The Odd Blog

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The God Delusion

Posted by That Other Mike on 19/12/2007

I actually finished The God Delusion a few days ago; I just hadn’t gotten around to writing about it yet.

Stylistically, TGD is classic Dawkins: he is clear and concise with what he has to say, and manages the impressive trick of being highbrow without being condescending. It also exhibits a clarity of purpose, in that every section links in some way to every other, sections follow clearly on from one another, and the reasoning in what he’s saying is clear and acute, even if you happened not to agree. In short, RD performs the kind of scientific and philosophical popularisation for which he is justly famous. No complaints there; the book is easily accessible to just about anyone – which is rather the point.

In terms of content, TGD is something of a disappointment to me, I must admit. As a long term fan of RD, I’ve devoured as much of his work as I could lay my hands on. The bulk of this book is retreading previous ground, although there is possible reason for that – TGD is aimed at being a clarification and amalagamation rather than a groundbreaker, and is probably written more for the person who has heard of Dawkins and his famously-controversial stance but not yet read anything by him. In short, I believe it to be intended as a primer for possible Atheists.

That being said, it does the job very well. Established Dawkins fans may be disappointed by the overall lack of new content, but, then again, this book isn’t for us.

Basically, if you know Dawkins’s work already, you won’t find anything much new here; if you don’t, then this book neatly collects and encapsulates the interesting stuff he’d had to say about gods and religion over the years.

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3 Responses to “The God Delusion”

  1. I must admit, though I hadn’t read much beyond The Selfish Gene when I read TGD, some of it was already quite familiar to me — so I take your point. I think you’re quite right in your assessment of it as an “atheist primer”.

    I’d only add that, an atheist long before I ever heard of Dawkins, TGD helped me articulate my atheism (which I find myself having to do increasingly) in a more complete way than I otherwise might have. Oh! And it’s prompted me to read more Dawkins! (Currently enjoying Unweaving the Rainbow… though my eyes are acting up a bit — short, dark days — so I’m not getting through it as quickly as I want to.)

  2. Mike said

    If you’re up for really scientific Dawkins, I’d recommend The Extended Phenotype and Climbing Mount Improbable. TEP can be hard going for us non-scientists, though. Very interesting stuff, all told, but definitely not written at the most accessible level.

  3. Yes, I think you’ve recommended them before, mate — or someone has. They’re in the Amazon basket, anyways. TEP sounds fascinating, however difficult it may be, so I’m especially looking forward to that one.

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