A review of The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins
Bantam Press, London, 2011
reviewed by Philip Bell
Richard Dawkins’ latest book, The Magic of Reality (MOR), is quite unlike his previous works, not least because he would like children to read it. Certainly, there is little doubt that the colourful, eye-catching artwork of his collaborator and illustrator Dave McKean1 has enhanced its accessibility and considerably extended its reach. So, what kind of book is it? It’s a well-written, engaging, wide-ranging romp through all sorts of interesting questions about life and science. But, to borrow the words of nineteenth-century geologist Adam Sedgwick,
“From first to last it is a dish of rank materialism cleverly cooked up … . And why is this done? For no other reason, I am sure, except to make us independent of a Creator.”2
Others have reached a similar conclusion. Writing in London’s Financial Times, Neville Hawcock writes:
“‘Give me the child’, the Jesuit maxim is supposed to have run, ‘and I will give you the man’. But not if Richard Dawkins gets there first. The arch-atheist’s new book, The Magic of Reality, is designed to inoculate tender minds once and for all against the supernatural and its apologists.”3
Actually, Hawcock considers that “the text is persuasive whatever one’s age”.3 Unquestionably, unwary readers are very likely to be influenced towards atheism by this book.
The book is divided into a dozen chapters, the headings of which quickly reveal that this is Dawkins’ attempt at a materialist’s Answers book. For instance: Who was the first person? Why are there so many different kinds of animals? What is the sun? What is a rainbow? When and how did everything begin? Are we alone? Why do bad things happen? What is a miracle? This is atheistic-style ‘creation apologetics’. However, this latest salvo falls well short. Most chapters begin by recounting various myths and often include a slight of the early chapters of Genesis, treating them as similarly mythological….
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