Richard Dawkins, welcome to the Boing Boing guestblog!


I am delighted to announce that Richard Dawkins will be joining us here on Boing Boing for a periodic series of guest blog posts. He is an evolutionary biologist and former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He loves science, and is not much of a fan of religion.

Among his books are The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ancestor's Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving the Rainbow, and The God Delusion.

If you have questions or topics you'd like to see him address when he joins us here for a guest post, please suggest them in the comments!


  1. Question to Dawkins: I hope this isn’t too sensitive a topic… Have you ever been threatened by any religious nuts?

    1. Have you ever been threatened by any religious nuts?

      Having never met or spoken to Richard Dawkins, I can guarantee that the answer to be “Yes”.

      The guestblogs are definitely going to be a highlight of the christmas season. :-)

  2. Awesome! I’m excited to hear what he has to say, and I’m excited BoingBoing is taking the step of inviting someone who is partisan in these debates.

    1. Now is a good time for me to share that inviting a given guest doesn’t mean every single person who is a BB contributor agrees with every single one of those beliefs. That applies to all of our guestbloggers!

      Dawkins is intelligent, important, and one of the great minds of our time.

      I, and we, may or may not agree with everything he has written in his extensive body of work. That’s not the point of Boing Boing.

      I welcome the debate and diversity of opinion within our community of contributors and readers.

      Now that that’s out of the way: I’m a huge fan of his, and this is just the coolest thing ever.

      1. I welcome the debate and diversity of opinion within our community of contributors and readers.

        LET’S FIGHT!

        [just kidding]

      1. “Not an accident?!”

        Xeni, are you perhaps suggesting that the timing of Doctor Richard Dawkins’ guest blogging was… Intelligent Design?

  3. Question to Dawkins: In your picture at the top of this boing boing post, you appear a little perturbed. Are you looking at a person with a “Jesus is my Homeboy” tee shirt in Utah?

  4. For Mr. Dawkins:

    There are a variety of philosophy students and philosophers who feel that you are marketing a kind of empty, reactionary anti-theism, rather than atheism for its own sake on its own merits. How do you respond to these critics?

    Also: Thank You, The God Delusion cemented in clear language for me why I find atheism to be appropriate.

    1. Empty and reactionary anti-theism? He has written eloquently about the wonder to be found in the natural world (i.e. reality), so the empty charge falls flat. Being reactionary is true, but that’s simply descriptive. Without theism, there’s no need for atheism. Atheism’s “merits” are simply in pointing out the lack of merit in religious claims.

  5. I’ve always wondered what the real key to weening humanity off of religion would/could be – and if it would be possible to keep new belief systems at bay. It seems some people want to just give in to belief of any kind, and without traditional religion that would become something moderately less silly; like American Idol. Is it just a matter of education, or is there something more inherent in humanity where people just want to give in a drink the Kool-aide, whether that be religion or the latest Apple product? Are we doomed to an existence with few leaders as massive drones of followers?

  6. I have a question that I’ve been meaning to ask for some time. A big problem that religious leaders have had to address since the dawn of time is that of motivating people to do right over wrong. It’s one thing to speak of turning a cheek, but entirely another to show others the universal applicability of this ethic, even when those others hear the message every week or every day. As religious thought enters yet another millennium, what advice would you have for these leaders? Do you think that such an approach is folly? What atheistic mechanisms might one day exist that could solve this problem better than the mechanisms of today?

  7. Maybe it’d be cool to hear his thoughts on non-religious topics for a change. I for one would like to hear his view on other areas. What research excites him at the moment? Where is science leading us as a species? Is science (through our study of the universe) itself changing the evolution of our species?

    Seeing answers to those kinds of questions would be cool. I think we all are pretty familiar with his theological views (or lack thereof)

  8. Here’s the question I’ve always wanted to ask Dawkins, though I doubt he’d have much to say about it.

    1. The universe is big, right? (300 Septillion stars at last count). It’s also old, right? (13.7e9 years)
    2. In a universe of this size and age, there has to have been alien species that developed their technology millions of years past the point our planet is at, right?
    3. There may be no upper limit on technological progress, meaning said aliens may have manipulated fundamental constants of physics and spacetime, and other things.
    4. Does it not make sense, then, to consider that such alien intelligences are not meaningfully different from some human concepts of “God”, or that there is at least one or two civilizations that match this criteria?

  9. I’d like to hear his thoughts about the microbes found at Mono Lake (the ones in the news recently, that use arsenic in place of phosphorus in their DNA, purportedly).

  10. Question to Dawkins: As the unicorn chaser to the previous post regarding the arrest of Julian Assange… What’s your opinion on recent developments with Wikileaks ‘a-leaking?

  11. Richard Dawkings is one of the smartest and most interesting people around. Everyone should read his books!

  12. Richard,
    How many Human like species do you think evolved, and now no longer exist? Do you think we will find more surprises like the Homo floresiensis?

  13. Question for Dr. Dawkins,

    I have great respect for you and your field. While I don’t always agree with what you write or your views, I do see what you strive to do. I have two questions for you:

    1) Have you personally investigated religions with purpose as (to my understanding) your colleague and fellow atheistic proponent Dr. Sam Harris has done?

    2) With such a firm belief in science and disregard for anything spiritual, what is your take on free will? Are our actions dictated solely by physical (chemical, biological, etc) interactions in our brains and in our bodies? If so, are we, for lack of a better term, pre-destined to do what we do by the laws of physics? (I do understand that quantum mechanics holds a certain amount of uncertainty, but that resides on the sub-atomic level and when going out to multiples of particles, as would be necessary for a chemical interaction in the body/brain, the uncertainty is removed. Or at least that is my understanding.)

    Dr. Dawkins, I look forward to your blog posts, as I’m sure they will be insightful to read.

    Thank you.

  14. Question for Mr. Dawkins:

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts about effectively convincing others of the inherent flaws in religious beliefs and the value of rational thinking. How do you tell whether someone is so dogmatic that they will never accept any possible alternative (rational) viewpoint and is even worth trying to talk to about such things without “poisoning the well” so to speak? And once you’ve identified such a person that may be worth enlightening, what arguments have you found to be most persuasive? What arguments have you found to be not particularly effective?

  15. I’m looking forward to Prof. Dawkins’ posts.
    I have a question I’ve always wanted to ask someone well versed
    in the arguments for/against the existence of God:

    Do any of the arguments for the existence of God specifically
    argue for monotheism? For example, when a creationist argues
    that the universe is so complex that an intelligent designer
    is necessary, how do they know that it’s just complex enough
    that exactly one God is sufficient? Are all such arguments
    for God in fact arguments for a pantheon of gods?

  16. Another question for mr Dawkins:
    Is the creation of an artwork something mystical, the birth of a meme, or perhaps the condensation of the artists experiences?
    I am looking forward on reading your view on this subject, if you find time.

    Thank you!

  17. Spiffy!

    As the US trends ever more anti-intellectual, do you worry about your personal safety while traveling within our borders?

    Do you think it’s possible that humans can adapt to the bulk of calories being obtained from foods that were not part of our prior evolution (ie – excess sugars, fats and salts)?

  18. Question to Prof. Dawkins:

    After years of campaigning for a more evidence-based approach to education & politics in the UK and abroad, how do you feel on hearing reports that, for example, today’s British Government proposes to reduce the requirements for scientific members on the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs? Do you agree with others that we are regressing from an era of scientific acceptance, and if so, can you see it turning around in the foreseeable future?

  19. “and is not much of a fan of religion.”

    When did Xeni start being understated? Why were we not notified?


    Welcome to yet another interesting guest blogger!

  20. Question : are you TRYING to make my life more difficult?

    I teach Biology (including Evolution) at a Church-affiliated college in the U.S. Midwest. I tell my students that a belief in the divine is not inherently incompatible with acceptance of evolution; natural science and theology are “Non-overlapping Magisteria” to quote the late great Dr. Gould.

    I know you are a good scientist. Why do you insist on misrepresnting what science can, and cannot, know? (Note to all: please don’t tell me “there’s no scientific evidence to prove God’s existence.” That’s not helpful; it also doesn’t allow one to conclude that God is a Delusion).

    1. @Issy “Question: Why are there not any life forms evolving?”
      There are, they all are
      “We have bacteria or amibas. Why do we not see the evolution?”
      We do see the evolution.
      One example is the peppered moth in england, which evolved to camouflage against the sooty buildings after the advent of coal power.

      You don’t see it on individual animals because evolution is the result of which animals live and die over hundreds of generations.

  21. I was massively bummed to wake up to the news of Assange’s arrest, but I smiled the instant I saw Dawkins on here! Sweet!! :D

  22. Questions:

    I half remember reading that religious people are more likely to be happier and live longer lives with better heath than non-religious people. Furthermore, huge majority of human population is religious.
    If these claims are true, do they not suggest that being religious is likely beneficial to individual or at least comorbid with many features that are beneficial?

    Why do atheist commit a lot of their attention to discussion about non-existence of supernatural beings worshipped in religions? Why not demand public attention to non-existence of e.g., UFOs and Santa?
    If this is because of (presumed) harmful influence of religion in society and/or individual’s life, why single out religion form all the moronic activities humans commonly engage (such as unsustainable political/economical/environmental practises or recreational consumption of toxic substances)?

    1. To the appropriately named Bloodboiler:

      I don’t presume to answer for Dr. Dawkins but I can answer for myself. You’re right, humans are predisposed toward believing in religion. That doesn’t mean religion is necessarily true. We are also predisposed toward enjoying the taste of sugar and carbohydrates, not because that’s the only way to sustain life but because that’s the diet we’ve evolved to seek. Do you think a vulture tastes carrion the same way we do? It’s all subjective.

      As for your second part, most atheists do not put forth a lot of effort into disproving religion. It’s easy to present the evidence and impossible to seal the deal: religion cannot be disproven because it includes its own escape clause, “because God can do anything.” While UFOs and Bigfoots… Bigfeet?… present a very similar problem, they aren’t exactly mainstream beliefs. Most people are already skeptics. There’s also a matter of motivation. Many atheists do not “attack” religion for the sake of attacking religion or being right. They do it because they see religion encroaching upon their lives. They see it forced into education, and limiting science.

      I believe that believers have every right to believe. I disagree that they are correct but also know very well that there are reasons to believe that transcend historical accuracy. That elusive “happiness” you mentioned, for instance. I am more than happy to leave the religious be, to believe as they please. All I ask is that they extend the same courtesy to non-believers. Particularly in regards to stem cells.

    2. Bloodboiler: Questions:

      …that religious people are more likely to be happier and live longer lives with better heath than non-religious people.

      If these claims are true, do they not suggest that being religious is likely beneficial to individual or at least comorbid with many features that are beneficial?

      No, what this shows is how unhappy we are, and how sickeningly stressful it is to be surrounded by a majority of religious weirdos.

      Why do atheist commit a lot of their attention to discussion about non-existence of supernatural beings worshipped in religions?

      Because, like you said: Furthermore, huge majority of human population is religious.

      Why not demand public attention to non-existence of e.g., UFOs and Santa?

      We do.
      But it’s not as important, because like you said: Furthermore, huge majority of human population is religious.

      If this is because of (presumed) harmful influence of religion in society and/or individual’s life, why single out religion form all the moronic activities humans commonly engage (such as unsustainable political/economical/environmental practises or recreational consumption of toxic substances)?

      We do NOT at all single out religion!
      It’s just that when we busy ourselves with issues like drug abuse or political/economical/environmental issues, the only giveaway to our being atheistic are reason and intelligence.

      Bloodboiler, try thinking harder, you had the answers.

  23. Professor Dawkins, as a non-conformist who seeks to avoid the limelight yet refuses to muffle my [non]belief despite being mired in regional fundamentalism, I cannot say how much I admire your courage and ability to withstand one of the most insidious institutions ever created by mankind.
    Kudos to you sir. You have been, and continue to be, an inspiration to me personally and a needed voice in a world which seems intent on spiraling toward a self-fulfilling vision of Armageddon.

  24. Dr. Dawkins,

    What is the simplest way for a layman to prove to himself that evolution is fact? As a non-scientist I do not have access to fossil records or a giraffe carcass to carry out my own experiments. Understand please that I believe in evolution, but would like to find a way to discover my own evidence.


    **Thanks for your work, I have loved reading your books.

    1. This is for Joe Kickass and Dr. Dawkins,
      To Richard Dawkins, I’m a great admirer of your work, and as a non-scientist, I think I actually have a pretty firm grasp on how evolution works, in large part, due to reading some of Richard Dawkins’ books, most notably, The Ancestor’s Tale.
      So My question/comment to Richard Dawkins, is when are we going to see one of those big BBC or PBS productions of The Ancestors Tale? I could imagine something akin to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, but dealing with evolution and biology. It would be pretty awesome.

      To Joe Kickass, I’m definitely NOT a biologist, but the way I have really decided on the fact of evolution, is by my own personal observation. I have read on the topic of evolution, but nothing seals the deal, like seeing some kind of connection with one’s own eyes.
      When you travel to new city always make a point to visit the natural history museum and/or zoo, and look and see the connections between different species of animals. Begin to observe the behaviors of different species. Once while travelling in Germany, we visited the Berlin Zoo, and their primate house is pretty fantastic. One need only look shortly at the different ape species, to realize how closely they, and we, are related.
      Look at the different types of whale fossils, their evolution is pretty clear. Look at all the different species of extinct elephants, and realize that the two surviving species of elephants, like us, are the last survivors of what has been a very long process.

      I look forward to reading whatever Dr. Dawkins will be posting at Boing Boing!

  25. Professor Dawkins:

    Thank you for blogging on boingboing and for your life’s work improving the public understanding of science.

    I was wondering if you had any commentary on the social role of secularism and faith, specifically as they relate to class? It seams to me that throughout Western history, the upper class were the biggest promoters of organized religious dogma and the power of the church, while workers often rebelled against both property owners and church. Mass working class movements opposed the oppressive irrationality of organized religion and promoted a new secular order. From the anti-clericalism of the French revolution to the American IWW’s biting satire of “pie in the sky” preachers, regular people fought the church only to be beaten down by upper class lead reactionary forces. The most intense example of this was probably the Spanish Civil War, where millions of peasants and industrial workers violently took property and power from the Catholic church and the capitalists, while the wealthy supported fascism and used conscripts and mercenaries to suppress the popular secular order and defeat the social revolution.

    Yet today the poor are the most ardent believers, and the most socially reactionary. In the USA, the least wealthy demographics, including Blacks, Latinos, and working class Whites, are the most faithful and the most willing to take away the rights of women, queers, and youth in the name of religion. Meanwhile, the higher income, highly educated upper-middle class professionals are the most secular and tolerant.

    Do you agree that a shift in the demographics of belief has occurred? If so, what is the cause?

    1. nope. His books piss me off. I’m an atheist, sure. I’m also a woman and he’s a little bit misogynist. The inherent sexism of evolutionary biology does him no favours. Much like anthropology, it’s a lot of suppositions about human behaviour based on the norms of the last two hundred years. Just because it’s true of the last 500 years, it doesn’t mean that men have been lazy jerks for all of evolutionary history.

  26. Hello, Mr. Dawkins. I’m a big fan.

    That said… could you please stop antagonizing the religious people? Please? You have become the face of atheism. The religious people hate you, and that means they hate me now too.

    I understand your frustration but they aren’t going to change their minds. Best we can do now is figure their resistance into our calculations and try to find a way to fix things whether they like it or not. Or at the very least, mitigate the damage.

    1. Maybe we can’t get a lot of older believers to question their beliefs, but I think atheists talking openly about religion is doing a lot for the younger generations that are more open to a debate.

  27. This is awesome. I’m so happy to see you here, Professor!

    Like others here and elsewhere, I’d like to say that The God Delusion finally gave me the courage and conviction to finally get off the fence and stop pretending to be religious. Your work has had a profound impact on me. Thank you, Sir!

  28. Dr. Dawkins

    When your very popular Atheist Movement becomes more organized, I assume you will take the role as leader. I wonder if you’ve given any thought to what you call yourself. Obviously the title best suited to you (Pope) will be taken, and I imagine that something as confrontational as “Anti-Pope”, is out. I personally like “Speaker” or “High-Doctor”. There are a lot of good choices, but I feel you should address this soon, you certainly don’t want members of your congregations deciding. Atheist fundamentalists aren’t really known for their imaginations, are they?

  29. Man, “The Selfish Gene” is what got me into biology in the first place instead of computers (although I eventually went back to software dev). Dr. Dawkins, you changed my entire life! I can’t believe he’s on BB :D

  30. Welcome Dr. Dawkins! I admire your work, particularly your science books.

    Some of the more mischievious mutants here will probably try to provoke you and I into a flamewar, but I suspect they’ll be bitterly disappointed.

  31. Professor Dawkins,

    There is something that I have been meaning to ask you, and here you are guest blogging on Boing Boing!

    My view is that scientists tend to become atheist mainly as a result of anti-essentialism. (By anti-essentialism I mean the point of view that God does not have to be part of a scientific hypothesis or explanation).

    I can accept both materialism and anti-essentialism, and I fully support people like yourself who fight against scientific creationism and other forms of pseudo-science.

    I would like it very much if you could elaborate more on the logic of completely rejecting God, the materialist stance that rejects any form of metaphysics (what could be attributed to the unexplainable, or more accurately the yet-to-be explained).

    My point being that we can for the purposes of science remove God from the equation, but it does not follow logically to reject the notion of a transcendent entity (cultural images of God notwithstanding).

  32. What a wonderful thing this is! Welcome Professor Dawkins!

    A topic I would like to see discussed is the possibility that theism and atheism are similar to sexual orientation, in that one feels correct to an individual and can’t really be changed/denied. We see people raised one way, who never feel comfortable with the answers they are given, until they eventually realize the source of the problem.

    It seems this would go a long way towards fostering understanding and respect on an individual level. (Of course, we still have to keep religion out of our laws.)

  33. Fantastic, Richard is one of my favorite authors.

    Definitely looking forward to whatever he he contributes here.

  34. GREAT!!!

    Question: Do you play videogames? What is your favorite game?

    Question: What do you think of the ideas on technology as a ‘living organism’?

    Good news everyone!

  35. A great holiday present for Boing Boing readers! I would like to see Dr. Dawkins address the importance of scepticism with regards to science and how critical a trait it is to instil in children at an early age. Also, how scepticism from a child tends to be categorized as defiance and discouraged, rather than celebrated and encouraged. Hot snot this will be fun!

  36. Welcome aboard, Richard Dawkins! As you can see from the comments here, we’re (mostly) glad to have you around. I’m not much of a firebrand on the debate of theism, but I do generally agree with your perspective on the matter.

    So here’s a subject I’d like addressed, and I feel it’s of the utmost importance and is something which only a man like Mr. Dawkins is capable of answering.

    Mr. Dawkins: don’t you just want to beat the tar out of somebody anytime they call you “Dick?” Especially if they’re not doing it to be rude, but seem to think it’s acceptable to call anybody named Richard by that name. What do they call a woman named Patricia? I’ve certainly never seen that name reduced to such quarterdeck language.

    Anyway, welcome aboard, and I look forward to your posts here (I see you’ve already done one).

  37. I would love to hear more from Professor Dawkins.

    My question would be: As we human species are “stuck” in a biological rut (in that we are not going to evolve significantly in the next 100 years), can we rely on technology (our cultural evolution) to replace biological imperatives. Seems we don’t just need more of us, rather fewer but better us? I always get stuck at a eugenics solution, which does not sit well with my ethics.


  38. Greeting Dr. Dawkins, I look forward to your writings here.

    As I understand it, the events related to abiogenesis that led to life on our planet was only possible due to the specific conditions that existed billions of years ago. Do you think it’s possible that very early abiogenesis events could occur naturally on our planet under conditions similar to what we have today? I understand that such an event could probably not lead to a separate “tree of life” from the one we have, I’m just curious if similar very early events could occur, but perhaps based on a different set of chemicals and reactions.

    And if you must write a post correcting a misunderstanding of the topic that make this a badly formed question, that would be just as interesting.

  39. Well, I’m not a fan of Mr. Dawkins (I think he’s entirely wrong about Christianity), but this is clearly an amazing coup for BB. Well done, good show, and all that.

  40. Dear Mr. Dawkins:

    Have you ever read Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and if so, what are your thoughts on it? Have certain cultures evolved past the need for mythology?

  41. I am not as familiar with Dr. Dawkins work as I could be, but my general impression is that I agree with his positions completely, if not his language, methods or confrontational approach. That’s OK, I don’t think that my approach is inherently any ‘better’ or ‘more correct’, although it generally is more polite. Mind you, my prime motivation is getting along with people, while he’s actually trying to get them to think.

    Every important subject needs its firebrands and lightning rods though, and I’m glad there are people like Dr. Dawkins who are willing to shout into the wind if perhaps it means that the future of our species will be a little less driven by fear and ignorance than it is at the moment. :-)

  42. Richard Dawkins is a god! I’d worship him, but I’m afraid that he’d prove that I don’t exist.

  43. This basically just made my day.
    Two of my three most favorite authors sharing a blog (my three favorite authors being Cory Doctorow, Richard Dawkins, and Douglas Adams)? *squee*

  44. Ahhh, Professor Dawkins! So cool that you’re here!

    Now that I’ve gotten my excessive fangirl-ing out of the way, I’d be curious to see a post on what you think is the most exciting research being done in evolutionary biology today.

  45. What makes an atheist any less deluded than a theist? Isn’t anyone other than an agnostic per se arrogant?

    1. This is a common misconception. Many of us label ourselves as atheists while we’re really agnostics. What many of us really consider ourselves are empiricists. We “believe” (I advocate using the word “understand” in place of “believe” in situations like this) that which there is empirical evidence for.

      We don’t believe in God because there’s no evidence for him, however, that doesn’t mean that we assume that there’s automatically a 0% chance that God exists. Sure, there’s a non-zero chance that God exists. After all, it’s pretty hard to disprove a concept like “God”. But we simultaneously see absolutely zero reasons why we should believe in God, and hence see absolutely no point in wasting time and energy worshiping something that probably doesn’t exist.

      Just like you don’t waste time worshiping the ancient Greco-Roman gods, the Norse gods, or any of the other likely thousands of Gods, Demi-Gods, and other fantastic deities and creatures conceived of in the history and fantasy of human civilization.

      I’ve always liked to respond with this phrase to monotheists who ask why I’m an atheist: We’re both atheists, I simply believe in one less God than you do.

      1. Sadly, these Christians don’t realize they worship a long dead god. My God killed the Christian god eons ago and spread his dismembered entrails across the Galaxy in glorious battle. Denounce your dead god. Worship the Cow God or be in Holy Manure.

          1. OH Hell, I forgot to thank the source for the image I linked to above.

            You didn’t forget; that was Cow Gawd screwing with your head.

  46. If you have questions or topics you’d like to see him address when he joins us here for a guest post, please suggest them in the comments!

    Crap, I thought he was going to answer some questions here. That’s it, I’m converting to Southern Baptist or something.

    [cow turns & stares at crucifix on wall for 10 minutes / starts drooling]

  47. Hi Dr Dawkins,
    I’ve always thought it a shame that your focus has shifted from the culturally meaningful (and positive, contributory) work you have done in genetics and their role in creating the complex living world we find ourselves in, and it goes without saying that your contribution of the concept of the meme has been instrumental in contemporary cultural practice.
    To argue with the religious about religion, by comparison, seems like a futile task. The religious can’t be convinced by careful arguments, even when they can comprehend them (which is part of the reason religious accounts of reality still attract adherents); and atheists already share your views. But what surprises me most is that, in thinking about refuting religion on logical grounds, you didn’t immediately come up against the logical double-bind that you can’t disprove the existence of God: you can only prove something that exists, or provide a better account than the concept you’re attempting to displace (which evolution, among other endeavours, does).
    One ‘Selfish Gene’ or ‘Extended Phenotype’ has a greater and more far reaching impact than the mountains of words in all your anti-religious tracts, and I’m sure your attention hasn’t been so completely diverted that you’ve stopped thinking about those things… can we have some more of those instead, please?

    1. Chaoskitten, you should read Dawkins recent magnum opus “The Greatest Show on Earth” published last year on the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s seminal book “On the Origin of Species”. “The Greatest Show on Earth” is an iron-clad, bullet-proof examination of the theory of evolution and selections of some of the most compelling evidence we have for it. It is required reading for anyone who is unaware of the evidence for evolution and/or is honestly on the fence about evolution. It is simply an incontrovertible and undeniable argument for evolution written in a format accessible to laymen.

      1. Hey Strabo, I’m all for evolution and have read extensively on it, I just think Richard Dawkins’ work in that area is much more fruitful than his refutations of religion. My main contention is that I don’t think further polarising a divisive and inherently unsolvable debate is the way to go – I’d rather see evolutionary theory compete and convince on its own grounds.

        Further than that, it’s a complex world we live in, and to me it seems like different worldviews interact almost like different species in an ecosystem – you need all of them to cover the breadth of possible interpretations. To say that one is exclusively correct and all the others can disappear is like saying you can run an ecosystem with only one species.

  48. Cowicide, search YouTube for Dawkins reading his hate mail. It’s pretty hilarious.

    By the way, I think I met your Cow God at the local Brazilian Steak House. His medium-rare Filet mignon tasted delicious.

  49. A couple of people have mentioned points like the one I’ve always wanted to ask him. I’ll try to state my questions in as direct a phrasing as possible, while remaining conceptually precise.

    The question, in brief, is: what’s your problem with God? Why, if not only to stoke up controversy and sell books, do you claim to be against ‘God’ in general, as opposed to just being against most religions’ conception thereof?

    And here’s the query at much greater length: As I see it, your real problem with theism comes from your loathing for the anti-evolutionism that’s typical of the Abrahamic religions. Up to this point, I’m completely in agreement – and for the most part I accept as truths about nature whatever the scientific consensus in the relevant field might be. But still it seems to me like there are two paths toward a belief in divinity which no scientifically-based argument can touch. I would be immensely curious to hear your views on these, since to me it seems your general critiques of theism fail to address them.

    The first is the path of total transcendence, or negative theology: God is a being ‘beyond being,’ beyond any finite reality or knowledge thereof, ‘existing’ in whatever gauzy sense is implied by one’s preferred metaphysics. This is both a real theological position (cf. Meister Eckhart) and a common defence of theism by religionists… the only problem being that most believers want their God to somehow intervene in our world. This hypothetical God simply doesn’t, in any way. ‘He’ is something like Cantor’s Absolute Infinity, a conceptual figure for the infinity that is perpetually beyond our finite realm.

    The second is the path of total immanence, or Spinozism: God simply IS identical with the laws of nature as revealed (in however halting and falsifiable a fashion) by science. God IS the universe, and again you fill in the blanks with your preferred metaphysics. ‘He’ on this view is something more like Einstein’s God – though I guess according to most physicists these days he does seem to do some dice-rolling.

    I don’t ‘believe in’ either of these lines of thought, but as an agnostic and philosophically-minded type I’m fond of them. To me, they seem to be theistic positions perfectly compatible with even the most thoroughgoing kind of scientific realism/materialism. They’ve been held by all kinds of scientific types over the course of history, without any too-devastating effects on their research.

    So, the question is, what do you, Richard Dawkins, think about these hypotheses? Certainly you don’t believe them, and I don’t begrudge you your straightforward brand of atheism in the least. I would imagine you’d go further and say they absolutely aren’t true – otherwise you’d be something more like an agnostic. But aren’t they logically compatible with a fully scientific outlook? Is there some knock-down scientific refutation of these positions that I’m missing? ‘That’s just crazy metaphysics’ doesn’t count as scientific.

    Science can easily refute the stupid arguments of those who read ancient texts as literal histories of nature. It seems rather impotent in the face of other metaphysical claims, however, like the ones I’ve outlined. There’s plenty of scientific proof that God, as His most idiotic believers imagine him, is simply not real, and I appreciate your work for highlighting that evidence and making it accessible to a general audience. But as I see it, science simply cannot provide evidence against the existence of God as such. What this means is that your own atheistic position, Mr. Dawkins, is itself a metaphysical one. (And note that I don’t mean this in some vague mystical sense, but in the perfectly solid way that analytic philosophy refers to metaphysics: as a theory of what kinds of things there are, and what they are like.) On the basis of the scientific work you’ve done, you’ve adopted a naturalistic metaphysics: that all there is, is the natural universe as revealed by science, and nothing more. No transcendent God, and no immanent one either. An eminently reasonable belief for a scientist to hold, but not a properly ‘scientific’ one, inasmuch as it cannot be confirmed or refuted by experiment. Lots of scientists share this philosophy, and sometimes so do I. But that doesn’t make it scientific. And nevertheless, I think there are other kinds of metaphysics that can consistently accept both theism and scientific realism. These are of enormous interest to me.

    What do you think? What does everyone else think?

    1. Tweaked: I would imagine you’d go further and say they absolutely aren’t true – otherwise you’d be something more like an agnostic.

      I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t say religious claims absolutely aren’t true, but that they’re big claims without supporting evidence. Note that Chapter 4 of The God Delusion is “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God”. I know some people think we should call ourselves agnostic because of the “almost”, but we don’t.

      My own take is that the transcendant god is a thought experiment not worth spending much time on. If that god is undetectable and refuses to intervene, give us clues or instructions, then what’s the point?

      The immanent god, if just another name for nature, seems ok but needlessly confusing given the generally accepted idea of god as a being. If someone wants to then add on to that and ascribe motives and so on to nature, then we’re back to the usual big guy in the sky argument.

      1. Makes sense. I’d say the ‘almost’ makes both you and Dawkins agnostics, though of course you’re free to call yourselves whatever you want. Just as one can define ‘God’ in just about any kooky way one desires, one can also define ‘atheist’ to mean ‘someone who is >90% sure that God doesn’t exist’ (substituting whatever percentage of certainty one sees fit).

        The thread has died, but I thought I’d respond to your points in any case: super-transcendent God is indeed a pretty wacky thought-experiment, but not only do I think it does a good job as thought-experiment in showing that theism and science aren’t a priori incompatible, lots of people have found it spiritually useful to deify (without personalizing) the Infinite, I think as a means of cultivating respect for other beings and the universe as a whole (not only Meister Eckhart and Cantor fall into this camp, but lots of heterodox religious traditions like Yezidis and certain Jewish mystics); the hyper-immanent God, though less acceptable to most believers because it means that God is more or less whatever science says He is, not only doesn’t conflict with the idea of God as a being, but equates God with Being as such and in general. (Heidegger would say this view does in fact conflict with the idea that God is ‘a being,’ but I don’t think there’s any reason to get so technical in this venue.) Again the ‘point’ is to have a religious, reverent relationship with the universe.

        I’m not trying to make the same awful argument about religion being the upholder of morality against the Godless magisterium of natural science… an argument which Dawkins, Hitchens, &co. rightly savage by pointing to all the abhorrent ethical doctrines in every mainstream religious text. But the ‘point’ of quite-hypothetical theistic metaphysics like those I’ve described, for those who espouse them, is to support an ethical engagement with the world and its inhabitants (and, in the former case, some diffuse something ‘beyond’ said world). They might not have any value – ethical or otherwise – for your ‘factbased’ worldview, and for the most part I share your opinion… but I’d say that such an attitude towards ‘facts’ is, like ‘atheism,’ itself a metaphysical (not a strictu sensu scientific) position.

  50. It’s so cool that boingboing and Dr. Dawkins have teamed up. Xeni you guys are fantastic and have so much cred. :)

    Dear Doctor Dawkins,

    I just listened to the talk you gave with Matt Ridley at the Center for Life, and speculated about the nature of life and extraterrestrials. Is sentient life bound to evolve outside earth because the universe is constantly creating so many random mutations?

    Enjoyed your insights at the talk, thanks so much

  51. Mr Dawkins,
    It’s a pleasure to see you on Boing Boing!
    How is it eyes are considered too complex to have evolved when nearly every living thing on earth displays some level of photo-sensitivity?

  52. I guess my question for Mr. Dawkins would be: are you ever going to stop writing about Christianity and take up the topic of religion or God?

  53. The Blind Watchmaker and the Selfish Gene had a profound effect on my world view. Thank you!

    What’s your opinion on “The Origins of Order”?

  54. Well I filter any religous tenet or principle or assertion through the ol’ “reasonableness” filter.

    I’m a reasonable guy, living in a reasonable time. Why fight it? Who wants to be unreasonable? Why?

    But then again, anything that – even indirectly – produces the glory that is Elvis Presley singing gospel music, simply cannot be “all bad”.
    Listen up:

    …and that is scarcely the only sublime cultural thing which “religion”, broadly considered, has had some role in birthing.

  55. What does Professor Dawkins think of the suggestion made by Stephen Hawkings in his new book, “The Grand Design”, that thanks to science philosophy is now dead.

  56. I sincerely hope that you will have a scientist of faith as a guestblogger at some point, as well. We exist, there are many of us, and mmost of us are EXTREMELY tired of the fallacy of mutual exclusivity being created by Dawkins and his allies, just as much as by his counterparts on the religious fringe.

  57. Werll, it seem to me some folk hurn’t proosed arl the Prof’s wroitins. De Dawk don’t diss moosins bout th’inexplicked. Nar do e confoin issel ter slatin’ xteens. He’m arl roiled up bout dem as reckons dey knarr wha’s what an don’ hold back on tellin’ other folk tha’s that.

    At least, that’s my interpretation.

  58. I wonder what Atheists can add to the argument that has not already been said. It’s kind of obvious at this point that the “faithful” are deluded cultists – so now that we have wrapped that up along with earth not being at the center of the universe and etcetera, what is left to do? I’m planning on waiting these people out.

  59. I just saw Dawkins’ film production Faith School Menace? which was very interesting and revealing. The interview with the students and the science teacher in the same room who all go to the same Muslim school was jaw dropping. Bravo on a job well done!

    But since I live in the United States it was only peripherally relevant to me. So the questions I would like ask of Dawkins is:

    Have you done a comparison with how this religious infiltration into schools is different in the US as compared to England? What are the differences? Do you believe that England is starting from a deeper hole to climb out of compared to the US, in terms of achieving to truly secular schools? Why or why not?

  60. Professor,
    I saw you and James Randi at TAM in Las Vegas and I didnt get a chance to ask you both if there were any religious researchers or scientists you respected? The only example I could think of off hand would be Gregor Mendel a monk and one of the fathers of genetics.

    -Pat Cahill

  61. BB has reached an all time cool.

    I’d just like to say while I appreciate RD’s work against theism his explanation of the complexity of the processes of natural selection is outstanding. The Blind Watchmaker was the most important books of my adolescence. I still come back to it occasionally. Lets not forget he’s a wonderful science teacher not just a great spokesman for atheism.

    Also a good friend of Douglas Adams. That alone is a hell of a credential.

  62. Personally, I think that if Richard Dawkins existed, he would have responded to at least one question by now.

  63. Richard,

    You often talk about how we “rise above” our selfish genes when we do things such as use contraceptives, creating art, music, writing, etc.– anything that doesn’t benefit our selfish genes. However, I wonder if it could be argued otherwise. For example, if someone is using contraceptive, the outcome may be different but the person is still following their biological programming, so to speak. As for creating art, music, writing, etc., I wonder if we do these things because our brains have higher demands for alleviating boredom. A cat has no trouble sitting in the sun all day and staring into space, but we humans are far more intelligent (I love your “perversely intelligent “remark in The God Delusion) get bored if we’re not doing something, whether it’s a creative endeavor, playing video games, reading, take your pick. Is it possible, then, that by doing these things we are serving our selfish genes: if we didn’t have ways to alleviate our boredom is it probable that we’d become depressed or otherwise less motivated to survive and reproduce?

    Please, please address this question or I’ll throw myself to the seals! :D

    Thanks a googolplex!


  64. There have been just too many great questions for me to put my 2 cents in, but I think people did not create art, etc., until they generated free time. If one spends their entire day hunting, gathering, farming, rearing offspring, etc., There is no time to let their minds wander to “frivolous” things. Remember “Watership Down?”
    I’m a firm believer in evolution; it seems an inescapable conclusion.
    I just cannot be an atheist; I remain an agnostic. Science has progressed so much. One can now test for, see and understand things that were incomprehensible 100s of years ago. Maybe we just haven’t developed the proper god detecting lens.
    Looking back now as religious people ought, I wonder that they don’t ask where the second set of Jesus’ chromosomes came from? Parthenogenesis is no answer because Jesus would have the been female. What criteria did God the Father use to assemble his contribution to Jesus’ genetic make up? Just how did he do that in a pragmatic sense?

  65. Hi Richard,

    I am under the impression, that the current “intellectual crisis” we have to face in America (and of cause across the whole globe) is largely rooted in one core assumption that is shared throughout society, and which could be summed up as follows:

    “Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and since we are a democracy, one opinion is as good as any another. Suggesting otherwise would be authoritarian and evil”.

    Just like me you obviously don’t share this sentiment, since evidence and good argument always HAVE TO trump mere opinion, if we don’t wish to end up in a “United States of Stupid”.

    I think a great way to promote rationality and combat anti-intellectualism would be to place major emphasis on the art of argument. Pupils for example love to talk and share their opinion in class, and we should try to get schools and teachers to educate their students in “proper argument”. I believe this alone would carry us a long way towards promoting the idea, that opinions without proper backing by correct argument (and therefore reason and evidence) are WORTHLESS.

    If “proper argument” had been part of the national curriculum in American schools during the last century, I think today the USA would look very different indeed. I would love if the RDF could back up something like this and I am eager to read your thoughts on this matter.

    Eugen Groh, Germany

  66. Oh, it’s just Dawkins. For a moment, I thought you were guest-blogging the leader of a cult of true-believers.

  67. I’ve just trawled through the 140+ comments so far, and think that there’s probably a good reason why Dr Dawkins hasn’t replied to any of them yet… It’s a bit like the scene in Life Of Brian where the beggars and lepers suddenly start to *believe* and all try to get JC to cure them first…

    Where would you start with this particular list of; personal testimony, unverifiable statements, long overly-complicated arguments (that seem to be based on science but are actually more akin to fan-boi gushings) – and the occasional outright denial of belief in the man himself !?! It makes me wonder if this is why gods never seem to answer the prayers of the faithful – maybe it’s just too hard to know where to start.

  68. Wow, BoingBoing and Dawkins, truly a wonderful thing! I did have a couple questions/topics that I’d love to see addressed by Professor Dawkins.

    1) What are your thoughts on uplifting animals to sentience? Is it feasible? Is it ethical? Do you think its worthwhile pursuit?

    2) Would you eat cultured meat, aka vat-grown meat?

    3) What do you think the repercussions would be, as a civilization and on the individual level, of confirmation of extraterrestrial intelligence.(less Day the Earth Stood Still and more SETI’s Wow! signal)

    4) What are your general thoughts on transhumanism? I am interested in hearing what a very learned evolutionary biologist thinks of human augmentation.

    5) Whats your favorite mythological story?

    6) What are your suggestions on how atheists can convince christians that we aren’t waging a “war” on christmas?

    Anyways, i also just wanted to say thanks to Xeni and everyone else at BoingBoing for being so awesome and for getting Prof.Dawkins here.

  69. I’ll probably just be another voice among hundreds shouting, but I thought I’d give it a whirl anyway.

    Mr. Dawkins,

    I have read The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion. Unweaving the Rainbow changed my life (positively, of course), and I got your autograph on my copy of The Greatest Show on Earth when you spoke in Houston. But one thing continues to nag at me.

    I still feel that atheism is a form of faith. I call myself a militant agnostic, with the general saying “I don’t know and neither do you.” While it may seem absurd to believe in some pie in the sky creator, none of your explanations have superceded the idea that “lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.” I do *not* believe in Intelligent Design, I do *not* believe that there is a higher power working within us, but if we cannot empirically disprove it, how, as scientists, can we dismiss it?

    When you spoke in Houston, I listened eagerly to your answer to the basic question “why are you an atheist?” and it seemed tantamount to “well, it’s silly and ignorant to be otherwise.” I am comfortable in not knowing, and while I *believe* that it’s 99.9% likely that there’s nothing out there, I admit that there’s a possibility, however slight, that I could be wrong. In my idea of the terminology, that makes me agnostic.

    I agree with your ideology, though not always your methods, but your methods are why you’re among the faces of atheism and not me. We can attack religion from several perspectives, we can attack the physiology, sociology, and psychology of blind faith and willful ignorance in our culture. But how, as thinkers and scientists and intellectuals, can we honestly and completely discount any concept of a higher being, however deistic or passive it may seem?


  70. Prof. Dawkins
    I’ve read all your books and enjoy your work tremendously. A couple of questions:
    1) Do you make any distinction at all between Eastern mysticism and organised Abrahamic religions?
    2) I know you’ve allowed yourself to experiment with Dr. Persinger’s “God Helmet” in an attempt to have a religious/spiritual experience. Would you consider experimenting with hallucinogens like magic mushrooms (psilocybin) or LSD to have a spiritual experience and see what the fuss about God is all about?

    Thank you.

  71. Professor Dawkins:

    One thing that has bothered me about the way most of us speak about natural selection is the language that is so often used. It seems to convey an intelligence to the process itself.

    When a plant is said to have grown thorns in order to protect itself, for example, I know the meaning is that some plants happened to grow thorns, and as a result, those plants with thorns were better protected and more likely to reproduce than the plants without thorns.

    This sort of language is applied to all sorts of evolutionary developments, and I think it can be confusing to a lot of readers and viewers. I know that when I was younger, I was honestly confused by this and for the longest time did not understand how natural selection worked.

    What I want to know is this: Do you think this is something to be at all concerned about, and if so, what sort of similarly succinct language can we apply to our explanations of evolutionary processes, while still being accurate?

    P.S. It is largely because of your writings and shows that I even have the rudimentary scientific knowledge that I do have, and why I am interested in learning more. Thank you.


  72. Here are some questions to Richard Dawkins by a long-time follower of his whereabouts, a sporadic commenter to his website, a fellow biologist and a great fan:

    1) Even if this is not one of the religions known to men, can you think of any kind of religion that is compatible with science (even if that would not be a scientific one, but maybe permissible by science). Why would you dismiss it anyway, or why not?

    2) Recently, PZ Myers made it clear – as opposed to Jerry Coyne – that nothing could really convince him of religion being reality. What is your stance on this issue?

    3) You have worked to enhance the public understanding of science for a long time, and you still do. In all your years of professorship and personal commitment, what do you consider the best approach to wake people’s interest in science and keep them interested in learning about it?

    4) Modern science is often concerned about small details or complicated, specific procedures that are far beyond the reach of school science or the understanding of the general public. How should we modern scientists relate our specific fields of study to the general public and explain the need for our work and our ambition?

    5) What’s your stance on experiments with animals of different species for the advance of life sciences and scientific knowledge?

  73. Professor Dawkins,

    In a video recently posted on, you list “why do we have sex” as one of the three most important unanswered questions in biology. As a layperson, I was surprised by this answer; I would have assumed the answer is: “to reproduce.” Clearly I am missing something, can you help me to appreciate this question better?

    (Incidentally, I am first-year graduate student studying psychology and I have a rapidly growing interest in evolution and evolutionary psychology. So, if the answer is a simple one, could you list or speculate about some more important unanswered questions that might have relevance to a person with my interests).

    Thank you for your time and everything you do,


  74. Question: Why are there not any life forms evolving? We have bacteria or amibas. Why do we not see the evolution?

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