Thought of the day

The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins is a delight. Go buy it, read it, love it.

Incidentally, it’s subtitled A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution (or “Life” rather than “Evolution”, depending on the copy). I had someone draw an issue with this. I was told that a pilgrimage is a religious or spiritual journey and that Dawkins can’t just go around changing words. I need not address the definition of the word but more than briefly since it is obvious that “pilgrimage” need not be religious, but I do want to note the narrowness I find with which many people (not simply this one person) view language.

I’ve said it before: language is expression, express it. We need rules, we need consistency, yes. This does not, however and of course, translate to shackles, to restraint. Even if Dawkins was using a religious word in a way that was itself not religious, that does not make him wrong. For example, say “pilgrimage” really was only religious. We still recognize it as meaning a significant journey that leads to something important. Even if the word is technically wrong (and it isn’t), context has informed us what is meant; clear meaning has been conveyed. That ought to be appreciated.

On another quick note, I’ve encountered several people who have said or implied Dawkins is not a quality writer in one way or another. Such statements and notions are risible.