Friday, June 3, 2016

Richard Dawkins - The Magic of Reality

Magic takes many forms. Supernatural magic is what our ancestors used in order to explain the world before they developed the scientific method. The ancient Egyptians explained the night by suggesting the goddess Nut swallowed the sun. The Vikings believed a rainbow was the gods’ bridge to earth. The Japanese used to explain earthquakes by conjuring a gigantic catfish that carried the world on its back—earthquakes occurred each time it flipped its tail. These are magical, extraordinary tales. But there is another kind of magic, and it lies in the exhilaration of discovering the real answers to these questions. It is the magic of reality—science.
Packed with clever thought experiments, dazzling illustrations and jaw-dropping facts, The Magic of Reality explains a stunningly wide range of natural phenomena. What is stuff made of? How old is the universe? Why do the continents look like disconnected pieces of a puzzle? What causes tsunamis? Why are there so many kinds of plants and animals? Who was the first man, or woman? This is a page-turning, graphic detective story that not only mines all the sciences for its clues but primes the reader to think like a scientist as well.

Comment: I got this book as a gift recently from the online bookstore where I usually buy books. I don't know why I was given this book nor if more people got it also (probably) but it was quite the surprise, especially because I wasn't familiar with the author. I've never felt interested nor did I know about him but the theme seemed intriguing and I gave it a go.

In this book, the author Richard Dawkins tries to scientifically explain some things in our planet and why we believe in others, more magical oriented. In fact, magic is just an illusion and not something we can really see so, by using interesting examples and well proved theories, the author explains why and how certain things develop to the beliefs we give them nowadays but that aren't exactly true. It's a fascinating description of how things that were considered magical or with supernatural explanations are quite simply scientific.

I liked the book in general. I think the language is accessible and the ironic or amusing comment here and there add up to the story but also tell us how the author truly feels about religion or magic as a realistic concept. He uses logic and science to explain myths and ideas.
Each chapter deals with a certain subject that has several myths, from all kinds of countries and religious beliefs, discussed and scientifically explained, like what are miracles and what happens for rainbows to appear in the sky... I think the explanation is easy enough even for people who don't have a science background or much knowledge about things.

I think the book has a purpose and an obvious message to present and often it judges religion and faith to do so. I don't think any person who has studied in school and has a notion of how the world really developed can argue with that but, at the same time, there's nothing wrong with having personal faith and beliefs. I think the problem is those people who can't accept both for their different explanations (in part, isn't religion more of a personal thing that nowadays is misused?) and that can make some readers annoyed at the author's style and even his ideas.

I had interest in reading about all the themes, especially things related to the universe and myths, not so much what really makes earthquakes possible. According to some reviews I've read, this feels like a basic book and in that case, I'm glad t was the first I've read because some of his ideas sound quite intriguing and I would try other book by him that would discuss the subjects I prefer, if it exists.

I don't have the knowledge to debate any of the information but I liked how simply presented it was, how curious some things made me, but at the same time I wish the author wouldn't be so condescending towards people that have more things to wonder and think about other than the evolution of species...
All in all, an interesting book, informative and a good starting point to other more complete books.
Grade: 7/10

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