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  • Audio CD
  • Verlag: Audiobooks; Auflage: Unabridged (12. September 2013)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 184657384X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846573842
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 13,8 x 2,4 x 14,2 cm
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Mehr über den Autor

In Nairobi, der Hauptstadt Kenias, wurde Richard Dawkins 1941 geboren. Er studierte Biologie in Oxford und wurde anschließend am dortigen New College Dozent für Zoologie. Schon bald übernahm er den Lehrstuhl für "Öffentliches Verständnis von Wissenschaft", den er bis 2008 innehatte. Durch sein Buch "Das egoistische Gen" wurde Richard Dawkins weit über wissenschaftliche Kreise hinaus bekannt; das Buch gilt als eines der zentralen Werke der Evolutionsbiologie. Dawkins ist erklärter Atheist und vehementer Streiter für die Ideen der Aufklärung.



"Most geeks cannot write; this one can... Equipped with an undoubted gift for expression, Dawkins the writer comes with a unique pedigree" (Richard Fortey Guardian)

"Lyrical... brilliant... Dawkins' style [is] clear and elegant" (Financial Times)

"This eloquent, witty and instructive book reveals the true Richard Dawkins. It's a great read." (A.C. Grayling)

"Throughout and as usual, Dawkins's writing is graceful, sparkling with anecdotes and wit" (Eugenie Scott, Nature)

"Affirmative nostalgia suits [Dawkins], and so does the good humour that imbues his writing about home... The voice is familiar but the tone is new, and the result is some of his most pleasing prose... The clarity and passion with which he recalls his childhood is matched by the clarity, passion, concerns and imagery - fairness, bullying, kindness to animals - with which he expresses the values he has maintained since then... An Appetite for Wonder speaks eloquently about where his values and preoccupations came from... Warmly illuminating about the making of Dawkins the humanist." (Marek Kohn, Independent)

"Dawkins is a fascinating man and as a writer he is nothing less than essential... he is a man who has influenced or changed the way people think. His story needs to be read." (Simon Barnes, The Times)

"Richard Dawkins's memoirs are, like their author, honest, perceptive, sometimes ingenuous, always rational and deeply humane." (Matt Ridley)

"Lyrical... [Dawkins's] appetite for wonder is beguiling" (Evening Standard)

"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)

"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)

"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)

"Richard Dawkins is among the most eloquent scientists who has ever written for the public. His work has changed countless people's lives, opening their minds to the wonder and beauty of science, and to the silliness of myth and superstition. But few people know Dawkins the man. How did such a man, born abroad from a family of some privilege, schooled as traditionally as any upper-class British youth, become one of the most well-known scientists in the world, and at the same time-among many of the faithful at least-among the most despised? Told with frankness and eloquence, warmth and humor, this is a fascinating story of a fascinating man who was lucky enough-for himself and the rest of the world-to fall in love with science. This is a truly entertaining and enlightening read and I recommend it to anyone who wants a better understanding of Dawkins the man and the rightful place of science in our modern world." (Lawrence Krauss)

"An Appetite for Wonder feels very much like the substance of the breezy conversation you might have at a long summer dinner, if Dawkins were the guest of honor.charming, boring, brilliant, contradictory, conventional, revolutionary. We leave it perhaps not full of facts or conclusions, but with a feeling of knowing the man." (New York Daily News)

"Dawkins writes with an admirable honestly. When focusing on his area of expertise: explaining the magic contained within the natural universe and the tree of life, Dawkins proves that today he is still an extraordinary thinker, and one who has made an enormous contribution to understanding human nature. This memoir is a fascinating account of one man's attempt to find answers to some of the most difficult questions posed to mankind." (NPR Books)

"A memoir that is funny and modest, absorbing and playful. Dawkins has written a marvellous love letter to science. and for this, the book will touch scientists and science-loving persons. . an enchanting memoir to read, one that I recommend highly." (NPR)

"Dawkins' style [is] clear and elegant as usual. a personal introduction to an important thinker and populariser of science. . provide[s] a superb background to the academic and social climate of postwar British research." (Financial Times)

"The Richard Dawkins that emerges here is a far cry from the strident, abrasive caricature beloved of lazy journalists . There is no score-settling, but a generous appreciation and admiration of the qualities of others, as well as a transparent love of life, literature - and science." (The Independent)

"[Here] we have the kindling of Mr. Dawkins's curiosity, the basis for his unconventionality." (The New York Times Daily)

"This memoir is destined to be a historical document that will be ceaselessly quoted." (The Daily Beast)

"Surprisingly intimate and moving. . He is here to find out what makes us tick: to cut through the nonsense to the real stuff." (The Guardian)

"This first volume of Dawkins's autobiography . comes to life when describing the competitive collaboration and excitement among the outstanding ethologists and zoologists at Oxford in the Seventies-which stimulated his most famous book, The Selfish Gene." (The Evening Standard)

".this isn't Dawkins's version of My Family and Other Animals. It's the beauty of ideas that arouses his appetite for wonder: and, more especially, his relentless drive . towards the answer." (The Times)

"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)

"'Full of wit, insights and anecdotes, well written and read by the author... an interesting look at the making of a famous (or infamous) thinker.'" (Choice)


An early memoir from the world's most famous atheist, and scientist.

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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Michael Dienstbier TOP 500 REZENSENT am 27. Januar 2014
Format: Taschenbuch
Richard Dawkins gehört seit vielen Jahren zu den bedeutendsten und einflussreichsten Intellektuellen unseres Planeten. Seit er 1976 mit seinem epochalen Werk Selfish Gene einer breiteren Öffentlichkeit bekannt geworden ist, begeistert er sein Publikum mit gut verständlichen, tiefsinnigen und sprachlich brillanten Darstellungen über die Evolutionstheorie. Und als ein Vordenker der Neuen Atheisten kämpft er seit jeher mit Feuereifer und rhetorischer Finesse gegen die Zumutungen des Religiösen und wird in dieser Rolle vor allem seit der Veröffentlichung seiner 2006 veröffentlichten Kampfschrift The God Delusion wahrgenommen. In seiner nun erschienenen Autobiografie "An appetite for wonder" zeichnet Dawkins die wichtigsten Stationen seines Lebens nach und konzentriert sich dabei vor allem auf die entscheidenden Momente, die seine Liebe zur Wissenschaft geweckt haben.

Dawkins reflektiert seine Kindheit in Kenia, wo er, aufgrund der Arbeit seines Vaters, 1941 geboren wurde und aufgewachsen ist. Einen Großteil seines Buches widmet der Evolutionsbiologe seiner Studienzeit in Oxford, welche ihn maßgeblich zu dem gemacht hat, der er heute ist. Genau beschreibt er, wie die Ideen, mit denen er bekannt geworden ist, langsam in seinen Gedanken Form angenommen haben.

Viele amüsante Anekdoten über die Menschen, die ihn beeinflusst und sein Denken mitgestaltet haben, verfasst mit dem für Dawkins typischen Sprachgeschick - "An appetite for wonder” ist für alle Dawkins-Fans ein Muss.
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0 von 1 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Dirk Schroeter am 17. April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Richard Dawkins gewährt uns interessante und häufig lustige Einblicke in sein serpentinenartiges Leben. Es ging viel hin und her aber immer bergauf. Warum braucht man eigentlich immer noch so lange, um Dawkins Bücher ins Deutsche zu übersetzen?!
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36 von 41 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A few grains of gold in an otherwise normal biography 20. Oktober 2013
Von Neuron - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Richard Dawkins is an amazing scientist. I have always thought so and this first part in his autobiography trilogy do reinforce my favorable view on Dawkins. His greatness, in my opinion, primarily lies in his unequaled ability to convey science to the general public using a language which should make him eligible for the Nobel prize in literature (seriously!). His book, the selfish gene is probably the book that have meant the most to me personally, all categories, and reading excerpts from it in this book made me remember what a great book it was, and still is. In fact, reading “An appetite for wonder”, made me decide to re-read Dawkins original best-seller (which I am now doing).

Yes, Dawkins is a fantastic writer and scientist, but this book, on the whole, did not live up to my admittedly high expectations. Perhaps others will disagree with me but I am not personally very interested in great people’s childhood, unless it is truly extraordinary. Yes Dawkins grew up in Africa and that was probably interesting, however, I would personally have preferred if this section was significantly shorter or left out.

The book gets more interesting when Richard gets into Balliol college, Oxford. As a University teacher one of my favorite sections of the book was Dawkins description of the education system in Oxford. Their system in which students each week study a new topic by reading up on the scientific literature and try to form hypotheses, and then discuss what they have learnt with tutors who are also leading scientists made me, well… jealous. He claims that students at oxford never asked the question, “will this be on the exam?”, which is a question I get all too frequently…

Following his description of the education system in Oxford a semi-interesting description of his early years in academia follows. The book, in my opinion reaches its climax towards the end when Dawkins discusses and reads excerpts from the Selfish Gene. I realize it may sound nerdy but just hearing a few lines from that book can increase my pulse significantly, and it was interesting to get to understand how the book came about. I was also pleased to find out that, like myself, the great writer Richard Dawkins does not write his book in one go. Rather, every sentence that he writes have been written and re-written many times. Like the natural selection of biological organisms, this way of writing should lead to evolution of better sentences and in the end a better book. This is certainly the case with the Selfish Gene.
83 von 101 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Candid and Forthright Memoir 25. September 2013
Von Book Shark - Veröffentlicht auf
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An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins

"An Appetite for Wonder" is an intimate memoir of the childhood and development of iconic scientist and renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins. The book covers the first half of his life up until the publishing of his first book and masterpiece, "The Selfish Gene". This enjoyable and heartfelt 320-page book includes the following chapters: Genes and pith helmets, Camp followers in Kenya, The land of the lake, Eagle in the mountains, Farewell to Africa, Photographic Insert 1, Under Salisbury's spire, `And your English summer's done', The spire by the Nene, Photographic Insert 2, Dreaming spires, Learning the trade, West Coast dreamtime, Computer fix, Photographic Insert 3, The grammar of behavior, The immortal gene, and Looking back down the path.

1. Engaging, warm account of his childhood and early science years.
2. Dawkins is very candid and forthright in his memoir. Not afraid to be self-deprecating and uncharacteristically pleasant throughout the book.
3. Three photographic inserts really complement the elegant writing style of Dawkins. A lovely family and fascinating stories and surprises from his childhood.
4. Fascinating life. The book takes you to Africa where the young Dawkins spent most of his childhood at. Interesting challenges and very candid and respectful of how times were back then. "My next two memories are both of injections: the first by Dr Trim in Kenya and the second (more painful) by a scorpion, later in Nyasaland." I'm not going to spoil it...bust rest assured, amusing stories.
5. The things that are of interest to Dawkins. "I have always been interested in the deep questions of existence, the questions that religion aspires (and fails) to answer, but I have been fortunate to live in a time when such questions are given scientific rather than supernatural answers."
6. The book that had the biggest influence on the young Dawkins.
7. Surprisingly forthcoming. "I was probably a disappointment as a naturalist, too, despite the rare privilege of spending a day with the young David Attenborough, when we were both guests of my Uncle Bill and Aunt Diana."
8. Surprising issues such as bullying and peer pressure. "We wanted to be accepted by our fellows, especially the influential natural leaders among us; and the ethos of my peers was - until my last year at Oundle - anti-intellectual."
9. Find out when exactly Dawkins became anti-religious. "If you are going to allow yourself to conjure a designer out of thin air, why not apply the same indulgence to that which he is supposed to have designed, and cut out, so to speak, the middle man?"
10. The musicians that inspired and moved Dawkins.
11. Dawkins, Oxford and higher education. "I said that Oxford was the making of me, but really it was the tutorial system, which happens to be characteristic of Oxford and Cambridge."
12. It wouldn't be a book about Dawkins if the grand theory of evolution wasn't a part of it. "He introduced me to, among other things, his - and now my - favourite example of revealingly bad `design' in animals: the recurrent laryngeal nerve."
13. The moment where Dawkins reveal where his life changed stated unequivocally.
14. The most important mentors of Dawkins' life. "The senior figure in 13 Bevington Road was Mike Cullen, probably the most important mentor in my life - and I believe most of my contemporaries in the Animal Behaviour Research Group (ABRG) would agree."
15. His surprising love-affair with computers. "I published a paper on the Dawkins Organ, and made the software available free of charge."
16. The lectureship in animal behavior. "We planned a study that would exemplify, and clarify, one of the fundamental concepts of the ethological school of animal behaviour studies, the Fixed Action Pattern."
17. Dawkins' projects. "It did, however, feed into my next big writing project: a long theoretical paper on `Hierarchical organisation as a candidate principle for ethology'."
18. The behind-the-scenes view behind the making of "The Selfish Gene". "Gene survival is what really matters in natural selection."
19. The scientists and circumstances that inspired Dawkins to make "The Selfish Gene". "So Trivers' name was added to those of Hamilton and Williams among the four authors who had greatest influence on The Selfish Gene."
20. Links.

1. Poor Kindle formatting. The digital version absolutely butchered all the poems. Something that should be remedied soon I hope.
2. The book is first and foremost a memoir, if you are expecting a lot of science or even the Dawkins classic contentious philosophical flair against religion, you will be sorely disappointed. A review of some of the key concepts behind the selfish gene but limited science elsewhere.
3. I don't know if Dawkins really explains to satisfaction how and what he felt at that time some of the events occurred. He struggles at times to provide answers regarding his mindset and must rely on and in some cases understandably so, on accounts from third parties (mother).
4. A timeline of major events and locations would have added value.
5. Not the typical quote-fest that is so endearing to his admirers; yours truly included.
6. Avid fans and readers of Dawkins' books may feel that the book gets repetitive. Particularly those who have read "The Selfish Gene". That being said, there is some interesting behind the scenes revelations.

In summary, an interesting journey into the first half of Dawkins' life. This was a very easy and pleasant read. Dawkins is candid and forthcoming and shares an intimate look at his interesting life. The book revolves around his childhood and his early science years and the making of "The Selfish Gene". Perhaps a little light on the science and the fiery philosophy that we admire and love from Dawkins (I must admit I missed some of that); this is a memoir worth reading. I highly recommend it with the reservations noted.

Further recommendations: "The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition" and "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution" by the same author, "Evolving out of Eden: Christian Responses to Evolution" by Robert M. Price, "Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body" by Neil Shubin, "Understanding Evolution and Ourselves" by Dennis Littrell, "Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne, "Evolution vs Creationism" by Eugenie C. Scott, "The Rocks Don't Lie" by David R. Montgomery, "What Evolution Is (Science Masters Series)" by Ernst Mayr, "Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)" by Matt Young, "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters" by Donald R. Prothero, and "The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" by Sean B. Carroll.
27 von 35 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Dawkins writes beautifully, and he has a marvelous story to tell 8. Oktober 2013
Von Graham H. Seibert - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
The British system, with its castes, private schools, and the intimacy of an intellectual class concentrated in London and the not-at-all distant Oxford means that important people know each other. More than that, they marry one another. Dawkins recitation of his genealogy reminds me of that of Charles Darwin, the Huxley's, the Mill family and other comfortable middle-class families that managed to spawn generation after generation of bright and/or brilliant minds. Francis Galton, the scion of one such family, wrote a book entitled Hereditary Genius in which he documented the phenomenon in family after family.

Dawkins knows his lineage going back at least to the 16th century, and it is a mixture of minor nobility, people of distinction one way or another, a scoundrel here and there, but generally a quite good class of people. Though he says his parents never had a great deal of money, their habits of mind were of people who had the conviction that they mattered. One of the many delights of the book are the illustrations. Dawkins has a number of pictures of his childhood, and even out of his parents' and grandparents' childhoods. Many were posed in a way that makes you think they had the conviction that posterity would be interested in them. I offer this observation, as my American ancestors were probably similarly capable, but had a quite different view on life. As an American, I am unusual in that I know their names, but unlike Dawkins, I do not know their biographies. He comes from a unique and one might call privileged tradition. It comes with a noblesse oblige, a sense of obligation to accomplish something, and that is what Dawkins has done extraordinarily well.

Running an Empire required the best and brightest of British society, and Dawkins' parents and grandparents were involved in the colonial administrations of India and Africa. His account of his childhood in Africa is idyllic. Although he does not make conscious mention of the relationship with the native peoples, it comes through very clearly that the British were accepted as natural masters. They had a kind of paternalistic affection for the people who work for them, and in turn felt no fear traveling alone on the dirt roads connecting the far-flung settlements of East Africa.

Dawkins has a delightful gift for telling it like it is. His account is unfiltered, apparently as good as recollection can make it. He talks about bullying in the private schools he attended in a fairly matter-of-fact way. It existed - yes. It could be incredibly cruel. He confesses his shame in not defending his weaker classmates. Yet, he can see that the culture which supported bullying also seems to have brought out some of the better aspects of some people's natures. One may be a better person for having endured a bit of hazing.

The British schools of Dawkins youth also had corporal punishment. His account tallies with my recollections from California. There may have been sadists among the administration, but I never encountered them, and it seemed to me that most of the people who received punishment deserved it one way or another and survived just fine. It was one of many devices that the school administration used to maintain their authority. Students also dressed more or less appropriately, as young gentleman in formation rather than above-it-all louts.

Homosexuality was also a fixture in British private schools. Dawkins writes matter-of-factly of the masters and the older boys who came on to him, and also of the civil way in which they accepted his rejections. He makes the observation that when there are no women around, highly sexed young men are likely to turn to whatever is available. This refreshingly commonsensical observation is strongly at odds with current orthodoxies, which tend to paint homosexuality as an all or nothing, inborn orientation. Again, this tallies with my observations growing up in California. I regret to say that nubile young women never came on to me, but gays frequently did. However, they always took "no" for an answer. I'm glad not to have endured prolonged arguments about how uptight and abnormal I was.

Dawkins became aware of his interest in his talents while enrolled in Balliol College in Oxford. Actually, he spent most of his time not at the college but the university, a distinction which is rather lost on me but important to him. He was fortunate to have a genius mentor, later to be Nobel prize winner Niko Tinbergen. He mentions a number of very gifted men with an interest in teaching. There especially credits the course of instruction, which did not follow any fixed curriculum, but instead had students read PhD theses and other up-to-the-minute papers to learn the state-of-the-art in their fields of study, and then discuss it. This has always been one of the hallmarks of the major centers of learning: great minds come together, they encourage, excite, and correct one another.

One of the things the great minds also do is come in conflict with one another. Dawkins is very sparing with his discussion of academic disputes, mentioning only one between Tinbergen and the American Lardner, in which he puts most of the emphasis on the reconciliation and the ability of the men to work together. They were not reconciled to the American Marxist biologists from Harvard, Richard Lewontin and Steven Rose. These were colleagues of Stephen Jay Gould, at Harvard, and by all reports are willing to put their political beliefs above their scientific integrity.

The last autobiographical entry in the book is his publication of The Selfish Gene in 1975. He had the idea, received a lot of encouragement and support from his colleagues, actually had publishers chasing him for a first book, and was expresses pleasant surprise that it turned out to be as successful as it was. He was also surprised that the thesis turned out to be so controversial. Within the world of academics, it had seemed rather obvious.

Dawkins's final chapter is an assessment of his life and accomplishments. He acknowledges that he was very favorably positioned, with two biologists as parents. The childhood in Africa may as well have been an asset, though he cannot say. As I noted in my introductory paragraph, I think that he benefited considerably from family history. He had some illustrious ancestors, and there was no doubt some expectation that he would do something of note with his own life.

Dawkins assesses his gifts. His quite good at picking up music, not very good at all that reading it. He is not a terribly astute observer. He claims never to have mastered higher math, although he turned out to be a genius programmer, a skill which most people would say is closely related. He appears to have benefited from his congeniality, easy-going nature and good looks.

We know that it takes a certain intelligence, probably measurable, to turn out prose as lucid as his books. It takes a collegiality, a level of curiosity, and a great deal of hard work to conduct experiments such as he did during his early research. This brings us to his computer programming, which he undertook just about the very moment that computers became available. I am a programmer, not a bad one, and I stand in awe of the matter-of-fact account that he gives of the things he programmed. He programmed a couple of compilers, a computer language translating program, and a number of real-time applications before the word real-time had even been invented. The Selfish Gene focuses more than had I thought that it should have on computer programming. I now understand why, and understand that the algorithms he described in that book were of scientific interest, but from a data processing point of view, other things he was doing at the same time probably demanded greater intellect. In any case, I am impressed.

Dawkins is perhaps best known as an atheist. Only a bit of that comes through. He talks quite a bit about the Anglican influence on his childhood, and the passion reflected in his atheism may be a mirror of the passionate belief to which he was exposed as a child. One of the things I like about this book in previous books is his quotation of poetry and especially hymns. The foreword of one of his other books - I don't remember which - included the great Anglican hymn: "Time like an ever rolling stream bears all for sons away. They die forgotten as a dream dies at the break of day."

I will close with a wry note. His entire thesis is that we are self replicators, and that everything that we do inclines us to reproduce ourselves. Why doesn't he see how important religion is in this? He need look no further than Robert Trivers, who wrote the introduction to The Selfish Gene. Irrationality is an important part of our nature. In particular, when it comes to reproduction, having children does nothing of benefit to the phenotype. Children are expensive both in terms of cash and time. Why would anybody have them? It is an irrational act. Precisely. And it takes the kind of irrationality generally called religion. I would ask that Dawkins at least investigate the fact that it is a paradox. However much religion cannot be proven, it may be essential to our survival. And if he wants his own progeny to someday glance admiringly at their handsome and accomplished progenitor, he should probably have kinder words for Anglicanism.
24 von 33 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Another Great Book by Richard Dawkins! 27. September 2013
Von InYourFaceNewYorker - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition
We've all heard the stereotypes about kids who grow up to be scientists: precocious, prodigious little children, lonely and isolated from their peers, who lock themselves in a room for several hours at a time doing experiments. By his own admission, Richard Dawkins was none of these things. When he lived in Africa as a boy, he was apparently more interested, for example, in playing with toy cars than watching a pride of lions devour its prey. However, he was-- and is-- a lover of words, and that is very obvious when reading any of his beautifully written twelve books.

Richard Dawkins's latest book, An Appetite for Wonder is an autobiography that details the first half of his life, from his childhood up until the publication of his first book, The Selfish Gene, in 1976. The first half of the memoir details his family history and his childhood. The second, less personal half is about his intellectual awakening in his late teens which leads to his passionate pursuit of studying biology at Oxford. The book concludes at the beginning of his scientific career, when he begins as a research scientist and eventually becomes a science writer; this is when his life takes a dramatic shift. We are left with a "cliffhanger" of sorts and find ourselves counting down the days until 2015 when Dawkins promises to release the second half of his memoir, provided he does not die before then. His mother is in her mid-90s and his father died at the age of 95. Obviously there are some robust genes in his family, so I don't think we should expect Dawkins to check out any time soon, provided he does not get hit by a church van (Google it if you don't get it).

What is really fascinating about An Appetite for Wonder are the philosophical questions that it postulates throughout. Yes, there are some endearing stories about Dawkins's early love of words; and yes there is a story about him, at the age of 19 months, telling other children that the Santa Claus who came to entertain them was actually a man named Sam, possibly foreshadowing Dawkins's journey into skepticism; yes there are some really interesting research projects that he did as a young man; and yes there are some interesting photographs to look at. But embedded within many of these stories is a continuing "what if?" question, and that is what I find the most fascinating. What if certain details in Dawkins's life had been changed? What if he had gone to different boarding schools than the ones he actually attended? What if he had not been born in Africa? What if he had not returned to England at age 8? What if he had been switched at birth and ben raised by different parents? What if he had not encountered certain friends and mentors during the course of his life? How did these people and experiences shape his personality and his professional life? More profoundly, what if a cannonball had hit his great-great grandfather's "family jewels" (yes, apparently almost happened)? Hell, how about any particular incident that did or did not happen over the course of history?

A lot of the questions about life and existence that Dawkins raises are ones that I have asked myself throughout my life, everything from the events that led to my conception to my first summer at overnight camp at age 14 which dramatically changed my life. The latter is too long of a story to go into here. However, in a very clear and simple example of an important event, my father told me that his mother left his father (my grandfather) and returned to him only because she found out she was pregnant with my aunt (my father's older sister). Had it not been for the social taboo of being a single mother, my father would not have been born, and neither would I. Not that the ends justify the means, but it is still interesting to think about. Dawkins-- and all of us-- owe our unlikely existence to a very precise string of events that occurred ever since the universe began. Change any one of these events, no matter how seemingly insignificant, and we-- Dawkins, you, me, or all of the above-- would not have been born. Perhaps it was not intentional, but it seems that the section Dawkins wrote about his early research into animal decision-making is an apt metaphor for this.

Rounding up my review, I want to commend Dawkins for his thoughts about the bullying he witnessed as a boy and how he regrets not intervening. I say this because I was bullied myself and I know that many people who were bullies or, in his case, who were bystanders are in denial or simply don't remember when confronted about these things later in life. It is not an easy thing to own up to. Overall, An Appetite for Wonder is an outstanding read by a truly talented and deep-thinking writer. As I say to my friends when I recommend a book, just read the damn thing.
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Engaging and beautifully written book changed my opinion on Dawkins 4. November 2013
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I can't say I've ever been a huge fan of Dawkins - the only book I've read of his in full has been The God Delusion, and although I've read the beginning of most of his books since I'm sad to say that none of them captured my interest long enough for me to finish them. The only knowledge I had of "The Selfish Gene" was gained from watching his 1991 Christmas Lectures which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although I admire the way he succinctly and poetically writes his arguments, I had recently become a little bit put off by the dismissive and sometimes aggressive way he argues with religious representatives. His latest book, however, has completely reversed this negative perception I had of him.

Although I personally found the beginning to be a little slow, in time it reveals itself to be a wonderful account of his life. In particular I loved the amount of detail he puts into his childhood days and the reflective style of writing - he often contemplates his reasons for acting the way he did, sometimes citing experts' research on the subject in question. This made it a very engaging read, one that made me contemplate my own past and present behaviours. For example, he discusses the bullying nature of children and reflects on how he, despite being an empathetic boy, never did anything to stop bullies from targeting a defenseless victim. He then goes on to discuss whether we are the same 'person' now as we were as a child - even though we are literally made up of different material than that of our younger selves the continuity of memory makes it feel as though our identity is the same. This was a point that I discussed with people for many days after reading about it.

This engaging form of writing made me think (more than I ever have) like a scientist - wondering about things I'd never contemplated before, becoming enthused (rather than put off) by scientific explanations for behaviour and realizing more than ever how much there is to discover (and being thrilled by the concept). I am not a very educated person - a 21-year-old working in retail, having had a year of university experience before it became too hard for me - and Dawkins' book has re-awakened the part of me that inspired me to go to university in the first place.

The content itself is fascinating - his transitions from one part of his life to the next are well explained and his obsession with programming and scientific ideas are awe-inspiring and left me to perceive him as nothing short of a genius.

All in all, from someone who's not very well-read or well-educated, this book was incredibly valuable and inspiring. Although a few parts went over my head (despite re-reading certain paragraphs several times!), the vast majority was a pleasure to read. I feel like I understand Dawkins and his 'appetite for wonder' much better than before, and I've never been more eager to read all of his books to completion.

The only downside is that it only covers his life up to the release of his first book - I cannot wait to read the second half!
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