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Unweaving the Rainbow

Posted by Tim on Monday, February 15, 2010 | Permalink

I though as I've just finished re-reading it, I would recommend what is by far my favourite book by Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (Amazon | Amazon UK). I think that it actually does a better job than The God Delusion of exposing religion - along with superstition, the paranormal, pseudo-science and plain bad reasoning - by showing that real science, properly understood, "does not disenchant nature, but rather enhances the poetry of experience by revealing the workings of the natural world in their full wonder". (The God Delusion was a book that I think rather preached to the choir; I doubt if many "true believers" would even pick the thing up in the first place, particularly as many would have been advised to stay away from it by their religious leaders, who presumably fear that Dakwins might have a valid point or two).

It goes into some detail on two of the things that I've always thought lead to religious belief - an inability to comprehend big numbers (which inhibits understanding of things like the size of the universe or the timescale involved in its formation) and not "getting" probability (which is why many people, when faced with what they see as an unlikely occurrence, think that "it must be God"). The part showing why the human brain is particularly good at recognising faces might explain why large numbers of people find significance in apparent images of Jesus on everyday items (such as a piece of toast). And on that subject, this made me laugh (particularly the last line) . . .

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