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.
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: