Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Let Me Not Rephrase That

From the preface to the second (1996) edition of The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins, with my highlighting:

Authors naturally hope that their books will have lasting rather than ephemeral impact. But any advocate, in addition to putting the timeless part of his case, must also respond to contemporary advocates of opposing, or apparently opposing, points of view. There is a risk that some of these arguments, however hotly they may rage today, will seem terribly dated in decades to come. The paradox has often been noted that the first edition of The Origin of Species makes a better case than the sixth. This is because Darwin felt obliged, in his later editions, to respond to contemporary criticisms of his first edition, criticisms which now seem so dated that the replies to them merely get in the way, and in places even mislead. Nevertheless, the temptation to ignore fashionable contemporary criticisms that one suspects of being nine days' wonders is a temptation that should not be indulged, for reasons of courtesy not just to the critics but to their otherwise confused readers. Though I have my own private ideas on which chapters of my book will eventually prove ephemeral for this reason, the reader--and time--must judge.

Sometimes, your first argument is your best argument, and rephrasing it in response to a confused question, comment, or critique only weakens it.

1 comment:

ishmaelabroad said...

Hey Professor Samwick,
Did you get a chance to check out this story from George Borjas?

Seems right up your alley ;)