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'An illiterate disgrace': Richard Dawkins writes scathing review of Amazon instruction manual


It’s not just people labouring under the “God delusion” who provoke the ire of Professor Richard Dawkins. The outspoken atheist has launched a furious rant at Amazon over an instruction manual he described as an “illiterate disgrace”.

The evolutionary biologist, who once described The Bible as a “chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents”, posted a scathing customer review of another fallible guide to human behaviour - the instructions accompanying his $31.19 purchase, “AmazonBasics USB 2.0 8x DVD Writer External Optical Drive (Black).”

The “appallingly bad” manual was a “disgrace, and alone is enough to merit the minimum possible number of stars,” Dawkins wrote.

Urging Amazon to “please hire somebody who knows how to write at least ONE human language, to write your instruction manuals,” in a Tweet linking to his review, Prof Dawkins began by dissecting the exhortation to “Terminate software program used on optional drive.”

“Well, which do you mean, ‘optical’ or ‘optional’?,” wrote Dawkins, famed for his visceral disagreements with those who expound religious faith.

“It might seem obvious that ‘optional’ is a misprint for ‘optical’, but since it is distinctly puzzling how the new purchaser is expected to know HOW to remove a DRIVE from the computer (does it perhaps mean remove any old disks that might be IN the internal optical drive?) one is left wondering whether it really is a misprint after all.”

After checking the various international translations in the booklet, Dawkins writes: “I suspect that NONE of them is correct when they tell us to remove the entire optical READER.

“I suspect that they really meant to tell us to remove any DISKS that might be in the internal reader. I genuinely don’t know, however, what this ludicrously ambiguous instruction is really telling me to do, and am only thankful that the device itself appears to work, nevertheless.”

He continued: “But that’s not the end of it.” An instruction to “Terminate software progam” added to the confusion. “I looked at the screen capture picture, which is supposed to show you how to do this. The reproduction of the picture in the booklet is so poor as to be impossible to read.

“This is not a problem with my eyesight, for I scanned it at very high resolution, in order to try to read it, and it is indeed COMPLETELY illegible.”

“It is quite clear that whoever wrote the booklet never even LOOKED at it before sending it to press,” he complained.

Dawkins’ did not take kindly to the IT clever-clogs who told him how simple to use his Optical Drive was. “Startled by snarling hostility of those telling me to ‘Plug & Play’. Yes, that’s what I did, going AGAINST the manual,” he Tweeted.

According to the Amazon webpage, “132 of 142 people found the following review helpful”, including one respondent, named Edmund Blackadder, who wrote: “That’s a shame as I was gonna buy one of these, I don't think I'll bother now :-( ”.