Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cheerfully yours, Dick

Richard Dawkins in the Sunday Times on the publication of the 30th anniversary edition of his book, The Selfish Gene (don't buy it!):

What are we to make of the following verdict, from a reader in Australia?

“Fascinating, but at times I wish I could unread it . . . On one level, I can share in the sense of wonder Dawkins so evidently sees in the workings-out of such complex processes . . . But at the same time, I largely blame The Selfish Gene for a series of bouts of depression I suffered from for more than a decade . . . Never sure of my spiritual outlook on life, but trying to find something deeper — trying to believe, but not quite being able to — I found that this book just about blew away any vague ideas I had along these lines, and prevented them from coalescing any further. This created quite a strong personal crisis for me some years ago.”

I have previously described similar responses from readers. A teacher reproachfully wrote that a pupil had come to him in tears after reading the same book, because it had persuaded her that life was empty and purposeless. But if something is true, no amount of wishful thinking can undo it. As I went on to write, “Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life’s hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don’t; not if we are sane. . . .

Guess I know what I'm doing today.

(via A & L Daily)

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