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Richard Dawkins (Biologist)

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. It is often said, mainly by the 'no-contests', that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?
Richard Dawkins belief
You see, if you say something positive like the whole of life – all living things – is descended from a single common ancestor which lived about 4,000 million years ago and that we are all cousins, well that is an exceedingly important and true thing to say and that is what I want to say. Somebody who is religious sees that as threatening and so I am represented as attacking religion, and I am forced into responding to their reaction. But you do not have to see my main purpose as attacking religion. Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is interesting about the scientificis that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading. And that is what is so exciting for me.
Richard Dawkins life
What worries me about religion is that it teaches people to be satisfied with not understanding.
Richard Dawkins religion
Yetare required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence. Their experiments must have rigorous controls to eliminate spurious effects. And statistical analysis eliminates the suspicion (or at least measures the likelihood) that the apparent effect might have happened by chance alone. Paranormal phenomena have a habit of going away whenever they are tested under rigorous conditions. This is why the
Richard Dawkins men
It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, "mad cow" disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.
Richard Dawkins faith
The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.
Richard Dawkins life
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats,greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?
Richard Dawkins people
I don't withdraw a word of my initial statement. But I do now think it may have been incomplete. There is perhaps a fifth category, which may belong under "insane" but which can be more sympathetically characterized by a word like tormented, bullied, or brainwashed. Sincere people who are not ignorant, not stupid, and not wicked can be cruelly torn, almost in two, between the massive evidence of science on the one hand, and their understanding of what their holy book tells them on the other. I think this is one of the truly bad things religion can do to a human mind. There is wickedness here, but it is the wickedness of the institution and what it does to a believing victim, not wickedness on the part of the victim himself.
Richard Dawkins religion
Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!
Richard Dawkins faith
We've reached a truly remarkable situation: a grotesque mismatch between the American intelligencia and the American electorate. A philosophical opinion about the nature of the universe which is held by the vast majority of top American , and probably the majority of the intelligencia generally, is so abhorrent to the American electorate that no candidate for popular election dare affirm it in public. If I'm right, this means that high office in the greatest country in the world is barred to the very people best qualified to hold it: the intelligencia, unless they are prepared to lie about their beliefs. To put it bluntly American political opportunities are heavily loaded against those who are simultaneously intelligent and honest.
Richard Dawkins nature
An atheist is just somebody who feels about Yahweh the way any decent Christian feels about Thor or Baal or the golden calf. As has been said before, we are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
Richard Dawkins god
The population of the US is nearly 300 million, including many of the best educated, most talented, most resourceful, humane people on earth. By almost any measure of civilised attainment, from Nobel prize-counts on down, the US leads the world by miles. You would think that a country with such resources, and such a field of talent, would be able to elect a leader of the highest quality. Yet, what has happened? At the end of all the primaries and party caucuses, the speeches and the televised debates, after a year or more of non-stop electioneering bustle, who, out of that entire population of 300 million, emerges at the top of the heap? George Bush.
Richard Dawkins art
Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional "next world" is welcome to both of them. This world would be a much better place without either of them.
Richard Dawkins faith
The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.
Richard Dawkins life
Just because science so far has failed to explain something, such as consciousness, to say it follows that the facile, pathetic explanations which religion has produced somehow by default must win the argument is really quite ridiculous.
Richard Dawkins religion
If it's really true, that the museum athas dinosaur fossils which are labelled as being 3000 years old, then that is an educational disgrace. It is debauching the whole idea of a university, and I would strongly encourage any members of Liberty University who may be here... to leave and go to a proper university.
Richard Dawkins education
It's obvious that in an intelligent educated audience such as , I stress this university. Who saw fit to give ?
Richard Dawkins stress
Even sticking to the higher plane of love, is it so very obvious that you can't love more than one person? We seem to manage it with parental love (parents are reproached if they don't at least pretend to love all their children equally), love of books, of food, of wine (love of Chateau Margaux does not preclude love of a fine Hock, and we don't feel unfaithful to the red when we dally with the white), love of composers, poets, holiday beaches, friends . . . why is erotic love the one exception that everybody instantly acknowledges without even thinking about it?
Richard Dawkins love
I'm not one of those who wants to stop Christian traditions. This is historically a Christian country. I'm a cultural Christian the same way as many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims. So, yes, I love singing carols along with everybody else. I'm not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.
Richard Dawkins love
It would be deeply depressing if the only way children could get moral values was from religion. Either from scripture, and God knows we don't want them to get it from scripture, I mean, just look at scripture. Or, from being afraid of God, being intimidated by God. Anybody who is good for only those two reasons is not really being good at all. Why not teach children things like the Golden Rule, do as you would be done by, how would you like it if other children did that to you, so why do you do it to them... I think it's depressing that anybody should suggest that you actually need God in order to be moral. I would hope that our morals come from a better source than that, and therefore they are genuinely moral rather than based on outmoded scripture, or based on fear.
Richard Dawkins hope
The absolute morality that the religious person might profess would include what, stoning people for adultery, death for apostasy, punishment for breaking the Sabbath; these are all things which are religiously based absolute moralities. I don’t think I want an absolute morality. I think I want a morality that is thought-out, reasoned, argued, discussed—based upon, almost say—intelligent design. Can we not design our society which has the sort of morality, the sort of society we want to live in? Dawkins on(8-3-2010), replying to a Muslim man who asked about 'absolute morality'.
Richard Dawkins death
I am extremely pleased by Daniel Fincke's article, which says exactly what I SHOULD have said and, to my regret, didn't make sufficiently clear in my Reason Rally speech. The best way to summarise it would be to modify the quotation from Johann Hari. Johann said, "I respect you too much to respect your ridiculous beliefs". From now on, my version will be, "I respect you too much to accept that you really believe anything so ridiculous as you claim. Please either defend those beliefs and explain why they are not ridiculous, or else declare that you do not hold them and publicly disown the church to which you claim loyalty."
Richard Dawkins art
I'm not clever enough to be a physicist.
Richard Dawkins
"Such delusions of grandeur to think that a God with a hundred billion galaxies on his mind would give a tuppenny damn who you sleep with, or indeed whether you believe in him."
Richard Dawkins mind
We no longer have to resort to superstition when faced with the deep problems: Is there a meaning to life? What are we for? What is man?
Richard Dawkins life
The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.
Richard Dawkins faith
Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun.
Richard Dawkins art
The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes.
Richard Dawkins men
We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.
Richard Dawkins truth
I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave.
Richard Dawkins morality
Genes do indirectly control the manufacture of bodies, and the influence is strictly one way: acquired characteristics are not inherited. No matter how much knowledge and wisdom you acquire during your life, not one jot will be passed on to your children by genetic means. Each new generation starts from scratch.
Richard Dawkins life
Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.
Richard Dawkins self
Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have a chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.
Richard Dawkins self
They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.
Richard Dawkins mind
No doubt some of your cousins and great-uncles died in childhood, but not a single one of your ancestors did. Ancestors just don't die young!
Richard Dawkins sin
The genes are the master programmers, and they are programming for their lives.
Richard Dawkins live
Whenever a system of communication evolves, there is always the danger that some will exploit the system for their own ends.
Richard Dawkins anger
... it is certainly wrong to condemn poor old Homo Sapiens as the only species to kill his own kind, the only inheritor of the mark of Cain, and similar melodramatic charges.
Richard Dawkins drama
Group selection theory would therefore predict a tendency to evolve towards an all-dove conspiracy ... But the trouble with conspiracies, even those that are to everybody's advantage in the long run, is that they are open to abuse.
Richard Dawkins war
... a lion wants to eat an antelope's body, but the antelope has very different plans for its body. This is not normally regarded as competition for a resource, but logically it is hard to see why not.
Richard Dawkins body
What is the selfish gene? It is not just one single physical bit of DNA. Just as in the primeval soup, it is all replicas of a particular bit of DNA, distributed throughout the world.
Richard Dawkins art
... a gene might be able to assist replicas of itself that are sitting in other bodies. If so, this would appear as individual altruism but it would be brought about by gene selfishness.
Richard Dawkins self
It is normally possible to be much more certain who your children are than who your brothers are. And you can be more certain still who you yourself are!
Richard Dawkins children
The truth is that all examples of child protection and parental care, and all associated bodily organs ... are examples of the working in nature of the kin-selection principle.
Richard Dawkins truth
But you cannot have an unnatural welfare state, unless you also have unnatural birth control, otherwise the end result will be misery even greater than that which obtains in nature.
Richard Dawkins nature
... leaders who forbid their followers to use effective contraceptive methods ... express a preference for "natural" methods of population limitation, and a natural method is exactly what they are going to get. It is called starvation.
Richard Dawkins leaders
Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind’s eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.
Richard Dawkins life
Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
Richard Dawkins win
Mutation is random; natural selection is the very opposite of random.
Richard Dawkins random
Human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.
Richard Dawkins man
Natural selection is all about the differential success of rival DNA in getting itself transmitted vertically in the species archives.
Richard Dawkins success
To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer.
Richard Dawkins supernatural
Our subjective judgment of what seems like a good bet is irrelevant to what is actually a good bet.
Richard Dawkins men
Contrary to earlier prejudices, there is nothing inherently progressive about evolution.
Richard Dawkins evolution
Evolution normally does not come to a halt, but constantly ‘tracks’ the changing environment.
Richard Dawkins men
It is generally characteristic of arms races, including human ones, that although all would be better off if none of them escalated, so long as one of them escalates none can afford not to.
Richard Dawkins man
There has been progress in design, but not progress in accomplishment.
Richard Dawkins men
The successful scientist and the raving crank are separated by the quality of their inspirations. But I suspect that this amounts, in practice, to a difference, not so much in ability to notice analogies as in ability to reject foolish analogies and pursue helpful ones.
Richard Dawkins inspiration
There are people in the world who desperately want not to have to believe in Darwinism.
Richard Dawkins people
This not only misses the point, it is the precise antithesis of the point.
Richard Dawkins
There is one particular property of living things, however, that I want to single out as explicable only by Darwinian selection. This property is the one that has been the recurring topic of this book: adaptive complexity.
Richard Dawkins art
If we want to postulate a deity capable of engineering all the organized complexity in the world, either instantaneously or by guiding evolution, that deity must have been vastly complex in the first place. The creationist, whether a naive Bible-thumper or an educated bishop, simply postulates an already existing being of prodigious intelligence and complexity. If we are going to allow ourselves the luxury of postulating organized complexity without offering an explanation, we might as well make a job of it and simply postulate the existence of life as we know it!
Richard Dawkins life
Full text . The Economist , vol. 328, p. 87
Richard Dawkins
There is no general reason to expect evolution to be progressive – even in the weak, value-neutral sense. There will be times when increased size of some organ is favoured and other times when decreased size is favoured. Most of the time, average-sized individuals will be favoured in the population and both extremes will be penalised. During these times the population exhibits evolutionary stasis (i.e., no change) with respect to the factor being measured. If we had a complete fossil record and looked for trends in some particular dimension, such as leg length, we would expect to see periods of no change alternating with fitful continuations or reversals in direction – like a weathervane in changeable, gusty weather.
Richard Dawkins time
Another force driving progressive evolution is the so-called "arms-race." Prey animals evolve faster running speeds because predators do. Consequently predators have to evolve even faster running speeds, and so on, in an escalating spiral. Such arms races probably account for the spectacularly advanced engineering of eyes, ears, brains, bat "radar" and all the other high-tech weaponry that animals display.
Richard Dawkins evolution
It may be that brain hardware has co-evolved with the internal virtual worlds that it creates. This can be called hardware-software co-evolution.
Richard Dawkins war
It is an article of passionate faith among "politically correct" biologists and anthropologists that brain size has no connection with intelligence; that intelligence has nothing to do with genes; and that genes are probably nasty fascist things anyway.
Richard Dawkins faith
The likelihood is that, in 100,000 years time, we shall either have reverted to wild barbarism, or else civilisation will have advanced beyond all recognition – into colonies in outer space, for instance. In either case, evolutionary extrapolations from present conditions are likely to be highly misleading.
Richard Dawkins time
The late Christopher Evans, a psychologist and author, calculated that if the motor car had evolved as fast as the computer, and over the same time period, "Today you would be able to buy a Rolls-Royce for
Richard Dawkins time
Scientific and technological progress themselves are value-neutral. They are just very good at doing what they do. If you want to do selfish, greedy, intolerant and violent things, scientific technology will provide you with by far the most efficient way of doing so. But if you want to do good, to solve the world's problems, to progress in the best value-laden sense, once again, there is no better means to those ends than the scientific way.
Richard Dawkins world
I have just discovered that without her father's consent this sweet, trusting, gullible six-year-old is being sent, for weekly instruction, to a Roman Catholic nun. What chance has she?
Richard Dawkins trust
With so many mind-bytes to be downloaded, so many mental codons to be replicated, it is no wonder that child brains are gullible, open to almost any suggestion, vulnerable to subversion, easy prey to Moonies, Scientologists and nuns. Like immune-deficient patients, children are wide open to mental infections that adults might brush off without effort.
Richard Dawkins children
Think about the two qualities that a virus, or any sort of parasitic replicator, demands of a friendly medium, the two qualities that make cellular machinery so friendly towards parasitic DNA, and that make computers so friendly towards computer viruses. These qualities are, firstly, a readiness to replicate information accurately, perhaps with some mistakes that are subsequently reproduced accurately; and, secondly, a readiness to obey instructions encoded in the information so replicated.
Richard Dawkins war
The second requirement of a virus-friendly environment – that it should obey a program of coded instructions – is again only quantitatively less true for brains than for cells or computers. We sometimes obey orders from one another, but also we sometimes don't. Nevertheless, it is a telling fact that, the world over, the vast majority of children follow the religion of their parents rather than any of the other available religions. Instructions to genuflect, to bow towards Mecca, to nod one's head rhythmically towards the wall, to shake like a maniac, to "speak in tongues" – the list of such arbitrary and pointless motor patterns offered by religion alone is extensive – are obeyed, if not slavishly, at least with some reasonably high statistical probability.
Richard Dawkins religion
Ten years ago, you could have traveled thousands of miles through the United States and never seen a baseball cap turned back to front. Today, the reverse baseball cap is ubiquitous. I do not know what the pattern of geographical spread of the reverse baseball cap precisely was, but epidemiology is certainly among the professions primarily qualified to study it.
Richard Dawkins travel
Like computer viruses, successful mind viruses will tend to be hard for their victims to detect. If you are the victim of one, the chances are that you won't know it, and may even vigorously deny it. Accepting that a virus might be difficult to detect in your own mind, what tell-tale signs might you look out for? I shall answer by imaging how a medical textbook might describe the typical symptoms of a sufferer (arbitrarily assumed to be male).
Richard Dawkins success
The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn't seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as "faith".
Richard Dawkins faith
If you have a faith, it is statistically overwhelmingly likely that it is the same faith as your parents and grandparents had. No doubt soaring cathedrals, stirring music, moving stories and parables, help a bit. But by far the most important variable determining your religion is the accident of birth. The convictions that you so passionately believe would have been a completely different, and largely contradictory, set of convictions, if only you had happened to be born in a different place. Epidemiology, not evidence.
Richard Dawkins faith
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. [...] In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
Richard Dawkins fear
The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors. That, in a sentence, is Darwinism.
Richard Dawkins world
Each generation is a filter, a sieve; good genes tend to fall through the sieve into the next generation; bad genes tend to end up in bodies that die young or without reproducing.
Richard Dawkins good
... you need more than luck to navigate successfully through a thousand sieves in succession.
Richard Dawkins success
The river of my title is a river of DNA, and it flows through time, not space. It is a river of information, not a river of bones and tissues.
Richard Dawkins time
... the genetic code is in fact literally identical in all animals, plants and bacteria ... All earthly living things are certainly descended from a single ancestor.
Richard Dawkins art
What is truly revolutionary about molecular biology in the post-Watson-Crick era is that it has become digital.
Richard Dawkins evolution
There is no spirit-driven life force, no throbbing, heaving, pullulating, protoplasmic, mystic jelly. Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.
Richard Dawkins life
Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results.and faiths are not and do not.
Richard Dawkins faith
Your DNA may be destined to mingle with mine. Salutations!
Richard Dawkins wit
Never say, and never take seriously anyone who says, "I cannot believe that so-and-so could have evolved by gradual selection". I have dubbed this kind of"the Argument from Personal Incredulity". Time and again, it has proven the prelude to an intellectual banana-skin experience.
Richard Dawkins men
... it seems that it would take less than half a million years to evolve a good camera eye ... It's no wonder "the" eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom ... It is a geological blink.
Richard Dawkins time
This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous – indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
Richard Dawkins purpose
If there is only one Creator who made the tiger and the lamb, the cheetah and the gazelle, what is He playing at? Is he a sadist who enjoys spectator blood sports? ... Is He manoeuvring to maximise 's television ratings?
Richard Dawkins joy
... the true utility function of life, that which is being maximised in the natural world, is DNA survival. But DNA is not floating free; it is locked up in living bodies and it has made the most of the levers of power at its disposal.
Richard Dawkins life
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.
Richard Dawkins purpose
We humans are an extremely important manifestation of the replication bomb, because it is through us – through our brains, our symbolic culture and our technology – that the explosion may proceed to the next stage and reverberate through deep space.
Richard Dawkins culture
Most of what we strive for in our modern life uses the apparatus of goal seeking that was originally set up to seek goals in the state of nature.
Richard Dawkins life
... but the dominance hierarchy itself is not something that natural selection favours or disfavours. What natural selection favours or disfavours is the individual behaviour of which the dominance hierarchy is a manifestation. I would put war and overpopulation in that category.
Richard Dawkins war
I think it is not helpful to apply Darwinian language too widely. Conquest of nation by nation is too distant for Darwinian explanations to be helpful. Darwinism is the differential survival of self-replicating genes in a gene pool, usually as manifested by individual behaviour, morphology, and phenotypes. Group selection of any kind is not Darwinism as Darwin understood it nor as I understand it. There is a very vague analogy between group selection and conquest of a nation by another nation, but I don't think it's a very helpful analogy. So I would prefer not to invoke Darwinian language for that kind of historical interpretation.
Richard Dawkins language
There's nothing nonsensical about saying that what would evolve if Darwinian selection has its head is something that you don't want to happen. And I could easily imagine trying to go against Darwinism.
Richard Dawkins you
The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear. It is an immensely exciting experience to be born in the world, born in the universe, and look around you and realise that before you die you have the opportunity of understanding an immense amount about that world and about that universe and about life and about why we're here. We have the opportunity of understanding far, far more than any of our predecessors ever. That is such an exciting possibility, it would be such a shame to blow it and end your life not having understood what there is to understand.
Richard Dawkins life

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