Richard Dawkins to take readers' questions
September 25th, 2013
01:40 PM ET

Richard Dawkins to take readers' questions

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.

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  1. Ron

    So Richard:

    I was just wondering. How do we brain wash members of Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Al Shabab and other religious radicals that their little jihad's will not win them God's love becasue he isn't there?

    September 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
    • scourge99

      By teaching people to use reason and evidence to inform their decisions and beliefs instead of faith.

      September 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
      • scourge99

        I recommend Sam Harris' book, The End of Faith for a deep discussion on this problem.

        September 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
      • Dan

        Exellent reply!

        September 25, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
      • drnick13

        Well said sir, well said.

        September 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
      • Sam Harris

        The End of Faith by Sam Harris

        September 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
    • JT

      There's nothing you can do. You can't compete with someone promising paradise in the afterlife.

      September 25, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  2. Troy

    Professor Dawkins,

    Even if science were to solve all of the world's problems tomorrow, what happens to all the children who have already suffered and died in Syria and all over the world? Do they not need God in Heaven to provide them the love and justice this world never did?

    September 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • scourge99

      If god and heaven do not exist then people have false hope that some cosmic being will love them and correct all the wrongs in the afterlife.

      This is the only life we are guaranteed to have. Rather than hoping for justice and love in an afterlife (that probably does not exist), we should focus on making this world and our lives in it the best possible, for everyone.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • GodlessOpera

      You're committing a fallacy called an argument against adverse consequences. Your point seems to be that it would be more desirable than not for the victims in Syria (etc.) to experience justice - and that this ostensibly some sort of point in favor of believing in a god.

      However, this is ultimately a silly concept. It would be more desirable than not to, say, win the lottery - but what's more *desirable* or not has nothing to do with what actually exists or not in reality.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  3. joe

    Mr. Dawkins,

    I would like to know how you explain the theory of evolution – I myself do believe in microevolution, a cell producing the same cell (of course there had to be a cause for the very first cell, but that is another discussion) but macroevolution, the foundation of an evolutionary worldview, has not been scientifically proven – we have yet to prove how a single cell mutated into a fish, then a reptile, ape, human? For example, when my wife gave birth to our last child, we had a wonderful happy little girl – not a wonderful happy little lion. Yet we teach this stuff as fact, it would take a whole ton more faith to believe in macroevolution than it would intelligant design. I would be interested to know how you would respond to my thoughts on macroevolution.



    September 25, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
    • scourge99

      If you believe in micro evolution then what do you get when millions of changes occur to an organism because of micro-evolution? Wouldn't that be macro-evolution?

      September 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • joe

        millions of changes do occurr, I agree, microevolution is really survival of the fittest, strong cells will demolish the weaker cells then they will replicate, but the key point is they are replicating to create another of the same cell. Macroevolution would state an apple would replicate to create an orange – it doesn't happen.

        September 25, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • drnick13

      You may observe evolution in species that have fast generation times. The acquisition of beneficial traits as selective pressures act on mutation and variation within population will alter allele frequencies over time. The trait emerges due to some selective pressure. This is how scientists work with bacteria, fruit flies and roundworms to unravel the complexities of genetics. So yes, it is occurring in species, not only cells. In addition, DNA technology allows us to trace change in more recent fossils for species with long generation times like humans.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • gwythaint

      You need to study more biology. Read about the E Coli long term evolution study.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm |
      • joe

        I won't trust any research with a url starting with "wikepedia."

        September 26, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • gwythaint

      "Macroevolution would state an apple would replicate to create an orange – it doesn't happen."

      No, Macroevolution states no such thing. You do not understand evolution.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm |
    • scourge99

      "millions of changes do occurr, I agree, microevolution is really survival of the fittest, strong cells will demolish the weaker cells then they will replicate, "

      This is not quite accurate. "Survival of the fittest" is a misnomer. Its better described as "survival of the fit enough". Stronger cells do not necessarily demolish the weaker cells. Its that "less fit" organisms tend to have lower survival and reproductive success than "more fit" organisms.

      "but the key point is they are replicating to create another of the same cell. "

      No, not exactly. Small replication errors occur during reproduction. Even you have some number of replication errors in your DNA that make you slightly different.

      "Macroevolution would state an apple would replicate to create an orange – it doesn't happen."

      Macro evolution states nothing of the sort. Evolution (Macro or otherwise) has no goal or destination. Its just an unguided natural process. So you misunderstand macro evolution if you think that an apple should evolve into an orange, or a pear, or anything in particular because you are prescribing a goal or destination.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • jheron

      The amount of evolutionary failures and species dying off would suggest that there is no intelligent design. It seems more likely to be one ever changing straining device....

      September 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • GodlessOpera

      You do not understand evolution if you believe descent with modification involves your wife possibly giving birth to a lion. Granted, I understand you were probably using hyperbole for comedic effect; but it's still otherwise clear from your post that you are ignorant of evolutionary mechanisms.

      For instance, the context of your post seems to imply that you believe evolutionary processes work in some sort of chain, like a ladder: from fish to lizards to mammals and so forth in a straight line. This is not how evolutionary mechanisms work: it's much less like a ladder and much more like a branching tree. I would recommend investigating the processes outside of the echo chamber that is creationist literature.

      I feel I should also point out that there is no such distinction as "micro" and "macro" evolution among reputable biologists - those terms are wholly a creationist invention and aren't scientifically, exhaustively defined, so they have no real place in a scientific discussion.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
      • joe

        I have studied evolution and creationism and have made an informed choice of what to believe. I have an open mind and I have also studied other religions as well, when it comes down to it, a theistic worldview makes the most sense to me (have you studied any type of intelligant design or are you just making statments based on a one sided view or what your parents told you to believe?) When it comes down to it, you can argue with me all you want about said points; but no scientist can look you in the eye and tell you that matter was spontaneously generated, then chances of that happening are in some number man doesn't even have a name for. The scientic model everyone keeps referencing did not happen by chance, it happened by intelligent design. One or many intelligent scientists designed it. As is the same for the universe, there are just to many variables in place to believe that (for me, obviously not for you or most on this messageboard.) I really tried to make myself believe there was not God, I did this through exhaustive research on both sides, and the evidence out there for evolution is a joke – half the scientists that are in the study of evolution will admit they are Chrisitians, they have seen the evidence, they have taken the time to look at it.

        September 26, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • joe mcclellan

      You're confusing "evolution" with "abiogenesis." If you "believe" in microevolution (you should say "accept" microevolution), there is nothing preventing you from accepting macroevolution. You also need to understand that "natural selection" is only one of the mechanisms (albeit the most widely accepted) to explain the reason for speciation within evolutionary processes (instead of ending up, for instance, with three million species of panda, we have one species [the red panda isn't really a panda] that has evolved *very* slowly over millions of years).

      September 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • Pest

      Maybe evolution would be easier for you to understand if you weren't trying to understand a strawman version of it? If you're interested in learning, the information is out there.

      September 25, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
  4. AspieChick

    It will take me a little bit to get to my question,but I do actually have one! The plasticity of the canine genome is phenomenal, which has allowed us humans to mold & shape the physical, mental & behavioral aspects of canis familiaris in tremendous ways. In one simple dimension, we have created breeds (that breed true) as small as 2-3 lbs all the way up to gigantic ones over 150 lbs. In some instances we humans have crafted such exaggerated physical features that some breeds are now physically incapable of either breeding naturally (requiring artificial insemination) or whelping naturally (requisite c-sections), ie many brachycephalic or extremely tiny breeds. We have taken natural selection & “survival of the fittest” out of the equation in these instances with our intervention.

    In previous centuries, humans were rather bluntly removed from the gene pool via either their inability to conceive, or to survive childbirth (in addition to other random variables such as rudimentary medical care & preventable diseases). Given the explosion of human reproductive advances, such that infertile humans (as well as those that require c-sections to produce live young & mothers) can now pass on these genes to the next generation, is it reasonable to expect continued progression down this path such that humans may at some time in the future only be able to propagate via artificial means? And if so, how would you propose that we head off this artificial limiting of the gene pool?

    September 25, 2013 at 4:43 pm |
  5. BSH

    My question – why should the opinion and personal beliefs of Richard Dawkins count for more than mine? It seems obvious that they should not. So maybe the follow-up is, why should CNN waste space on this?

    September 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Dan

      And the follow-up to your question is - what prompted you read this link in the first place and post a comment?

      September 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
      • Steve

        Great setup and spike, BSH and Dan. This plays to meme theory. If the headline were "BSH to take readers' questions" then fewer people would click through, comment, and let the BSH meme take a natural continuing course of replication and spread. But CNN realizes the viability of the Richard Dawkins meme – it's already proven to be an effective replicator. And as CNN is in the business of converting attention into money, CNN continues to replicate an attractive meme.

        But hey, BSH, you're on your way. After all, I paid attention to your question!

        September 25, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  6. Uday

    Professor Dawkins,

    Do you believe that reason is not enough to convince the world that god doesn't exist and religion is suspect? There is a giant emotional need in our psyche for some of the things that religion provides, delusional though they may be. How should atheism, then, spread itself? (If you just build it, they will NOT come!).

    September 25, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Troy

      An 'emotional' need that comes from God and makes human beings unique on Earth.

      September 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  7. ripplesinthestream

    Some say He is a prophet, some say He is a good man, other say He is the Son of the Living God. What say you– Who is Jesus?

    September 25, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • Cars

      September 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  8. Uday

    Professor Dawkins,

    I am taking the liberty of asking a second question.

    Do non-living things evolve? If evolution is fundamentally enabled by things making (almost) identical copies of themselves before dying off, is there evidence of and explanations for such things in the non-living world?

    September 25, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • drnick13

      Non-living things possess emergent properties at each level of complexity, properties that do not exist in their component parts. Just as an atom of oxygen and hydrogen have their own properties, the properties of water h20 emerge at the molecular level. The same is true of cells, the property of life emerges at the cellular level and does not exist in the macromolecules and organelles the comprise the cell itself. Evolution is the term ascribed to the slowly acquired changes within species as selective pressures act on variation and mutation within the genomes of populations.

      September 25, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  9. Mark

    Most people in the world live in misery and need something to believe in. If it was up to these intelligentsia goons they be imprisoned.

    September 25, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  10. Gary L. Harding

    Professor Dawkins,
    In your opinon was Alfred Wallace, often indentified as the co-discoverer of evoloutionary theory, unjustly overshadowed and ignored by the more celebrated and remembered Charles Darwin within the 19th century scientific community.

    Thank You

    September 25, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  11. timmy

    Can it be explained to a layman how the Big Bang deals with entropy?
    I grapple with the concept that matter went from complete disorder to order. It doesn't matter how many times I throw my piggy bank off the roof, I know the coins will never sort themselves in nice stacks.

    September 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
    • GodlessOpera

      The Big Bang Event was an entropic minimum, but that doesn't necessarily mean there was greater entropy "prior" to the event as the entire notion of "prior" might not even make any sense: for instance, what's north of the North Pole?

      September 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  12. sand

    the reason why western world has made so much progress is because of capitalism that got its start on the European continent because of the weak political system that was in Europe when one has a weak political system the merchants can use there power to influence the political system to promote and make capitalism grow Europe had a weak political system because of its geography lots of rivers and mountains and that made it difficult top project power it grew and spread during the middle ages 500-1500 as for the peace that Europe and the western world has its based that after world war 2 the gold standard got discarded the dollar became the international currency under the Bretton Woods system and trade import and export grew in the entire world because that way the likely hood of wars and instability was less and that way they could promote peace and stability. and also consciousness is that the human brain receives enormous about of information from the senses the vision the hearing we have 5 senses they are receptors and the human brain processes enormous about of information and the human brain makes an enormous about of calculations and the answer it must deliver some place and that is consciousness it there the brain takes a reasonable and rational choice and that gives a biological advantage that is consciousness but western science have not mean able to reproduce it so the definition can slightly change in the future. also the western world as bombed and damaged the other countries of this planet so how can western science take any credit for moral when its seen as evil when the western world launches military campaign against other countries. and the universe is expanding because of dark matter that is anti-gravitational and western science has purely based this on different types of wavelength of radiation such as x-ray gamma ray visible light seen by land telescopes and spacecraft sent in space but the conclusion that western science have come to can change in the future. western science based on the scientific method and hypothesis can not disprove the existence of Allah and so cant the western world or Europe or any other thing on this planet because Islam is the only right religion and every other person is going to burn in the hell fire.

    September 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  13. Joe


    Do you think religion is actually something that most any intelligent being throughout the universe must deal with during its evolution from "self-aware" being to some next iteration, lets say "super-self-aware" being?

    September 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  14. Areyoucrazy

    You are an idiot Richard. An absolute idiot.

    September 25, 2013 at 5:39 pm |
  15. Bob Bell

    Professor Dawkins: Why do most, if not all human cultures develop a religion centering around a supreme creator of all ?

    September 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
  16. BCB

    What explains the continuing belief in God and religiosity even among highly educated cosmopolitan individuals?

    September 25, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • B

      Higher education does not necessarilly infer higher intelligence.
      The value of knowledge is not in its acquisition, but in its application.

      September 25, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  17. NorthVanCan

    Professor Dawkins ,

    Do you believe in anything? Do you believe you are hungry?

    September 25, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
    • Phil


      Do you believe in anything? He doesnt believe in God and you do not believe in evolution. if were keeping score, you both do not believe in one thing. So again, do you believe in anything?

      September 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  18. Matt Mueller

    What exactly, oh great and wonderful leader of the reasonable and logical in the face of evidence, is the explanation, with evidence please, for how something came from nothing? Also, how consciousness sprang from unconsciousness? Also, how life sprang from unlife?

    September 25, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
  19. chris roemer

    What would the impact be if all forms/notions of religion were stripped from society all at once?

    September 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  20. Julie

    Professor Dawkins,

    I came into my atheism through the studying the works of you and Christopher Hitchens. I do give myself credit in that I was frustrated with all the "mysteries" and fought for answers for myself. My question to you is... How does one get along in society and belong to a strict Catholic family ?? (husband 's ). I feel ostracized and ahead of the times.

    Thank you

    September 25, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
  21. Areyoucrazy

    Richard, are you a fraud? You seem like a fraud to me. And I am an atheist. Just sayin.

    September 25, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
  22. TheTruth

    Your history claims have been soundly and repeatedly refuted by scholars across all fronts – why do you continue to use what you and everyone else knows to be false?

    September 25, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  23. Patrick


    Do you consider Kant's Categorical Imperative as the best response to the premise of religion as being necessary for morality/ethics?

    September 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  24. Phil

    Mr Dawkins,

    Could it be that evolution is a product of gods will? Could the cogs of what we understand as quantum mechanics, general relativity, gravity, the laws and randomness of our universe all be attributed to the workings of a higher power? I have no doubts your evolutionary concepts are dead on. They just..are. But i do question the almost certain dismissal of a "GOD" in your books. As many on here are looking at Biology and evolution incorrectly, you may also be looking at GOD incorrectly. In mans quest to search for something higher than himself, he has put a face onto what I understand as GOD. Could it be that GOD is just the sum of all the laws in the universe? Or a mechanism that governs the laws. We are all part of GOD...If you read the bible, there are plenty of verses that quote what I have just said. The problem is the face, and conciousness, religion has put on GOD.

    So I ask you, could there be a higher power that governs what we know as scientific/universal laws (or theories) whether conciouslessly or unconsciously?

    "Man is a product of the universe becoming conscious of itself"

    September 25, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
  25. Evan

    Does your colloquial use of the word "belief" to describe the recognition of some propositions to be more likely than others, based on evidence, undercut your broader argument against religious faith? I think it does. I think you would be better served by using "belief" only to describe baseless faith, and instead describe empirically supported conclusions using some other word. In your recent appearance on the Daily Show, I think Jon Stewart was clearly confused by your use of the word "belief" to describe both things.

    September 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
  26. jballey

    Dear Mr. Dawkins, I was wondering how you address the Moral argument of God. Most people in this world have a moral code that they live by and there are common threads that can be seen throughout most cultures. For example, most people in most cultures would believe that killing a child in cold blood is wrong. You yourself hinted that you also have a moral code when you said “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.” A couple questions. First, where would this moral code come from, if there is not some moral truth that is outside of us? Otherwise what gives us the right to say that generosity is better than selfishness? How could we ever say that what the terrorists did in 9/11 was wrong, or that the killing of innocent children in Syria is wrong? In order to truly follow Atheism to its logical conclusion, one would have to conclude that there is no moral code. Actually it makes more sense in the Atheistic worldview to say that selfishness is better than generosity. Afterall, it is survival of the fittest, that’s how we got here, so why not do everything you can to make yourself the happiest no matter the cost to someone else? Why not teach selfishness? I admire your pursuit of truth and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thanks for your time!

    September 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • B

      Humans are a social creature. We need to live with others of our kind. rules on how to socially interact will be developed regardless. I suspect morals developed the same way laws do, by trial and error. It very well may be that early groups tried the "it's okay to kill children" method until they found out there weren't too many furture generations forthcoming. The universal truth of "do others as you would do for yourself" has merely stood the test if time as the best way to advance the human species.

      September 25, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
  27. Daniel Harnz

    Dear Professor Dawkins,

    How do you respond to Pascal's Wager. If God exists, then there is an extremely large benefit for those who believe in Him and a very large downside for those who do not. If God does not exist, then there is no benefit to believing in Him and no downside, but also no benefit or downside to disbelief.

    It seems like, taking into account expected values of various belief sets, the one with the highest expected value would be belief in God, Heaven, and Hell.

    September 25, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
    • scourge999

      Even if Pascals wager was valid, (it isn't), how would you go about changing your belief? Can you force yourself to believe in Zeus because of some argument that you would have a better afterlife with Zeus? I think not.

      Furthermore, Pascal's wager fails because it fails to consider other types of gods. Suppose the Muslim god is the true god. Or Perhaps Zeus is the only god. Or perhaps a god only lets people into the afterlife who don't believe he exists. All these cancel out to make a zero sum game.

      September 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
      • Daniel Harnz

        Belief is a choice. You can choose to believe in Zeus if you wanted to.
        Belief in Zeus would not get you into heaven. It might get you a sweet spot in Hades, but not into Heaven.
        There are certain religions with very large upsides to belief in them (i.e., Heaven) and very large downsides to disbelief (i.e., Hell).
        It is better to choose one of those religions, even if you are wrong, because if you are right, then you reap the benefits of being correct.
        Pascal's Wager does not make the claim that any one religion is correct, it just makes the claim that it is irrational to not believing in a religion with a heaven for believers and a hell for disbelievers.

        Atheism gets you nothing for believing in it, so why do it, even if it were correct? The pride of being right? What does that get you when your dead?

        September 25, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
      • Phil

        The biggest problem with Pascals wager is the wager itself. If you believe only because you think it "may get you into heaven" then you are doing it wrong. Biblical teaching from all faiths state you must have faith. Basing a belief on what benefits you might receive, is not faith. Its a wager. And wagers dont get you into heaven. As a matter of fact, they will take you straight to hell.

        September 25, 2013 at 7:13 pm |
    • nepawoods

      What if God exists but will punish those who believe in him?

      The wager as you posed it assumes only two possibilities: God exists, and believers will be rewarded, or God does not exist (and nobody is rewarded). Why are those the only possibilities?

      September 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • Kerry

      Dr. Dawkins has spoken to this many times. Pascal's wager is idiotic. Which god should you choose to believe in? What happens if you choose the wrong one? Your odds for increasing your chances being on the right side of the celestial dictator are only marginally improved, since there have been thousands of gods invented over the history of mankind.

      And the downside of believing on such a false bet is you don't take your time on earth as seriously as you do if you know it is your only shot at life, and do your best to make the most of it. Plus, you are in the same intelectual company as morons like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, very poor associates indeed.

      September 25, 2013 at 7:52 pm |
  28. karl from az

    Four simple questions: (1) Has the chance occurrence of life been demonstrated in the laboratory? Yes or no. (2) Do we really know, as distinct from guess, hope, or imagine, of what the primeval seas consisted? Yes or no. (3) Do we know, as distinct from guess, pray, wave our arms, and hold our breath and turn blue, what seas would be needed for the chance formation of life? Yes or no. (4) Can we show mathematically, without crafted and unsupportable assumptions, that the formation of life would be probable in any soup whatever? Yes or no.

    September 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • nepawoods

      No, no, no, and no. Please tell me you know that doesn't lend any credibility to the notion that there's a god.

      September 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  29. NoOneSpecial

    My question to Dawkins would be. If there were a God what question would you ask him? I would like to suggest that the most likely question he would ask is. If you are a wise and loving Creator as your "bible" says you are why do you allow the suffering that we see in the world today and especially why is it that you allow me to be in the physical condition that I am in? That is what I think is what he would ask God if he found out there was one. The reason I think he would ask that question is because I believe it is that question that lies at the root of his atheistic evangelism. Not science. THERE ACTUALLY IS A VERY REASONABLE AND SATISFYING ANSWER OUT THERE THAT DOES NOT VILIFY GOD AAAAND PUTS THE BLAME WHERE IT LIES. Luke 4:5,6...Matt 4:8,9...1 john 5:19......Revelation 12:9....
    2 Corinthians 4: 3, 4......this situation will soon be remedied......soon all those who actually use their reasoning minds with a view to actually finding out what the remedy is as opposed to just criticizing the so-called "blind faithful" will be blessed

    September 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Phil


      September 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • NorthVanCan

      Like how soon?
      Isn't 2000 years enough?
      Maybe next year. There always hope.

      September 25, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  30. TheTruth

    In multiple debates and analytical research your logic has been proven false and your claimed historical facts also proven false – why do you continue to espouse them? Please don't protest to the contrary as the evidence is easily found all over the Internet.

    September 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
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