Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder - Richard Dawkins (2000)

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* Correcting copy in August 1998, I cannot let this pass without sadly reflecting that Nehru would feel India's decision to carry out nuclear tests, unilaterally and in defiance of world opinion, to be a shocking abuse of science and a desecration of his memory and that of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

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* Colour is a rich source of philosophical speculation, which is often scientifically under-informed. A laudable attempt to rectify this is C. L. Hardin's 1988 book, Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow. I am embarrassed to say that I discovered this book, and in particular its excellent subtitle, only after mine had gone off to the publishers. Doctor Dolittle, by the way, may be hard to find, as he is now often banned by pompously correct librarians. They worry about the racism in The Story of Doctor Dolittle, but this was all but universal in the 1920s. In any case it is offset by the Doctor's splendid fight against the slave trade in Doctor Dolittle's Post Office, and, more profoundly, by the stand that all the Doctor Dolittle books make against the vice of speciesism which is as unquestioned today as racism was in earlier times.

 

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* I should explain that Margaret Mead is 'gullible but influential' because a large section of American academic culture enthusiastically adopted her rose-tinted environmentalist theory of human nature which, it later transpired, she had built on a somewhat insecure foundation: systematic misinformation fed her as a joke by two mischievous Samoan girls, during her brief period of fieldwork in their island. She didn't stay in Samoa long enough to learn the language well, unlike her professional nemesis, the Australian anthropologist Derek Freeman, who uncovered the whole story years later in the course of a more detailed study of Samoan life.