'The Magic of Reality': A Children's Book From Richard Dawkins

themagicofreality.jpg Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins -- who in 1976 famously coined the term "meme" in his seminal, must-read book The Selfish Gene -- is nowadays best-known as the world's most celebrated atheist. This week, Dawkins brings us his first sort-of-children's book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True -- a scientific primer for the world, its magic, and its origin, an antidote to the creationism mythology teaching young readers how to replace myth with science, and a fine addition to our favorite soft-of-children's nonfiction.

With beautiful illustrations by graphic artist Dave McKean, Dawkins' volume is as accessible as it is illuminating, covering a remarkable spectrum of subjects and natural phenomena -- from who the very first person was to how earthquakes work to what dark matter is -- in a way that infuses reality with the kind of fascination and whimsy we're used to finding in myth and folklore. Each chapter begins with a famous myth from one of the world's religions or folklore traditions, which Dawkins proceeds to myth-bust by examining the actual scientific processes and phenomena that these stories try to explain.

magicofreality2.jpg

Here's an introduction from Dawkins himself:

The Guardian's Tim Radford sums it up nicely:

I cannot think of a better, or simpler, introduction to science as a good idea: simpler, because the starting point is the world's palpable, experienced reality rather than say formal subjects such as genetics, wave mechanics or astrophysics; better, because it could hardly be more up-to-date.

BBC has a great short segment, in which Dawkins explores the relationship between comfort and truth, and explains why evolution is the most magical, spellbinding story of all, more poetic than any fable or fairy tale:

When you think about it, here we are, we started off on this planet -- this fragment of dust spinning around the sun -- and in four billion years we gradually changed from bacteria into us. That is a spellbinding story. --Richard Dawkins

The book comes with a companion immersive iPad app.

In an age when we're still struggling to convince the powers that be of the value of public science and some public schools still perpetuate the mythology of creationism, Dawkins delivers a sober yet wildly absorbing and magical dose of reality in The Magic of Reality -- one that brings to mind Jonah Lehrer's reformulation of the famous Picasso quote: "Every child is a natural scientist. The problem is how to remain a scientist once we grow up."

TEMPLATEBrainPickings04.jpg

This post also appears on Brain Pickings.

Presented by

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Entertainment

Just In