Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Overview
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

 (born 26 March 1941), known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist
Ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

, evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford
New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

, and was the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

's Professor for Public Understanding of Science
Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science
The Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science is a chair in the University of Oxford. The chair was established in 1995 for the ethologist Richard Dawkins by an endowment from Charles Simonyi....

 from 1995 until 2008.

Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the...

, which popularised the gene-centered view of evolution
Gene-centered view of evolution
The gene-centered view of evolution, gene selection theory or selfish gene theory holds that evolution occurs through the differential survival of competing genes, increasing the frequency of those alleles whose phenotypic effects successfully promote their own propagation, with gene defined as...

 and introduced the term meme
Meme
A meme is "an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena...

. In 1982 he introduced an influential concept into evolutionary biology, presented in his book The Extended Phenotype
The Extended Phenotype
The Extended Phenotype is a biological concept introduced by Richard Dawkins in a 1982 book with the same title. The main idea is that phenotype should not be limited to biological processes such as protein biosynthesis or tissue growth, but extended to include all effects that a gene has on its...

, that the phenotypic
Phenotype
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

 effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism's body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms.

Dawkins is an atheist and humanist
Secular humanism
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

, a Vice President of the British Humanist Association
British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is an organisation of the United Kingdom which promotes Humanism and represents "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs." The BHA is committed to secularism, human rights, democracy, egalitarianism and mutual respect...

 and supporter of the Brights movement
Brights movement
The Brights movement is a social movement that aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview, including equal civil rights and acceptance for people who hold a naturalistic worldview. It was co-founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell in 2003...

.
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Quotations

What worries me about religion is that it teaches people to be satisfied with not understanding.

Heart Of The Matter: God Under The Microscope | BBC (1996)

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.

Unweaving the Rainbow|Unweaving the Rainbow (1998), Preface
Encyclopedia
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

 (born 26 March 1941), known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist
Ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

, evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford
New College, Oxford
New College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.- Overview :The College's official name, College of St Mary, is the same as that of the older Oriel College; hence, it has been referred to as the "New College of St Mary", and is now almost always...

, and was the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

's Professor for Public Understanding of Science
Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science
The Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science is a chair in the University of Oxford. The chair was established in 1995 for the ethologist Richard Dawkins by an endowment from Charles Simonyi....

 from 1995 until 2008.

Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the...

, which popularised the gene-centered view of evolution
Gene-centered view of evolution
The gene-centered view of evolution, gene selection theory or selfish gene theory holds that evolution occurs through the differential survival of competing genes, increasing the frequency of those alleles whose phenotypic effects successfully promote their own propagation, with gene defined as...

 and introduced the term meme
Meme
A meme is "an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena...

. In 1982 he introduced an influential concept into evolutionary biology, presented in his book The Extended Phenotype
The Extended Phenotype
The Extended Phenotype is a biological concept introduced by Richard Dawkins in a 1982 book with the same title. The main idea is that phenotype should not be limited to biological processes such as protein biosynthesis or tissue growth, but extended to include all effects that a gene has on its...

, that the phenotypic
Phenotype
A phenotype is an organism's observable characteristics or traits: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, behavior, and products of behavior...

 effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism's body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms.

Dawkins is an atheist and humanist
Secular humanism
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism , is a secular philosophy that embraces human reason, ethics, justice, and the search for human fulfillment...

, a Vice President of the British Humanist Association
British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is an organisation of the United Kingdom which promotes Humanism and represents "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs." The BHA is committed to secularism, human rights, democracy, egalitarianism and mutual respect...

 and supporter of the Brights movement
Brights movement
The Brights movement is a social movement that aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview, including equal civil rights and acceptance for people who hold a naturalistic worldview. It was co-founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell in 2003...

. He is well known for his criticism of creationism
Creationism
Creationism is the religious beliefthat humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being, most often referring to the Abrahamic god. As science developed from the 18th century onwards, various views developed which aimed to reconcile science with the Genesis...

 and intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

. In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins in which he presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on...

, he argued against the watchmaker analogy
Watchmaker analogy
The watchmaker analogy, or watchmaker argument, is a teleological argument for the existence of God. By way of an analogy, the argument states that design implies a designer...

, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 based upon the complexity of living organisms. Instead, he described evolutionary processes as analogous to a blind watchmaker. He has since written several popular science books, and makes regular television and radio appearances, predominantly discussing these topics. In his 2006 book The God Delusion
The God Delusion
The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford.In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that...

, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion—a fixed false belief. As of January 2010 the English-language version has sold more than two million copies and had been translated into 31 languages.

Biography


Dawkins was born in Nairobi
Nairobi
Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also forms the Nairobi County. The name "Nairobi" comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which translates to "the place of cool waters". However, it is popularly known as the "Green City in the Sun" and is...

, Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

. His father, Clinton John Dawkins (1915–2010), was an agricultural civil servant in the British colonial service, in Nyasaland
Nyasaland
Nyasaland or the Nyasaland Protectorate, was a British protectorate located in Africa, which was established in 1907 when the former British Central Africa Protectorate changed its name. Since 1964, it has been known as Malawi....

 (now Malawi
Malawi
The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size...

). Dawkins has a younger sister. His father was called up into the King's African Rifles
King's African Rifles
The King's African Rifles was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from the various British possessions in East Africa from 1902 until independence in the 1960s. It performed both military and internal security functions within the East African colonies as well as external service as...

 during World War II, returning to England in 1949, when Dawkins was eight. His father had inherited a country estate, Over Norton Park
Over Norton Park
Over Norton Park is a farm which has been in the Dawkins family since the 1720s.The farm was originally a country estate, which was converted by John Dawkins, father of Richard Dawkins, into a commercial farm.It is slightly to the north of Chipping Norton....

, which he turned into a commercial farm. Both his parents were interested in natural science
Natural science
The natural sciences are branches of science that seek to elucidate the rules that govern the natural world by using empirical and scientific methods...

s; they answered Dawkins' questions in scientific terms.

Dawkins describes his childhood as "a normal Anglican upbringing". He was confirmed, and embraced Christianity until his mid-teens, at which point he concluded that the theory of evolution
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

 was a better explanation for life's complexity, and ceased believing in a god. Dawkins states: "the main residual reason why I was religious was from being so impressed with the complexity of life and feeling that it had to have a designer, and I think it was when I realised that Darwinism was a far superior explanation that pulled the rug out from under the argument of design. And that left me with nothing."

He attended Oundle
Oundle School
Oundle School is a co-educational British public school located in the ancient market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire. The school has been maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London since its foundation in 1556. Oundle has eight boys' houses, five girls' houses, a day...

, a Church of England school, from 1954 to 1959. He studied zoology
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

 at Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College , founded in 1263, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England but founded by a family with strong Scottish connections....

, where he was tutored by Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

–winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen
Nikolaas Tinbergen
Nikolaas "Niko" Tinbergen was a Dutch ethologist and ornithologist who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behaviour patterns in animals.In the 1960s he...

, graduating in 1962. He continued as a research student under Tinbergen's supervision, receiving his M.A. and D.Phil.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 degrees by 1966, and remained a research assistant for another year. Tinbergen was a pioneer in the study of animal behaviour, particularly in the areas of instinct, learning and choice. Dawkins' research in this period concerned models of animal decision-making.

From 1967 to 1969, he was an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

. During this period, the students and faculty at UC Berkeley were largely opposed to the ongoing Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, and Dawkins became heavily involved in the anti-war
Opposition to the Vietnam War
The movement against US involvment in the in Vietnam War began in the United States with demonstrations in 1964 and grew in strength in later years. The US became polarized between those who advocated continued involvement in Vietnam, and those who wanted peace. Peace movements consisted largely of...

 demonstrations and activities. He returned to the University of Oxford in 1970 taking a position as a lecturer, and in 1990, as a reader
Reader (academic rank)
The title of Reader in the United Kingdom and some universities in the Commonwealth nations like Australia and New Zealand denotes an appointment for a senior academic with a distinguished international reputation in research or scholarship...

 in zoology. In 1995 he was appointed Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science
Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science
The Simonyi Professorship for the Public Understanding of Science is a chair in the University of Oxford. The chair was established in 1995 for the ethologist Richard Dawkins by an endowment from Charles Simonyi....

 at Oxford, a position that had been endowed by Charles Simonyi
Charles Simonyi
Charles Simonyi is a Hungarian-American computer software executive who, as head of Microsoft's application software group, oversaw the creation of Microsoft's flagship Office suite of applications. He now heads his own company, Intentional Software, with the aim of developing and marketing his...

 with the express intention that the holder "be expected to make important contributions to the public understanding of some scientific field", and that its first holder should be Richard Dawkins.

Since 1970 he has been a fellow of New College. He has delivered a number of inaugural and other lectures, including the Henry Sidgwick
Henry Sidgwick
Henry Sidgwick was an English utilitarian philosopher and economist. He was one of the founders and first president of the Society for Psychical Research, a member of the Metaphysical Society, and promoted the higher education of women...

 Memorial Lecture (1989), first Erasmus Darwin
Erasmus Darwin
Erasmus Darwin was an English physician who turned down George III's invitation to be a physician to the King. One of the key thinkers of the Midlands Enlightenment, he was also a natural philosopher, physiologist, slave trade abolitionist,inventor and poet...

 Memorial Lecture (1990), Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday, FRS was an English chemist and physicist who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry....

 Lecture (1991), T.H. Huxley Memorial Lecture (1992), Irvine Memorial Lecture (1997), Sheldon Doyle Lecture (1999), Tinbergen Lecture (2004) and Tanner Lectures (2003). In 1991 he gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children
Royal Institution Christmas Lectures
The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures are a series of lectures on a single topic, which have been held at the Royal Institution in London each year since 1825. The lectures present scientific subjects to a general audience, including young people, in an informative and entertaining manner....

. He has also served as editor of a number of journals, and has acted as editorial advisor to the Encarta Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Evolution. He is a senior editor of the Council for Secular Humanism
Council for Secular Humanism
The Council for Secular Humanism is a secular humanist organization headquartered in Amherst, New York. In 1980 CODESH issued A Secular Humanist Declaration, an argument for and statement of belief in Democratic Secular Humanism...

's Free Inquiry magazine, for which he also writes a column. He has been a member of the editorial board of Skeptic
Skeptic (U.S. magazine)
Skeptic is a quarterly science education and science advocacy magazine published internationally by The Skeptics Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs...

 magazine since its foundation.

He has sat on judging panels for awards as diverse as the Royal Society's Faraday Award and the British Academy Television Awards
British Academy Television Awards
The British Academy Television Awards are presented in an annual award show hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts . They have been awarded annually since 1954, and are analogous to the Emmy Awards in the United States.-Background:...

, and has been president of the Biological Sciences section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science
British Association for the Advancement of Science
frame|right|"The BA" logoThe British Association for the Advancement of Science or the British Science Association, formerly known as the BA, is a learned society with the object of promoting science, directing general attention to scientific matters, and facilitating interaction between...

. In 2004 Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College , founded in 1263, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England but founded by a family with strong Scottish connections....

 instituted the Dawkins Prize, awarded for "outstanding research into the ecology and behaviour of animals whose welfare and survival may be endangered by human activities". In September 2008, he retired from his professorship, announcing plans to "write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in 'anti-scientific' fairytales."

Personal life


On 19 August 1967, Dawkins married fellow ethologist Marian Stamp
Marian Stamp Dawkins
Marian Ellina Stamp Dawkins is professor for animal behaviour at the University of Oxford, where she heads the Animal Behaviour Research Group. She has published several books, one of which has been translated into German, and many peer-reviewed papers. She is considered an expert in animal welfare...

 in Annestown
Annestown
Annestown is a coastal village in County Waterford, Ireland on the Copper Coast between Dungarvan and Tramore. It is a popular destination for surfers.It is one of the few villages in Ireland not to have a pub.-See also:...

, County Waterford
County Waterford
*Abbeyside, Affane, Aglish, Annestown, An Rinn, Ardmore*Ballinacourty, Ballinameela, Ballinamult, Ballinroad, Ballybeg, Ballybricken, Ballyduff Lower, Ballyduff Upper, Ballydurn, Ballygunner, Ballylaneen, Ballymacarbry, Ballymacart, Ballynaneashagh, Ballysaggart, Ballytruckle, Bilberry, Bunmahon,...

, Ireland; they divorced in 1984. Later that same year, on 1 June, he married Eve Barham (19 August 1951–28 February 1999) in Oxford. They had a daughter, Juliet Emma Dawkins (born 1984, Oxford). Dawkins and Barham divorced; she died of cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

. In 1992 he married actress Lalla Ward
Lalla Ward
Sarah Ward known as Lalla Ward, is an English actor, author and illustrator. As an actor, she is known for playing the part of Romana in the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who. She is married to evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.-Early career:Ward's stage name, "Lalla", comes...

 in Kensington and Chelsea
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is a central London borough of Royal borough status. After the City of Westminster, it is the wealthiest borough in England....

, London. Dawkins met her through their mutual friend Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams
Douglas Noel Adams was an English writer and dramatist. He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which started life in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a "trilogy" of five books that sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime, a television...

, who had worked with her on the BBC's Doctor Who
Doctor Who
Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

.

Evolutionary biology


In his scientific works, Dawkins is best known for his popularisation of the gene-centred view of evolution. This view is most clearly set out in his books The Selfish Gene (1976), where he notes that "all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating entities", and The Extended Phenotype
The Extended Phenotype
The Extended Phenotype is a biological concept introduced by Richard Dawkins in a 1982 book with the same title. The main idea is that phenotype should not be limited to biological processes such as protein biosynthesis or tissue growth, but extended to include all effects that a gene has on its...

 (1982), in which he describes natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 as "the process whereby replicators
DNA replication
DNA replication is a biological process that occurs in all living organisms and copies their DNA; it is the basis for biological inheritance. The process starts with one double-stranded DNA molecule and produces two identical copies of the molecule...

 out-propagate each other". In his role as an ethologist, interested in animal behaviour and its relation to natural selection, he advocates the idea that the gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

 is the principal unit of selection
Unit of selection
A unit of selection is a biological entity within the hierarchy of biological organisation that is subject to natural selection...

 in evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

.

Dawkins has consistently been sceptical about non-adaptive processes in evolution (such as spandrels
Spandrel (biology)
In evolutionary biology, a Spandrel is a phenotypic characteristic that is a byproduct of the evolution of some other characteristic, rather than a direct product of adaptive selection.-Origin of Term:...

, described by Gould and Lewontin
Richard Lewontin
Richard Charles "Dick" Lewontin is an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist and social commentator. A leader in developing the mathematical basis of population genetics and evolutionary theory, he pioneered the notion of using techniques from molecular biology such as gel electrophoresis to...

) and about selection at levels "above" that of the gene. He is particularly sceptical about the practical possibility or importance of group selection
Group selection
In evolutionary biology, group selection refers to the idea that alleles can become fixed or spread in a population because of the benefits they bestow on groups, regardless of the alleles' effect on the fitness of individuals within that group....

 as a basis for understanding altruism
Altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

.
This behaviour appears at first to be an evolutionary paradox, since helping others costs precious resources and decreases one's own fitness
Fitness (biology)
Fitness is a central idea in evolutionary theory. It can be defined either with respect to a genotype or to a phenotype in a given environment...

. Previously, many had interpreted this as an aspect of group selection: individuals were doing what was best for the survival of the population or species as a whole, and not specifically for themselves. British evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton
W. D. Hamilton
William Donald Hamilton FRS was a British evolutionary biologist, widely recognised as one of the greatest evolutionary theorists of the 20th century....

 had used the gene-centred view to explain altruism in terms of inclusive fitness
Inclusive fitness
In evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology, the inclusive fitness of an organism is the sum of its classical fitness and the number of equivalents of its own offspring it can add to the population by supporting others...

 and kin selection
Kin selection
Kin selection refers to apparent strategies in evolution that favor the reproductive success of an organism's relatives, even at a cost to the organism's own survival and reproduction. Charles Darwin was the first to discuss the concept of group/kin selection...

 − that individuals behave altruistically toward their close relatives, who share many of their own genes. Similarly, Robert Trivers
Robert Trivers
Robert L. Trivers is an American evolutionary biologist and sociobiologist and Professor of Anthropology and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University. Trivers is most noted for proposing the theories of reciprocal altruism , parental investment , facultative sex ratio determination , and...

, thinking in terms of the gene-centred model, developed the theory of reciprocal altruism
Reciprocal altruism
In evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism is a behaviour whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism's fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time...

, whereby one organism provides a benefit to another in the expectation of future reciprocation. Dawkins popularised these ideas in The Selfish Gene, and developed them in his own work.

He has also been strongly critical of the Gaia philosophy
Gaia philosophy
Gaia philosophy is a broadly inclusive term for related concepts that living organisms on a planet will affect the nature of their environment in order to make the environment more suitable for life. This set of theories holds that all organisms on an extraterrestrial life-giving planet regulate...

 theory of the independent scientist James Lovelock
James Lovelock
James Lovelock, CH, CBE, FRS is an independent scientist, environmentalist and futurologist who lives in Devon, England. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the biosphere is a self-regulating entity with the capacity to keep our planet healthy by controlling...

.

Critics of Dawkins' approach suggest that taking the gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

 as the unit of selection − of a single event in which an individual either succeeds or fails to reproduce − is misleading, but that the gene could be better described as a unit of evolution − of the long-term changes in allele
Allele
An allele is one of two or more forms of a gene or a genetic locus . "Allel" is an abbreviation of allelomorph. Sometimes, different alleles can result in different observable phenotypic traits, such as different pigmentation...

 frequencies in a population. In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins explains that he is using George C. Williams
George C. Williams
Professor George Christopher Williams was an American evolutionary biologist.Williams was a professor emeritus of biology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He was best known for his vigorous critique of group selection. The work of Williams in this area, along with W. D...

' definition of the gene as "that which segregates and recombines with appreciable frequency." Another common objection is that genes cannot survive alone, but must cooperate to build an individual, and therefore cannot be an independent "unit". In The Extended Phenotype, Dawkins suggests that because of genetic recombination
Genetic recombination
Genetic recombination is a process by which a molecule of nucleic acid is broken and then joined to a different one. Recombination can occur between similar molecules of DNA, as in homologous recombination, or dissimilar molecules, as in non-homologous end joining. Recombination is a common method...

 and sexual reproduction
Sexual reproduction
Sexual reproduction is the creation of a new organism by combining the genetic material of two organisms. There are two main processes during sexual reproduction; they are: meiosis, involving the halving of the number of chromosomes; and fertilization, involving the fusion of two gametes and the...

, from an individual gene's viewpoint all other genes are part of the environment to which it is adapted.

Advocates for higher levels of selection such as Richard Lewontin
Richard Lewontin
Richard Charles "Dick" Lewontin is an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist and social commentator. A leader in developing the mathematical basis of population genetics and evolutionary theory, he pioneered the notion of using techniques from molecular biology such as gel electrophoresis to...

, David Sloan Wilson
David Sloan Wilson
David Sloan Wilson is an American evolutionary biologist and a Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology at Binghamton University. He is a son of the author Sloan Wilson.-Academic career:...

, and Elliot Sober suggest that there are many phenomena (including altruism) that gene-based selection cannot satisfactorily explain. The philosopher Mary Midgley
Mary Midgley
Mary Midgley, née Scrutton , is an English moral philosopher. She was a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Newcastle University and is known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights. She wrote her first book, Beast And Man: The Roots of Human Nature , when she was in her fifties...

, with whom Dawkins clashed in print concerning The Selfish Gene, has criticised gene selection, memetics and sociobiology as being excessively reductionist
Reductionism
Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can...

 and suggests that the popularity of Dawkins' work is due to factors in the Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.The...

 such as the increased individualism of the Thatcher/Reagan decades.

In a set of controversies over the mechanisms and interpretation of evolution (the so-called 'Darwin Wars'), one faction was often named after Dawkins and its rival after the American paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

, reflecting the pre-eminence of each as a populariser of pertinent ideas. In particular, Dawkins and Gould have been prominent commentators in the controversy over sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

 and evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

, with Dawkins generally approving and Gould generally being critical. A typical example of Dawkins' position was his scathing review of Not in Our Genes
Not in Our Genes
Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology and Human Nature is a 1984 book authored by evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, neurobiologist Steven Rose and psychologist Leon J...

 by Steven Rose
Steven Rose
Steven P. Rose is a Professor of Biology and Neurobiology at the Open University and University of London.-Life:...

, Leon J. Kamin and Richard C. Lewontin. Two other thinkers on the subject often considered to be allied to Dawkins are Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker
Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author...

 and Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett
Daniel Clement Dennett is an American philosopher, writer and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the Co-director of...

; Dennett has promoted a gene-centred view of evolution and defended reductionism
Reductionism
Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can...

 in biology. Despite their academic disagreements, Dawkins and Gould did not have a hostile personal relationship, and Dawkins dedicated a large portion of his 2003 book A Devil's Chaplain
A Devil's Chaplain
A Devil's Chaplain, subtitled Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love is a 2003 book of selected essays and other writings by Richard Dawkins. Published five years after his previous book Unweaving the Rainbow, it contains 32 essays covering subjects including pseudoscience, genetic...

 posthumously to Gould, who had died the previous year.

Dawkins' book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution is a 2009 book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, which was released on 3 September 2009 in the UK and on 22 September 2009 in the U.S...

 expounds the evidence for biological evolution. All of his previous works dealing with evolution had assumed its truth, and not explicitly provided the evidence to this effect. Dawkins felt that this represented a gap in his oeuvre, and decided to write the book to coincide with Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's bicentennial
Anniversary
An anniversary is a day that commemorates or celebrates a past event that occurred on the same day of the year as the initial event. For example, the first event is the initial occurrence or, if planned, the inaugural of the event. One year later would be the first anniversary of that event...

 year.

Meme



Dawkins coined the word meme (the behavioral equivalent of a gene) to describe how Darwinian principles might be extended to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. This has spawned the field of memetics
Memetics
Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. It purports to be an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. A meme, analogous to a gene, is essentially a "unit of...

. Dawkins' memes refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator of a certain idea or a complex of ideas. He hypothesised that people could view many cultural entities as capable of such replication, generally through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient (although not perfect) copiers of information and behaviour. Memes are not always copied perfectly, and might indeed become refined, combined or otherwise modified with other ideas, resulting in new memes, which may themselves prove more, or less, efficient replicators than their predecessors, thus providing a framework for a hypothesis of cultural evolution, analogous to the theory of biological evolution based on genes. Since originally outlining the idea in his book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins has largely left the task of expanding upon it to other authors such as Susan Blackmore
Susan Blackmore
Susan Jane Blackmore is an English freelance writer, lecturer, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, perhaps best known for her book The Meme Machine.-Career:...

.

Although Dawkins invented the specific term meme independently, he has not claimed that the idea itself was entirely novel, and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past. For instance, John Laurent has suggested that the term may have derived from the work of the little-known German biologist Richard Semon
Richard Semon
Richard Wolfgang Semon was a German zoologist and evolutionary biologist, who believed in the inheritance of acquired characters and applied this to social evolution....

. In 1904 Semon published Die Mneme (which appeared in English in 1924 as The Mneme). This book discussed the cultural transmission of experiences, with insights parallel to those of Dawkins. Laurent also found the term mneme used in Maurice Maeterlinck
Maurice Maeterlinck
Maurice Polydore Marie Bernard Maeterlinck, also called Comte Maeterlinck from 1932, was a Belgian playwright, poet, and essayist who wrote in French. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life...

's The Life of the White Ant (1926), and has highlighted the similarities to Dawkins' concept.

Criticism of creationism


Dawkins is a prominent critic of creationism
Creationism
Creationism is the religious beliefthat humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being, most often referring to the Abrahamic god. As science developed from the 18th century onwards, various views developed which aimed to reconcile science with the Genesis...

 (the religious belief that human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

ity, life
Life
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...

 and the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 were created by a deity
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

, without recourse to evolution). He has described the Young Earth creationist
Young Earth creationism
Young Earth creationism is the religious belief that Heavens, Earth, and all life on Earth were created by direct acts of the Abrahamic God during a relatively short period, sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago...

 view that the Earth is only a few thousand years old as "a preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood", and his 1986 book, The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker
The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins in which he presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on...

, contains a sustained critique of the argument from design
Teleological argument
A teleological or design argument is an a posteriori argument for the existence of God based on apparent design and purpose in the universe. The argument is based on an interpretation of teleology wherein purpose and intelligent design appear to exist in nature beyond the scope of any such human...

, an important creationist argument. In the book, Dawkins argued against the watchmaker analogy
Watchmaker analogy
The watchmaker analogy, or watchmaker argument, is a teleological argument for the existence of God. By way of an analogy, the argument states that design implies a designer...

 made famous by the 18th-century English theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 William Paley
William Paley
William Paley was a British Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian. He is best known for his exposition of the teleological argument for the existence of God in his work Natural Theology, which made use of the watchmaker analogy .-Life:Paley was Born in Peterborough, England, and was...

 in his book Natural Theology. Paley argued that, just as a watch is too complicated and too functional to have sprung into existence merely by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. Dawkins shares the view generally held by scientists that natural selection is sufficient to explain the apparent functionality and non-random complexity of the biological world, and can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, albeit as an automatic, nonintelligent, blind watchmaker.

In 1986 Dawkins participated in an Oxford Union
Oxford Union
The Oxford Union Society, commonly referred to simply as the Oxford Union, is a debating society in the city of Oxford, Britain, whose membership is drawn primarily but not exclusively from the University of Oxford...

 debate, in which he and English biologist John Maynard Smith
John Maynard Smith
John Maynard Smith,His surname was Maynard Smith, not Smith, nor was it hyphenated. F.R.S. was a British theoretical evolutionary biologist and geneticist. Originally an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War, he took a second degree in genetics under the well-known biologist J.B.S....

 debated Young Earth creationist
Young Earth creationism
Young Earth creationism is the religious belief that Heavens, Earth, and all life on Earth were created by direct acts of the Abrahamic God during a relatively short period, sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago...

 A. E. Wilder-Smith
A. E. Wilder-Smith
Professor Arthur Ernest Wilder-Smith, Ph.D. , Dr. es Science , D. Sc., P.D., F.R.S.C. , more commonly known as A. E. Wilder-Smith, was an organic-chemist, humanitarian, lecturer and author.-Biography:He became a professor of pharmacology at the University of Illinois Medical Center in 1963...

 and Edgar Andrews, president of the Biblical Creation Society
Biblical Creation Society
The Biblical Creation Society is a United Kingdom-based creationist organisation founded in 1977 by Scottish minister Nigel M. de S. Cameron and a group of evangelical students, who were concerned about the popularity of theistic evolution among conservative Christians, but were repelled by the...

. In general, however, Dawkins has followed the advice of his late colleague Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

 and refused to participate in formal debates with creationists because "what they seek is the oxygen of respectability", and doing so would "give them this oxygen by the mere act of engaging with them at all". He suggests that creationists "don't mind being beaten in an argument. What matters is that we give them recognition by bothering to argue with them in public."

In a December 2004 interview with American journalist Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers is an American journalist and public commentator. He served as White House Press Secretary in the United States President Lyndon B. Johnson Administration from 1965 to 1967. He worked as a news commentator on television for ten years. Moyers has had an extensive involvement with public...

, Dawkins said that "among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know." When Moyers questioned him on the use of the word theory
Evolution as theory and fact
"Evolution is both fact and theory" is a statement that appears in numerous publications on biological evolution. The statement is framed to clarify misconceptions about the philosophy of evolution primarily in response to creationist statements that "evolution is only a theory"...

, Dawkins stated that "evolution has been observed. It's just that it hasn't been observed while it's happening." He added that "it is rather like a detective coming on a murder after the scene... the detective hasn't actually seen the murder take place, of course. But what you do see is a massive clue... Huge quantities of circumstantial evidence. It might as well be spelled out in words of English."

Dawkins has ardently opposed the inclusion of intelligent design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 in science education, describing it as "not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one". He has been referred to in the media as "Darwin's Rottweiler
Rottweiler
The Rottweiler is a medium to large size breed of domestic dog that originated in Rottweil, Germany. The dogs were known as "Rottweil butchers' dogs" because they were used to herd livestock and pull carts laden with butchered meat and other products to market...

", a reference to English biologist T. H. Huxley, who was known as "Darwin's Bulldog
Bulldog
Bulldog is the name for a breed of dog commonly referred to as the English Bulldog. Other Bulldog breeds include the American Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge and the French Bulldog. The Bulldog is a muscular heavy dog with a wrinkled face and a distinctive pushed-in nose...

" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's evolutionary ideas. He has been a strong critic of the British organisation Truth in Science
Truth in Science
Truth in Science is a United Kingdom-based creationist organization which promotes the Discovery Institute's "Teach the Controversy" campaign. It uses this strategy to try to get intelligent design taught alongside evolution in school science lessons...

, which promotes the teaching of creationism in state schools, and he plans—through the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is a non-profit organisation founded by British biologist Richard Dawkins in 2006.-The foundation:...

—to subsidise the delivery of books, DVDs and pamphlets to schools, in order to counteract what he has described as an "educational scandal".

Advocacy of atheism



Dawkins is an outspoken atheist
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 and a prominent critic of religion
Criticism of religion
Criticism of religion is criticism of the concepts, validity, and/or practices of religion, including associated political and social implications....

. In an interview with Thomas Bass
Thomas Bass
Thomas Alden Bass is an American writer and professor in literature and history.- Biography :Bass graduated with an honors A.B. from the University of Chicago in 1973 and earned his Ph.D. in the History of Consciousness from the University of California Santa Cruz in 1980...

 for a book published in 1994 he described himself as a 'fairly militant atheist'. In 1996, when asked if he'd prefer to be known as a scientist or a militant atheist, he replied "Bertrand Russell called himself the Passionate Sceptic. It's aiming high, but I'll shoot for that." Dawkins is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society
National Secular Society
The National Secular Society is a British campaigning organisation that promotes secularism and the separation of church and state. It holds that no-one should gain advantage or disadvantage because of their religion or lack of religion. It was founded by Charles Bradlaugh in 1866...

, a vice-president of the British Humanist Association
British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is an organisation of the United Kingdom which promotes Humanism and represents "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs." The BHA is committed to secularism, human rights, democracy, egalitarianism and mutual respect...

 (since 1996), a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland
Humanist Society of Scotland
The Humanist Society of Scotland is a Scottish voluntary charitable organisation that promotes humanist views. It is a member of the European Humanist Federation and the International Humanist and Ethical Union.-History and aims:...

, a member of the Secular Coalition for America
Secular Coalition for America
The Secular Coalition for America is an advocacy group located in Washington D.C., representing atheists, humanists, freethinkers, agnostics, and other non-theistic people with a naturalistic worldview in American politics. Sean Faircloth, a five-term Maine state legislator, served as Executive...

 advisory board, a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism
International Academy of Humanism
The International Academy of Humanism is a programme of the Council for Secular Humanism. It was established to recognize great humanists and disseminate humanist thinking. According to its declared mission, members of the academy are devoted to free inquiry, are committed to a scientific outlook,...

, and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. In 2003 he became a signatory of the humanist manifesto Humanism and Its Aspirations
Humanism and Its Aspirations
Humanism and Its Aspirations subtitled Humanist Manifesto III, a successor to the Humanist Manifesto of 1933 is the most recent of the Humanist Manifestos published in 2003 by the American Humanist Association...

, published by the American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association
The American Humanist Association is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that...

. As a result of his advocacy of atheism, Dawkins has sometimes been described as a vocal, militant rationalist
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

, and as "the UK's Chief Atheist".

Dawkins believes that his own atheism is the logical extension of his understanding of evolution and that religion is incompatible with science. In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins wrote:
In his 1991 essay "Viruses of the Mind
Viruses of the Mind
"Viruses of the Mind" is an article by Richard Dawkins using memetics and analogies with biological and computer viruses, and with disease and epidemiology, to analyse the propagation of ideas and behaviours. Its particular focus is on religious beliefs and activities...

" (from which the term faith-sufferer originated), he suggested that memetic theory
Memetics
Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution, originating from Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. It purports to be an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. A meme, analogous to a gene, is essentially a "unit of...

 might analyse and explain the phenomenon of religious belief and some of the common characteristics of religions, such as the belief that punishment awaits non-believers. According to Dawkins, faith − belief that is not based on evidence − is one of the world's great evils. He claims it to be analogous to the smallpox virus, though more difficult to eradicate. Dawkins is well known for his contempt for religious extremism, from Islamist terrorism to Christian fundamentalism; but he has also argued with liberal believers and religious scientists, from biologists Kenneth Miller
Kenneth R. Miller
Kenneth Raymond Miller is a biology professor at Brown University. Miller, who is Roman Catholic, is particularly known for his opposition to creationism, including the intelligent design movement...

 and Francis Collins
Francis Collins (geneticist)
Francis Sellers Collins , is an American physician-geneticist, noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project . He currently serves as Director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to being appointed Director, he founded and...

 to theologians Alister McGrath
Alister McGrath
Alister Edgar McGrath is an Anglican priest, theologian, and Christian apologist, currently Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at Kings College London and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture...

 and Richard Harries
Richard Harries, Baron Harries of Pentregarth
Richard Douglas Harries, Baron Harries of Pentregarth is a retired bishop of the Church of England. He was the 41st Bishop of Oxford from 1987 to 2006. Since 2008 he has been the Gresham Professor of Divinity.-Education and army career:...

. Dawkins has stated that his opposition to religion
Antireligion
Antireligion is opposition to religion. Antireligion is distinct from atheism and antitheism , although antireligionists may be atheists or antitheists...

 is twofold, claiming it to be both a source of conflict and a justification for belief without evidence. However, he describes himself as a "cultural Christian
Cultural Christian
A cultural Christian is a secular or irreligious individual who still significantly identifies with Christian culture. The term is used, for example, by atheist Richard Dawkins in reference to himself...

", and proposed the slogan "Atheists for Jesus".

Following the 11 September 2001 attacks, when asked how the world might have changed, Dawkins responded:
Dawkins has especially risen to prominence in contemporary public debates relating science and religion since the publication of his 2006 book The God Delusion, which has achieved greater sales figures worldwide than any of his other works to date. Its success has been seen by many as indicative of a change in the contemporary cultural zeitgeist
Zeitgeist
Zeitgeist is "the spirit of the times" or "the spirit of the age."Zeitgeist is the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambiance, morals, sociocultural direction, and mood associated with an era.The...

, central to a recent rise in the popularity of atheistic literature. The God Delusion was praised by among others the Nobel laureates Sir Harold Kroto
Harold Kroto
Sir Harold Walter Kroto, FRS , born Harold Walter Krotoschiner, is a British chemist and one of the three recipients to share the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley....

 and James D. Watson
James D. Watson
James Dewey Watson is an American molecular biologist, geneticist, and zoologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA in 1953 with Francis Crick...

 and by psychologist Steven Pinker
Steven Pinker
Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author...

. In the book, Dawkins suggested that atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind. He sees education and consciousness-raising
Consciousness raising
Consciousness raising is a form of political activism, pioneered by United States feminists in the late 1960s...

 as the primary tools in opposing what he considers to be religious dogma and indoctrination. These tools include the fight against certain stereotypes, and he has adopted the term Bright
Brights movement
The Brights movement is a social movement that aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview, including equal civil rights and acceptance for people who hold a naturalistic worldview. It was co-founded by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell in 2003...

 as a way of associating positive public connotations with those who possess a naturalistic
Naturalism (philosophy)
Naturalism commonly refers to the philosophical viewpoint that the natural universe and its natural laws and forces operate in the universe, and that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe that we know...

 worldview. Dawkins notes that feminists have succeeded in arousing widespread embarrassment at the routine use of "he" instead of "she". Similarly, he suggests, a phrase such as "Catholic child" or "Muslim child" should be considered just as socially absurd as, for instance, "Marxist child": children should not be classified based on their parents' ideological beliefs. According to Dawkins, there is no such thing as a Christian child or a Muslim child, as children have about as much capacity to make the decision to become Christians or Muslims as they do to become Marxists.

In January 2006 Dawkins presented a two-part television documentary The Root of All Evil?
The Root of All Evil?
The Root of All Evil?, later retitled The God Delusion, is a television documentary written and presented by Richard Dawkins in which he argues that humanity would be better off without religion or belief in God....

, addressing what he sees as the malignant influence of religion on society. The title itself is one that Dawkins disliked, noting that religion shouldn't be regarded as the root of all evil. Critics have said that the programme gave too much time to marginal figures and extremists, and that Dawkins' confrontational style did not help his cause and exhibited similarities with the approaches of religious fundamentalists more than with the approaches of the dispassionate, analytic approach of 'hard' science; Dawkins rejected these claims, citing the number of moderate religious broadcasts in everyday media as providing a suitable balance to the extremists in the programmes. He further remarked that someone who is deemed an "extremist" in a religiously moderate country may well be considered "mainstream" in a religiously conservative one. The unedited recordings of Dawkins' conversations with Alister McGrath and Richard Harries, including material unused in the broadcast version, have been made available online by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is a non-profit organisation founded by British biologist Richard Dawkins in 2006.-The foundation:...

.

Dawkins' work has been controversial, and a number of Christian thinkers have responded to it. For example, Oxford theologian Alister McGrath (author of The Dawkins Delusion and Dawkins' God
Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life
Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life is a book by Alister McGrath, a molecular biophysicist and theologian who is currently Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. The book, published in 2004, aims to refute claims about religion made by another well-known professor at...

) maintains that Dawkins is ignorant of Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

, and therefore unable to engage religion and faith intelligently. In reply, Dawkins asks "do you have to read up on leprechology before disbelieving in leprechaun
Leprechaun
A leprechaun is a type of fairy in Irish folklore, usually taking the form of an old man, clad in a red or green coat, who enjoys partaking in mischief. Like other fairy creatures, leprechauns have been linked to the Tuatha Dé Danann of Irish mythology...

s?", and − in the paperback edition of The God Delusion − he refers to the American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 biologist PZ Myers
PZ Myers
Paul Zachary "PZ" Myers is an American biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris and the author of the Pharyngula science blog. He is currently an associate professor of biology at UMM, works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology , and also cultivates an...

, who has satirised this line of argument as "The Courtier's Reply". Dawkins had an extended debate with McGrath at the 2007 Sunday Times Literary Festival.

Dawkins argues that "the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other". He disagrees with Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

's principle of nonoverlapping magisteria
Non-overlapping magisteria
Non-overlapping magisteria is the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that "science and religion do not glower at each other... [but] interdigitate in patterns of complex fingering, and at every fractal scale of self-similarity." He suggests, with examples, that "NOMA enjoys strong and fully...

. In an interview with Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 magazine, Dawkins said:

I think that Gould's separate compartments was a purely political ploy to win middle-of-the-road religious people to the science camp. But it's a very empty idea. There are plenty of places where religion does not keep off the scientific turf. Any belief in miracles is flat contradictory not just to the facts of science but to the spirit of science.


Astrophysicist Martin Rees
Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow
Martin John Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, FRS is a British cosmologist and astrophysicist. He has been Astronomer Royal since 1995 and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge since 2004...

, who has described himself as an unbeliever who identifies with Christianity from a cultural perspective, has suggested that Dawkins' attack on mainstream religion is unhelpful. Regarding Rees' claim in his book Our Cosmic Habitat that "such questions lie beyond science", Dawkins asks "what expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?" Elsewhere, Dawkins has written that "there's all the difference in the world between a belief that one is prepared to defend by quoting evidence and logic, and a belief that is supported by nothing more than tradition, authority or revelation."
As examples of "good scientists who are sincerely religious", Dawkins names Arthur Peacocke
Arthur Peacocke
The Reverend Canon Arthur Robert Peacocke MBE was a British theologian and biochemist.-Biography:Arthur Robert Peacocke was born at Watford in on 29 November 1924...

, Russell Stannard
Russell Stannard
Russell Stannard is a retired high-energy particle physicist, who was born in London, England, on December 24, 1931. He currently holds the position of Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Open University...

, John Polkinghorne
John Polkinghorne
John Charlton Polkinghorne KBE FRS is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. He was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest...

 and Francis Collins
Francis Collins (geneticist)
Francis Sellers Collins , is an American physician-geneticist, noted for his discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the Human Genome Project . He currently serves as Director of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Prior to being appointed Director, he founded and...

, but says "I remain baffled ... by their belief in the details of the Christian religion." He has said that the publication of The God Delusion is "probably the culmination" of his campaign against religion.

In 2007 Dawkins founded the Out Campaign
Out Campaign
The Out Campaign is a public awareness initiative for freethought and atheism. It was initiated by Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and is endorsed by Richard Dawkins, who is a prominent atheist...

 to encourage atheists worldwide to declare their stance publicly and proudly. Inspired by the gay rights movement
Gay Liberation
Gay liberation is the name used to describe the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement of the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s in North America, Western Europe, and Australia and New Zealand...

, Dawkins hopes that atheists' identifying of themselves as such, and thereby increasing public awareness of how many people hold these views, will reduce the negative opinion of atheism among the religious majority.

In September 2008, following a complaint by Islamic creationist
Islamic creationism
Islamic views on evolution refers to varying Muslim beliefs on how the life came to be. Muslims acknowledge God as the Creator, as explained in the Qur'an. Other than that, Muslim views on evolution vary...

 Adnan Oktar
Adnan Oktar
Adnan Oktar , also known as Harun Yahya, is an author and Islamic creationist. In 2007, he sent thousands of unsolicited copies of the Atlas of Creation advocating Islamic creationism to American scientists, members of Congress, and science museums...

, a court in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 blocked access to Dawkins' website richarddawkins.net. The court decision was made due to "insult to personality". As of 8 July 2011, richarddawkins.net is no longer blocked in Turkey.


In October 2008, Dawkins officially supported the UK's first atheist advertising initiative, the Atheist Bus Campaign
Atheist Bus Campaign
The Atheist Bus Campaign aims to place "peaceful and upbeat" messages about atheism on transport media in Britain, in response to evangelical Christian advertising....

. Created by Guardian journalist Ariane Sherine
Ariane Sherine
Ariane Sherine is a British comedy writer and journalist. She created the UK version of the Atheist Bus Campaign, which ran in January 2009. She lives in London.- Career :...

 and administered by the British Humanist Association
British Humanist Association
The British Humanist Association is an organisation of the United Kingdom which promotes Humanism and represents "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs." The BHA is committed to secularism, human rights, democracy, egalitarianism and mutual respect...

 the campaign aimed to raise funds to place atheist adverts on buses in the London area, and Dawkins pledged to match the amount raised by atheists, up to a maximum of £5,500. However, the campaign was an unprecedented success, raising over £100,000 in its first four days, and generating global press coverage. The campaign, started in January 2009, features adverts across the UK with the slogan: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." Dawkins said that "this campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think—and thinking is anathema to religion."

In 2010 Dawkins supported legal efforts to charge Pope Benedict XVI with crimes against humanity. Dawkins and fellow anti-religion campaigner Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Eric Hitchens is an Anglo-American author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the...

 were believed to have explored the option of attempting to have the Pope arrested under the same legal principle that saw Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, more commonly known as Augusto Pinochet , was a Chilean army general and dictator who assumed power in a coup d'état on 11 September 1973...

 arrested during a visit to Britain in 1998.

Dawkins has given support to the idea of a "free thinking" school which he calls "Think for Yourself Academy". The school would not "indoctrinate children in atheism, any more than in religion" but it would teach children to "ask for evidence, to be sceptical, critical, open-minded".

On 15 September 2010, Dawkins, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI making a State visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom
Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom from 16 to 19 September 2010 was the first state visit by a pope to the United Kingdom...

.

Richard Dawkins Foundation


In 2006 Dawkins founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS), a non-profit organisation
Non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...

. The foundation is in developmental phase. It has been granted charitable status in the United Kingdom and the United States. RDFRS plans to finance research on the psychology of belief and religion
Psychology of religion
Psychology of religion consists of the application of psychological methods and interpretive frameworks to religious traditions, as well as to both religious and irreligious individuals. The science attempts to accurately describe the details, origins, and uses of religious beliefs and behaviours...

, finance scientific education programs and materials, and publicise and support secular
Secularity
Secularity is the state of being separate from religion.For instance, eating and bathing may be regarded as examples of secular activities, because there may not be anything inherently religious about them...

 charitable organisations
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

. The foundation also offers humanist
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

, rationalist
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 and scientific
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 materials and information through its website.

Dawkins has said the "trend toward theocratic thinking in the United States is a danger not only for America but for the entire world." Connected to this concern, Dawkins invited Sean Faircloth
Sean Faircloth
Sean Faircloth is a Maine attorney and politician. He served five terms in the Maine Legislature. Faircloth served on the Judiciary and Appropriations Committee. In his final term, Faircloth was elected Majority Whip...

 to serve as opening speaker on Dawkins' 2011 US book tour. Faircloth is author of the book Attack of the Theocrats, How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It. The Richard Dawkins Foundation (United States branch) later hired Faircloth, who has ten years experience as a state legislator, as Director of Strategy and Policy.

Other fields



In his role as professor for public understanding of science, Dawkins has been a critic of pseudoscience
Pseudoscience
Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but which does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status...

 and alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

. His 1998 book Unweaving the Rainbow
Unweaving the Rainbow
Unweaving the Rainbow is a 1998 book by Richard Dawkins, discussing the relationship between science and the arts from the perspective of a scientist....

 takes John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

' accusation that, by explaining the rainbow
Rainbow
A rainbow is an optical and meteorological phenomenon that causes a spectrum of light to appear in the sky when the Sun shines on to droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. It takes the form of a multicoloured arc...

, Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton PRS was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, who has been "considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived."...

 had diminished its beauty, and argues for the opposite conclusion. He suggests that deep space, the billions of years of life's evolution, and the microscopic workings of biology and heredity contain more beauty and wonder than do "myths" and "pseudoscience". Dawkins wrote a foreword to John Diamond
John Diamond (journalist)
John Diamond was a British broadcaster and journalist.- Education and training :Diamond was the son of a biochemist and a fashion designer. He grew up in Upper Clapton and Woodford Green, he then attended the City of London School and trained as an English teacher at Trent Park College of...

's posthumously published Snake Oil, a book devoted to debunking alternative medicine, in which he asserted that alternative medicine was harmful, if only because it distracted patients from more successful conventional treatments, and gave people false hopes. Dawkins states that "there is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't work."

Dawkins has expressed concern about the growth of the planet's human population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

, and about the matter of overpopulation
Overpopulation
Overpopulation is a condition where an organism's numbers exceed the carrying capacity of its habitat. The term often refers to the relationship between the human population and its environment, the Earth...

. In The Selfish Gene, he briefly mentions population growth, giving the example of Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

, whose population, at the time the book was written, was doubling every 40 years. He is critical of Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 attitudes to family planning
Family planning
Family planning is the planning of when to have children, and the use of birth control and other techniques to implement such plans. Other techniques commonly used include sexuality education, prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections, pre-conception counseling and...

 and population control
Population control
Human population control is the practice of artificially altering the rate of growth of a human population.Historically, human population control has been implemented by limiting the population's birth rate, usually by government mandate, and has been undertaken as a response to factors including...

, stating that leaders who forbid contraception
Birth control
Birth control is an umbrella term for several techniques and methods used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at various stages. Birth control techniques and methods include contraception , contragestion and abortion...

 and "express a preference for 'natural' methods of population limitation" will get just such a method in the form of starvation
Starvation
Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death...

.

As a supporter of the Great Ape Project
Great Ape Project
The Great Ape Project , founded in 1994, is an international organization of primatologists, anthropologists, ethicists, and other experts who advocate a United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Great Apes that would confer basic legal rights on non-human great apes: chimpanzees, bonobos,...

 – a movement to extend certain moral and legal rights
Rights
Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory...

 to all great apes
Hominidae
The Hominidae or include them .), as the term is used here, form a taxonomic family, including four extant genera: chimpanzees , gorillas , humans , and orangutans ....

 – Dawkins contributed the article "Gaps in the Mind" to the Great Ape Project book edited by Paola Cavalieri
Paola Cavalieri
Paola Cavalieri is an Italian philosopher, most known for her work arguing for extension of human rights to the other great apes. In addition to her books, she was the editor of Etica & Animali, a quarterly international philosophy journal that published nine volumes from 1988 to 1998.-Books:* The...

 and Peter Singer
Peter Singer
Peter Albert David Singer is an Australian philosopher who is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne...

. In this essay, he criticises contemporary society's moral attitudes as being based on a "discontinuous, speciesist
Speciesism
Speciesism is the assigning of different values or rights to beings on the basis of their species membership. The term was created by British psychologist Richard D...

 imperative".

Dawkins also regularly comments in newspapers and weblogs
Blog
A blog is a type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in...

 on contemporary political questions; his opinions include opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

, the British nuclear deterrent
UK Trident programme
The UK Trident programme is the United Kingdom's Trident missile-based nuclear weapons programme. Under the programme, the Royal Navy operates 58 nuclear-armed Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and around 200 nuclear warheads on 4 Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines from...

 and the actions of US President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

. Several such articles were included in A Devil's Chaplain
A Devil's Chaplain
A Devil's Chaplain, subtitled Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love is a 2003 book of selected essays and other writings by Richard Dawkins. Published five years after his previous book Unweaving the Rainbow, it contains 32 essays covering subjects including pseudoscience, genetic...

, an anthology of writings about science, religion and politics. He is also a supporter of the Republic
Republic (political organisation)
Republic is a British non-partisan republican pressure group advocating the replacement of the United Kingdom's monarchy with a democratically-elected head of state....

 campaign to replace the British monarchy
British monarchy
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 with a democratically elected president
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

. Dawkins has described himself as a Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 voter in the 1970s and voter for the Liberal Democrats
Liberal Democrats
The Liberal Democrats are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom which supports constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, wealth taxation, human rights laws, cultural liberalism, banking reform and civil liberties .The party was formed in 1988 by a merger of the...

 since the party's creation.
In 2009 he spoke at the party's conference in opposition to blasphemy laws, alternative medicine and faith schools. In the UK general election of 2010, Dawkins officially endorsed the Liberal Democrats, in support of their campaign for electoral reform and for their "refusal to pander to 'faith'."

In the 2007 TV documentary The Enemies of Reason
The Enemies of Reason
The Enemies of Reason is a two-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, in which he seeks to expose "those areas of belief that exist without scientific proof, yet manage to hold the nation under their spell", including mediumship, acupuncture...

, Dawkins discusses what he sees as the dangers of abandoning critical thought and rationale based upon scientific evidence. He specifically cites astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

, spiritualism
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

, dowsing
Dowsing
Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials, as well as so-called currents of earth radiation , without the use of scientific apparatus...

, alternative faiths, alternative medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

 and homeopathy
Homeopathy
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners claim to treat patients using highly diluted preparations that are believed to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms that are similar to those exhibited by the patient...

. He also discusses how the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 can be used to spread religious hatred and conspiracy theories with scant attention to evidence-based reasoning.

Continuing a long-standing partnership with Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

, Dawkins participated in a five-part television series The Genius of Britain, along with fellow scientists Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity...

, James Dyson
James Dyson
Sir James Dyson is a British industrial designer and founder of the Dyson company.He is best known as the inventor of the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner, which works on the principle of cyclonic separation. His net worth in 2011 was said to be £1.45 billion.-Early life:Dyson was born in...

, Paul Nurse
Paul Nurse
Sir Paul Maxime Nurse, PRS is a British geneticist and cell biologist. He was awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Leland H. Hartwell and R...

, and Jim Al-Khalili
Jim Al-Khalili
Jim Al-Khalili OBE is an Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist, author and science communicator. He is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey...

. The five-episode series was broadcast in June 2010. The series focussed on major British scientific achievements throughout history.

Dawkins presented a More4 documentary entitled Faith School Menace? in which he argued for "us to reconsider the consequences of faith education, which... bamboozles parents and indoctrinates and divides children."

In 1998 Dawkins expressed his appreciation for two books, famous for their criticism of postmodernism
Postmodernism
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

 in US universities, in departments like literary studies, anthropology and other cultural studies; the two books are Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science
Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science
Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science is a book by biologist Paul R. Gross and mathematician Norman Levitt, published in 1994. Levitt states he is a leftist trying to save the "academic left" from itself by exposing misuses and abuses of science to advance political...

 (by Gross
Paul R. Gross
Paul R. Gross is a biologist and author, perhaps best known to the general public for Higher Superstition , written with Norman Levitt. Gross is the University Professor of Life Sciences at the University of Virginia; he previously served the university as Provost and Vice-President...

 and Levitt
Norman Levitt
Norman Jay Levitt was a mathematician at Rutgers University. He was born in The Bronx and received a bachelors degree from Harvard College in 1963. He received a PhD from Princeton University in 1967...

) and Intellectual Impostures (by Sokal
Alan Sokal
Alan David Sokal is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. He works in statistical mechanics and combinatorics. To the general public he is best known for his criticism of postmodernism, resulting in the Sokal affair in...

 and Bricmont
Jean Bricmont
Jean Bricmont is a Belgian theoretical physicist, philosopher of science and a professor at the Université catholique de Louvain. He works on renormalization group and nonlinear differential equations....

), both related to the Sokal affair
Sokal Affair
The Sokal affair, also known as the Sokal hoax, was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies...

 hoax. In the same occasion Dawkins also criticised Cambridge University for awarding philosopher Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

 an honorary doctorate.

In 2011 Dawkins joined the professoriate of the New College of the Humanities
New College of the Humanities
New College of the Humanities is a proposed new private for-profit undergraduate college in London, England, the creation of which was announced in June 2011 by the philosopher A.C. Grayling, its founder and first master...

, a new private university in London established by A. C. Grayling
A. C. Grayling
Anthony Clifford Grayling is a British philosopher. In 2011 he founded and became the first Master of New College of the Humanities, a private undergraduate college in London. Until June 2011, he was Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London, where he taught from 1991...

, which is scheduled to open in September 2012.

Awards and recognition



Dawkins was awarded a Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science
Doctor of Science , usually abbreviated Sc.D., D.Sc., S.D. or Dr.Sc., is an academic research degree awarded in a number of countries throughout the world. In some countries Doctor of Science is the name used for the standard doctorate in the sciences, elsewhere the Sc.D...

 by the University of Oxford in 1989. He holds honorary doctorates
Honorary degree
An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa is an academic degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study, and the passing of examinations...

 in science from the University of Huddersfield
University of Huddersfield
The University of Huddersfield is a university located in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England.- History :The University traces its roots back to a Science and Mechanic Institute founded in 1825...

, University of Westminster
University of Westminster
The University of Westminster is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom. Its origins go back to the foundation of the Royal Polytechnic Institution in 1838, and it was awarded university status in 1992.The university's headquarters and original campus are based on Regent...

, Durham University
Durham University
The University of Durham, commonly known as Durham University, is a university in Durham, England. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837...

, the University of Hull
University of Hull
The University of Hull, known informally as Hull University, is an English university, founded in 1927, located in Hull, a city in the East Riding of Yorkshire...

, the University of Antwerp
University of Antwerp
The University of Antwerp is one of the major Belgian universities located in the city of Antwerp. The name is sometimes abbreviated as UA.-History:...

, and the University of Oslo
University of Oslo
The University of Oslo , formerly The Royal Frederick University , is the oldest and largest university in Norway, situated in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. The university was founded in 1811 and was modelled after the recently established University of Berlin...

, and honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen
University of Aberdeen
The University of Aberdeen, an ancient university founded in 1495, in Aberdeen, Scotland, is a British university. It is the third oldest university in Scotland, and the fifth oldest in the United Kingdom and wider English-speaking world...

, Open University
Open University
The Open University is a distance learning and research university founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom...

, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is a Flemish university located in Brussels, Belgium. It has two campuses referred to as Etterbeek and Jette.The university's name is sometimes abbreviated by "VUB" or translated to "Free University of Brussels"...

, and the University of Valencia. He also holds honorary doctorates of letters from the University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews
The University of St Andrews, informally referred to as "St Andrews", is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world after Oxford and Cambridge. The university is situated in the town of St Andrews, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. It was founded between...

 and the Australian National University
Australian National University
The Australian National University is a teaching and research university located in the Australian capital, Canberra.As of 2009, the ANU employs 3,945 administrative staff who teach approximately 10,000 undergraduates, and 7,500 postgraduate students...

 (HonLittD, 1996), and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

 in 1997 and the Royal Society
Royal Society
The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, known simply as the Royal Society, is a learned society for science, and is possibly the oldest such society in existence. Founded in November 1660, it was granted a Royal Charter by King Charles II as the "Royal Society of London"...

 in 2001. He is one of the patrons of the Oxford University Scientific Society
Oxford University Scientific Society
The Oxford University Scientific Society is a student scientific society at the University of Oxford. It was founded in 1882 as the Oxford University Junior Scientific Club. It is one of the oldest undergraduate science societies in the world. It organizes talks on scientific subjects on a weekly...

.

In 1987 Dawkins received a Royal Society of Literature
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

 award and a Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

 Literary Prize for his book, The Blind Watchmaker. In the same year, he received a Sci. Tech Prize for Best Television Documentary Science Programme of the Year, for the BBC Horizon episode The Blind Watchmaker.

His other awards have included the Zoological Society of London
Zoological Society of London
The Zoological Society of London is a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats...

 Silver Medal (1989), Finlay innovation award (1990), the Michael Faraday Award (1990), the Nakayama Prize (1994), the American Humanist Association
American Humanist Association
The American Humanist Association is an educational organization in the United States that advances Humanism. "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that...

's Humanist of the Year Award (1996), the fifth International Cosmos Prize
International Cosmos Prize
The International Cosmos Prize was established in 1993, commemorating Expo 90 in Osaka, Japan.The objective of the prize is to develop the basic concept of Expo 90, "The Harmonious Coexistence between Nature and Mankind."...

 (1997), the Kistler Prize
Kistler Prize
The Kistler Prize is awarded annually to recognize original contributions "to the understanding of the connection between human heredity and human society," and includes a cash award of US $100,000 and a 200-gram gold medallion....

 (2001), the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic
Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic
The Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic is an award given at the annual conference of the Pio Manzu Institute to about fifteen people nominated by the centers International Scientific Committee, which is headed by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.Notable recipients include:*...

 (2001), the Bicentennial Kelvin Medal of The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow
The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow
The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow is a learned society established in 1802 "for the improvement of the Arts and Sciences" in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. It runs a programme of lectures, now in its 210th Series...

 (2002) and the Nierenberg Prize
Nierenberg Prize
The Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest is given annually by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It was created through a gift of the family to honor the memory of William Nierenberg...

 for Science in the Public Interest (2009).

Dawkins topped Prospect
Prospect (magazine)
Prospect is a monthly British general interest magazine, specialising in politics and current affairs. Frequent topics include British, European, and US politics, social issues, art, literature, cinema, science, the media, history, philosophy, and psychology...

 magazine's 2004 list of the top 100 public British intellectuals, as decided by the readers, receiving twice as many votes as the runner-up. He has been short-listed as a candidate in their 2008 follow-up poll. In 2005 the Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

-based Alfred Toepfer Foundation
Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S.
The Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. is a German foundation established in 1931 by the Hamburg merchant Alfred Toepfer. The foundation is committed to promoting European unification and ensuring cultural diversity and understanding between the countries of Europe.- History :The rich industrialist...

 awarded him its Shakespeare Prize
Shakespeare Prize
The Shakespeare Prize was an annual prize for writing or performance awarded to a British citizen by the Hamburg Alfred Toepfer Foundation. First given by Alfred Toepfer in 1937 as an expression of his Anglophilia in the face of tense international conditions, the prize was awarded only twice...

 in recognition of his "concise and accessible presentation of scientific knowledge". He won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science
Lewis Thomas Prize
The Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science, named for its first recipient, Lewis Thomas, is an annual literary prize awarded by Rockefeller University to scientists deemed to have accomplished a significant literary achievement: it "recognizes scientists as poets"...

 for 2006 and the Galaxy British Book Awards Author of the Year Award for 2007. In the same year, he was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2007, and he was ranked 20th in The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

s 2007 list of 100 greatest living geniuses.
He was awarded the Deschner Award, named after German anti-clerical author Karlheinz Deschner
Karlheinz Deschner
Karl Heinrich Leopold Deschner , is a German researcher and writer who has achieved public attention in Europe for his thorough and fiercely critical treatment of Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular, as expressed in several articles and books, culminating in his opus The...

.

Since 2003, the Atheist Alliance International
Atheist Alliance International
Atheist Alliance International is a global network of atheist organisations around the world. AAI was founded in 1991.AAI's vision is "to transform society into one that understands and respects atheism; that supports and respects a worldview based on the values of reason, empiricism and...

 has awarded a prize during its annual conference, honouring an outstanding atheist whose work has done most to raise public awareness of atheism during that year. It is known as the Richard Dawkins Award, in honour of Dawkins' own work.

In February 2010 he was named to the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Freedom From Religion Foundation
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is an American freethought organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. Its purposes, as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the separation of church and state and to educate the public on matters relating to atheism, agnosticism and nontheism. The FFRF publishes...

's Honorary Board of distinguished achievers.

Documentary films

  • Nice Guys Finish First
    Nice Guys Finish First
    Nice Guys Finish First is a 1986 documentary by Richard Dawkins which discusses selfishness and cooperation, arguing that evolution often favors co-operative behaviour, and focusing especially on the tit for tat strategy of the prisoner's dilemma game...

     (1986)
  • The Blind Watchmaker
    The Blind Watchmaker
    The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design is a 1986 book by Richard Dawkins in which he presents an explanation of, and argument for, the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. He also presents arguments to refute certain criticisms made on...

     (1987)
  • Growing Up in the Universe
    Growing Up in the Universe
    Growing Up in the Universe was a series of lectures given by Richard Dawkins as part of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, in which he discussed the evolution of life in the universe....

     (1991)
  • Break the Science Barrier
    Break the Science Barrier
    Break the Science Barrier is a television documentary written and presented by Richard Dawkins, which promotes the viewpoint that scientific endeavour is not only useful, but also intellectually stimulating and exciting...

     (1996)
  • The Root of All Evil?
    The Root of All Evil?
    The Root of All Evil?, later retitled The God Delusion, is a television documentary written and presented by Richard Dawkins in which he argues that humanity would be better off without religion or belief in God....

     (2006)
  • The Enemies of Reason
    The Enemies of Reason
    The Enemies of Reason is a two-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, in which he seeks to expose "those areas of belief that exist without scientific proof, yet manage to hold the nation under their spell", including mediumship, acupuncture...

     (2007)
  • The Genius of Charles Darwin
    The Genius of Charles Darwin
    The Genius of Charles Darwin is a three-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.It was first shown in August 2008 on Channel 4...

     (2008)
  • Faith School Menace? (2010)

Other appearances

  • Doctor Who
    Doctor Who
    Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

    : The Stolen Earth
    The Stolen Earth
    "The Stolen Earth" is the twelfth episode of the fourth series and the 750th overall episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. The episode was written by show runner and head writer Russell T Davies and is the first of a two-part crossover story; the concluding episode is...

     (2008) – as himself
  • Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
    Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
    Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is a 2008 documentary film, directed by Nathan Frankowski and hosted by Ben Stein. The film contends that the mainstream science establishment suppresses academics who believe they see evidence of intelligent design in nature and who criticize evidence supporting...

     (2008) - as himself

External links


General

Video
Selected writings
  • Viruses of the Mind (1993) – Religion as a mental virus.
  • The Real Romance in the Stars (1995) – A critical view of astrology
    Astrology
    Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

    .
  • The Emptiness of Theology at RDFRS.(1998) – A critical view of theology
    Theology
    Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

    .
  • Snake Oil and Holy Water (1999) – Suggests that there is no convergence occurring between science and theism.
  • What Use is Religion? (2004) – Suggests that religion may have no survival value other than to itself.
  • Race and Creation (2004) – On race, its usage and a theory of how it evolved.
  • The giant tortoise's tale, The turtle's tale and The lava lizard's tale (2005) – A series of three articles written after a visit to the Galápagos Islands
    Galápagos Islands
    The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part.The Galápagos Islands and its surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a...

    .
  • Dawkins' Huffington Post articles

Audio