By Jason Miks
GPS digital producer Jason Miks sits down with renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of the Selfish Gene and An Appetite for Wonder, to discuss readers’ questions on religion, its role in society and whether children can be described as “Christian.”
A number of readers noting your skepticism over religion’s role in society ask whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass?
The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible. Not only should we not get our moral compass from religion, as a matter of fact we don’t. We shouldn’t, because if you actually look at the bible or the Koran, and get your moral compass from there, it’s horrible – stoning people to death, stoning people for breaking the Sabbath.
Now of course we don’t do that anymore, but the reason we don’t do it is that we pick out those verses of the bible that we like, and reject those verses we don’t like. What criteria do we use to pick out the good ones and reject the bad ones? Non-biblical criteria, non-religious criteria. The same criteria as guide any modern person in their moral compass that has nothing to do with religion.
So the moral compass of any person is very much a part of the century or even the decade in which they happen to live, regardless of their religion. So we live in the early 21st century, and our moral compass in the early 21st century is quite different from 100 years ago, or 200 years ago. We are now much less racist than they were, much less sexist than they were. We are much kinder than non-human animals than they were – all sorts of respects in which we are labeled with a moral compass. So something has changed, and it certainly has nothing to do with religion.
Renowned evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins will be taking GPS readers’ questions tomorrow.
Dawkins, author of the Selfish Gene, The God Delusion and most recently An Appetite for Wonder, is known for his outspoken views on religion, and launched the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to “support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world.”
So what would you like to ask? Please post your questions in the comments section below, and we’ll select some of the best questions to ask Prof. Dawkins this week.
By Dan L. Burk, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Dan L. Burk is Chancellor’s Professor of Law at University of California, Irvine. The views expressed are his own.
On June 13, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad, a closely watched case considering the patentability of human genes.
Numerous media headlines immediately after the decision’s release proclaimed that the court had found human genes to be unpatentable. But such characterizations are misleading, ignoring the court’s actual holding that some human genes – specifically, those isolated from natural sources – are unpatentable, while other versions created in the laboratory are in fact eligible for patents.
The case involved patent claims to two different types of DNA sequences. The first, dubbed genomic DNA or “gDNA” constitutes the molecule as it is extracted from human cells. The second, known as complimentary DNA or “cDNA” is created in the laboratory through a process known as reverse transcription. The question in the case was whether either or both such DNA molecules qualify as patentable subject matter.
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Good science sometimes takes a very long time. It was 11 years after NASA was founded that we landed on the moon. The human genome project took 13 years. It's been almost 50 years since the Higgs Boson particle was first proposed...and it still hasn't been conclusively proven.
But Australia is home to the world's longest running lab experiment...it's on the verge of a breakthrough of sorts. Eighty-six years ago, a professor at the University of Queensland initiated this "pitch drop" experiment, wanting to show that some things that look solid can actually be a little bit fluid.
Pitch, you see, is a derivative of tar. And it's so solid, you can crack it with a hammer. But it can also drip and drop.
Over the past 86 years, 8 drops have fallen. And the current custodian of the experiment thinks the ninth drop is coming soon. They've set up a webcam so you can watch here.
The webcam is only a little less exciting than watching grass grow. But there is an upside to watching: nobody has ever seen a drop actually fall. You could be the first!
By Paul J. Zak, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Paul J. Zak is a professor at Claremont Graduate University in California and author of 'The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity.' The views expressed are his own.
Be humble. Maybe your mother told you that when you were a child, but it has no place in our “look at me” culture. Nor does it fit into the elbows-out world of business.
Yet, humility is a core value of one of the fastest growing companies of the last decade, Zappos.com. Ten years after its inception, Zappos.com annual sales exceeded one billion dollars, in part by being nice to customers. Can being nice actually cause you to win in life (and business)?
A decade ago, I began running experiments to see if the neurochemical oxytocin (ox-ee-TOE-sin), not to be confused with the prescription pain reliever Oxycontin, did anything more in humans than contract the uterus during birth, the dogma at the time. Intriguing research in social mammals showed that oxytocin allowed for the toleration of burrow-mates. Maybe, I thought, in humans toleration might scale up to trust, compassion, and humility – the most laudable human behaviors.
From the Mayan calendar and a runaway planet called "Nibiru," from killer asteroids and theories about galactic alignments: The internet is full of talk about the world ending on December 21.
NASA scientists recently addressed some of the most pervasive of these rumors around the dubious date. Take a look:
The Mayan calendar began somewhere around 3,114 years before the current era, and is set to end on December 21 or 23 (depending on the translation). NASA scientist Mitzi Adams describes what the Mayans would have done had their civilization lasted and why there is no cause for alarm.
Coming up on Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET: the truth about private equity; what a “Grexit” would look like; and the unlikely case FOR municipal bankruptcies.
First, what really goes on at a private equity firm, and what does that say about U.S. presidential contender Mitt Romney? Fareed speaks to private equity insider and former Obama “car czar” Steven Rattner.
Then, historian Niall Ferguson runs through the likely chain of events that would take place if Greece exited the euro. How would it happen and what would the ramifications be?
In What in the World – there’s been a spate of bankruptcies of American cities. They’re gut-wrenching. But in reality, they may also have a crucial silver lining…
Also on the show, the ousted president of the Maldives on his country’s unrest. And a fun look at the tricks our brain plays on us, with scientist V.S. Ramachandran.
By Fareed Zakaria
It’s hard to find any good economic news these days. Europe is teetering on the brink; emerging markets such as China, Brazil and India are slowing down; and the United States is in a slump.
There is one bright spot on the American landscape: technology, particularly biotechnology. The cost of sequencing a human genome is down to $1,000, and the process now takes two hours — a pace that is much faster than “Moore’s Law,” which says that computing power doubles while its costs drop by half every 18 months. This technology revolution is already transforming whole industries. It is a reminder that, as we confront difficulties across the economic landscape, the one area where the United States can still move from strength to strength is science and technology — if we make the right decisions.
Only a small minority of conservatives now say they place a “great deal” of trust in science, according to a survey published yesterday.
The new result represents a drop of almost 30 percent since the 1970s, according to the study published in the American Sociological Review.
The study says data indicate that the public’s trust in science is largely unchanged since 1974 except among people identifying themselves as conservatives.
Whereas in 1974, 48 percent of conservatives trusted science — about the same share as liberals — the number is now down to 35 percent, a decline of nearly a third in 38 years. FULL POST
A statue of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, complete with trademark turtleneck jumper, jeans and sneakers, has been unveiled in a science park in Budapest, Hungary, two months after his death. FULL POST
Zhu Jianqiang the "Strong-Willed Pig," hailed as a hero after surviving for more than a month trapped in the rubble of the 2008 earthquake, now has six identical piglet clones. Chinese scientists have cloned a pig hailed as a national hero after surviving for 36 days buried beneath rubble after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province.
Zhu Jianqiang ("Strong-Willed Pig") reportedly survived in the debris by chewing charcoal and drinking rainwater, and was "as thin as a goat" when he was rescued, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported at the time.
The pig became a symbol for national resilience. More than 90,000 people died or went missing in the devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake, which affected Sichuan and parts of neighboring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. FULL POST
Nathan Myhrvold is a polymath inventor and avid chef. But his kitchen isn't your normal operation. It has "centrifuges and freeze driers and spray driers and rotary evaporators" that he uses to cook and analyze what he cooks. Myhrvold studies the science behind cooking, and has written a 2,438 page, $600 book called Modernist Cuisine that is the touchtone for what is known as molecular gastronomy, which melds science and cooking to create incredible concoctions. In the video above, Myhrvold describes his unique publication.