Arriving at Oxford in 1959, when undergraduates “left Elvis behind” for Bach or the Modern Jazz Quartet, Dawkins began to study zoology and was introduced to some of the university’s legendary mentors as well as its tutorial system. It’s to this unique educational system that Dawkins credits his awakening, as it invited young people to become scholars by encouraging them to pose rigorous questions and scour the library for the latest research rather than textbook “teaching to” any kind of test. His career as a fellow and lecturer at Oxford took an unexpected turn when, in 1973, a serious strike in Britain caused prolonged electricity cuts, and he was forced to pause his computer-based research. Provoked by the then widespread misunderstanding of natural selection known as “group selection” and inspired by the work of William Hamilton, Robert Trivers, and John Maynard Smith, he began to write a book he called, jokingly, “my bestseller.” It was, of course, The Selfish Gene.
Here, for the first time, is an intimate memoir of the childhood and intellectual development of the evolutionary biologist and world-famous atheist, and the story of how he came to write what is widely held to be one of the most important books of the twentieth century.
“Enjoyable from start to finish, this exceptionally accessible book will appeal to science lovers, lovers of autobiographies-and, of course, all of Dawkins’s fans, atheists and theists alike.” Library Journal starred review “Well-written, captivating, and filled with fascinating anecdotes” Publishers Weekly “Richard Dawkins is a hero of mine, so being able to read about how he became the man and the thinker he is, was a particular delight for me. How his life formed from an inchoate, primordial soup and then never wavered from sound, scientific principles made for a huge page turning experience; he’s also a great writer, so that helps. Some people get their kicks from Superman’s origin story, or Batman’s origin story. or Jesus’. But for me, it was Richard Dawkins.” Bill Maher “It has been my good fortune to meet many of the greatest minds of our time, but standing above them all in the power of both his ideas and his rhetoric is Richard Dawkins, whose books are major publishing events because they change the conversation and the culture. In An Appetite for Wonder Dawkins turns his critical analysis inward to reveal how his mind works and what personal events and cultural forces most shaped his thinking. Destined to become a classic in the annals of science autobiography.” Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain and Why Darwin Matters “Skepticism and atheism do not arrive from revelation or authority. In our culture it’s a slow thoughtful process. But, in the beginning there was Dawkins, moving that process along for many of us, with information and inspiration. For the modern skeptical/atheist movement, in the beginning — there was Dawkins and he was wicked good. Appetite for Wonder shows us this beginning.” Penn Jillette, author of God No! and Every Day is an Atheist Holiday
Product Details Print Length: 320 pages Publisher: Ecco (September 24, 2013) Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. Language: English ASIN: B00BATKPBE