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The Blind Watchmaker

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The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins in which he presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on his previous book The Selfish Gene. (Both books are intended to popularize the Williams Revolution in the understanding of evolution and heavily emphasize microevolution at the expense of macroevolutionary theories.)

In his choice of the title for this book, Dawkins makes reference to William Paley's watchmaker analogy in his book Natural theology. Paley, arguing over fifty years before Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, held that the complexity of living organisms was evidence of the existence of a divine creator by drawing a parallel with the way in which the existence of a watch compels belief in a (human) watchmaker. Dawkins, contrasting the difference between human design, with its potential for planning, and the working of natural selection, therefore dubbed the latter The Blind Watchmaker.

In developing his argument that natural selection can explain the complex adaptations of organisms, Dawkins describes his experiences with a computer model of artificial selection implemented in a program also called The Blind Watchmaker. This program was sold separately as a teaching aid for both Macintosh and IBM compatible personal computers. In an appendix to a later edition of the book, Dawkins explains how his experiences with computer models (see: Weasel program) led him to a greater appreciation of the role of embryological constraints on natural selection. In particular, he recognised that certain patterns of embryological development could lead to the success of a related group of species in filling varied ecological niches, though he continued to maintain that this should not be confused with the ideas associated with group selection. He dubbed this insight the evolution of evolvability.

After arguing that evolution is capable of explaining the origin of complexity, near the end of the book Dawkins uses this to argue against the existence of God: "a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution, ...must already have been vastly complex in the first place..." He calls this "postulating organized complexity without offering an explanation."

In its preface, Dawkins states that he wrote the book "to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence." The book is widely regarded as clearly-stated and forceful. However, it should be understood that what Dawkins means by "existence" in this sentence is not "being," but rather, complex design. While he calls this the "deepest of problems," it has been noted that he makes no attempt to explain the origin of matter and energy, space, and time—the material and framework of evolution—nor the origin of physical law—the underlying rules for evolution (for example, see Davies (1992)).

Dawkins' book has recently inspired a musical composition program called MusiGenesis (see link below). MusiGenesis works very much like the Blind Watchmaker program, only it creates music instead of tree-like shapes.

See also: teleological argument, divine simplicity, Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meanings of Life

References

External links

Richard Dawkins
Books: The Selfish Gene - The Extended Phenotype - The Blind Watchmaker - River Out Of Eden - Climbing Mount Improbable - Unweaving the Rainbow - A Devil's Chaplain - The Ancestor's Tale
See also: W. D. Hamilton - Williams revolution - atheism - humanism - evolution - Lalla Ward
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