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


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If you had to name top sources for optimism and hope in a naturalistic or materialistic worldview, what would they be?

I think there is something glorious in the universe, in contemplating the Milky Way galaxy, in contemplating the fact that this is only one in billions of galaxies, contemplating the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, humanity really has gone a very long way toward understanding the universe in which we live and the life form of which we are a part. I find that a truly inspirational thought.

Obviously, there are other things having nothing to do with science-music, poetry, sex, love. These are all things that make life, to me, extremely worth living.

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

Then there's the added fact that it is the only life we're ever going to get. Don't kid yourself that you're going to live again after you're dead; you're not. Make the most of the one life you've got. Live it to the full.

You've criticized the idea of the afterlife. What do you see as the problem with a terminally ill cancer patient believing in an afterlife?

Oh, no problem at all. I would never wish to disabuse or disillusion somebody who believed that. I care about what's true for myself, but I don't want to go around telling people who are afraid of dying that their hopes are unreal.

If I could have a word with a would-be suicide bomber or plane hijacker who thinks he's going to paradise, I would like to disabuse him. I wouldn't say to him, "Don't you see what you're doing is wrong?" I would say, "Don't imagine for one second you're going to paradise. You're not. You're going to rot in the ground."

How would you feel if your daughter became religious in the future?

Well, that would be her decision and obviously she's her own person, she's free to do whatever she likes. I think she's much too intelligent to do that, but that's her decision.

You talk about how your words have been twisted by religious people in the past. Which words of yours have been twisted?

Whenever I begin an argument by saying something that sounds as though it's creationist, something like "the Cambrian Explosion is a sudden explosion of fossils almost as though they had no history," I'm obviously saying that as a prelude to explaining why.

But these people quote selectively. It's a demonstration of their fundamental dishonesty. They're not actually interested in truth, they're interested in propaganda.

Are there one or two phrases you've heard repeatedly quoted out of context that you'd like to set the record straight about?

Well, that's one of them, about the Cambrian Explosion. Another one is Darwin's famous phrase, to suppose that "the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances"-he goes on about the complications of the eye-"could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree." He then goes on to explain it, and they never quote that. They just stop there. Dishonest.

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