This is one of those books that completely change your outlook on a topic, and the topic of this books was none other than evolution. I had no idea this was Dawkins’s most famous book before reading it. And I had no idea he was such an accomplished biologist. This book could be best described as one long and incredibly detailed account of how the core of evolution is the replication of genes. Interestingly, this book had been written as both an original academic text and a popularization of the same theory, so it is probably as close as we could get to reading actual research in this area. Even though it is almost 40 years old, it does not feel dated at all. As with Steven Pinker’s book on the decline of violence, the whole text serves to hammer a single important point. In this one, it is that the main replicators are the genes (and not the species, as commonly imagined). He tries to conjure up all possible criticisms of this theory, far beyond a simple strawman, and then addresses each one. This is one of those books that really stick with you, and I definitely recommend it.
I just finished reading Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. He presents his viewpoint that the rate of violence has been steadily declining for as long as we have records of it. Being a well-respected professor and researcher, he references a plethora of sources, of almost unimaginable extensiveness, to back up his every claim. From reduction of wars between nations, to civil wars, to homicides, and even to child corporal punishment, he shows that our world has indeed become more peaceful through the ages. Moreover, he brings mathematical rigor to the table and quantifies the probability of starting a war, conflict escalation, as well as duration, among other violent incidents, such as terrorist attacks. All this strengthens his claim and leaves little room for pessimists and their gloomy outlook of the future. I recommend it to anyone who thinks otherwise, and if you need more convincing, you can also check out Bill Gates’s excellent review.