The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins
The renowned biologist talks about intelligent design, dishonest Christians, and why God is no better than an imaginary friend.
BY: Interview by Laura Sheahen
British biologist Richard Dawkins has made a name for himself defending evolution and fighting what he sees as religiously motivated attacks on science. Dr. Dawkins sat down with Beliefnet at the World Congress of Secular Humanism, where his keynote address focused on intelligent design.
You're concerned about the state of education, especially science education. If you were able to teach every person, what would you want people to believe?
I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence.
Not everybody can evaluate all evidence; we can't evaluate the evidence for quantum physics. So it does have to be a certain amount of taking things on trust. I have to take what physicists say on trust, for example, because I'm a biologist. But science [has] a system of appraisal, of peer review, so that I trust the physics community to get their act together in a way that I know from the inside. I wish people would put their trust in evidence, not in faith, revelation, tradition, or authority.
What do you wish people knew about evolution?
Dawkins on Design|
Listen to clips from Dawkins' recent speech:
The Flaws in the Argument from Design
There Is an Alternative to Chance
The Faulty Logic of 'Irreducible Complexity'
Creationists Adore Gaps in the Fossil Record
Evolution and Theism Are Incompatible
Audio provided courtesy of the World Congress of Secular Humanism
That is staggering ignorance of what evolutionary science is about; if they think that's what evolutionists believe, no wonder they're skeptical of it. How can a civilized country have adult people in positions of leadership who know so stunningly little about the leading biological concept?
You said in a recent speech that design was not the only alternative to chance. A lot of people think that evolution is all about random chance.
That's ludicrous. That's ridiculous. Mutation is random in the sense that it's not anticipatory of what's needed. Natural selection is anything but random. Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don't survive. That's a non-random process. The animals that are best at whatever they do-hunting, flying, fishing, swimming, digging-whatever the species does, the individuals that are best at it are the ones that pass on the genes. It's because of this non-random process that lions are so good at hunting, antelopes so good at running away from lions, and fish are so good at swimming.
There are intelligent people who have been taught good science and evolution, and who may choose to believe in something religious that may seem to fly in the face of science. What do you make of that?
It's certainly hard to know what to make of it. I think it's a betrayal of science. I think they have a religious agenda which, for reasons best known to themselves, they elevate above science.
What are your thoughts about the despair some people feel when they ponder natural selection and random mutation? The idea of evolution and natural selection makes some people feel that everything is meaningless--people's individual lives and life in general.
If it's true that it causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it's true, and you'd better live with it.