Jon Stewart’s Extended Interview with Richard Dawkins

In case you missed it, here’s the extended interview with Richard Dawkins from last night’s episode of The Daily Show.

Part One aired on TV (and my response is here), Parts Two and Three are only online.

There’s an awkward moment near the middle of Part Two when Stewart asks Dawkins where he goes where he dies. Dawkins hesitates and Stewart takes the opportunity to chime in, “So you don’t know.” Dawkins eventually responds, but it’s disappointing he didn’t have a pithy one-liner ready to go for that.

Love the exchange around the 4:45 mark of Part Three :) Though, right after that, Stewart kind of catches him when he gets Dawkins to admit that all “-isms” are bad no matter what. (Atheism, too?)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Libby

    Interesting. Well, Dawkins has never come across (at least to me) as being as aggressive and in-your-face as Hitch was. So maybe that explains why no pithy one-liner.

    • Spuddie

      I am still in awe he is married to a fondly remembered Dr. Who companion introduced by Douglas Adams.

  • NotThatGreg

    Viewable in Canada sometime next week on a different site,. :-(

  • HollowGolem

    Dawkins’ point about self-made morality is excessively important, and one I wish more humanists stressed. If we allow those big questions of ethics to be decided for us by others, rather than based on our own first-principles, we can easily be made, through our own laziness or through the machinations of those we allow to make such decisions for us, to do unethical things.

    • Daniel Crimmins

      Source: Germany circa 1930-1945.

      • JT Molloy

        The source for that was Christianity^

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    My atheism isn’t an -ism!

  • Bitter Lizard

    A lack of an “ism” is not an “ism”. If every “ism” you lacked was an “ism” itself, the number of “isms” would remain constant no matter what.

  • rabenatz

    I’m kind of shocked how out of his depth Jon Steward seemed to be. Some interesting questions, but he actually reverted to religious apologetics at some points. I guess reading brilliant lines written by a whole team of talented writers off the telepromter and conducting a free interview with an intellectual who couldn’t care less about being p.c. about cutting faith/theism some slack are two entirely different things.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Where do atheists go when we die? Depends where they keep their sense of identity.

    The basic cellular components decay, becoming food for the bacteria who really are in charge of this planet. If they’ve had children, partial copies of their genetic pattern persist in the human genome. If they’ve ever bothered to think and share the notions in speech or writing, their ideas may persist as part of humanity’s collective memory, in the memories of others, libraries, the Internet, and so on.

    Cue digression to the Riddle of the Ship of Theseus….

    • yellow5

      I’m going to go live on a farm upstate, with my old dog and all my hamsters.

    • TychaBrahe

      A man of Dawkins age and resources should have a definite plan.

      Me, I’m going to the anatomy lab at University of Illinois medical school in honor of my stepfather, who graduated from there. That’s assuming I’m still living locally when I stop living. Mom and Dad went to Temple and Women’s Med (now Drexel) but I can’t see myself dying in Pennsylvania.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I’m thinking either natural burial (wooden coffin, etc) or cremation and scattering of ashes as fertilizer. I hadn’t given much thought to donating my body to science, but it’s a good one.

        Whatever happens, I’ll want to donate as many organs as I can to people who need them. Hopefully however I die makes that possible.

  • Dan Weeks

    I’m very surprised at how much of an apologist Stewart seems in this interview. But then again, it’s not unlike the majority of people I talk to who simply don’t spend a lot of time really thinking about it. It’s the “can’t we all just get along since we’re all the same” policy. It’s well intentioned, but completely degrades the issue.

    I didn’t see the quote where Dawkins said that “all -isms are bad.” He more or less agreed that the same level of non-evidence based faith occurs in things like patriotism, absolutism, etc. I’m sure there’s some of that kind of faith in atheism, but I’d wager it’s in a minority of atheists who really don’t understand science or what atheism really entails. Atheism, by definition, is an active rejection of this kind of faith, which Dawkins did point out.

    • rabenatz

      Well, Stewart kind of threw the -ism thing in there and RD politely mumbled “yes” without having the chance to discuss it any further. Lots of attempts by Stewart to lay words into RD’s month. Very odd I have to say. I didn’t knew this side of Stewart. But also interesting to see a usually sceptical and intelligent man resort to apologetics, some of them the same lame stuff that JD must have heard a thousands times before.

      • RichardSRussell

        And by “JD” I’m sure you meant “RD”.

        I recently did something much like this with the jersey number for a Green Bay Packer that I knew like the back of my hand; just a temporary mind-o but kinda embarrassing.

        • rabenatz

          LOL Ops! The brain, it can be so persky at times. I think this might have been a fusion of Jon and Dawkins. Maybe I should edit it to avoid confusion.

  • JT Rager

    Atheism isn’t really an ism either. It’s the state of not being a particular “ism”, being “theism”

    :p

    • Ann Onymous

      True. We shouldn’t have to have a word for it, in the same way we lack a word for disbelievers in the Invisible Pink Unicorn; but theism is so amazingly common that we’ve got to define ourselves in terms of our lack.

  • toth

    For all his strengths, Stewart has always been pretty shitty about atheism. I’m not particularly surprised, although I am disappointed.

    • Libby

      He’s a Jew, is he not?

      • toth

        Umm…I guess, ethnically, anyway. What’s your point?

    • Leo Buzalsky

      Just goes to show that religion, as Tracie Harris says, has the best PR machine ever. Even people who do not seem religious themselves have been convinced that religion is an overall good.

  • M. Elaine

    I wanted to share with my husband that segment in part 3 where Stewart asks Dawkins if he wants to get high later. Imagine my surprise when the timestamp for the segment was 4:20.

  • LesterBallard

    He should have said something like, “I’m not entirely sure, Jon, but as far as I know, I’ll just be dead. What I do know is that I won’t oppress or murder anyone over the issue.”

  • Infidel Poetry

    I’m kind of amazed that Stewart’s science and religion inquiries are so naïve. Sure he’s always exhibited this, and his thinking (or lack thereof) on these matters are unfortunately not unique, but it still puzzles me that a relatively smart person (certainly smarter than myself) needs to believe that “we go somewhere when we die.”

    On “isms.” Yeah, too many people like to say they don’t like any “isms” but not all “isms” are inherently bad (humanism) and of course just because you may not have a label for your ideology (usually because it’s normalized through society), doesn’t mean you don’t subscribe to one or more.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    In reply to Jon asking about where we go when we die, I was glad to hear Richard slip in the concept of when in our history of ancestors did anyone start “going” anywhere? Jon did not seem to catch that so much, but it is in the extended web interview that others will. The matching part about the origin of our first person subjectivity during personal development did not make it in, although I noticed that Richard did make a try when the discussion went to the origin of life itself.

    • Patrick Dunn

      That’s a really interesting point that I hadn’t thought of, though I’m not in the habit of thinking so much about things I don’t believe. I haven’t watched the video yet, but that could be a very good rejoinder to that particular question, though it assumes an acceptance of evolution, which the questioner may not share. Is there a Homo habilis section of Heaven?

      And another rejoinder might be, where do we “go” when we sleep?

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        Thanks, Patrick. So often we are faced with arguments where we just can’t make progress because the question assumes unknowables. However, the common ancestry of all living things is demonstrable, even if a specific mechanism of Evolution is not. Common ancestry is all you need to start the question of the origin of consciousness, or the “soul” or the idea of some kind of continuance post mortem. Was there ever one of our ancestors who “went somewhere” after death, but whose parents did not?

        P.S. I have written a piece about continuance here.

  • RichardSRussell

    I always loved Herb Silverman’s stock response to the “Where do you go when you die?” question: “I’m going to go where my dear old Jewish mother always wanted me to go: to medical school.”

  • Persephone

    Ah great. Now I have to stop coming to this blog for a few days, long enough for this article to scroll off the front page. Auto-playing video annoys me about as much as when I snag my earbuds’ cord on something and they are forcefully yanked from my ears.

    Hemant, please put Daily Show videos behind the cut.

  • Donovan W Baker

    I loved the entire thing, because it was a great and fun discussion. I don’t care if someone says something that may not be true by accident. I don’t think any of us really think he meant all “-isms” are bad. We all say things we didn’t mean or they got said in the wrong way. I loved that John really enjoyed himself and I felt the whole thing was very playful and entertaining. But never stop pointing out the “oops” like this Hemant. We love you for that.

  • Corey Robey

    I wish Dawkins had challenged Jon to name ONE religion that is “not coercive in any way.” What a joke!

  • Ajax Blackburn

    Jon: You don’t know, ” disappointing, Dawkins, didn’t have a pithy one-liner ready to go for that.” paraphrased.
    Agreed, after all Dawkins is British. Haven’t they all the wit as all Americans have the Jebus!

  • scroogleu

    It makes me worry when I see Dawkins choke like this, because he’s been doing that a lot recently! If he were Hitch-slap, he may have responded with something like “I think you know what a loaded question that one is! It’s based on the premise that I believe in any life after death, and you would know that premise is false! In all likelihood, being dead means you are truly dead, and that means I won’t be at all, therefore I sure couldn’t go anywhere! Because I’ll really be dead, I will be incapable of any suffering, incapable of any regrets, and incapable of giving a fuck!

  • DJ

    Didn’t see that coming. The TV interview made Stewart seem more intelligent than these stereotypical questions in the extended one do.

    I don’t have a pithy one-liner, but I’d probably say something like: I don’t think I go anywhere when I die, I cease to be. However, I also accept that and feel it is more important to worry about where I go when I’m alive.


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