Interview with Richard Dawkins

Posted by Goodreads on September 1, 2015
Richard Dawkins Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins may be the most recognizable living scientist in the English-speaking world. Known most recently for his pugilistic The God Delusion, which put him up there with the late Christopher Hitchens as the man creationists love to hate, he is, first and foremost, a champion of Darwin and an enemy of irrational thought. He first rose to fame in 1976 with his groundbreaking The Selfish Gene, a book that broke down DNA structures—and their role in the evolutionary system—in a way that even laypeople could understand. Now that the rakish Dawkins has passed 70, the scientist who was once deemed too boyish-looking to present his own ideas on television has crafted a two-part memoir: first, An Appetite for Wonder (2013), and now its follow-up, Brief Candle in the Dark. Dawkins talks to Goodreads about the value of learning poetry by heart, the future of humanity, battling bad logic, and his legacy as a public intellectual.


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Goodreads: What are some of your favorite memoirs? As you sat down to write this book, were you thinking about any particular memoirs as models for your own?

Richard Dawkins: My memoir is in two volumes. Volume one, An Appetite for Wonder, is chronological, and for that I suppose a model for that was Bertrand Russell's autobiography. For volume two, Brief Candle in the Dark, I wanted to depart from chronology, and for that I suppose my model was Kingsley Amis, the English novelist, who wrote his memoir in thematic form. He had chapters on various people he'd known, chapters on his education, chapters on drink, which he was famous for, one on jazz. I think I should probably say Kingsley Amis was my model for Brief Candle in the Dark.

Originally the whole thing was going to be one big memoir. However, when I got halfway through my life chronologically, I decided that I wanted to divide it into half. I could see that chronology was working for the first part of my life, but I wanted to depart from chronology for the second part, mainly because I wanted it to become less personal stylistically and more professional. If I had done it chronologically, that forces me into what happened next. I didn't want to do "what happened next."


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GR: You weave a lot of literary references into your writing. Do poetry and literature still matter in your life? Also, do you think having a humanities education is as important as having a scientific education?

RD: Poetry is very important in my life. I don't think I've learned much new poetry—I think most of the poetry I know dates from the time when I was a young man, and I love it still. I have difficulty reading it aloud without choking up [chuckles], I'm sorry to say. I'm a bit sentimental about it. But I don't tend to read much new poetry—I tend to stick to the favorites from my childhood.

GR: Moving into the religion debate, do you think that the human race would be better—do you think that people would be more compassionate and more productive—if religion didn't exist?

RD: Yes, is the short answer. There's not a lot of that in the book, is there? But I do think that the world would be a better place without religion.

GR: I know you've praised The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert's book about human kind's impact on the planet. Do you think that religion keeps us from solving some of these global problems?


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RD: I think that one of the pernicious qualities of religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with nonexplanation, generally, rather than teaching us to be constantly curious and constantly trying to solve problems, so The Sixth Extinction would be one example—a very important one—but I think that science is held back by religion. That's not to deny that many great scientists of the past have been religious. It might even be true that in some cases in historical times the Christian religion, for example, the Jewish religion, has actually been a positive influence in science, but it no longer is, and I would like to see it become history.

GR: Some critics have said that you can be dismissive of people who are critical of you—and you touch upon this in this book. Do you think that it's valuable to be sensitive to the views of other people even when you know they're wrong?

RD: I hope I'm always polite, always courteous, but I like to tell it like it is, and I simply like to argue for what is supported by evidence. And if a point of view is not supported by evidence, I don't respect it, though I do respect the person as a person, but I don't respect their view if it has no evidential support.

GR: Technology is part of the problem in climate change—do you think that we will ever be able to use technology to save ourselves?

RD: Well, technology is part of the problem, ever since the Industrial Revolution, when people were using coal and then oil. This is a major problem, and I would like to think that technology of the future will solve the problem by discovering practical economically viable usages of cleaner fuels.

GR: Goodreads member Tom Horton asks, "Steven Pinker stunned many skeptics and humanists with his well-supported thesis that violence in the human race is on a long-term decline. Similarly, is it possible that over the long span of history, science is actually winning the battle against superstition and ignorance?"


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RD: Very interesting. He's referring to the book The Better Angels of Our Nature. I enormously admire Steven Pinker, I think he's a truly great writer and he's hugely versatile, it's amazing the number of subjects he's able to master in his different books. The Better Angels of Our Nature has this rather surprising thesis that we're getting nicer, we're getting better. And over the broad sweep of history we're getting less sadistic. I found myself very convinced by his thesis, but of course it's not an absolutely monotonic change, it's a kind of zigzag sawtooth, but the overall trend is toward improvement, but in any one decade you can see the reversal of that trend. And I suppose that's also going to be true with the progress of science education, that on the whole in general over the long sweep of history we're winning, but in the short term you might see something more like a sawtooth.

GR: Another Goodreads member, Jacques, asks, "What example of evolution could I use to convince a friend that evolution occurs? It ideally would be something a layman would be familiar with, not something only an expert can relate to."

RD: Yes, there's so much, of course. The evidence is so overwhelming, and it comes from so many different sources. Possibly the most convincing evidence is from molecular—it may be that the questioner would regard that as not suitable for the layman, but it's really just a modern version of what Darwin himself used in comparable anatomy. Darwin looked at, for example, the vertebrate skeleton, comparing vertebrate skeletons in different species, showing that all the same bones are there but they just have different proportions, so it's very easy to see how they are descended from a common ancestor. The hand of a human, the wing of a bat, the flipper of a dolphin, all have the same bones, but they're obviously very differently proportioned to do different jobs.


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The modern version of that I suppose would be molecular genetics, where you can point to particular genes, or particular proteins which the genes give rise to, where the exact sequence of chemical basis is letter for letter recognizable across different species, with minor differences, so it's just like comparing texts of different ancient documents, different documents and the Bible, say, and you can actually count the number of differences between rats and mice and find rather few differences, then count the number of differences in letters of the DNA alphabet, between rats and moles, and find a larger difference, and rats and kangaroos, and find more differences still. And you can count the differences, and you can do that for all the different genes. When you do that, you find that animals and plants, bacteria, everything, fall into a branching hierarchical scheme that could only be a pedigree; there's nothing else it could be. It is knockdown evidence for a pedigree hierarchical structure. I think it's even more convincing than fossil evidence, and fossil evidence is itself extremely convincing.

GR: Goodreads member Matt asks, "Since The Selfish Gene, your work and public persona have grown increasingly political. What do you think is the appropriate political role of public intellectuals such as yourself? What would you like your legacy to be?"

RD: I suppose it's important for people since we do live in a world, we live in a society, we can't ignore politics, we can't ignore the political situation in which we live, and so I have done so; however, it does have a certain ephemerality. And if you ask about my legacy, I would hope that my longer-term legacy, if I aspire to have one, would be more scientific, and what I may possibly have achieved in changing people's minds about science and educating people about my particular type of science, evolutionary biology.

GR: In this book you speak about your methods of doing entrance interviews for undergraduates. What kind of a mind would you like people to have when they are entering an intellectual community? How would you like to see young people thinking, or what kinds of minds would you like them to have if they are going to solve these huge problems that face us now and in the future?

RD: I'm a great believer in what's become almost a cliché—you teach how to think and not what to think. Teach curiosity; teach skepticism. I do very strongly subscribe to that. Obviously there are many facts to learn, learning poetry, learning things that we already know to be true, and so we mustn't neglect that. One of the things that I suggested in the book, semi-tongue in cheek, is that testing general knowledge is a good way of assessing whether this student's mind is receptive. If this school child knows a lot about a lot of different things, it's not so much the knowledge itself that matters, it's an indicator, a kind of litmus test, that this child is likely to be good at learning, likely to be good at finding things out, likely to be good at curiosity-driven learning, so I think you have to combine testing of knowledge and testing of intelligence. I've heard of students who, at 18, couldn't find Africa on a map of the world. That suggests not only plain ignorance, that suggests a lack of curiosity. The two might be able to go together—testing knowledge may be a way of testing curiosity.


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GR: What are you reading now?

RD: Helen FisherThe Anatomy of Love. She is a colleague, she is an anthropologist, and this is a second edition of her book The Anatomy of Love. She studies not just sex but love, sexual love, in a way that is different. She does bring biological knowledge to bear, but it's a different take.

Matt Ridley, who is a great writer of science. His latest book, which is not actually yet published, is called The Evolution of Everything.

GR: What is your next project?

RD: I'm discussing the possibility of a collection of essays.




Interview by Sara Scribner for Goodreads. Sara writes about books and culture from Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Salon, MOJO, the Los Angeles Times, and The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock: Trouble Girls.

Learn more about Sara and follow what she's reading.

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Comments Showing 1-45 of 45 (45 new)

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message 1: by Balle (new)

Balle  Millner (Blogger, Freelance Writer, Aspiring Autho Great interview.


message 2: by Vivian (new)

Vivian Cattaneo Very interesting. I will buy his latest book. I like how he thinks. I am a great supporter on Mr. Dawkins. I wish I knew more about science.


message 3: by Dexter (last edited Sep 04, 2015 05:16PM) (new)

Dexter Dawkins has wandered so far from the scientific method he is hard to take seriously anymore. His obsession with religion is fanatical,and has ruined any sense of rigor he once demonstrated in the field of biology. He seems to like the role of a gadfly more than a scientist, and has accomplished nothing with his obsessions except to alienate scientists who believe in God, which jeopardizes the progress of scientific discovery by politicizing and polarizing the field. His nastiness toward those who disagree with him makes of Dawkins a bit of a reptile while more serious researchers carry the banner of science forward in spite of Dawkins' bigotry and fanaticism.


message 4: by Ludovici (new)

Ludovici This has to be the best interview for so many reasons. What an honour to talk to RD. Look forward to reading his latest book. Thank you.


message 5: by Hilary (new)

Hilary Ferris God made every single one of us.I hope this poor man and his readers come to realize this before its to late for them.

Psalm 139 v 13 NIV
For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my mothers womb.


message 6: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Robyns Hilary wrote: "God made every single one of us.I hope this poor man and his readers come to realize this before its to late for them.

Psalm 139 v 13 NIV
For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my..."


Hilary wrote: "God made every single one of us.I hope this poor man and his readers come to realize this before its to late for them.

Psalm 139 v 13 NIV
For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my..."


Thank you for your post, Hilary. You remind me of why Dawkins is a actually a great man. Sadly, your compassion and concern are misplaced.


message 7: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Robyns Dexter wrote: "Dawkins has wandered so far from the scientific method he is hard to take seriously anymore. His obsession with religion is fanatical,and has ruined any sense of rigor he once demonstrated in the f..."

Greetings, Dexter! Would you please explain, with examples, of how Dawkins' "obsession" with religion "has ruined" his scientific rigor? Also, I wonder if "bigot" is an inaccurate characterization of Dawkins. Yes, he is definitely intolerant of religion - as am I - and for good reason, but I don't think of him (or me!) as a bigot. I believe its fair to say that he (and I!) object more to religion's negative role and impact in society and the human mind. May be it would be better to say he's "uncompromising" with religion in the public sphere. Believe any irrational supernatural thing but do so in your home or church, synagogue, or mosque - keep it out of public policy and the schools.


message 8: by Pauline (new)

Pauline Gordon Thank you Marcus, my feelings exactly on both of your replies.


message 9: by Babak (new)

Babak One of the extremely rare interviews that I read to the very end.


message 10: by Dywane (new)

Dywane Great Interview?


message 11: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Thank you, Marcus, for your succinct reply to Dexter. You, like Dawkins, do not tolerate fools!


message 12: by Catherine (last edited Sep 06, 2015 12:56AM) (new)

Catherine Wow.. But God is the author and the omega of all creation. His word is sovereign. Nothing Was made without Him. Creation itself, its diversity, its design is a testament of a great and wise God somewhere.


message 13: by Martin (new)

Martin Ryle Catherine, your designation of a divinity as "author and omega" is perfectly compatible with everything Dawkins has said. From that perspective, science deals with what that author has created, not with the author. Many scientists find no advantage in postulating a "great and wise" creator, and no evidence that such an entity exists. Most of them would have no problem with your point of view, so long as you do not try to impose it on the world through the schools and the government.


message 14: by Dolores Vernet (new)

Dolores Vernet Hilary wrote: "God made every single one of us.I hope this poor man and his readers come to realize this before its to late for them.

Psalm 139 v 13 NIV
For you created my inmost being;you knit me together in my..."



message 15: by Dolores Vernet (new)

Dolores Vernet There is no proof of a God making every single one of us, it is written in a book of faith, no scientific. RD has the proofs of evolution not a creation


message 16: by Gavin (last edited Sep 06, 2015 06:07AM) (new)

Gavin W. Dawkins' approach is blinded by underlying assumptions (God cannot exist, people are biological machines). This is against the spirit of scientific inquiry, which should examine all possibilities equally. I have no quibble with evolution, but how about we get on with considering more relevant issues before we write off the idea of God? Like consciousness, for example. God is the ultimate conscious being, and we don't yet know what consciousness IS.
Those who would like to see an unbiased and assumption-free inquiry into the facts (which incidentally leads us strongly towards an evidence-based understanding of God) may like to check out my own Mind Beyond Matter: How the Non-Material Self Can Explain the Phenomenon of Consciousness and Complete Our Understanding of Reality.


message 17: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Robyns Catherine wrote: "Wow.. But God is the author and the omega of all creation. His word is sovereign. Nothing Was made without Him. Creation itself, its diversity, its design is a testament of a great and wise God so..."

Catherine! Which of the approximately 9,600 gods in recorded human history are you referring to? Also, prior to the raise of the Abrahamic religions, most deities were female (read "When God was a Woman"). Perhaps you might consider changing the pronoun.


message 18: by Jay R. (last edited Sep 06, 2015 06:48AM) (new)

Jay R. shepard A very telling interview! It's nice to see the great debate continues on...and, yes, the "creator" did have an inordinate fondness for beetles!


message 19: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Robyns Gavin wrote: "Dawkins' approach is blinded by underlying assumptions (God cannot exist, people are biological machines). This is against the spirit of scientific inquiry, which should examine all possibilities e..."

Greetings, Gavin! I just read your introduction, and I am hooked. I intend to buy and read your book. Moreover, I salute your audacity to take on such a great and seemingly intractable mystery. I certainly would never have the courage or the brain power (no pun intended)to do so! However, I believe that "substance dualism" is a philosophical idea not scientific, so I really question whether it is a testable hypothesis, as you argue. I also question your assertion that "science has yet to come to grips with the causes of mental illness." I believe there's plenty of evidence demonstrating a biological link to all sorts of mental and emotional illness. A number of initial questions pop to mind: how do you account for physical memories; how do the material and non-material interact; if the mind is non-physical, doesn't that put it outside the realm of science; therefore, is substance dualism not a testable hypothesis? Finally, I am extremely skeptical of your assertion that religion and science are "mutually compatible ways of understanding our reality." Regardless, I look forward to being challenged by your book, because you recognize that you'll need to provide "an abundance of [credible] evidence." Finally, may I contact you with questions?


message 20: by Mike (new)

Mike Chapman Thanks for this!


message 21: by Audry (new)

Audry dig to much make people even more fool, we're not a robot, once we'll come to this basic form of philosophy, question 'whats to dig?' 'why dig?' , we're not a robot, we think much, and the last thing we realize, in every needed we start furious, we start recognize faith, so science have a homework now, 'what, why, who, which, when....faith? (since its not 1+2)' Aristotle first found classification, made chalk not only an ilusion, but true thing which follow then the scheme of atom, molecul, species, ordo, family of chalk, follow then its derivate, meubel. Science 'fill in the blanks ' with algoritma in atomic scale to change three hand chalk atom to a two hand meubel atom, find why apple fall from tree, and still dream of this universal dream, theory of anything. only to find 'what happen with this world'. Even there's no science, world would still exist. Dont dig to much if dont get the esensi, what, why, who? we're not a robot.


message 22: by Vivian (new)

Vivian Cattaneo A book I suggest everyone should read is Faith vs. Fact by Jerry A. Coyne.


message 23: by Yassir (new)

Yassir Babikir Yeah, i enjoyed every single word of it, thank you


message 24: by H. (last edited Sep 06, 2015 12:54PM) (new)

H. Keith I wish Richard would take a different approach to religion. Nobody would deny that religions are widespread and that human spend a lot of resources on them. The question is why? That's a question that I think can only be answered in biological evolution terms. Something in the environment humans evolved in must have selected people for susceptibility to religions.

Some psychological traits, such as the one behind capture-bonding, have clear evolutionary origins; women who did not rapidly bond to their captors were killed while those who did became our ancestors to a considerable extent.

When you think about them, what are religions? I argue that they are, at the heart, xenophobic memes.

Humans always had the ability to overpopulate the environment, and, since they lack predators, when food got short, they would thin out the neighbors with wars. If you run a fairly simple gene accounting of wars, you can see that they were favored in circumstances where the alternative (50% starving) was worse.

The reason in the accounting for why war favoring genes had an advantage is that the young women of a defeated tribe carried the genes of the defeated (and killed) warriors. That downside limitation made wars with neighbors "better" than starving(from the gene's viewpoint of course).

Susceptibility to xenophobic memes (in some circumstances) was needed to convert the neighbors from people you traded with (for wives) to non-people who the meme infested warriors could kill.

Thus ultimately, it's the human practice of young women being treated as booty that gave rise to both the human traits of wars and religions.

Richard Dawkins quoted me in the second edition of The Selfish Gene on the concept of "memeoids." He might pay attention to this argument if someone who is in contact with him were to call his attention to it.

Keith Henson


message 25: by Robertbduffer (new)

Robertbduffer GREAT WISDOM-i LOVE ALL WORDS


message 26: by Marcus (new)

Marcus Robyns H. wrote: "I wish Richard would take a different approach to religion. Nobody would deny that religions are widespread and that human spend a lot of resources on them. The question is why? That's a questio..."

Dawkins does speculate on the evolutionary reason for religious belief. He wonders if it is a "mis-firing" of natural selection. Immature humans are genetically inclined to defer to authority figures (parents) and this gene "mis-fires" or continues working into adulthood, hence god is "the father" - a protector and guarantor of safety and happiness - who replaces the absent parent. This is probably a very poor account of Dawkins' speculation. He readily admits that he has no idea how to make it a testable hypothesis.


message 27: by H. (new)

H. Keith There certainly are "mis-firing" of natural selection."

One of them is drug addiction. It's really obvious that the tendency to get intoxicated on opium sap while lying under a bush is a way to get eaten in the days when there were big predators around. Not conducive to gene survival! In fact, most people can't be addicted to opium. Addiction happens because the opiates happen to fit the same receptors as endorphins (in some people). Endorphins are released into the brain's reward system in response to activities that normally aid gene survival.

This proposal for the reason humans have wars and religions could be tested by formal modeling gene flow/selection through many generations in a computer. Any grad students around who are looking for a PhD topic?

I don't think anyone would deny that there is a connection in the "modern" world of the last few thousand years between religions and wars. This just makes the claim that both stem from population growth, environmental instability and the well known trait to turn captive young women into wives.

More background to the idea is here:

http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2006/4/...

and

http://www.mankindquarterly.org/archi...

The paper quotes Book of Numbers, from The holy Bible, King James version Chapter 31 vs. 7-18. That description of the aftermath of a war was the inspiration for the model.


message 28: by ALI (new)

ALI ADAM WOW!!!!......AWESOME...SCIENTISTS ARE GREAT..


message 29: by Wisdom (new)

Wisdom Fometu its interesting reading it


message 30: by Gavin (last edited Sep 06, 2015 10:54PM) (new)

Gavin W. Marcus wrote: Greetings, Gavin! I just read your introduction, and I am hooked. I intend to buy and read your book. Moreover, I salute your audacity to take on such a great and seemingly intractable mystery.

Hello Marcus. Thanks for your generous comments.
It will probably take reading the book to answer some of your questions.
As regards the biological correlates of mental illness, I can say this:
What we have discovered thus far does not help us to distinguish between two alternatives - either a) the brain and the mind are essentially the same thing or b) the brain and mind are independent but closely interacting things, influencing each other in a multitude of ways.
There are many important ways in which mental illnesses differ from the more straightforward brain illnesses such as MS and epilepsy. Mental illnesses are caused/exacerbated/ameliorated by events and influences within our subjective reality eg trauma, counselling. Mental illnesses cannot be diagnosed using brain scans or other biological tests - we continue to rely on patient's subjective reports and observations of subjectively-driven behaviours to establish diagnoses.
The mental realm is obviously very complex and can be analysed at a number of levels - cognitive, emotional, biological, social,(+/- spiritual). There's a lot to explore and religion doesn't get a look in until the latter half of the final chapter. But a lot of the steps along the way are closed off if we take an attitude such as Dawkins'.
You are most welcome to contact me through the website www.mindbeyondmatter.com.au.


message 31: by Gene (new)

Gene Colwell This is the best interview and follow up comments that I have seen on Goodreads.

I have spent many decades studying the relationships among science, theology, religion, psychology and philosophy and I have come to believe that each is important in different ways as we continue to learn more about our natural and spiritual worlds.

Science has advanced our knowledge of the natural world but seems to be of little use as we try to learn more about our spiritual world.

I am not an atheist but I have greatly admired the work of Richard Dawkins for many years.


message 32: by Julio (new)

Julio Treviño This is the man that broke my last vestige of creationist that I have, a great scientist and good interview


message 33: by Keiran (new)

Keiran Ryan My problem with Dawkins is that his "appetite for wonder"has a severe blind spot because he seems unable to appreciate the poetic nature of religion.It can sometimes address the big issues in a way that science struggles with.Personally, I'm fascinated how a wandering Jew 2000 years ago managed to turn prevailing values on their head and proclaim that treating each other with love and compassion was the key. The Pope's recent writing on climate change reflects a perspective that not only supports science but addresses the deeper issues that science is ill equipped to handle. Things like values and meaning, how we best manage the way we rub up against each other. Who else has been wise enough to point out that rampant consumerism is not sustainable.
I do not subscribe to any religion and it is so easy to point out the silliness of many religious beliefs and practices but even Dawkins can surely wonder at the profound insights into the human mind revealed by the Buddha?
Recent works such as Gavin Rowland's "Mind Beyond Matter" excite me more than Dawkins because he has an open mind and integrates very good science with speculation and a deep appreciation of the human condition.


message 34: by Marcus (last edited Sep 09, 2015 03:15AM) (new)

Marcus Robyns Keiran wrote: "My problem with Dawkins is that his "appetite for wonder"has a severe blind spot because he seems unable to appreciate the poetic nature of religion.It can sometimes address the big issues in a way..."

Love and compassion are universal human attributes and can hardly be attributed to Jesus (or Yeshua). Also, Dawkins is all about "wonder" but pursued rationally. What's more fascinating to me is the fact that a make believe religion created by a small, wandering group of sheep herders thousands of years ago continues to have such a devastating effect on society today.


message 35: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Seagrove Richard Dawkins is entitled to his beliefs as I am to mine. God loves all of us, even unbelievers.Didn't Jesus tell the thieves they would be with him in paradise? Rather than wasting time worrying about the state of Dawkins soul, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and sorrowing, and visit those in prison. Matthew 10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Patricia wrote: "Richard Dawkins is entitled to his beliefs as I am to mine. God loves all of us, even unbelievers.Didn't Jesus tell the thieves they would be with him in paradise? Rather than wasting time worryi..."

I agree - great post.


message 37: by Mike (last edited Sep 09, 2015 08:46PM) (new)

Mike Sure, Everyone takes a different path in search of the truth, and Richard is no exception. But, he should also encourage his readers to be mindful of that this is just a theory. The best, a scientific mind can do to explain the phenomena we call life. The question is when and how does a Gene decide to express something new? Where does that information come from? If it is simply a trial and error exercise we should see many failed prototypes in the fossil records right? I mean if you really think about it, all the variables that you have to account for before you come up with the perfect wing.
Just mind boggling. "seek and you shall find"
Cheers,


message 38: by Jami (new)

Jami Great interview; but i felt he has not studied Quran( the holey book of muslims) in detail as Quran also support the theory of evolution. Only on the basis of studying Bible how can he reject every religon??


message 39: by H. (new)

H. Keith Dawkins is down on all religions equally. (Exception, he might have better feelings about the Pastafarians than most.) My feeling about religions stem from understanding them as fundamentally xenophobic memes. Humans evolved the ability to *have* religions as part of the same selection package for why they have wars.

There is no current possibility to get rid of this human trait, but we can keep it switched off by holding the population increase smaller than economic growth. Unfortunately, Arab culture is not conducive to either low population growth or much economic growth. This is an Arab rather than an Islamic cultural trait because the Iranians (also Muslims) have reached the two child per woman mark.


message 40: by Bob (new)

Bob Applegate My first Dawkins book was The Ancestor's Tale, which I suspect I read 8-9 years ago. It is a wonderfully informative and entertaining book that had a profound impact on me personally.

Regarding his rejection on Islam without having read the Quran, you can't expect a scientist to study every living creature before accepting evolution. There is an overwhelming amount of media information on all major religions. Sufficient to know they almost all believe in a god being as a basis of their beliefs. Determining there is no scientific evidence of a god is sufficient to reject religion. You need not reject every aspect of a religion (compassion, love) to reject it's basic premise.


message 41: by H. (new)

H. Keith Ancestor's tale was great. It would be cool if Dawkins updated it because some of it is out of date.

Even more common than gods, part of a religious meme is "this is the one true religion," and if the environment/economics takes a nose dive, then what gets added is "kill the unbelievers." Love and compassion come along when either something else is holding down population growth, or technology is growing the economy faster than the population.

I have a dire view of the human trait to have religions.


message 42: by Phil (new)

Phil Bova I recollect reading "The God Delusion" some time ago, and remember thinking how much of an amazing author Mr. Dawkins is. Still one of my favorite readings. Sadly, I seem to have let someone borrow my copy, and have not had it returned. :-)
Great interview.


message 43: by Shingeling (new)

Shingeling "..do you think having a humanities education is as important as having a scientific education?" ..too bad he did not answer this question. otherwise a very interesting interview


message 44: by Tressa23 (new)

Tressa23 Thanks to both Goodreads & Dawkins for this interview.


message 45: by Dywane (new)

Dywane Wonderful?


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