Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think : Reflections by Scientists, Writers, and Philosophers

By Alan Grafen; Mark Ridley | Go to book overview

WHAT THE WHALE WONDERED:
EVOLUTION, EXISTENTIALISM,
AND THE SEARCH
FOR 'MEANING'

David P. Barash

IT is not really surprising that Douglas Adams, a great fiction writer, and Richard Dawkins, a great non-fiction writer, were good friends.

At one point in Adams' hilarious A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a sperm whale plaintively wonders to itself: 'Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?' as it plummets toward the planet Magrathea. This appealing but doomed creature had just been 'called into existence' several miles above the planet's surface because a nuclear missile, directed at our heroes' spaceship, was inexplicably transformed into a whale via an 'Infinite Improbability Generator'. As Richard Dawkins has emphasized so effectively, evolution, too, is a kind of improbability generator, although its range of outcomes is considerably more finite. Because of this, there follows another, considerably more melancholy fact: after being called into existence by natural selection, human beings have no more purpose in life than Adams' naive and ill-fated whale, whose blubber was soon to bespatter the Magrathean landscape.

First, nobody gets out of here alive. This is pure biology. And at the other end, nobody arrived here except because of a chance encounter between a particular sperm and a particular egg. Had it been a different sperm, or a different egg, the result would have been a different individual. Biology again. Finally, as to why we are here, the life sciences once again have an answer: human

-255-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think : Reflections by Scientists, Writers, and Philosophers
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 283

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.