Dr. Dawkins, I grew up Christian and was deconverted a little over a year ago when I got on Reddit and found videos of you, Hitchens, and Harris. I just wanted to say that you have played a huge part in my life and I thank you for that. I know you’ve heard this a million times but I just wanted to let you know. I do have one question though. Because I grew up going to private school I never received any more education about evolution than “Evolutionists say we came from monkeys, but that’s preposterous because there are still monkeys”. What is the best way to learn about evolution? I’ve watched a good amount of videos and have “The Greatest Show on Earth” waiting to be read after I finish Hitch-22. So in your opinion, (besides your own books) what is the best book or video that I could read/watch to learn about evolution in general. Again, thank you so much for everything you do.
Thank you v much for your kind remarks. Setting aside my own books (obviously I'd love you to read them) John Maynard Smith The Theory of Evolution. And Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True.
Hi Richard. I'm huge fan of your work. I think your arguments against religion are important for getting people to question their beliefs; no matter what their beliefs are. I have a question about your being an atheist though. Just as God's existence can't be proven, you can't prove that God doesn't exist. So then why do you consider yourself an atheist and not an agnostic?
Furthermore, would you endorse the argument that- if you are not religious, and the extent of your spirituality is that you believe there is a God, it is equally rational to believe there are 5 Gods or 100 Gods? essentially, that religion (or simply the religious texts) is the only thing tying down a belief to only one God, and when you remove religion from the belief, and consider God's existence from pure reason, it is just as plausible for one God to exist as it is for many. Thank you!
We are all technically agnostic about millions of things for which there is no evidence: leprechauns, fairies, djinns, elves etc. Gods are equally unsupported by evidence. So, by all means call yourself agnostic about "God" but add that you are also agnostic about flying unicorns.
Hello Dr. Dawkins, thank you for taking the time to do this AMA.
How do you feel now that memes, first discussed in your book The Selfish Gene, have become ubiquitous in internet culture?
Do you have a favorite internet meme?
I'm pleased that the concept of meme has become widely understood, but the true meaning is a bit broader than the common understanding. Anything transmitted with high fidelity from brain to brain by imitation is a meme.
This has always fascinated me: Upright walking preceded the development of a higher functioning brain in the evolution of man, contrary to what most would think. What is the best reasoning to convey to and convince someone that walking in fact came first?
Fossils. Australopithecus, from which genus we are almost certainly descended, walked upright and had a brain about the same size as a chimpanzee
I do not, by nature, thrive on confrontation. I don't think the adversarial format is well designed to get at the truth, and I regularly refuse invitations to take part in formal debates. [...] Despite my dislike of gladiatorial contests, I seem somehow to have acquired a reputation for pugnacity towards religion. Colleagues who agree that there is no God, who agree that we do not need religion to be moral, and agree that we can explain the roots of religion and of morality in non-religious terms, nevertheless come back at me in gentle puzzlement. Why are you so hostile? What is actually wrong with religion?
-"What's Wrong with Religion? Why Be So Hostile?" The God Delusion. 317-318.
People can’t bear clarity. They want you to weasel around and obscure. But if you’re clear, if you stand up and say clearly what you think and what you’re saying, then they will think you’re being threatening, aggressive, strident, shrill.
I truly admire this attitude, and respect that you continue to promote scientific understanding and critical thinking even though it is not the popular opinion. What you are doing is, in my opinion, a vital part of eliminating division and discrimination in our world. I just wanted to sincerely thank you, and say that you have helped countless people worldwide.
P.S.: Since this is an AMA, I better include a question. Is it disheartening to read through your "fan mail"? While this video is quite funny, it's depressing to think that this is representative of a greater number of people. What percentage of the feedback that you get is generally positive?
I think the best way to deal with hate mail is, indeed, comedy. Ridicule it with laughter.
Thanks for doing this AMA! Given all that we know about genetics and the origin of most modern species, do you think it's time to stop calling Evolution a theory and make it a law?
Evolution is a fact
Thank you for doing this AMA, Professor Dawkins!
Do you think that Pope Francis, being so progressive, is actually bad news, since he is bringing people back into the Catholic Church? I somehow feel that we needed another terrible Pope after Benedict for people to realize how bad the Catholic Church -or any church, for that matter- is.
Yes, there's a lot in what you say. One can make that argument both ways.
Nominally, many scientists follow the Popperian model of hypotheses held provisionally until falsified. However, there comes a point where "failure to be falsified" becomes an understatement for "obviously true" and it is perverse to deny it. The "hypothesis" that the earth orbits the sun is not only unfalsified, it is obviously true. It would be perverse to deny it and the same is true of evolution.
The Out Campaign is great for those individuals with little repercussions for coming out. However, for those who do have repercussions, a useful intermediate is to call oneself an Agnostic, or a “Bright”. How important do you feel this neologism is in circumventing the negative connotations of the label Atheist?
The Out Campaign (http://outcampaign.org) is aimed at atheists, agnostics, secularists, brights, non-theists: everybody with a naturalistic as opposed to supernaturalist viewpoint.
I am very excited to read your book The Magic of Reality to my young son. Do you have any plans on a second children’s book aimed for younger kids?
Yes, the idea appeals to me, but I have no immediate plans. Might be my next book but one.
Dr. Dawkins, I know that you’ve said before that you won’t debate William Lane Craig because you don’t want to give your time to just anyone, but you do interviews with someone as awful as Wendy Wright. I know I’d love to see you debate Craig, but of course that would mean I would have to listen to Craig talk in circles for hours but it’d be worth it. Is there any chance you would ever debate him?
I published in the Guardian sufficient reasons why no decent person should agree to give the oxygen of respectability to an apologist for mass genocide.
Thank you. Such comments mean an enormous amount to me
Dr. Dawkins. Since you are a renowned atheist, I was hoping you could help me understand this question that I have about the process of life. At the basis of evolution and life is this instinctive desire to reproduce whether asexually or sexually. But why did the first creatures (as in like the first creatures ever to exist on Earth, presumably unicellular) reproduce? Was it just a complete random grouping of nonliving materials that created a drive for reproduction? Please note that I’m not asking this to discredit atheism, I completely support atheism. I’m simply curious as to what you think about this. Thank you!
The origin of life is one of the least well understood parts of biology. We understand pretty well how evolution proceeded once life had originated. But the origin of life itself is at present a subject for (very interesting and promising) speculation
Hello Mr Dawkins, no question, I just wanted to thank you for the many interviews and debates you have participated in, that are now available en masse via YouTube. I particularly enjoyed the “Four Horsemen” debate, though it was a sad day when I realised that there would never be a new Christopher Hitchens video to watch. I hope you will continue to produce new and interesting content for many years to come.
Thank you very much
Hey Richard, I don't have a question, just wanted to say you're an asshole.
Have a good one!
Thank you for your articulate eloquence
Will you be treating us to another fireside reading of your hate mail in the near future?
EDIT: Added link to "Hate e-mails with Richard Dawkins"
Yes, but not fireside. Instead, a young woman sits beside me playing sweet music on the cello. Film still being edited. I'm looking forward to seeing it.
Mr. Dawkins, without going into much detail, i'm a creationist, and believe in a God.
What information could you provide or books would you refer me to to change my mind?
Jerry Coyne: Why Evolution is True. And my own The Greatest Show on Earth.
Richard, who was the most frustrating person with whom you have debated evolution?
Do you ever feel like the the instant association most people make between your work and anti-religion means that your work on biology and evolution is overlooked or misinterpreted?
Occasionally I worry about that. But only one of my 12 books is about religion and all of them are still in print and selling well
As an expert on evolution, what do you feel is the strangest creature on Earth, or the one that just doesn't seem to make sense from an evolutionary standpoint yet continues to survive? (besides people)
Nautilus (because of its pinhole camera eye). But that's just off the top of my head. I'd probably think of a better answer given more time (that is so often true!)
You were gracious with your time and letting me take your portrait.
Again thank you ever so much for giving your time to our little southern city.
In discussions I hear lots of biologists talk about, “All life that we know of is life based on DNA, except for minor exceptions ….” What are those exceptions, and are they interesting?
Some viruses are based on RNA instead of DNA
Richard, what would you say to Muslims who point out (correctly) that during Islam's Golden Age, science and education flourished in the Caliphate as Muslim scientists either started new fields, or built on past work by Greek and Indian scholars.
I'm reminded of this fact quite often as I'm an ex-Muslim living in the Middle East.
Thanks for your time!
Great job in the Middle Ages, guys. What went wrong?
Hello, If you were honoured with the offer of having your ashes interred in Westminster Abbey alongside Newton, Darwin, et al., would you accept?
Of course I would. But it isn't going to happen!
What resources are there available for medical professionals? We don't have the same "purity" in our profession as there is among PhDs, and we have to deal with nonsense as it exists in the general population far, far more frequently. What books/speakers would you recommend for us?
Not sure if this really answers your question, but I recommend Randolph Nesse and George Williams's book on Darwinian medicine. That's the key phrase of the subtitle. I can't bring myself to write the actual title, either of the US or UK edition. But it is an excellent book.
The number of non-theists has been increasing steadily in recent years. Do you think this trend is going to continue indefinitely, until religion is mostly a thing of the past, or do you think it is just a fad?
Obviously I hope so, but I also genuinely think so. Non-theism is correlated with education and also with welfare. So all the good things point in the right direction.
Mr Dawkins How can I tell my parents that I'm an atheist.
I can't advise you without knowing a lot more about your parents and your family circumstances. Might you be surprised by how tolerant they will turn out to be? I hope so. How about giving them a book to read?
Just wanted to say thanks. The Selfish Gene ended my infancy as a human.
What a nice thing to say. Thank you. Are you perhaps picking up on the opening sentence of the book: "Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence."
If you had to pick one debate that you enjoyed the most, which would it be and why?
Stephen Pinker, because we each had things to learn from the other.
Why do you think it is so hard for people to let go of their beliefs in the supernatural or paranormal?
Childhood indoctrination. And fear.
Hello Professor Dawkins! I've been a huge fan of yours for some time and I follow all of your work. The only problem is that I find it difficult to contact you (travel expenses are also an issue for events). I want to stand up for Science in just the way you and your fellow Horsemen have in the past. There are too few of us nowadays who stand for reason.
My question is, how can I contact you in the future? How will I be able to make more of an impact as I want to debate and I want to stand up for Science and Reason
You can contact www.RichardDawkins.net
Hello Mr. Dawkins! Thanks for the AMA! Do you have any advice for the young atheist going through high school?
Be steadfast in your search for truth. Be polite but firm.
What's your average response to religious people who try to convince you that your're wrong/convert you?
Depends obviously on what they say. If they are creationists I tell them to read a book.
Do you ever see yourself getting back to writing about evolutionary biology?
I've read "The Ancestor's Tale" cover to cover twice, and it seriously changed the way I think about evolution. Not that I didn't accept the theory before, you just have a way of expounding on it. I'd love to read something like that from you again.
I'm so glad you like The Ancestor's Tale. I don't think I could every manage another book on the same large scale, but I expect I shall write about evolution again (as I did in The Magic of Reality).
Thank you so much for spending your time with us.
I used to be a Muslim for most of my youth. I come from a country where the penalty for apostasy is no less than death, and women are forbidden from basic rights such as driving, travelling alone, and visiting the graves of their loved ones.
Your works, as well as those of Hitchens, Dennett and Harris have had an enormous impact on my position as a strident atheist today. I feel indebted to you for making me realize how invaluable our fleeting moments of existence really are, and that it is a crime against human potential to spend any amount of time or energy on unsubstantiated, ancient beliefs.
I am now part of an ex-Muslim community that is helping those who have lost their faith find a sense of themselves without the aid of religion.
Do you have any advice you would like to impart for my community?
If an ex-Muslim were to write a book or make a documentary about leaving Islam, what would especially interest you?
I congratulate you on the stand you have taken. You probably already know Ibn Warraq's 'Why I am not a Muslim' and the various books by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Strongly recommended. You don't say where you live, so I don't know how easy it is for you to find like-minded ex-Muslims.. In Britain we have the CEMB, and in USA the Richard Dawkins Foundation has recently helped to facilitate three groups of ex-Muslims. See RichardDawkins.net for details. If you are in Pakistan I see tweets from an obviously flourishing group of Pakistan atheists.
Afternoon Professor Dawkins, thank you for doing this IAmA.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on the growing number of faith schools here in the UK are. Also, what are your thoughts on the recent "Muslim only" school scandal?
Edit: Got your title wrong, sorry.
Faith schools are harmless so long as they don't teach faith. Teaching ABOUT religion is fine; indeed it is important because you can't understand history without it. And literature (certainly in English and probably most other great literatures of the world) demands familiarity with scriptures if you want to take your allusions. But teaching tiny children that they are, say, Catholic or Muslim, is evil. You should no more speak of a Catholic child or a Muslim child than you would speak of a "Postmodernist child" or an "Existentialist child". See how absurd that sounds? Yet almost nobody bats an eyelid at "Catholic child" or "Muslim child". PLEASE stop using such language, and please protest when you hear anybody else using it.
When I was debating with a couple of Christians in my University lately, they seemed to not understand what evolution is, but nevertheless agree with each other that it isn't real.
What do you think is the best way to convey the certainty and validly of the "theory" of evolution to people that are so dogmatic?
(also, big fan, you rule etc)
Tell them to read a book about evolution before they allow themselves to pronounce on it.
As I haven't read any of your books, (I have The God Delusion but haven't gotten around to reading it yet - heavy courseload and no free time) which of your books do you like most/think came out best, and which ones would you recommend I read first?
River Out of Eden is the shortest, so if you are VERY busy . . .
If there was a button to destroy religion from the entire world, would you press it?
Yes, so long as no individual people were hurt
Mr. Dawkins, I've watched many of your debates and I am consistently impressed by your ability to retain your composure and politeness when the people you debate either resort to insults or, worse, when your carefully constructed arguments fall on deaf ears. How do you do it?
It's sometimes hard. Thank you for your kind words
Dr Dawkins, I have enjoyed your work and writings on science and evolution, but found your public comments on feminists and feminism rather... troubling. What's it like to have a new logical fallacy variant named in your honor?
I am a strong and passionate supporter of feminism, especially where ill-treatment of women in Islam is concerned. I am not aware of the logical fallacy you mention, but I suspect that, if you dig deeper, you'll find that it is named after something I am SUPPOSED to have said rather than anything that I ACTUALLY said.
Did you and Lala enjoy the Dr. Who anniversary special?... She was always my favorite Romana. Love and have read all your books, especially the audio ones where you two trade off sections. Lovely stuff!
I'll tell her. She went to the London meeting, but wisely (as all her colleagues agreed) refrained from taking part in the BBC special show
Who do you feel is more dangerous for secularism and scientific reason, religious conservatives who stand to the dogma no matter what, or religious "progressives" who try to bond modern scientific findings with religion, and reassess the religion to "make it fit" in an empirical world.
That's a very shrewd question. In some ways the "progressives" are more dangerous. At least you know where you are with the fundamentalists and can destroy them in argument. Arguing with a religious "progressive" is like arguing with a slippery blancmange. You can't get to grips with it.
Not really a question, but I went to Emmanuel College, Gateshead. I believe you had a bit of a public falling out with our head of science. I remember our school categorically denying teaching creationism in science classes, while I was being made to bring bibles to the lessons and being shown very biased creationism vs evolution powerpoints.
(Edit: grammar correction)
Thank you for this useful information.
Like a previous commenter, your work is incredible. I have your debates with John Lennox and Rowan Williams on my phone as well as the audiobook of the God Delusion. Instead of listening to music, I listen to these time and time again on my way to and from university. So thank you.
Rowan Williams is a decent, honest man for whom I have great respect.
would you like to take a moment to chat about our lord and savior jesus christ?
No thank you
Why is The God Delusion packed with straw man arguments?
If you were to read it you would see that it isn't.
since about 90% or more of people throughout history have believed in the supernatural, do you think there is now hard-wiring in the brain to give humans a propensity for belief? ... has religious belief become an evolutionary trait? ... the survival benefit would be for the reasons of social cohesion
Not hard-wiring if, by that, you mean something irrevocable. Actually, if you associate with university scientists, you seldom meet one who IS religious. Even those who claim to be religious usually turn out to be vaguely "spiritual", not really believers in anything supernatural.
Mr. Dawkins, I actually have two and a half questions today, if that's okay.
1a) During one of my electives at university a while ago, I took a course on religion and science which covered the inconsistencies between the two as well as going on to explain that that don't need to be fully separate, among other things. Naturally you were a major talking point in such a class, so I'm curious- what is your opinion of such courses being available for students, and what's it like knowing that you're commonly seen as the "perfect athiest" in such courses?
1b) You may know what course I'm referring to above, my professor claimed to have spoken (and vehemently disagreed) with you in person. I respect both of you, but how do you respond to people like him who claim that science and religion aren't mutually exclusive?
2) What gives your existence meaning, if not a god?
Feel free to skip any or all of the above, but you're definitely one of my most influential role models in the scientific community and I'd be honored to hear a few words from you myself. Thanks for the AMA, and I wish you the best.
1a. I have no objection 1b. No I don't know of whom you speak. 2. Music, literature, poetry, science, human love and companionship.
Hi Dr. Dawkins, huge fan, thanks for all your contributions!
What are your thoughts on multi-level selection? Do you feel it is incompatible with your prior work, or can the two explain different parts of a single issue?
Multi-level selection is an obfuscatory tactic, obscuring and confusing what is well understood in terms of selection of replicators and vehicles.
Hi Richard. I study molecular biology at the University of Gothenburg, and from day one it has been clear that you are the most influential scientist and author there is today. For three years now, practically not a day goes by without your name being mentioned by someone when discussing the by far most popular subjects: science, religion, ethics, and more. Students talk about your ideas, our professors quote you and recommend your books. Are you aware just how highly regarded you are among a whole generation of young scientist and your impact on what gets talked about in the classroom?
I was not aware of that. I hope it is true but I shall not be surprised if others deny it!
How do you feel about South park's depiction of you and their take on the argument?
Satire is supposed to satirise. Depicting somebody as having a predilection for buggering a bald transvestite is not satire and not witty. The futuristic projection of wars between atheist factions is genuine satire and quite witty. I think it's important understand the difference. I preferred the experience of going on The Simpsons.
During a debate, or any exchange really, with a religious person, have you ever thought "This is going nowhere with this person. Why am I even trying?"? What keeps you going in the face of insurmountable ignorance?
Frequently. I try to be polite but I fear I don't always succeed in the end.
Mr. Dawkins, in many debates I have seen yourself, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and others rather fail to convincingly answer the question "where do we get our morals/values from?" Can't it be argued that from evolution, its goals and those of society can guide us towards values of good will towards others, helping one another and leaving each other be (sanz criminal activity)?
Yes, there is a large and helpful literature on the subject. Read Steven Pinker, Mark Hauser and many others. My own brief foray into the subject is in Chapters 6 and 7 of The God Delusion.
Read Lawrence Krauss: A Universe from Nothing. And Peter Atikins: Creation Revisited.
Have you ever been to Italy? Did you like it? Greetings from Italy :D
Yes and yes
As one of the most prominent and outspoken atheists do you ever feel as if perhaps your and your follower's treatment of religious persons is a bit harsh/unfair? I'm actually a big fan of your work and an atheist myself but it seems as if your fervent support of secularism may alienate a certain section of the population. What are your thoughts on the subject and how do you feel it is best to approach someone who bases their scientific knowledge primarily on religion/religious doctrine?
I try to be straightforward and honest. Don't insult people personally but make no bones about what you think of their beliefs and/or their ignorance.
Do you believe that there is 100% certainty of there not being a "God"? Please elaborate.
No, not 100%, just as there is not 100% certainly of there being no fairies or pixies or elves
Thank you very much for the work you do.
How long do you think both Christianity and Islam have left, and which, in your opinion will fade to obscurity first?
I fear that Christianity will die first, and that is not the priority I would wish, for the sake of humanity
Richard, what is your favorite type of soup?
Leek and potato
Already asked 2 questions but I will dare to ask one more. Any date set on The Unbelievers doc? Can't wait to see it
Lawrence has been making various announcements. Sorry I can't recall them but you could Google them
Do you think evolution is fundamentally incompatible with "intelligent design" ?
Artifacts like cars and computers are intelligently designed -- by brains which evolved.
What is your problem with religion?
It takes too long to say briefly. Read The God Delusion
Professor Dawkins, you're a large part of the reason I'm an atheist, and I wanted to thank you enormously for showing me that there is no shame in questioning undeserved authority.
My Question: Christopher Hitchens said that one of his greatest worries was the combination of (increasingly available) nuclear weapons technology and fundamentalist religious beliefs. Do you see us surviving the next few hundred years without eradicating ourselves, as a species?
I think he was right to be worried. Not just nuclear weapons but biological weapons too. If they fall into the hands of people who actively want to die, for daft religious reasons, the usual arguments of deterrence cease to apply. Martin Rees give us a 50/50 chance of surviving to the end of the 21st century without a major catastrophe
What's your current and biggest challenge?
Writing the second volume of my autobiography. I'm still wrestling with the question of whether to write it chronologically like the first volume, An Appetite for Wonder, or whether to arrange the chapters thematically, and semi-independent of chronology. Maybe some combination of both.
You are the reason i started questioning about religion.
Thank you very much for turning me in an atheist
Very nice to hear, thank you
would you fuck a jar of honey
Goodness, what sparkling wit
In Pittsburgh, an closed Catholic church was converted to a great restaurant/brewery. What else should we do with all the beautiful worship buildings when religion fades?
Museums, concert halls, art galleries, meeting halls, libraries
Dr Dawkins, you'll get heaps of these, but I want to say thank you for being a shining light of logic for so many.
Also any chance of a trip to Australia any time soon?
I love Australia
You are the most annoying fucking person on this planet...
Who, in your many years of research and debates, is the most respected person you have debated with, that has differing views than yourself?
Either Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, or Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, or Father George Coyne, former Director of the Vatican Observatory.
Richard, my son is a 12 years old and recently asked for "The God Delusion" for Christmas. I've already read it and loved it and I hope he will too. Thanks.
That's wonderful to hear. I hope he likes it. I had thought of it as mainly for a slightly older audience. If he feels he is not quite ready for it, maybe try The Magic of Reality first, which was written for 12-year-olds
I have nothing to add, I just wanted to take the chance to thank you for being a huge positive force for skeptics and thinkers everywhere.
How do you feel about the claim that you're a religious extremist?
It's an obviously absurd claim, usually made by people who haven't read my books but only what others have said about them
The God Delusion was the first book of yours that I read, and I'd like to say thank you for kickstarting my reevaluation of what I've been taught throughout my life and for the motivation to ask questions that I'd been taught not to ask.
Thank you, that means a lot to me
You visited The University of Oklahoma in 2009. As president of the Darwin Student Society at the time, I helped organize the event. I want to thank you for your visit and your lecture. Do you have any plans to visit that part of the US anytime soon?
It was a memorable visit, the only one I can remember where I was heckled and also where a state senator tried to get me banned. He accused the University of paying me $30,000 and ended up with egg on my face because I had refused to take a cent in payment.
And yours is incoherent. Go and read a book
In your opinion,what's your greatest achievement?
Are you planning to visit Croatia anytime soon?
The Extended Phenotype.
No immediate plans, but I hear it's a beautiful country
Hello Mr. Dawkins. 1. What created the singularity that caused the big bang? 2. Hypothetically, if there was something before the big bang, what would be your best guess?
Sorry, I'm a biologist not a physicist. Try Lawrence Krauss: A Universe from Nothing. Or Peter Atkins: Creation Revisited.
I have to admit my favorite atheists of all time is Christopher Hitchens. I've watched every video you and Christopher have ever done, along with Matt Dillahunty's show...All you guys changed an Orthodox, brainwashed product into the confident, free 35 yr old I am today. Have you ever had a different opinion from a fellow atheist? Thank you, keep fighting for all of us!
Yes, I disagreed with Christopher on the invasion of Iraq (he was in favour) and on abortion (he was against)
Will you be in Los Angeles this weekend for the showing of The Unbelievers at Laemmle's Music Hall Theatre?
Dr. Dawkins, do you plan on publishing more books on the subject of religion? Follow up, have you ever thought about penning a children's book?
I have published a children's book: The Magic of Reality, illustrated by Dave McKean.
I'm currently half-way through The God Delusion, having been in Catholic education my whole life (until last year when I entered university) it is giving me a completely new perspective on life. Thank you for all you've done and I have the utmost respect for you and your colleagues.
That is so nice to hear
Hypothetically speaking, what would be your reaction if it were to be proven that God exists?
Thanks for doing the ama BTW
I would be intrigued, fascinated.
How can I teach new age hippies about evolution and the big bang?
I live in Vancouver and my friends aren't religious but at the same time they don't like or believe in science. They don't believe in evolution or the big bang and are more convinced by those ridiculous alien / ghost shows. They believe that astrology and spirits and that sort of junk is the reason we're all here. It's so frustrating. I've given direct examples from the greatest show on earth but still they don't believe it and instead believe that we were put on earth as an experiment by aliens or ghosts or something like that.
Enlarge your circle of friends
What was it like debating William Lane Craig?
He was extremely unimpressive. Obsessed with pompously numbered syllogisms which nevertheless, amazingly, contrived to fall flat.
Do you have any thoughts on Scottish Independence?
I don't know whether it would be good for Scotland (I doubt it, although Edinburgh is a great capital city) but I think it would be terrible for the remainder of the UK. Wouldn't we be condemned to perpetual Toryism without the Scots?
What question do you get asked the most?
Are humans still evolving? And the funny thing is, everybody who asks it thinks they are the first to do so.
Mr. Dawkins, 'The God Delusion' is arguably your most famous work. Which of your other 12 books would you most like to gain a similar attention and why?
Climbing Mount Improbable is my most under-rated book, and I think it is one of my best.
How do you feel about the proposition that a God-like being may have designed evolution? That is, evolution etc is true, but because a God-like being designed the universe to work that way, from the Big Bang onward?
I ask, not because I believe this necessarily, but because I can't rule it out.
It is a preposterously uneconomical, unparsimonious idea, but distressingly appealing to people who haven't thought it through.
Dr. Dawkins, How exhausting is the process of being a public figure, specifically one which has a large proportion of attention from people who dislike/hate you? I imagine that fame in this area must be a large burden.
I derive comfort from the belief, which I think is well substantiated, that those who most strongly dislike me have never actually read my books, but instead have listened to second or third accounts of what is (or more likely is not) in them.
Dr. Dawkins, first of all having you here for an AMA is undoubtedly the best thing I have ever encountered on Reddit. Having read both The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene and watched numerous debates of yours, I truly admire your courage and tact as both a scientist and an atheist.
Question: How do you feel about the Malthus' Theory of Carrying Capacity in relation to human prosperity? Do you believe we (humans) have surpassed it? And if so, is this based on our species' resource utilization practices, and if we resort back to 'simpler' lifestyle practices, do you think our beautiful planet could sustain the 7 billion of us?
Thank you professor:)
Thank you for your kind words. Malthus may be temporarily wrong, as advances in agricultural science succeed in feeding more and more people. But in some ultimate sense he must be eventually right.
What aspect of religion and religious people do you admire the most?
I honestly can't think of anything I admire about religion. I admire individual people who happen to be religious, but not because they are religious and I don't think their admirable qualities stem from their religion.
Will you be giving any free public lectures I can come and see? I have always wanted to see you lecture.
They are usually advertised on RichardDawkins.net
Did you ever go drinking with Christopher Hitchens?
Dining. And of course there was drink
Are you from a religious family? Did your upbringing in any way affect your decision to write The God Delusion?
The answer is buried in my memoir, An Appetite for Wonder
I had no intention of "making mincemeat" of six gentle teenage girls. As usual when I interview on television, I follow the Director's instruction to be nice. If my subjects are going to talk nonsense, give them plenty of rope to hang themselves. That is exactly what I did at the Muslim school. I got them to admit that they didn't believe in evolution, and I exposed their teacher's ignorance of the subject although she was obliged to teach it on the National Curriculum.
Hello Dr. Dawkins,
Your work is really inspirational and made me excited evolution. I was curious about opinions on how it applies to human behavior; specifically your thoughts on the field of evolutionary psychology. What in your opinion is a good example of ev psych research and why is it good? What do you think ev psych as a field can do better to validate itself to its naysayers in biology?
I have a high regard for much (not all) of Evolutionary Psychology. And am baffled by the extraordinary levels of hostility that it seems to arouse, especially in people who know rather little about it.
Have you experimented with psychedelics, such as LSD, psilocybin and DMT? I feel if you had, the tone of a lot of your work would be a lot different. I'm not saying you'd suddenly become a convert (I'm not religious), but it would certainly offer you a more spiritual outlook, beyond the coldness of strict atheism.
No I haven't but I might one day. Atheism is not cold.
Mr Dawkins, many thanks for conducting this AMA.
Would the process of evolution be able to be applied to anything concerning nature in the universe, such as the way planets, stars and galaxies are formed, or is it just merely confined to our little sphere of life we happen to exist on?
I wouldn't use "evolution" to describe how planets, stars and galaxies are formed, although astronomers often misuse the word in that sense. If we must find a biological analogy for what stars etc do it is DEVELOP (as in embryology) not evolve. If there is alien life on other worlds, it will almost certainly have evolved by something roughly equivalent to Darwinian natural selection although the details may be very different.
What's your opinion on Panspermy theory?
Panspermia is improbable but not totally impossible
Do you think people will be more, or less religious in the future?
Less in the long run. There may be temporary reversals pointing in the wrong direction, but the broad sweep of history is going in the right direction and will continue to do so.
Why are you such a self righteous arrogant prick?
Professor Dawkins, back in 2010, the richarddawkins.net forums closed down amid particular furore from its existing user base (and the online atheist community in general). In hindsight, do you think some things could have been done a little differently? Do you have any regrets?
It was not well handled, but that is water under the bridge, along with many other things.
What do you think should be changed about the american education system, more specifically the science classroom? Also, what age do you think schools should start teaching evolution in the classroom? Thanks for the AMA!
I think evolution can, and should, be taught early. Certainly it makes little sense to teach any biology BEFORE teaching evolution because nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution (Dobzhansky)
Whats your favorite movie?
I love old British comedies like The Ladykillers (with Alec Guinness in the lead role) and Bedazzled (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore with Eleanor Bron), Kind Hearts and Coronets (Alec Guinnes playing almost all the parts), Two Way Stretch (Peter Sellers et al).
Thank you. Thank you for what you do. Thank you, for being you. That is all.
And thank YOU for that!
Richard, are there any examples of non-human species acting religiously?
Hard to know what that would mean. Elephants have been said to mourn their dead. Some people have semi-seriously suggested that domestic pets might feel religious towards the people who feed and care for them. Not very convincing, I'd abandon that train of thought!
It's after six pm, which is traditionally when the pubs used to open in England. Those days are gone, but I've been doing this for more than two hours and I need a drink. Thanks to everyone for the questions. Sorry I could answer only a small fraction of the total, but I hope I got a good cross section. Richard