Richard Dawkins: ‘Who Cares About Creationists? They Don’t Know Anything’

Bill Nye, eat your heart out.

CNN has an interview with Richard Dawkins in which he elaborates on the importance and truth of evolution. He holds nothing back and he’s not in the habit of trying to be politically correct when it comes to science education. So this is fun to watch :)

How do you think evolution should be taught to children?

You can’t even begin to understand biology, you can’t understand life, unless you understand what it’s all there for, how it arose – and that means evolution. So I would teach evolution very early in childhood. I don’t think it’s all that difficult to do. It’s a very simple idea. One could do it with the aid of computer games and things like that.

I think it needs serious attention, that children should be taught where they come from, what life is all about, how it started, why it’s there, why there’s such diversity of it, why it looks designed. These are all things that can easily be explained to a pretty young child. I’d start at the age of about 7 or 8.

There’s only one game in town as far as serious science is concerned. It’s not that there are two different theories. No serious scientist doubts that we are cousins of gorillas, we are cousins of monkeys, we are cousins of snails, we are cousins of earthworms. We have shared ancestors with all animals and all plants. There is no serious scientist who doubts that evolution is a fact.

(Thanks to Richard for the link!)

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.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I saw that when it posted yesterday….the comments were, as usual, just sad.

  • Blacksheep

    Richard knows “What life is all here for” and “what life is all about”?

    • Glasofruix

      And the right answer according to bible thumpers would be “to serve the insecure bearded  sociopathic dude in the sky”? Please, feel free to enlighten us.

      • Blacksheep

        Still with the disrespectful questions, huh Glasofruix? Why is that? 

        • Bender

          Because religious arguments deserve no respect, obviously.

          • Blacksheep

            Wait – I’m beginning to see the light – maybe we are animals after all!

            • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

              Now you’re getting it! Yes, we are animals. So?

              • Agnostic

                Since you think you are an animal, you should be treated like one.

                • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

                  Can you really be that much of an ignoramus?

                • RobMcCune

                  You attribute that to ignorance and not malice?

                • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

                  Animal – n. A living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli

                  You were saying?

                • TiltedHorizon

                  So does this make you a vegetable or mineral?

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  If you find the idea disturbing, then perhaps you should question whether or not you are a mammal.  And if not, then what is the alternative?

                • usclat

                  Here you are again. Agnostic you are a fucking moron! How do YOU treat animals? Do you have some evidence that we (humans) are not primates? No, you don’t. But I’ll bet you believe that you were created in the image of a myth. Right? Oh, not a myth? Prove it!

        • Glasofruix

          Disrespectful to whom exactly? I do not think that the imaginary god of the bible merits ANY kind of respect.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Only realize that your desire for something doesn’t make it exist (nor lack of desire make it not exist).  Maybe there is a ‘for’, but maybe there isn’t.

      • Blacksheep

        I agree – maybe there is and maybe there isn’t (Wait – sounds like pascal’s wager – a banned term on FA:)!

        But the statement that he wants to teach kids “What life is about” goes beyond science into the realm of religion, and therefore is proselytizing. 
        Schools should teach up to date science, but not claim that it explains “why we’re here”, etc. 

        • Geoffreygriffard

          He’s not pontificating on the existential of “what life is all about.”  He’s stating fact about the biological imperative of what life is and how it continues.  There’s a stark logical and scientific difference.

          • Brian Pansky

             The confusion comes from the different uses of the word “life”

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivocation#Semantic_shift

            One usage, which blacksheep is using, has to do with human experience.

            The one that dawkins is using refers to living organisms, such as bacteria or sheep.

        • C Peterson

          It is perfectly possible to use modern biology to explain why we are here. There’s no need for that to be a philosophical question.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I had only watched the video.  So you’re talking about

          I think it needs serious attention, that children should be taught where they come from, what life is all about, how it started, why it’s there, why there’s such diversity of it, why it looks designed.

          I suspect given a chance he might re-word “why it’s there”. He’s certainly anti-theistic, but he is also strongly opposed to indoctrinating children with anything, including atheism.

          • Blacksheep

            I agree, I suspect you’re right.
            It’s the “why” that gets tricky for me – and also the “What life is all about.”But when speaking, (like in the video) I know it’s hard to have a post mortem done on every word you say.

            • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

              Blacksheep I hope you come back to read this.

              As Brian Pansky put it so well, your question has to do with human experience, not biological life. Science tells us nothing (at this stage) about the purpose for existence other than “we don’t know”, and in the absence of evidence it is _reasonable_to_assume_ that there IS no purpose.

              Life’s purpose is to procreate and pass on the genes. That’s not the same as the purpose of subjective human existence. I understand that philosophers struggle with this question.

              Personally, I have no idea what the purpose is. I don’t believe in a god of any sort, and I see no evidence for an afterlife, but I think it would be mighty cool if there was some form of consciousness that continues after death. I’m not banking on it though. I just can’t bring myself to believe in made-up-stories that have been co-opted by misogynists and bigots.

              • Jim_Lahey

                Well put! I think too much stock is put on the philisophical arguments. I think some ideas spawned of philosophy have sparked some great science, but science would eventually get there on its own. We need to embrace what we know, and keep searching for what we dont!

                cheers!

    • C Peterson

      Sure. There’s no mystery. Life is here for itself- it’s a self-sustaining system. And it’s all about propagating itself.

    • Brian Pansky

       look, bacteria are “life.”

      I think what you are trying to say is that the meaning of HUMAN conscious experience is less obvious.  Our minds work with narratives, and we would like that narrative to make sense to us.  But our minds are not what he means by “life” any more than our intestines are what he means by “life”.

      He means living organisms.

    • nakedanthropologist

      In a word – yes.  We all know why we’re here, and what its all about.  You see, when a mommy and daddy want a baby, the decide to have unprotected sex or go to a fertility clinic.  Life is all about what we experience and do as we interact with the environments around us.  Simple questions = simple answers.

    • Sven

      Dawkins is talking about creationism in particular and not religion as a whole.  Your questions here are completely irrelevant to the point.  They’re red herrings.

      Creationism is a religious pseudo-scientific hypothesis that tries to explain the origin of modern life.  It makes no claims or assumptions about “what life is here for” or “what life is all about”, only “where life came from”.

      Dawkins is completely right about the subject at hand, and you are trying to brush it off and change the subject.

  • rhodent

    Who cares about creationists?  Well, that’s an easy one to answer: Anyone who is worried about the state of education and lives in an area where these nincompoops have political power, which (sadly) is many places in the Unites States of America.

  • Tom_Nightingale

    “Just read Darwin” sounds like such a great cure-all, but my Average Joe neighbor can’t. He’s not privileged enough to have received an education that would let him comprehend what is written in The Origin of Species.  And for that I think Dawkins is losing his relevancy to the atheist movement.  There are so many people we need to convince of our position’s veracity who can’t relate to or follow Dawkins’ argument.  These people need to have social/cultural education to get to the point where they can comprehend Darwin’s relatively high-level case for evolution.  Dawkins has to learn that not everyone had their dad to introduce them to Darwinism at 10 years of age, and that itself is an issue he should be lampooning more.  We need atheists who are concerned with social justice and other issues that prevent most of these confused people from every really learning science!  Dawkins does some outreach, but he could really benefit us more if he learned to advocate on issues besides the same ones he continuously repeats himself on…

    • C Peterson

      While I agree with much of your argument, I do take exception to “We need atheists who are concerned with social justice and other issues
      that prevent most of these confused people from every really learning
      science!”

      Teaching evolution is most certainly not an atheist issue. Evolution is not an atheist belief. Evolution does not stand at odds with theism at all, or with most religion. I think it is important that this not be framed in any way as an atheist matter, but rather as a simple matter of the importance of properly teaching science- something that should not be connected with religion or non-religion at all. (That’s not to say that atheists wouldn’t be disproportionately represented in any effort to improve science education, but they should be careful not to make a point of their atheism, since it isn’t relevant and it potentially polarizing.)

      • Tom_Nightingale

        Yet atheism is such a rallying point, it’s mere association with scientifically minded people should be exploited for our needs.  It’s worth compromising definition for the sake of exposure.  Let the purists dwell on the details, atheists are now organized enough to shrug off those who would nit pick and spin some conspiracy into an openly atheist-led science literacy movement.  Others try to polarize us regardless!

        • C Peterson

          I don’t see atheism as a rallying point. I don’t see any significant atheist organization.

          • Tom_Nightingale

            Not with an attitude like that will you ever see atheism as a rallying point nor a significant atheist organization.  Why shouldn’t it be a rallying point, it’s obviously brought you here, has it not?  Shouldn’t there be a significant atheist organization?  Without organization, such great potential for removing religious organization’s influences in our world will be squandered.  I feel it already is.  Like it or not, the word “atheism” gathers people like ourselves together.  It’s foolish to not make use of that, as it could be used to combat the tyranny of religion

            • C Peterson

              Atheism certainly hasn’t brought me here. I was attracted to this site mainly because of secularism issues, and secondarily because Hemant is a teacher, and as an educator myself, I’m interested in the overlap between education and some of the issues discussed here.

              As I said, I don’t see atheism something capable of rallying around. I’m opposed to organizations that claim to be based on atheism. I do see great potential for anti-theist organizations to reduce the impact of religion on the word, but anti-theism isn’t atheism.

              It is rationalism, skepticism, and secularism that all are well positioned to address most of the ills that religion creates, and it is organizations and movements based around those things that I support.

    • Glasofruix

      So having a basic education is now a privilege, wow…

      • amycas

         Yes, most people in the world do not have a basic education. Only a plurality (not a majority) of people in the world are literate in some form or another. Growing up in a country that provides and allows you to obtain a basic education is a privilege. I’m privileged for having had access to public education (that includes libraries and public funds for universities). If you had access to that, then you are privileged too. It’s not an insult, just an observation.

        • Blah

          ^This. So much this

    • Guest.

       ”We need atheists who are concerned with social justice and other issues
      that prevent most of these confused people from every really learning
      science!”

      non-sequitur.  Learning social justice is not a prereq for science.  Math and reasoning are.  I’m all for having separate classes on comparative religion or a civics series that includes different groups being given 2 week segments on what their communities are like and how to ‘live the good life’.  Both routes have enough ‘umbrella’ to include social justice issues.  I’m suggesting the shrouding to limit blow back and since I think ideas on how to live are best presented as examples from many different groups (but especially the ones otherwise silenced or marginalized).

      • Tom_Nightingale

        I’ll admit it was a stretch wording this, but I just wanted to hit on my (and  many other’s) observation that our atheist figureheads’ social intelligence is lacking.  The issue of science literacy is not just one of intelligence, it’s a social issue too.

    • ortcutt

       It’s actually a really simple argument.  Evolution by natural selection isn’t Quantum Electrodynamics.  It’s something that everyone of average intelligence can understand.  There are any number of good video explanations for people who can’t maintain their concentration long enough to read something.  The reason people don’t understand evolution isn’t that they can’t understand it, it’s because they actively resist understanding it.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Dear Mr. Dawkins: the universerve thanks you!

    • Agnostic

      His universe is created by his thoughts. Anyone who cannot see the difference between mutation and evolution has to be extremely creative.

  • http://bunnystuff.wordpress.com/ Jaimie

    Why do people miss the essential point with Creationists? They don’t care about facts. You can’t persuade them with scientific analysis. They will only dig their heels in farther. The only thing we can really do is to make sure they do not have power over public policy. Only then can we have the luxury to not care about what they think.

    • JudeLawGuardian

      Unfortunately, if they win the White House, that’s exactly what’s gonna’ happen. We will then become a theocracy. Time to move to Canada…

      • JP

        Canada isn’t without it’s creationists. Stockwell Day, a former MP, expressed his belief that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. He was then mocked by pretty much everyone. When the media would cover his campaign, they would whistle the Flinstones theme song.

        • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

          Right, that’s because there’s very little tolerance among Canadians as a whole for religiosity in our federal politics. Going on about creationism or any of the right-wing religious tropes is a great way of being labelled a batshit wingnut.

      • Agnostic

        Are you sure Canada wants you?

  • kaydenpat

    I went to Christian school between grades 3-9.  That is the only place I could understand creationism being taught.  I don’t understand why creationism, which is based on the Bible, is taught in public schools.  Seems more like a political power play (as in the US has a vocal Christian Rightwing) than a desire to teach science. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    What kids need is critical thinking skills and an understanding of social pressure. With solid ability to tell the difference between fantasy and fiction and an understanding of the social pressures which keep them confined in their religion, they should be equipped with the needed tools to break free.

    I agree with other posters – the theists were indoctrinated. I have tried arguing facts with many – they don’t get it.