So that's sort of a wild analogy to adopting children, in this case ones who are not your own species.

By the way, I would hate this to be taken as any sort of suggestion that adoptive parents don't love their adopted children; of course they do. But you could think of it as a kind of genetic mistake, in that human adults have strong parental instincts which make them long for a child. If they can't have a child of their own, they can then satisfy those parental instincts by adopting a child.

In the same way, we have sexual instincts; we long for sex and it doesn't matter that we use contraception. That's, as it were, separating the natural function of sex, which is reproduction. But we still enjoy sex in the same way that we enjoy being a parent even if it is not our own child that we're looking after.

You've said, "don't name our present ignorance God"--which you said is what intelligent design proponents are doing. They're taking an area where we're ignorant and naming that God. Do you think science will eventually explain everything we wonder about now?

I don't know the answer. I'm equally excited by both in a way. I rather like the idea of understanding everything and I also quite like the idea of science being a never-ending, open-ended quest.

Where atheists find sources of joy and hope

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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.