Questions for Richard Dawkins?

We’re about a month away from the public release of Richard Dawkins‘ new book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. Dawkins’ publishers have given me the opportunity to do an email interview with him and I need your help.

What would you like me to ask him?

Ideally, your questions are related to the new book, but if there are good ones outside that scope, I’ll try to get them in there. I can’t guarantee he’ll answer everything, but I’ll do what I can!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Matthew Prorok

    I’d like to know if/how the new book relates to his comments that we should teach evolution to young children.  Based on the description of the book (thought experiments, lots of illustrations, etc), it sounds like it may be a good resource for teaching children about the universe we live in; was that intentional?

  • George-marie

    Perhaps he could explain how evolution works in order to make us understand why it’s true.

    • Kevin Bates

      Perhaps you could read one of the numerous books he has already written on the subject…

      • Michael Campbell

        Easy… Down Boy…

    • Kevin Bates

      Perhaps you could read one of the numerous books he has already written on the subject…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      That’s what The Greatest Show on Earth was about. This book is for kids.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe some get to know you questions would be nice too. Most of us love his work but don’t know much about him personally. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tracy-Black/1316882147 Tracy Black

    I’d like to know what age range he is targeting.  It looks like twelve and up, but I wasn’t sure from the description.

  • Ricklongworth

    There are always people of a philosophical frame of mind who ask for a fundamental definition of “reality” and “true”.  I’m wondering if the level of discussion will rely on common definitions or delve into the morass of philosophic speculation on this point?

  • G Zeiringer

    Are there any efforts to get this book into Kindergarten or to somehow promote it for a wider audience?

  • Luis Berenguer

    Do you consider your approach on religious subjects to be too aggressive or that religious people just perceive it so due to personal beliefs which they fear losing since they have nothing to replace them with or any other reasons?

    Regards

  • Bruce_wright

    Here’s a question about teaching evolution to children…  A number of the chapters in Ancestor’s Tale are great snapshots of events in natural history, or examples of new frontiers in understanding.   Stories like how Darwin brought back a number of birds from the Galapagos, all very different-looking, but was told that they were all finches.  Stories about the differing beaks of the finches, and how they’ve changed in response to changing food sources….  Stories about the different tortoises on the Galapagos.  I use those stories to teach my young daughter about evolution.

    What stories can you share with us that can help explain the concepts of natural selection, genetic drift, etc, to a child?

  • Tony

    I would like to know if he can think of any example of a mutation that has increased information in the genome….

    Haha no, I’m kidding.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    If he could be a My Little Pony, what would he choose for a cutie mark?

  • Anonymous

    I would like to know if his views on feminism have evolved following Elevatorgate. He asked what he didn’t get, and many people answered, some angrily and some eloquently. I would really like to know if that had any effect at all.

    • James Emery

      Agreed on your question, but I also really, really love your handle.  Also, Gashlycrumb Tinies FTW!!!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks!

    • Chrissy Jones

      I have to disagree. I would love it if we never talked about Elevatorgate again, at least until and unless it’s possible to do so without a massive shitstorm.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed Chrissy.  Maybe we should agree to end this thread now!

    • Jennie

      I’m all for you asking this question too. I know some people are sick of Elevatorgate, but what’s the point in being a rational thinker if you can’t engage in a rational discussion about contentious issues? Ever since his comments, I find myself having negative feelings towards Dawkins and I would sincerely like to know if his thoughts have changed.

      • Pam

        Why would you have negative thoughts about a man who believes that the suppression and mutilation of millions of women is somewhat more important than some middle class intellectual getting offended by getting asked out in a lift (elevator). Maybe it’s because I am English rather than American but you know what? He’s right,  it really isn’t contentious and doesn’t deserve rational discussion. Grow up girls, we can ask men out in elevators if we want too!

        • Jennie

          Thanks for your response Pam. I think it’s very possible to have positive and negative feelings towards someone don’t you? 

          I have been a huge Dawkins fan for a very long time. I think he’s funny, smart, and eloquent. I still think he’s those things. And I’m excited for his new book. But after Elevatorgate I am not 100% with him like I was. I don’t know if his thoughts are the same or if they’ve changed since so many people made excellent points against what he said. And I would like to know if he’s considered looking at what happened from another viewpoint. If he’s processed all these new thoughts and arguments (like rational thinkers and scientists do) and come to a new conclusion. Or the same conclusion. Or somewhere in between.

          Ps- I am not a girl. I am a grown ass woman scientist who likes engaging in rational discussion. 

        • Anonymous

          Agreed, Pam.  I read through a lot of this discussion only to conclude that the “new thoughts and arguments” were neither rational nor interesting enough to warrant Dr. Dawkins to spend time “processing”.

        • Anonymous

          It matters because his response to Elevatorgate was condescending, rude, and dismissive. He made false comparisons and transparently manipulative arguments, of exactly the sort that he as a practiced communicator should be ashamed to make.

          He eventually asked what it was that he didn’t get, and many people, including myself, patiently explained. We haven’t heard from him since.

          My hope is that he’s had time to think about it and has had a moment of consciousness raising, as he’s acknowledged in the past.

    • Dubliner

      I hope that Richard Dawkins did not find he had to modify his opinion on that ridiculous molehole made into a mountain as a result of the intense cyber bullying that took place around the issue. Prof Dawkins if you read this page you confirmed your place as this feminists favourite ‘atheist celebrity’ by not indulging in the pious hand wringing that took place. 

    • Anonymous

      Elevatorgate struck me as entirely trivial as originally reported, admittedly with few details.  My wife claims that maybe 5% of females so gently “hit on” in an elevator would react with anything like Rebecca Watson did.  Once I followed a couple dressed with diamonds into an elevator, when they abruptly jumped out (and I wasn’t even chewing anything!), so I guess some react in strange ways.  I think Rebecca cashed in on the incident to popularize herself, focusing on the fringe sexist attacks ensuing, eventually creating a video instructing some hapless soul how to masturbate.

      • Anonymous

        You have missed the point entirely.

        Elevatorgate wasn’t about what happened in the elevator. It was about the response to Rebecca’s original and very mild statement, which itself was a very small part of a longer video. All she said was “Guys, don’t do that.” She didn’t create the internet explosion; the internet exploded all on its own.

        Those sexist attacks, by the way? Not fringe. Not by a long shot. Way, way more common than you’d like to think.

      • Anonymous

        Well, actually, Dr. Dawkin’s dismissive response was to Rebecca Watson’s reaction over the trivial situation as she described it.  I was also originally surprised at his words taken out of context, but then I began to see Rebecca Watson’s role.  My point is that “Guys. Don’t do that.”, even said in Rebecca’s cute voice, is as silly as her mocking recommendation of the fleshlight.  Guys and girls (and maybe even some of @Jennie’s “old ass woman scientists”) WILL “do that”.  Rebecca probably wouldn’t admit that she relished the internet explosion that ensued and that “put her on the map”.

        You could be right about the frequency of the sexist attacks—that she then propped up as a distracting justification to her reaction.

        [End of this thread for me.  No repeat explosion here!] 

  • http://www.frommormontoatheist.blogspot.com Leia

    He has stated that we start teaching our children evolution at the young age of 5.  Is this book written for children that young in mind? I find that children struggle with thinking about years, let alone millions and billions of them. Does he have tips on an easier way of explaining it?

    Living in Indiana, a rather Christian filled state, it’s tough as an Atheist mother, raising two freethinking children. Does he have any suggestions on how to give my children a science based explanation as to why others believe in an invisible man in the sky that seems to grant wishes to some and not others?  I don’t just want to say, “That’s just what some people believe.” I have read ‘The God Delusion’, and I understand duality, but how to I explain it to a 5 and 4 year old?

    Does he think that we have hope in regards to humanity shedding it’s
    religiousness and one day being able to turn to Science for answers, without people forcing their religious beliefs into the equation? I lost my religion 2 years ago, so I am new to the game, but it
    seems so hopeless. (But it may just be where I live.) Are we really
    gaining numbers? Or are the statistics skewed? (In his opinion).

    My mother in law died in 2007 when my children were 20 months and 4 months old. My eldest child often asks where she is and I have done by best to explain what happened. Having been raised in the pseudo-Christian religion of Mormonism, it’s tough for me to answer that question without invoking words and phrases like ‘better place’ or comparing death to an eternal slumber (she was cremated, which makes that reasoning harder).  Does he have any suggestions as to how I explain what happened in scientific terms, on a simple enough level without sounding cold and without scaring them? (Off topic, but one I struggle with).

    • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

      Fellow Hoosier here (though current Chicagoan) – you’re not alone in the Crossroads of America.

      OT, but I was visiting my parents a few weeks ago and found myself in a suburb full of yard sales. I was browsing aimlessly through (another) one and noticed some…unexpected…literature in a box of cast-off books. There were a couple titles on humanism, one anti-Christmas(ish) children’s book, Carl Sagan, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

      I mentally did some cheering and waving. 

      It probably wasn’t you (but it might have been!). 

      And your questions, although I don’t have children, are things that I think about, too. I grew up in a very small town that was just saturated to bursting with Christian culture; it took 20 full years to even BEGIN to shake it off. Be patient, though – I think your interest in explaining these sorts of things indicate that you’re kind of a an awesome parent…just because you’re asking those questions at all. I suspect that it will pay off. Good luck.

    • Wendy Thomas Russell

      Hi Leia,

      I’m a journalist and author writing a book for nonreligious parents about handling the God Talk(s) with kids. I’d love to speak with/interview you for the book. Could you e-mail me? My book e-mail is relaxitsjustgod@gmail.com. Thanks in advance! 

    • Racheal

      Hey Leia,
      I have a seven year old daughter I’m working with on this.  For the evolution thing I got “Our Family Tree: An evolution story”, it’s not perfect, but it was very enjoyable.  Another book I’ve found helpful is “Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide For Parenting Beyond Belief”.

  • Matthew Harmer

    I already have this pre-ordered on B&N for my three kids (ages 7, 4 and 4).  I’m wondering if he’s planning on something transitional for when my kids reach their teens.

  • http://twitter.com/preach_atheism David Gnu Atheist

    I’d like to know, if he were to find a believer who had an open mind, what steps of logic would he would take to gently lead that person to be convinced to become an atheist?

  • Rich Wilson

    My (Christian) sister posted on FB that her daughters had made and left out a card for ‘the fairies’.  She was tempted to take the card and leave behind a gift from the fairies.  Her question was, “should I, I mean, it’s sort of like Santa Clause, right?”.  All the comments were “yes, do it”.  Being careful to not tread on boundaries, I simply said that when my nieces question if it really was the fairies, that’s not a sad day, that’s a great day.  Discovery is wonderful.

    I recognize that I have an irrational fear of bible stories.  I’m happy to read my son Goldilocks or Spiderman, and not fear that he’s going to believe in talking bears or web producing humans.  But when it comes to Noah’s ark, I feel the need to clarify that it’s just a story, that you couldn’t fit that many animals on a boat, and that the range of mitochondrial DNA we have today could not have arisen from ~4K years staring with a population of 2, and that in the story, the boat didn’t drop off the kangaroos in Australia.

    And he’s 4, so then I have to explain mitochondrial DNA…

    My question is- do you think we do children a disservice by telling them things that are not true?  Do we set them up for faith?  Or do we perhaps teach them that not everything you hear turns out to be true?

    • George

      I think Noah’s ark is one of the most sinister stories I’ve ever come across. Surely this type of wholesale genocide and ecocide should be firmly denounced by any church and moral authority.

      • Rich Wilson

        And yet, as a theme, it is ubiquitous in our society.  I was about to say that at least Santa Clause isn’t so sinister, but then the “He watches when you’re sleeping” strikes me as very Old Testament.  Santa Clause does come to our house, but he doesn’t threaten to bring coal if you’re cranky because you’ve missed a nap.

        • Wrongwatch

          this Santa Clause is a subordinate clause, whereas Santa Claus only needs reindeer and a sleigh

        • Derek A

          or as the lyrics to a popular song go…

          “you better watch out!”

    • Wendy Thomas Russell

      Hi Rich,

      I’m a journalist and author writing a book for nonreligious parents about talking to kids about God. I’d love to speak with/interview you for the book. Can you e-mail me? My book e-mail is relaxitsjustgod@gmail.com. Thanks in advance! 

    • Dubliner

      ” Or do we perhaps teach them that not everything you hear turns out to be true”.

      I think that’s a useful way of looking at the issue. Personally I think to strip early childhood of all ‘magic’ would be sad indeed. Discovering for themselves that Santa is not true is a right of passage in a way for children and one that aids them in developing critical reasoning skills in my view. The joy I have received watching the joy of my children after ‘Santa’ has visted is priceless and I wouldn’t sacrifice it on the atheist altar when such belief passes naturally anyway.

    • Racheal

      I’m atheist, but let my daughter believe whatever she wants, she’s seven and believes in god, fairies, ghosts, vampires, dragons, santa, easter bunny, literally everything.  She also believes that jesus is a fairy, the first time she spoke about fairy jesus I laughed so hard.  I didn’t want to do this originally, I wasn’t going to tell her about santa or anything, but by the time she was two she knew all about him and god and everything else.  She asked me a few months ago if Santa was real.  I asked what her what she thought, she said that she thought he was real, I asked her why she was asking, it turns out that some kid at school told her he wasn’t.  I told her that people believe all kinds of different things, and that if she wants to believe santa is real, then she could.

      We’ve had the same conversation about god and the tooth fairy, with the tooth fairy thing she said, “well who besides the tooth fairy would give us money for teeth, I mean, besides our parents”.  I almost laughed at that, and instead managed to say, “what do you think?”  With god it’s been a bit different, she’ll say stuff about god, like, “how did god invent …” and I tell her how that certain thing came to be, when she asked about how god makes lightening I got on Google with her and we looked up what actually causes lightening.  She said to me, “what about god?”   I told her that we don’t need god to know how lightening works, we use science for stuff like that.
      I also told her that people believe lots of different things, that some people believe in god and some people don’t.  After one of these conversations she asked me if I believe in god, I told her that it doesn’t really matter what I believe, it only matters what she believes, but that I didn’t see any evidence that there was such a thing as god, same as I say for all the other imaginary creatures.  I’m kind of hoping that when she stops believing in Santa, she’ll stop believing in all the other imaginary beings.  

  • Parse

     How long do you anticipate before one of the ‘fleas’ jumps on this work?  At what stage of writing (if any) do you consider how your books will be ‘interpreted’ (read as: quotemined) by creationists? 

  • Mr Z

    I would like to ask Mr Dawkins to explain, in the kind of terms that both kids and media/reporters/politicians can understand, 
    why what we know of pre-Cambrian life both supports the tree of life and
    the evolutionary explanation of the likely origin of life on this
    planet. I’d like recent discoveries in fossils and geography etc. to be
    used in this explanation so that it is both easy for every one of us to
    use and repeat and so that even Bill O’Rielly can understand it. My hope
    is that he is so compelling in his telling that it becomes a topic for
    politicians to deal with; a meme if you will.

  • Bernardo Grp

    Regarding his scale on the god delusion, what would make him go from a six to a seven?

    Does he plan to write more books and on what?

    Can he come to portugal so I can shake his hand and thank him for being awesome? :D

    • Jan

      in that case i hope he will show up in lisbon… same motive here

  • Bernardo Grp

    Regarding his scale on the god delusion, what would make him go from a six to a seven?

    Does he plan to write more books and on what?

    Can he come to portugal so I can shake his hand and thank him for being awesome? :D

  • Bernardo Grp

    Regarding his scale on the god delusion, what would make him go from a six to a seven?

    Does he plan to write more books and on what?

    Can he come to portugal so I can shake his hand and thank him for being awesome? :D

  • http://www.sarahtrachtenberg.com/ Sarah Trachtenberg

    If radical Islam really is a threat to the world (people try to tell me otherwise, but they don’t convince me), if so, what can we do, and will I be branded as a conservative blowhard if I’m worried about it? It looks to me that Dawkins and other reputable sources are concerned about Islamofascism. People tell me I’m agreeing with Fox News (gasp) if I am buying into this, so I’m confused.

  • http://twitter.com/KennethLowMD Kenneth Low

    Brain science can’t explain what a thought process or a memory is in terms of neurophysiology. Doesn’t that mean the physical universe, as a four manifold, is a surface in a higher dimensional space?

    • Anonymous

      What brain science can’t explain simply reflects the infancy of the field.  Brain science is unrelated to whether there is a higher-dimensional space.  Anyway, the possibility of an embedding space is no evidence at all for its existence.

  • Kieran Mc Kevitt

    How do we teach evolution/science to young children without seeming to argue from authority or just so stories, how do we bring the evidence into the class room to allow students to think critically?

  • Kieran Mc Kevitt

    How do we teach evolution/science to young children without seeming to argue from authority or just so stories, how do we bring the evidence into the class room to allow students to think critically?

    • Peter Mahoney

      My question for Dawkins was a broader version of yours.
      My question: How does anyone “know” something they aren’t an expert in, without relying on the “authority” of those who are experts?

      I trust scientists re: the age of the earth, global warming, how black holes work, evolution, that the earth is a sphere, etc., but I have not personally done experiments/investigations (and nor have I written a PhD thesis) on any of these topics.

      (My answer to my own question would be that I generally trust the “system”/methods of science to be the best one we know of to find actual verifiable/demonstrable truths/facts…  but I admit that on a practical basis I often end up appealing to the ‘authority’ of ‘experts’ because no one person [specifically me!] can have the technical knowledge for high level understanding in so many complex areas.)

      • Neil

        This is an excellent question and one I’ve struggled with myself. I know evolution has a mind boggling mountain of evidence and predictive power and can be seen in action in short time spans with things like the ‘flu virus but as a mechanical engineer I cannot personally stand over the evidence. I accept evolutionary biologists are the appropriate people to inform on this but that is technically an appeal to authority.

  • Anonymous

    Is he tired of being called a ‘New Atheist”? How can that meme be addressed?

    • Peter Mahoney

      Keep doing it for longer, until it gets old?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Samuel-Hardman/631435600 Samuel Hardman

    I’d like to know if he thinks there is anything we can do to get the critical thinking/science message out to children of religious or otherwise sheltered upbringing.

    I was brought up in a christian family and was toought that evolution couldn’t be (the irreducible complexity arguement) and was discouraged from taking an interest in science. I just wish someone had shown me the evidence earlier, I didn’t discover the truth until I went to university…

  • http://twitter.com/ShreyGoyal Shrey Goyal

    I am curious to know if Dr. Dawkins feels that his work as a Science communicator is being overshadowed by his identity as an atheist. In other words, does he feel that he may now be inaccessible to a broader audience of (potential?) science enthusiasts and readers due to his prominent role in the humanist movement? Also looking forward to any other insights on how his outspoken stand on religion has affected his work as a scientist.

  • Guille_buzzi

    when are this book and previous ones such as the god delusion will enter Argentina?

  • http://twitter.com/deanrobertsnet Dean Roberts

    I’d love to know where he got his loathe of religion and spirituality from… and where he decided to make a brand name out of fundamental atheism…

    http://deanroberts.net

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      It’s obvious you haven’t read “The God Delusion.” If you actually want to know his views, you might try reading his book instead of making unfounded assumptions.

      • http://twitter.com/deanrobertsnet Dean Roberts

        No matter what his book says, his manner and actions don’t match, I’m afraid.

        Just because he wrote a book, doesn’t mean he believes everything he says in it… 

        http://deanroberts.net

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          He wrote an entire book that outlines his specific views in great detail, and you’re accusing him of lying about them? You’re not making much sense. If you want to know what he believes, then read what he has to say. It’s ridiculous to make claims that are completely unfounded. You don’t actually seem to be curious about Dawkins at all, merely interested interested in making sniping remarks.

  • Really

    Why does the book title have to qualify “True” with “Really”?  And is there a “really really true” that trumps “really true”?

  • Beth

    I would like to know why Richard Dawkins be more like Penn Jillette who is funny, smart
    and makes you want to listen to what he has to say as an atheist. He isn’t mean
    and snobby. Something that turns me off of Richard Dawkins. Heck even
    Christopher Hitchens has a sense of humor.

    • Becstar

      Aw, come on now, he’s a science professor at Oxford, not a comedian. I’m sure he has great science jokes. There’s a great clip of him reading his hate mail aloud, pretty good show of a sense of humour in my mind, google it for a giggle.

  • http://twitter.com/Occams_Cat Rod Fountain

    Do you like turtles? 

    Oh, and do you think that the term ‘Atheist’ has evolved in it’s perception within religious circles over the past 10 years?  Surely the term A-Theist should not exist, as it is the default position.  How do you not get weary constantly defending and explaining your logic to ‘believers’?

    Lovin’ your work.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/bobetch100#p/u/1/EsAqJsO6Yo4 Bobetch100

    Ask if he would be interested in pitching his new book as an animated series for television. I recently completed animating this short trailer about evolution, which I posted here on my You Tube channel: http://tinyurl.com/3vyammz  I have been trying to bring it to his attention. Animation can be a great way of teaching children about evolution. Thanks.

  • Jan

    I’d like more reflection on the tense relation between the phenomenon of homosexuality in the animal kingdom and evolution by natural selection. I think this subject has always been undervalued and Richard Dawkins seems to avoid the subject. I realize it is a difficult and yet unknown area, but the subject is a very important one, theoretically (for evolution theory as such)  as well as for our understanding of this strange friction between a genetic formula that doesn’t favour procreation and its factual transmission to future generations.

    • Wrongwatch

      this is a topic that abounds with conjecture. Where I live, the companies that sell grain seed, (barley, wheat, etc.) often advertise as 97% germination. After culling and cleaning, they are suggesting 3% will not germinate. Gay wheat? Well, I sure don’t know, but maybe Richard does. We don’t know the % of salmon that produce offspring in that madness of spawning they engage in, but we do know that in a wolf pack, only the alpha male and alpha female mate. The whole pack is involved rearing the one litter. What are the other fully adult wolves doing with their sexual instincts and does Richard know if this breeding format extends to other species? Please indulge me, I am no scientist.On the level of DNA (I think), when egg and sperm meet, the result is a female, with instructions that when mature, she will want to mate with a male. After the embryo divides once or twice, (I’m really out of my depth here) and becomes a male the program is supposed to shift so the newly male embryo, when mature, will want to mate with a female. But these instructions are not always carried out as the program unfolds and the female embryo that would be attracted to males retains this attraction when the embryo becomes male. Other permutations can occur, that’s nature! Nurture is another story that allows for endless situations where infants, children, are so impressed by someone that it becomes a sexual obsession that wants to be experienced. Perhaps Richard might find something in this conjecture worth commentary.   

    • Howard

      Great question Jan – this has puzzled me for some years. Much discussion is around the resource advantages of social animals in having some extra ‘help’ in the team. A similar idea is that primate females often live well past fertility and parenthood because grandma’s are useful to the successful nurturing of the next generation. Tie this into the idea that social traits have some genetic conveyance , and we’re pointed to a genetic link to homosexuality. Human homosexual behaviour – in a strict laboratory sense – is very different from human homosexual identity behaviour. We should be cautious in extrapolating directly from behaviour observed in other animals, too much about what it means in the search for a cause, or purpose for, human homosexuality. 

  • Nonentity

    I am a supporter of Richards but does he realise that he is not as “readable” as he thinks? Despite his belief that he is not too high brow, he actually is. He needs to bring his arguments  down a level or he will forever be seen as a crank. His website is a tribute to this. How is the ordinary person meant to understand him?

  • Bitianlun

    What, in your opinion, are the reasons why we should believe something, come to believe something, change ojur beliefs about something?

  • Darren_peterson

    should psychics/faith healers/spritualists/…”priests”/ be breaking the law when “performing”?

  • http://twitter.com/USAGeorge USAGeorge

    I still find it rather hard when asked “do I believe in God”. Perhaps my views invite such questions from family and friends. I don’t want to get into it with anyone,I simply don’t believe in what I know about their God. I took that long trip from a christian childhood to being agnostic about things for a while till I quess I felt comfortable enough to self acknowledge that the God I knew just wasn’t. I softball that question,my typical responce is
    I believe that in death we face an eternal dreamless sleep,if anything else awaits,well things are going to get pretty interesting. For most that usally ends the questioning but about half the people I have talked with smile and say they think I’m right. They all go to church on Sundays,I understand the comfort they derive from the easement of death being “the end of the road” and reuniting with loved ones,that was a hard one to leave behind,it was for me.
     One of my nephews came right out and asked if I was an athiest,we had a long talk,I was frank and kept things in general terms. In short I pretty much told him what I have already stated. I think most athiest are like me,in that we consider it a private matter. There are always boundaries in any group,some in the middle some on the edge,some walking the line.
     Where I sit doesn’t matter to me,it’s just where ever it is.

  • Kristine

    A question I’ve always wondered about. Say you are at a dinner with people who pray before they eat. Being Athiest I don’t want to participate, but if I don’t it’s considered rude and disrespectful. Why is it not considered the same if they don’t recognize that I’m Athiest and participating goes againt what I believe?

    • Peter Mahoney

      My protocol on prayers before meals is: if I am at someone else’s home and they want to pray then I will sit quietly while they do so. I think it would be rude as a guest to interrupt (but nor will I feign that I am joining in).

      If we are eating at my home, I make no special moment or any pause in conversation for those who want to pray.

      Sometimes I will initiate a pre-meal gratitude to thank everyone for coming, to thank the cook, etc., or even go around the table and each person gets to say one nice thing they admire/respect about the person sitting on their right (even my religious mother says that she like that one better than any prayer).

    • Anonymous

      I think that deciding how to act is entirely personal.  I have a close young friend just now separating off from the extreme Catholicism of his family.  His mother arranged an outdoor reception honoring his graduation from high school.  His large extended family was standing around and prior to eating, there was a prayer.  I asked him if this was to be a traditional prayer.  He answered that he didn’t believe in this stuff any more.  There was then an enormous amount of crossing throughout the yard, and I could see my friend strenuously restraining his arms, but that his hands at his sides were twitching through the motions. 

  • rsjrsj

    I think RD has done explain everything as clearly as he could regarding the subject of gods and religions.  I admire him and salute his ability to present his ideas well to the general public.  (I did not become an atheist because of him at all.  I have always been one without thinking about it, and then I just stepped back half a step and observed the world and it became absolutely obvious to me that I am right.)  Sadly, as he said, people just don’t listen and just go “la la la” instead.

    I truly believe that, he is one of the few persons who is capable of producing a documentary programme (in addition to a book) that can argue each of the many generic points religious people use to promote/”prove” the existence of gods.   The Channel 4 documentaries have been good, but would RD do one that simply go to attack and rubbish each of the most common tactics religious people use?  Books are good, but for many general public TV is more accessible.

  • @AcceptScience

    How can the great work on B. F. Skinner and all the behavior analyst contribute to what we know about the behavior of organisms? For example, when we say that we “know” something, what does that really mean? Could it be more parsimonious to say that we “know” something because of our history of responding and the consequences that followed? Dr. Henry Schlinger wrote a wonderful article (Skeptic magazine Volume 13, Number 4) titled Consciousness is Nothing but a Word http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-02-27/#feature. 

    If we are scientist seeking empiricism, how do we explain what we “know”?

    http://twitter.com/AcceptScience

  • Ramesh

    Life is made of elements-atoms-molecules-complex-organic molecules. What is the difference between a life form before death and after death? What is “life” that keeps the organism “living”? What has happened in death?


    Ramesh Bhat

  • Miss Percival

    The American political landscape is littered with candidates whose religious views lead them to support such claptrap as “intelligent design” and the like.  Short of educating the entire electorate, (which would be great of course, but unlikely to be accomplished before the next election),  what’s the best way to combat this sort of aggressive idiocy?  (I notice Britain is relatively untroubled by this sort of thing.  How did it get to that point?)

  • R Craig

    I have a friend who is well studied in subjects like philosophy, logic, and sociology, and does a great job at applying skepticism to everything in life…except god.  How should I go about reasoning with an intellectual person (he is a deist, by the way) who believes that God and the supernatural are, by definition, not able to be touched by logic/reason?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/suicidaldream Leslie Wayman

    what is a good website to send my nieces/nephews to that they can understand and wont lose interest in to learn about evolution and why the bible is EVIL?

  • Austin

    How far away in years would you estimate we are from a truly secular America? Britain? World?

  • Dubliner

    I am always puzzled by people who find Prof Dawkins arrogant and strident as I find his manner polite and pleasant (and indeed perhaps too reticent and mild in the face of the supreme ignorance of people like Ken Ham and Wendy Wright.) But I can’t say the same for several others who are labeled ‘new atheists’. Indeed some seem quite malevolent in their intolerance of religion in all it’s guises.

    While religious concepts seem totally illogical to me, it appears as though a significant section of the world find religion essential to their wellbeing. I sometimes wonder if attacks on all religion especially moderate forms is not analogous to attacking people for being homosexual. Dawkins has spoken of religion as a bi product of evolutionary drives. Perhaps the need for it is innate in some people in much the same way that sexual orientation is innate.

    I would be interested in hearing Prof Dawkins thoughts on the ethics of the type of attacks on, not just religion as a concept or ‘truth’,  but on specific religious people like Francis Collins by people like PZ Myers. Are we not in danger of being like Pat Robinsons and Michele Bachmanns attacking people for something they cannot control? Should the atheist movement not be more focused on providing a well lit and welcoming road for individuals who are open to scientific logic in most cases whether or not they can leave religion behind them?

  • Anonymous

    The description of the book on Amazon seems to indicate the book focuses on how science provides explanations for phenomena where supernatural explanations previously filled in. However thee subtitle asks “How do we know what is true?” and for me raises the question of whether Dawkins, as others have suggested, thinks science is quickly taking the place of Philosophical inquiry. I’d be curious if Dawkins could speak to the charge that we atheists embrace “scientism” and whether science really can explain what is “true” at a level beyond just explaining how things work. I think this question is in particular relevant to areas of science such as quantum theory, big bang theory, and the developing string theories where the inquiry is looking at the fundamental nature of the universe and/or existence. 

  • David

    As an educator have you found it particularly rewarding whilst writing your latest book to focus on the fertile minds of the young?

  • Rajendrasathellite

    Will the book be available on Audible? If not please please do.

  • Musicdesign

    I have 101 questions for Professor Dawkins and have pasted the first 26 below.
    I should say that I am an atheist and that these questions were mostly inspired from conversations with religious friends when I became a little stuck in answering them.
    They range from atheism (19), faith schools (12), evolution (9), philosophy (22) and just plain silly(7).
    I’m looking forward to the release of the book, but as I haven’t read it yet it’s difficult to form questions specifically about it.
    Enjoy the interview and I look forward to reading it.
    Warmest regards,
    Steve
    101 Questions for RD

    1) Why are faith schools better than non faith schools in terms of academic results?

    2) Have atheists won the battle? Is it just a matter of time before the entire world is atheist? Is the position of the theist untenable in the 21st century?

    3) Considering how much is known about the topic and the vastness of the evidence, why is evolution so poor at predicting the future?

    4) Do you accept that religion, as with the wheel, agricultural revolution and industrial revolution, was a necessary step on the path of human evolution and progression? If so, when was, or indeed, will be the best time for the human race as a whole to reject the concept?

    5) How will science avoid the same arrogance that religion is often accused of?

    6) Is the scientific method foolproof? Will the scientific method ever be updated, replaced or usurped by something else and if so can you speculate on how or what it would be replaced by.

    7) Why does a banana point toward your face?

    8) What makes a gene show an apparent ‘desire’ to survive?

    9) It appears that through compassion and vastly improved technology, the human race seems to have all but halted natural selection in it’s own species. Does this mean that natural selections handmaiden, evolution, has also ceased and that we have therefore seen mankind’s ultimate incarnation?
     
    10) Considering what is claimed by most deities, including the creation and manipulation of every single atom in the universe,  how would anyone ever go about proving the existence and confirm their alleged ‘powers’? in other words, what evidence would be sufficient to convince the scientific community of the existence of a deity?

    11) Has any serious attempt ever been made by scientists to prove or disprove the existence of a deity? If so, please could you give a brief outline of their experiments and results.

    12) If the local faith school was the best option for you children, would you consider lying about your faith in order to gain admission?

    13) Should local authorities or national governments in any way fund faith schools?

    14) Would you ban faith schools?

    15) How would you personally define the word ‘soul’ and does it exist?

    16) What are you views on the religion ‘pastafarianism’, and would you ever consider joining?

    17) Is it desirable for there to be a God?

    18) Is there any aspect of your life where you consider having faith, i.e. believing something without evidence, to be a good thing?

    19) What would you expect to be different in the world today if in fact the Christian explanation for creation was the true course of events?

    20) Is there ever a practical reason for believing something that isn’t true?

    21) Which do you respect more, theists that have stuck to their original teachings or those that have made an attempt to alter their beliefs in light of scientific discoveries, yet still remain theists?

    22) Is what is true more important the what is good for the human condition?

    23) As statistics can often be presented in a lazy fashion, for example the Republic of Ireland has 4 million people and is a Catholic country, therefore there are 4 million Catholics in Ireland, what do you estimate the true world population of atheists to be? 

    24) How do we know how to do the right things?

    25) Statistically, the odds against the universe appearing how it does today must be enormous, vastly improbable, and statistically negligible. However, through observation we can see that it does exists in it’s current form. Are these odds not about the same for that of  a creator existing?

    26) Is the subject of philosophy obsolete?

    • Mr Z

      Grow up. Do some research on your own. He has answered some of these questions already. Some of your short list of questions are simply stupid and there are many refutations of them available to you on the Internet. Why ask them? Perhaps you ask because you are ignorant? That’s not a good excuse. Perhaps you ask because you have an agenda? That’s not moral. Perhaps you ask them because you want to lead the conversation away from truth? That’s probably more the case. In any case, you are asking stupid questions. They are stupid because you didn’t bother to research. If you did do any research and asked them anyway they are still stupid questions. If you don’t understand why I would say that then you are well matched to the questions. Leading questions are stupid. Grow up.

      • Musicdesign

        Thanks for the reply Mr Z. I’m sorry you didn’t like my questions and I’m sure you are right, many of them must have been asked before.
        My main reason for asking them was indeed out of ignorance, but I have always considered that the best reason to ask a question.
        I’ll try to do better next time.
        Thanks again.
        Steve

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FXEFIE2LGYHO3PY7J2FKJRGKT4 Bribase

    Two questions, one taxing and one fun.

    How important do you think philosophy of science is when considering the questions of our origins and the existence of a god or gods? Do we need it to qualify the foundations, methods and the implications of scientific discovery? What do you think is the value of philosophy overall?

    Question 2:

    What is your favourite animal?

    I’ve always wanted to know!

  • Magic of Reality
  • cpstrehl

    After writing a book on “the greatest show on earth” you are now coming out with a new book “the magic of reality”. – “magic” and “reality” at first sight should not fit together, especially for a scientist who seeks to understand and not just sit down end enjoy the play. By just reading these titles one might wonder if you are in fact seeking to enter the broadway, not the class rooms. So, how does it come that your new book holds this title: “the magic of reality” and not the other way around “the reality of magic”?

  • Anonymous

    I’d like Dr. Dawkins to summarize the issues around “proving” universal negatives (“There exists no god with such and such characteristics” in comparison to “There exists no extraterrestrial life.”)  It seems that common-sensical “proof” entails both inductive reasoning as well as existing related information (e.g., the vastness of the universe).

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PYUFFOYDDOVHOF75JK2UNOQA5A Gareth

    Which historical naysayer has done the most to stifle scientific progress? I’m guessing  Richard Owen would feature quite highly, but I think it would be interesting to study the motivations of these immoveable rocks of dogma. Most were probably motivated by self interest and the preservation of their own standing.

  • Frendyjerit

    Do you think the “religion” meme will die out eventually? It so tiresome!

  • Big Mac

    Ask him why he is such a tremendous douche

  • Garrett

    A large percentage of atheists hold the view that a historical Jesus probably didn’t exist, and is instead a combination of other mythical messiah stories of the time.

    As far as I know, there are no contemporaneous accounts of his life, and no actual writings from Jesus.  The best we have is writings 70+ years after his supposed death.

    Richard has claimed several times that Jesus “almost certainly did exist”.  I’ve always wondered what his evidence was for this claim.

  • Erin7654321

    My son is 4 and extremely credulous, as is apparently normal.

    Questions:
    What age group of child is the book aimed at? 

    What is his experience presenting critical thinking to children? (creationists don’t count) 

    How would he recommend broaching the subject of critical thinking to an imaginative child who believes that every good story MUST be true?  At young ages, they seem to believe their thoughts control reality…

    How does he differentiate between presenting critical thinking to those children who have and have not had superstitious indoctrination?  As others have pointed out, belief in Santa Clause is common and widely considered harmless.  Is there a different (softer?) approach for those children who believe in various forms of woo?

    How would he recommending handling emotional outbursts in children?  For example, many might consider it rude to tell a child that Santa doesn’t exist, making them cry.

    Oh, and because it’s Dawkins:  How do you know this?

  • Miss Percival

    What’s your favorite song?

    (Please forgive me, I haven’t read Dr. Dawkins’ entire corpus, where he may have discussed this elsewhere, and I certainly realize this falls entirely within the teen-fandom sphere of interest, and thus may be considered puerile, at best, but I’m interested in the man, and I’d like to know.)

    I’ll accept favorite musicians and/or composers as well.  But I like to think that after a very long day of fending off his detractors, he might come home, pour a drink, and listen to something.  I’m curious to know what it is.

    Thanks very much,

    Miss Percival
    San Francisco, CA USA

  • Brian Macker

    Dr. Dawkins,   What exactly did you mean when you said that elevator guy didn’t do anything wrong?

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  • James Williams

    Although I am in total agreement with Richards stance on religion could you ask him whether he would ever consider debating climate change with deniers and so called skeptics. I think it would make good tv. And it would not be far removed from the structure of his religious debates.. There is a correlation, for instance creationists and climate deniers have very similar traits. Neither group research the “peer reviewed” empirical evidence, they cherry pick the information that supports their claims whilst ignoring the overwhelming data that contradicts them. This is the most urgent problem mankind has ever had to face and will be even more significant than the damage that religion could ever cause and that’s saying something. The spread of misinformation convinces the public to do nothing to reduce their carbon footprint. I think Richard with maybe a few climate scientists could make all the difference.

    Kind Regards

    James Williams

  • Plalonde

    Question for Mr. Dawkins: Shockingly high percentages of people still believe in angels, homeopathy, astrology, fairies, the supernatural etc. etc. ad nauseam and no matter how much evidence and reason you throw at people, they insist on these ridiculous beliefs. How do you guard against getting completely discouraged? Where do you find the courage to continue this vital campaign of yours. 

  • Nader Sallam

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I have two questions for Professor Dawkins,
    1) Professor Dawkins, in your book “The God Delusion”, you referred to interesting studies that basically showed that the higher one’s education the less one is likely to be religious. I am a scientist myself and I work with many scientists who are very religious, and in fact one of our most imminent scientists is also a pastor (he is a plant pathologist by the way). I am not disputing the results of these studies but my question is: what in your opinion would be the evolutionary reason for the human mind to be capable of holding contradicting beliefs. In other words, how do you explain the fact that some of the smartest scientists in this world are also capable of accepting illogical things as fact?
    2) In a TV interview with Ben Stein you seemed to have accepted the theory that a higher being may have designed life as we know it and seeded this planet with it. Would I be correct to assume that this does contradict what you have said in “River Out of Eden”, in that the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, etc.).
     
    Many thanks,
    Nader Sallam
    Australia

  • Carmine Fragione

    Why is it “Elegant” for Evolution to do horrible things to people, but if the same processes were ascribed to God, then the switch from neutrality to criticism ?

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Evolution doesn’t make claims of benevolence. It isn’t controlled, it has no guidance, it is merely an inescapable process, highly comparable to water taking the path of least resistance.

      You might as well ask why a hawk can look elegant capturing its prey but a human does not when he clubs animals to death for fun.

      (Oh, this page is almost two years old. Methinks the deadline has passed.)

    • RobMcCune

      Bad things cause evolution to happen, god causes bad things to happen. See the difference?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Such an elegant description!


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