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Ask Richard Dawkins About Evolution, Religion, and Science Education

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the and-how-to-be-politely-uncompromising dept.

Science 1142

Richard Dawkins is an author and an evolutionary biologist. For 13 years, he held the Simonyi Professorship at the University of Oxford. His 1976 book The Selfish Gene helped popularize the gene-centric view of evolution and coined the word "meme." Several other of his books, including Climbing Mount Improbable, River Out of Eden, and The Greatest Show on Earth have helped to explain aspects of evolution in a way non-scientists can more easily understand. Dawkins is a frequent opponent of creationism and intelligent design, and he generated widespread controversy and debate in 2006 with The God Delusion, a book that subjected common religious beliefs to unyielding scientific scrutiny. He wrote, "One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding." Most recently, Dawkins wrote The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True, a graphic book that aims to introduce kids to science. He's also recently begun a video series titled "Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life" about how our world would look without religion. Mr. Dawkins has graciously agreed to answer some questions for us. Post your suggestions in the comments below, but please limit yourself to one question per post. We'll post his responses sometime next week.

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Your Favorite Misunderstanding of Your Own Work? (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#41693883)

I constantly see your work referenced both by opponents and proponents and feel like they don't always fully understand the concepts. My personal favorite is when I find a proponent of your work taking the personification of the gene to a new level past its role as a mere didactic device -- sometimes expounding at length about what genes want and desire. So what is your favorite misunderstanding that may have ended up as a headline, news story or that you've found on the internet?

Hitch (5, Interesting)

dhermann (648219) | about 2 years ago | (#41693903)

What is your fondest memory of Christopher Hitchens?

Re:Hitch (4, Interesting)

santax (1541065) | about 2 years ago | (#41693927)

And of course, what is your least fondest memory of Christopher Hitchens? :)

Re:Hitch (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694027)

And of course, what is your sexiest memory of Christopher Hitchens? :)

Widespread religion (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41693973)

The God Delusion helped me make explicit several inchoate ideas I had about why a belief in a god is not necessary to explain the world around us. Why do you think that so many people around the world still feel the need to rely on a personal god?

Democratic society without religion? (4, Interesting)

mrkitty (584915) | about 2 years ago | (#41693979)

Do you believe a democratic society can exist which has no form of religion in its laws, or within government?

Re:Democratic society without religion? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694133)

Yes, keeping in mind "don't kill people" isn't necessarily a religious idea.

Re:Democratic society without religion? (-1, Troll)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | about 2 years ago | (#41694655)

I once proposed here that not having sex is a pretty good way to stay clear of HIV and was immediately bashed as a religious zealot. Atheists seem to be very, very angry at everything even remotely related to a religion (I've also been personally blamed for the crusades and the dark ages, but that's another story).

"Don't kill people". That's a good one right there. I held my son for the first time a few months ago, and I can tell you now first hand that the only difference between a fetus and a baby is which end of the vagina you're looking at. If I even suggest that it shouldn't be legal in a society to reach through that vagina with a knife and a hose to suck out his brain, again, I'm labelled a religious fanatic.

Re:Democratic society without religion? (3, Interesting)

mcmonkey (96054) | about 2 years ago | (#41694205)

Do you believe a democratic society can exist which has no form of religion in its laws, or within government?

I think a better question is, can a democratic society exist with any form of religion in its laws or government?

(I say better as in more practical. I don't think we'll ever see a society without some aspect of religion enshrined into law (considering the cult of personality around a dictator or monarch as a form of religion).)

Re:Democratic society without religion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694243)

Yes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secular_state#List_of_secular_countries_by_continent [wikipedia.org]

Note that in practice there are subtleties among countries. France, Turkey, India are mostly secular, the US a little bit less, etc. But culture contributes to a lot of inertia in these supposedly secular democracies.

Re:Democratic society without religion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694449)

Turkey and India are secular? bwahahaha. Compared to the US even? Bwahahahaha. France, I would agree with.

What do you think of the currentuse of "meme"? (3, Interesting)

Quakeulf (2650167) | about 2 years ago | (#41693995)

And how do you pronounce it yourself?

Thank you very much in advance for taking your time to answer my questions. :3

Re:What do you think of the currentuse of "meme"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694287)

And how do you pronounce it yourself?

Pronunciation question is answered here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEVt5e2w32w#t=1m44s [youtube.com]

Re:What do you think of the currentuse of "meme"? (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | about 2 years ago | (#41694579)

I prefer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejSRqO74Lik [youtube.com]

But seriously, just remember "meme" sounds like "gene".

Re:What do you think of the currentuse of "meme"? (1)

dubdays (410710) | about 2 years ago | (#41694377)

And how do you pronounce it yourself?

It's pronounced "meem". That's the only way I've ever heard it pronounced, and even by Dawkins himself.

Re:What do you think of the currentuse of "meme"? (2)

Speare (84249) | about 2 years ago | (#41694387)

The term meme has evolved (or devolved) rapidly. The "current" use, as far as I've seen, has come to mean "an ugly square graphic of a recognizable image overlaid with some large typeface text describing bumper-sticker philosophy or a barely ironic pop culture observation."

Re:What do you think of the currentuse of "meme"? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 2 years ago | (#41694551)

The term meme has evolved (or devolved) rapidly. The "current" use, as far as I've seen, has come to mean "an ugly square graphic of a recognizable image overlaid with some large typeface text describing bumper-sticker philosophy or a barely ironic pop culture observation."

Your understanding of the principles of evolution (and the misuse of "devolved" which is not an antonym of evolved) is quite curious. However you are correct about what most people currently think of when hearing the word meme. You have to agree though, some of them are just fucking hilarious.

DNA Methylation (5, Interesting)

alphaamanitin (1798136) | about 2 years ago | (#41694023)

DNA methylation seems an interesting property that has been shown to be heritable in some instances (cannot remember citation, study involving desert plants in Arizona or New Mexico, USA), changing the phenotype without the genotype. If this is inheritable, this seems to break your assertion that the gene is always the level of selection. In this case a gene producing X phenotype is methylated to produce Y phenotype, which could be selected for against (either direction) phenotype X, phenotype Y individuals net result in my hypothetical is a increased fitness and fecundity relative to individuals with phenotype X. Do you view this as escaping your assertion or a mere special case as it is still the gene being methylated. AlphaA

Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (3, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#41694035)

Do you think humans have a genetic predisposition to believe in things that have no basis in science?

Re:Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about 2 years ago | (#41694115)

Given that it took us many years to come up with the scientific method, I'm pretty sure that would be a yes.

Re:Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#41694153)

Given that it took us many years to come up with the scientific method, I'm pretty sure that would be a yes.

Considering that your response lacks anything so much as resembling a tribute to the scientific method, I'm inclined to agree... But will abstain for lack of proper experimentation :P

Re:Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (4, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#41694263)

More specifically, given how widespread belief systems are in the world I assume there's a survival advantage for humans who hold onto a belief even when it contradicts observable facts.

Re:Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about 2 years ago | (#41694475)

I think it's more likely that there's a survival advantage for humans who believe anything (about the world; not just restricting to unfounded beliefs). We just don't have very great circuitry already evolved in to sort out the beliefs very well. Doesn't mean we can't make up for the difference in education and conscious reasoning.

Re:Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about 2 years ago | (#41694517)

(by believe anything, I mean believe something. I don't mean a human that will believe anything you tell them specifically. Humans capable of believing theories of any sort very probably have a survival advantage over humans that aren't capable of believing anything about the world.)

Re:Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41694465)

Any scientist knows that the answer is "absolutely yes." I still sometimes worry that there is something (non-specific) waiting to attack me when I turn out the downstairs lights before going to sleep. I am an intelligent adult, and even when I start to feel that instinctual fear, I know in my concious mind that if ther e was nothing there when the lights were on, there will be nothing there when the lights are off. Somewhere, our brains are wired with "just to be safe" notions that at some point in our evolution gave us the best chance to surviving long enough to reproduce -- most of those "just to be safe" mechanisms run counter to basic logic, let alone scientific results.

Re:Predisposition to non-scientific beliefs (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#41694495)

Do you think humans have a genetic predisposition to believe in things that have no basis in science?

Perhaps this book [amazon.com] will give you your answers.

Can a society with no religion exist? (4, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 2 years ago | (#41694043)

Do you think that it will ever happen that a society exists without religion?

Re:Can a society with no religion exist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694239)

Yes. Right after we get wiped out by an asteroid.

Re:Can a society with no religion exist? (0)

proslack (797189) | about 2 years ago | (#41694571)

Of course. At least until the priests of the temple of Syrinx take over a week later.

Re:Can a society with no religion exist? (1)

Sique (173459) | about 2 years ago | (#41694617)

There are societies with religion being a minority phenomenon. Slovenia, Czech and the eastern part of Germany have majorities without any religion.

AC from work (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694057)

How would you respond to Alan Bloom charge that the complete removal of religion could have unforeseen consequences because of the void it leaves?

Re:AC from work (4, Insightful)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | about 2 years ago | (#41694285)

Isn't it the case that anything could have unforeseen consequences? Related to this, if that avoiding unforeseen consequences were a requirement, how would you show that something does not have any unforeseen consequences?

Do you still talk to Miss Garrison? (-1, Troll)

Shemmie (909181) | about 2 years ago | (#41694093)

And is she still a monkey?

On religion and hardness of life... (0)

zugedneb (601299) | about 2 years ago | (#41694095)

Some say, one of the major things that makes us differetn from animals is our knowlede of the fact that we are mere mortals...
Now, life is pretty hard and cruel for many...
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17299084 [bbc.co.uk]
I will then ask You this question: I will torture you, and give you the same treatment as teenage prostitutes get in rebel camps, and generelly prisoners of war... (will not name nations)
Are you willing to bet that you will keep your sanity and not become religious of the pain?

Monkey Mothers Holding Babies for Nursing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694099)

Have you seen a monkey mothers. Imagine climbing in trees and orienting baby just right. Go watch videos of monkey mothers.

Gallup poll (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694105)

In a recent Gallup poll it has been shown that there has been no change in 30 years of Americans accepting evolution as truth. What do you think are the major factors for this?

Evolutionary theory assumes the genetic encoding (1)

gatesstillborg (2633899) | about 2 years ago | (#41694123)

of proteins leads to structural determination of organisms, taking place through a process of molecular recognition and self-assembly (following standard thermodynamic principles of minimizing the surface free energy of the constituent molecules).

However, when this occurs in a simple crystalline material, it appears amorphous at a scale about 3 or 4 orders of magnitude larger than the constituent molecules. Thus, how can this same process suffice to create biological structures often 10 or more orders of magnitude larger than the constituent molecules?

How to argue against fiction (5, Interesting)

Gotung (571984) | about 2 years ago | (#41694129)

It seems that most creationists are successful in convincing their peers of the faults in the theory of evolution because they are the only source of information on what the theory actually is. They setup a completely outdated or just plain fabricated version of the theory and then argue against that. Which makes them look like they know what they are talking about and makes their arguments convincing to the ignorant. How do you convince people that what they have been taught is completely wrong without insinuating that they or their respected teacher/pastor etc is a complete idiot?

Re:How to argue against fiction (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694219)

It seems that most creationists are successful in convincing their peers of the faults in the theory of evolution because they are the only source of information on what the theory actually is. They setup a completely outdated or just plain fabricated version of the theory and then argue against that. Which makes them look like they know what they are talking about and makes their arguments convincing to the ignorant.

How do you convince people that what they have been taught is completely wrong without insinuating that they or their respected teacher/pastor etc is a complete idiot?

Define Idiot. Some people may think you are a moron just because you read news online on Nerd Sites, instead of buying a newspaper that have information of "better quality and trustfulness"

Re:How to argue against fiction (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694303)

"better quality and trustfulness"
or watching Faux News?

As a evolutionary biologist ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694149)

What is your favourite dinosaur of all time?

Selfish Gene and Extended Phenotype, what next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694173)

I enjoyed the Selfish Gene and the Extended Phenotype very much. In following books you've moved to explaining the very basics of the evolutionary theory. Do you plan to ever return to write about more complex aspects of the evolution?

Religion separable from mystical states? (2)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 years ago | (#41694177)

While the theological propositions of most religions are laughable, the empirical neurophysiological techniques for the induction of mystical states can be quite useful as a means of inducing subjective feelings of happiness, satisfaction and stress relief. If "mystical" state induction techniques (e.g. breathing, sustained attention) were generalized, codified and distributed widely, do you think that these would work against religious organizations and their more deplorable behaviors? Religious history suggests this, as almost every religious organization eventually suppresses the actual practice of inducing mystical states.

Re:Religion separable from mystical states? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694289)

Why do you hate God? Do you fear that there is even a slight chance you will be damned for eternity?

The Altered Route of a Scientist? (2)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#41694179)

So I've always wondered how someone gets into gene research despite having a sibling who just received her PhD in a related field. What is odd is that we both went to a Catholic (K-8) school run by nuns, we both went to a local high school in literally the middle of nowhere and we both read works like The Panda's Thumb. But she went into research on genes and gene therapy while I went into software development and coding. So I've always wondered how much the United States' religious system actually inhibits our work in this field and other fields of science. Could you explain to me -- in your ideal world -- what would change in schools (at all levels) as a young mind develops that is distinctly different from the way it is now to better promote these options? Do you believe that the arcane and puritanical views of religious groups actually hinder us or that people who want to excel in these fields will find their way to it? Assuming you do believe this is a hindrance, how bad is it?

Species Comparison: How evolved? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694195)

I recently got into a conversation with a friend about how evolved every species is in comparison to every other current species on our planet. I stated that every species is equally evolved, he stated that that's not true, just look at how much more complex humans are compared to say, an ant. In our little debate I was unable to convince him of my view, and he was unable to convince me of his view. So while browsing slashdot I saw this article and thought "Why not ask an expert?!"

So Dr. Dawkins, I ask you this: Is every species on this planet equally evolved? Or is there a certain hierarchy of evolution where a human is higher up in the evolutionary process than an less complex species?

Re:Species Comparison: How evolved? (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about 2 years ago | (#41694429)

What does it mean for one species to be 'more evolved'? Everything on earth has been evolving for the same amount of time. I guess you could say that we're more evolved than the dinosaurs.

Re:Species Comparison: How evolved? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694615)

No need for Dawkins on this, as this stuff comes up all the time. Your "friend" does not understand what evolution is.

Everything that is alive today is equally evolved, by definition. Extinct creatures are less evolved that those currently living.

Interacion (2)

crizh (257304) | about 2 years ago | (#41694197)

Historically entrenched Mysticism has reacted poorly to the thoughts of Scientific minds.

Do you think there might be better ways to approach this communication that would improve the rate of Scientific progress and do you think that this interaction might be amenable to Scientific study?

Do you also feel that this debate that rages between those that would manipulate mysticism to gain power over others and Science can ever be won or is it a battle that must be fought for every succeeding generation?

Why do you deny God? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694211)

Is it because you are jealous of Him?

Re:Why do you deny God? (3, Insightful)

SoTerrified (660807) | about 2 years ago | (#41694269)

Great question! We should ask him if he's jealous of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as well!

Re:Why do you deny God? (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 2 years ago | (#41694279)

Is it because you are jealous of Him?

Being jelous of an entity that doesn't exist would be difficult at best. I think Dawkins is above such oddly conflicting and confusing opinions.

Re:Why do you deny God? (1)

bfandreas (603438) | about 2 years ago | (#41694463)

Nope. He denies the teapot orbiting Mars for that reason. He denies sky fairies because he considers it a superfluous hypothesis.

The first cell (1)

boulabiar (1892246) | about 2 years ago | (#41694225)

Even if evolution has many facts confirming it, the big problem is in the first cell. Last research papers state that the minimum genes to create a living cell is ~400. 400 genes is so much complex to be generated by luck or by mutation from nothing. How can you be so confident in atheism with such lack of evidence (others may chose to be agnostics or believers).

Re:The first cell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694259)

How can you be so confident in atheism with such lack of evidence

I'd bet it's roughly the same way you can be so confident of your theism with such lack of evidence.

A lot of effort (5, Interesting)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41694233)

At any point, have you ever had a religious person say "I think you're right, it is all bollocks!" after they've had a chat with you?. It seems like so much hard work to destroy the fantasy.

Re:A lot of effort (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694327)

And on a related note, are you enjoying the echo-chamber questions you are getting in Slashdot, or are you happy enough with just hearing yourself talk?

Circumcision (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694235)

Kind of an oddball question for you - What are your thoughts on circumcision? The reason I ask is because, according to the World Health Organization, about 30% of males on the planet are circumcised and 70% of those are Muslim. It appears that the decision to circumcise is heavily influenced by religious beliefs, but the WHO also states that circumcision helps reduce the risk of contracting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases. Christopher Hitchens, a man who I loved and respected, thought it was a barbaric practice. Being another person I love and respect, I would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

The influence of religion on the upcoming vote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694237)

To what degree, to you think, will the upcoming presidential vote be influenced by religious believes?

Your Belief (-1, Flamebait)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#41694247)

Mr. Dawkins - Are you going to insist on continuing to be an uncompromising asshat to those who disagree with your opinions and beliefs, or have you finally recognized both the irony of such a tactic, and the fact that it's far easier to attract flies with honey as opposed to vinegar?


And no, I'm not being arch, this is a legitimate question.

Re:Your Belief (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694369)

this is a legitimate question.

No it isn't.

Re:Your Belief (1)

Agent ME (1411269) | about 2 years ago | (#41694399)

or have you finally recognized both the irony of such a tactic,

If they say religion is good, and his tactic is to say (and explain why) religion is bad / unneeded, that's not ironic.

Re:Your Belief (2)

bfandreas (603438) | about 2 years ago | (#41694591)

He is a scientist. He understands the prepetual cycle of theory, proof, counterproof, refined theory. Dogma is lazy thinking.

There is nothing to be gained to compromise on that.

There are three enemies of knowledge:
Circular reasoning. Regressive argument. Dogma.
You chose yours. And I'm offended by your lazy choice. Regressive argument is ours. At least we get closer to knowledge whereas you are stumped by something as simple as evolution.

Re:Your Belief (1)

mydn (195771) | about 2 years ago | (#41694625)

You can attract a lot of flies with bullshit, too. Why would you want to attract flies?

Cognitive Dissonance (4, Interesting)

BiophysicalLOVE (2650233) | about 2 years ago | (#41694257)

Is it possible to fully comprehend the world scientifically, and foster a mechanistic perception of the universe, and still foster a faith at the same time? If this it isn't possible, and it is argued that faith will cloud our otherwise pristine judgement, how can we trust the observations or arguments produced by scientists of faith?

Duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694265)

Where do babies come from? :P

Re:Duh (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | about 2 years ago | (#41694341)

I bet he could give a Zoologist's answer that will melt your head.

Selective advantage of religion (5, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41694293)

Given that religion is present in every society, and by far the norm in almost every society, it stands to reason that we are genetically disposed to be religious. That would imply that religion has some evolutionary benefits.

Do you agree? If not, why not? If so, what are those benefits, and how can they be provided by a fully secular society?

Re:Selective advantage of religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694573)

I would rephrase that. It seems to evolve to provide societal benefits.

religion built-in? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#41694299)

There's the idea that's been tossed around for a long time that we're programmed to believe in gods, goddesses, higher powers, and all that to explain things we don't yet understand, that it's some kind of evolutionary coping strategy. Do you think that's true? Why (or why not)?

Being a Symbol (5, Interesting)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#41694315)

You've become an incredibly polarizing figure in a contentious debate. In certain groups, you're akin to the Anti-Christ, and in others you're quoted without question like a religious prophet. How do you handle that? Does it feel weird to have everything you say dissected (and possibly misinterpreted)? Is there pride? Exasperation? Amusement?

Dr. William Lane Craig (-1, Flamebait)

gameboyhippo (827141) | about 2 years ago | (#41694321)

Hi Dawkins,

Thanks for answering our questions!

So awhile back you refused to debate world famous theologian, apologist, and debater Dr. William Lane Craig and gave the reasoning being that he believes that God was justified in instructing the Jews to kill the Canaanites (something ALL Jews and Christians believe for the record). You also bragged about debating a bunch of political heads such as Cardinals, Popes and other non scholarly "Christians". This resulted in Dr. Craig "eastwooding" you (before it became a meme). So I'm just wondering, is the real reason you won't debate Dr. Craig is because you find him annoying or is it because of your embarrassing performance in Mexico where he completely schooled you?

The carrot or the stick? (4, Interesting)

martinux (1742570) | about 2 years ago | (#41694333)

Hi Professor Dawkins and thanks for offering to answer some of our questions.

In the past, some science educators (Dr. Tyson for example) have criticised what they perceived to be your overuse of the stick in promoting rationalism and fact-based decision making where they considered the carrot to be a better tool. There is some evidence that simply stating the facts may actually be counter-productive: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/nyhan-reifler.pdf [dartmouth.edu]

Would you mind talking about the efficacy of both approaches to the greater understanding of the value of fact-based decision making?

Nutrition (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694337)

I believe the most important area of science at the moment is nutrition - so much of the science out there is built upon poor science such as uncontrolled epidemiological studies. Obviously, people are becoming more and more obese.

What can we do to promote healthy skepticism to the ideas the medical establishment holds as their gospel - that saturated fat causes heart disease, salt causes high blood pressure, and that processed vegetable oils are good (oils which have been consumed for less than one generation!).

If we look at the dietary recommendations vs what people are eating, we are as a whole, eating less fats and more carbohydrates. Paradoxically, we have more diabetes, obesity, overweight, and every single other chronic illness than ever before.

I personally believe that organisations such as NuSi are headed in the right direction, but they need more funding to run valid diet trials, something that the AHAs are not, and will not do.

Memetics as an error (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 years ago | (#41694351)

Doctor Dawkins,
In your book, The God Delusion, you consider religion as a memetic trait passed from generation to generation. Although many have pondered as you have a world without religion, given the aforementioned context do you consider an end to religion possible in much the same way we may treat a genetic flaw with genetic therapy in the near future?

Question for you sir (1)

Kungpaoshizi (1660615) | about 2 years ago | (#41694353)

I never heard of you, but your quote of 'One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.', is truly quite amazing! I guess the one question I have for you though, that out-ranks my other thoughts is this; Looking back through your entire life and career, what is the one hint of a thought that makes you truly believe there is no divine being "in charge" of all we see, or can you not truly say that because no matter how much you see you still have a hint of a doubt? Thank you sir, I wish you well!

Is it genetic? (2)

erasmix (880448) | about 2 years ago | (#41694355)

Do you think there's a genetic difference between conservatives and liberals?

Public funding (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694357)

Where should governments focus their science funding?

Environmentalism/global warming? (2)

Laxori666 (748529) | about 2 years ago | (#41694359)

You have spent a lot of time debunking religion and thinking about how to think rationally - something that I have come to appreciate immensely. I'm curious what your take on climate change/global warming is. Is it happening? What does it mean for it to be happening? Is it caused by humans? It would be rather ironic if I were simply asking you so I could then take your word for it and believe whatever you say, so I'm curious about your thought processes as well. Contrary to the "there is no debate; the scientific community 100% agrees on this issue and the only ones who disagree are funded by oil companies" line the pro-global-warming crowd says, I see much evidence [middlebury.net] that not all scientists agree, and not all the ones that disagree have hideous ulterior motives. Further, I see similarities between the religious preachings of doomsday scenarios and the claims that the world is going to explode soon unless we do something right now.

How can I separate the BS claims and the politicization of the issue from what the factual data actually is?

Re:Environmentalism/global warming? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694545)

Contrary to the "there is no debate; the scientific community 100% agrees on this issue and the only ones who disagree are funded by oil companies" line the pro-global-warming crowd says, I see much evidence [middlebury.net] that not all scientists agree, and not all the ones that disagree have hideous ulterior motives.

PROTIP: when you want to put your name on the line for proof or evidence against what a large portion of your scientific community is saying, you don't want to use the headline:

Editorial: The Great Global Warming Hoax?

That leads me to believe this is just an editorial and if it is found out to be incorrect they can wash their hands of it legally and scientifically. It's also unclear who that author is [desmogblog.com] ...

The Flock (1, Interesting)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#41694365)

Assuming you're aware of the behavior, what are your thoughts regarding the fundamentalist-like fervor exhibited by many of your followers, as well as the irony of their penchant for elevating you to a god-like status?

Can you read & comment on miracles I experienc (-1, Troll)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#41694371)

I would hope in Q&A with a man claiming God does not exist, the counter view of a man knowing God exists would be healthy for discussion.

I'm a man that knows God loves everyone. We're called in this life to also love everyone. Jesus is LORD.

The first miracle that I experienced was God spoke to me,"Good News" then my dad handed me a Good News Bible.
You can read the full story here [goodnewsjim.com]

The other miracle that I experienced was God answered my prayer for my book via IM.
You can read the short miracle here and my book is free [fatherspiritson.com]

As a Christian, I am no enemy of science. I feel when we pray for cures to diseases and elimination of hunger, God helps the scientists and find cures and better farming methods. I have no issue with evolution, and I still believe God created it all.

If evil doesn't exist, how can religion be evil? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694379)

From http://www.doubtingdawkins.com/ [doubtingdawkins.com]

FRIST PSOT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694383)

amirite?

Teaching the Documentary Hypothesis (4, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 2 years ago | (#41694391)

When I received my religious education as I child, my rabbi taught me about the Documentary Hypothesis -- not to deny it, but to show me that the torah was not always what it is today. What are your thoughts on this sort of religious education i.e. religious education that is not based on denying or avoiding scientific or historical realities?

Family Feud (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694397)

Hi Richard.. What was your favorite memory as host of Family Feud?

Question #616 (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694401)

is religion a virus of the mind, like a meme that has got out of hand ? as it wishes to replicate and disables/disrupts parts of the mind concerning logic and reason ?
or is it a mental illness of some description like schizophrenia ?

regards
Anon. UK

The Bits and Bytes of Memes? (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#41694415)

Something that's always troubled me about memes is that I cannot understand what the core language or data is for a meme. I know that our genes can be pinned down to be DNA but with memes it's troubling for me to try to imagine a language that conveys what is happening in them. We can observe a meme's transmission, we can observe a meme's mutation, we can observe a meme's fitness and we can observe its extinction -- but what we can't do is break those things down to some finite chunk of information such that we can analyze them on a empirical level. For instance, mutations of memes appear to be limited to only the human imagination and physics. It feels as though I would have as much luck describing how art went from cave paintings to film CGI with only mathematics as the language. So what is the concrete language of memes or are they destined to be more of a curious observation than a falsifiable and reproducible analysis like genetics?

What's the point - he's a fraud (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694425)

There is more circumstantial evidence as to the existence of a creator and savior than not. Dawkins just gains fame from asserting something foolish enough to capture the attention of the ignorant and those who likewise adore those who thrive on attention of any kind.

It's like Al Gore claiming he created the Internet.

Anti-religion church (1)

rroman (2627559) | about 2 years ago | (#41694431)

I'm from Europe and I'm worried about the pro-religion laws, that are passed all around world. This laws effectively prohibit criticising religion, because such critique could be considered blasphemy. I'm against any organized philosophy, because I think it can be used as a tool to manipulate people, but seeing such laws, I would be happy if there was a scientific religion. Such religion could worship scientific truths (without any ceremonies of course) and it would be blasphemous deny them. Then it would be at least fair that not only bullshit like religion could take advantage of such laws. What do you think about it? Would you propose an alternative to this approach?

Last breath? (2)

daniel.garcia.romero (2755603) | about 2 years ago | (#41694479)

Just to situate my question a bit : we have recently witnessed a deadly uproar of muslims over a movie, with Pakistan PM asking U.N for a global blasphemy law. In Israel, there are some cases oppression of females, like of that little girl going to school and more recently Anat Hoffman being arrested for praying at a wall (http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/164434/police-shackle-anat-hoffman-for-saying-shma-at-kot/). In my country, Brazil, there was a fierce campaign against abortion and the so called "Gay Kit" at national elections last year and now the campaign was brought back at São Paulo state elections (mind you the guy that tried to win the election over these topics, José Serra, LOST the national election and is now LOSING his home state election). Now the question: Is the world going less religious, and if so, are the extremists desperate to save territory? Do you think all these reactions, are the "last breath" of religion? (Sorry about my terrible English)

The state of the scientific worldview (0)

korgitser (1809018) | about 2 years ago | (#41694481)

A common non sequitur I see in the science circles goes something like this:
First, there is the scientist who is there to check out every idea out there.
Second, the scientist somehow becomes certain that what has not been checked is not there.
I mean, there is a logical fallacy here. Between the things that have been proved to exist and the things that have been proved not to exist, there lies a gray area of things that have neither been proved to exist nor been proved not to exist. Somehow your regular scientist does not differentiate the gray area from the things proved not to exist. This blind spot of course acts like a censorship mechanism, limiting scientific discourse.
Where do you think this error comes from, and what could be done to improve the status quo?

common author vs common ancestor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694491)

Creationists argue common code could be explained by a common author as much as a common ancestor e.g. a good coder writes software that can be reused in a variety of applications. How would you argue against this view when applied to the genome.

Some points about nature of opposition to Evolutio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694515)

What I am trying to do here is to analyze why the support for creationism is increasing by looking at the thing from the layman's point of view. My question is related to this line from the the post "One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding."

There are many things which the current body of science cannot explain. These events/problems create insecurity in some people's mind. So, this space is a power void or a power vacuum, and something must take place of it. The "something" might not be a clear cut answer. Now, lets compare the two competing ideologies and measure their strengths against each other.

Now, the scientific community has very rigorous standard when judging whether a theory satisfies a given explanation. In general though, there are some central notions like conseration of energy, locality of action, quantum mechanics which give rise to a general framework within which such a theory might be designed. Hence, the means of working are limited since facts have to be logically consistent. Some of the principles of this logic are quiet deep (for example the atom-wave duality is not actually understood by many people). This limits the amount of what the theory can explain, but people many times do not understand the limitations.

In contrast, the other theories are not restricted by any such basic notions. The capabilities of their theories are not followed in any self-consistent model, and this inconsistency is actually a central part of the theory, and hence you cannot actually rebuke it, since people who believe in it just will not accept it. This kind of arbitration makes the theory powerful enough within its axioms to provide an explanation for any given event.

In the power vacuum, the second theory requires less work and is more powerful and hence, in general more likely to succeed in occupying the power vacuum. Basically, for every single phenomena, the explanation can come down to "The god designed it that way". My opinion is this is the basic aspect of which must be resolved.

I would like your comments on my paragraph. Also, if you think my point is valid, I would like to know how can this aspect be resolved. What I feel is, the only way to resolve this aspect is to introduce more people to the advanced science theories at some level. However, exactly how this is to be done, I am not entirely sure.

Thank You for your patience.

Please debate William Lane Craig (1)

jt_04 (2687097) | about 2 years ago | (#41694555)

Why have you refused to debate William Lane Craig? Will you please accept his challenge and debate him on the existence of God?

The role of emotions in persuasion (1)

spetey (164477) | about 2 years ago | (#41694561)

I think most Slashdotters would agree that beliefs should be held only to the extent there's truth-related reason for the belief. But the psych studies seem to show that all-to-often, even we nerds form our beliefs based on emotional motivations instead; Haidt [nytimes.com] suggests, for example, that reason is at best the driver on the back of the unruly elephant of the emotions. If so, then what does that mean to you about how we should try to dissuade the religious?

Opposing Religion (1)

progician (2451300) | about 2 years ago | (#41694587)

Almost immediately after I had finished the 'The God Delusion', I was wonder what is your position on the problem of political activity. Let me expand.

The religious mindset relies on faith at some point. There are people who accept everything that is branded as dear to their religion while others look quite reasonable until you hit some deep spot. One can also make the point that faith generally used as the single most important aspect of politics and oppression. It is not that surprising therefore that the oppressive regimes in human history were bound to some kind of belief system, even if it wasn't explicitly religious, like in the case of the Bolshevik style dictatorships where the cult of the leader, the unquestioned endorsement of the political ideals and actions dictated by the unquestionable source of wisdom replaced the traditional role of the Church. It is not hard to see why even the contemporary politics in the liberal democracies is still struggling with the question of religion.

Do you think that any significant portion of human race will ever be able act on critical assessment rather than blind faith given that there is no demographic, educational and political trend toward a more enlightened society at large (world-level)?

Interaction with Christians Evolutionists (4, Interesting)

rhartness (993048) | about 2 years ago | (#41694589)

There is a small percentage of Christians, such as myself, who adamantly believe in both evolution and Christianity. We believe that scripture must be read and interpreted through a context that understands that scripture should be interpreted by first considering the culture of the original audience. As such, we believe that the "historical" aspect of the Biblical account of creation isn't as important as understanding the purpose and point of all of "creation", humankind and who we are in relation to our creator. My intent is not to lecture on the creation of mankind. Instead, I am interested in knowing if you've ever spoken or debated much with other Christians who have similar beliefs as myself. For many of us, evolution is unquestionable! However, the sheer existence of such truth does not exclude the fact that a creator couldn't have been a part in the process. Much of your Christian (or other religious) interactions that I've observed tend to involve arguing against the most commonly propagated beliefs of creationism. I am interested in your thoughts, on such a different perspective, as my own. Please comment. Thank you so much.

How can evolution be disproved (1)

Bruce66423 (1678196) | about 2 years ago | (#41694629)

As this link shows: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/09/in_debate_brita_1064521.html [evolutionnews.org] like a good theologian, you can adjust your story to fit new facts with superb aplomb. However such success must cast doubt on whether evolution actually offers testable hypotheses. Could you please make some specific claims whose being disproved would show that evolution is untrue?

Who (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41694637)

Linus is my God.

And I'm friggin' delusional? Sod off, you insensitive clod.

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