The Blind Watchmaker book begins by asking a very interesting question, and this question is about the complexity of life on our planet. If we take a look at all life forms on Earth, what we can notice is that they all have something in common and that is their complex design.
The Blind Watchmaker is dedicated to answering this overwhelming question without resorting to some supernatural element or deity. And the only plausible explanation that could unravel the mystery of complex design is Evolution by Natural Selection.
The book acknowledges that the Darwinian theory of evolution is a widely misunderstood theory and a common misconception that people have about is that they think it advocates chance or randomness.
So yes, evolution is a guided process, but it’s not guided by a conscious omnipotent creator but by the blind forces of nature. And that’s why this book is titled The Blind Watchmaker. Now, why is the watchmaker blind? Because it doesn’t have a motive or a purpose. Any life form that adapts to its natural environment survives, and the one that doesn’t, perishes.
Something that’s really unique about the books written by Richard Dawkins is that he breaks down complex ideas from evolutionary biology and genetics and beautifully explains them in laymen’s terms.
Here’s one of my favorite analogies from the book. In order to explain the complexity of a single human cell, Dawkins speaks in terms of the information storage capacity of a cell and he says that a single human cell can store all the 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica 3 or 4 times over.
Comparisons like these store a mental image in the reader’s mind which they’ll probably remember for the rest of their lives.
The most challenging part about understanding evolution is that it’s not humanly possible to witness the process of evolution as it’s a continuous process that lasts for millions of years whereas the average human lifespan is less than a century.
In order to overcome this obstacle, computer simulations called Biomorphs are used that speed up the process of formation of each generation and as a result of this, we get to witness cumulative selection in action. A whole chapter in this book has been dedicated to explaining how the biomorph land operates.
The core message of The Blind Watchmaker is that in order to understand life or any other phenomenon in the universe, it’s not at all necessary to invoke a supernatural deity. And Dawkins further adds that attributing the complexity of life to an eternal god is just ‘lazy work’.
In The Selfish Gene, in order to explain the origin of life, Dawkins uses the primeval soup theory but in The Blind Watchmaker, he takes a different route and uses the inorganic mineral theory to explain the same. According to this theory, the first life form on our planet was inorganic self-replicating crystals like silicates.
In this book, Dawkins refrains from using any mathematical expressions as this book is intended for the general audience. Instead, he uses non-mathematical pros to explain mathematical ideas.
The book also talks about the different schools of thought that exist in evolutionary biology. The most prominent ones are called Gradualism and Punctuationism. The reason behind this split is that there are plenty of jerky gaps in the fossil record and these different schools of thought have their explanation of what these gaps signify.
Now, should you read the blind watchmaker? If you truly want to have a thorough understanding of how evolution by natural selection works and how life attained its complexity without the intervention of any deity, then this book is the holy grail for you.