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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Topics: Science

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soundoff (300 Responses)
  1. Bryan Kirchoff

    If secularism promotes human flourishing, why are so many secular cultures demographically dying?

    September 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • chicoistheman

      By many different measurements, secular (European) countries have happier people, are less prone to violence, have lower crime rates, are more educated and spend more on education for their kids.
      Do you mean simple birth rates? If so, please go sit and think for a while.

      September 25, 2013 at 11:14 pm |
  2. Bryan Kirchoff

    Why do some atheists believe condescension and heckling are the best means to produce “converts”? Frame your reply in light of the fact that many former atheists – a Pew report noting that only 30% of cradle atheists maintain that faith into adulthood comes to mind – cite the “bitterness” of their atheist associates as something that drove their inquiry into religion.

    September 25, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • chicoistheman

      It's a fair point – their certainly not going to win any converts that way.
      I debate frequently on the interwebz, and discussions can stay civil. But when someone
      wades in with anti-evolution/creationist canards/young earth creationism and all of the other
      debunked, sophmoric ideas on why their particular god is real, the snark comes out in force.
      And it is effective. At that point, you are no longer debating with the other person – the conversation
      becomes more of a public spectacle and you hope to reach someone reading the debate by showing
      how utterly foolish it all is.

      September 25, 2013 at 11:20 pm |
    • glennrobert

      There is a God. There is no God. Neither position is testable. The real answers and questions to the universe will be dealt with in the sciences of physics and astronomy. As we get more answers the questions get more difficult. Having faith is not an answer.

      September 26, 2013 at 2:59 am |
    • Ojagamap

      Atheists are not seeking "converts." That is one of the roles of the religious people of the world. Atheists seek the truth. If by sharing their perspectives on why religion simply doesn't make sense, they bring someone (who self-identifies as being religious) to quesiton their own beliefs, that is not a "victory" for the atheist. It is a victory for truth. Atheists have no interest in thrusting their lack of beliefs on the believers, but many believers feel it is their duty to do the opposite as a part of the dogma they worship. Yes, many (not all) ahteists object of having "In God We Trust" on our money, and "under god" in the Pledge of Allegiance, but that isn't in the interest of thrusting atheism upon the masses–it is "push back" for the theists thrusting their beliefs on everyone else.

      September 26, 2013 at 3:10 am |
    • mikeaceshadow

      Never heard of Atheist trying to convert anyone. Millions have been killed because of religions.

      September 27, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • Hello

      because it is a lot more humane than burning at the stake,, cutting off heads, nailing to crosses and other techniques that were and are still used by theists to convince people that their gods do exist and are good for humanity.

      September 28, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  3. Bryan Kirchoff

    Is there even a 0.0000001% chance God exists? Is there even a 0.0000001% chance that multiple universes exist? If “no” on the first and “yes” on the second, is there more evidence or testimony on multiple universes than God?

    September 25, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • chicoistheman

      Multiple universes is at least a naturalistic explanation. See – no need for gods around here. Science does not deal with the supernatural.

      You are suffering from a common fallacy of godbotherers. You want to live in the crooks and crannies of what is possible, not what is probable. It's akin to the "you can't prove my god doesn't exist" logic error that gets spouted so often.

      September 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
      • Alex

        So what does naturalism have to say about truth, love, and meaning? Does naturalism help me when I will to do good but something inside of me pushes me to act selfishly. Does naturalism give any type of foundation that will help a pregnant woman decide whether to abort a child, a struggling business owner to act ethically, or a young woman decide whether to sell her body, As human beings, we need a moral guide to live our lives and we would live an extremely distorted existence if we considered ourselves as mere autonomous ambulatory protein masses. We hear about the children at Sandy Hook and we bring morality to bear on the atrocious nature of such action. But follow Mr. Dawkins' reasoning and the logic of his conclusions will make you think that such an act was merely nature recycling itself. Is this how you really want to see the world.

        September 26, 2013 at 12:21 am |
      • Grist

        There is an extensive scientific literature about the evolution of morality. Try reading "The Evolution of Morality" by Richard Joyce or "The Altruism Equation" by Lee Dugatkin. Science does indeed explain morality.

        September 26, 2013 at 7:52 am |
  4. Bryan Kirchoff

    Since the vast majority of people have not personally proven that light travels at 3 X 10^8 m/s, or that the neutron exists, or that various species emerged from evolution, is it fair to say we average folks, including most atheists, exercise faith in accepting those scientific concepts?

    September 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Just

      No. We exercise good judgment and know that neither faith nor worship is required when knowledge is evidence-based.

      September 25, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Protinga

      To Bryan K. No, it's not the same thing to believe scientific facts and religious truths, for scientific facts are demonstrably true in a way that religious beliefs aren't. No matter how far I am removed from the science of electrical currents and the incandescent light bulb, when I flip the switch, it works.

      September 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
      • glennrobert

        Very good. Pragmatic.

        September 26, 2013 at 3:02 am |
    • chicoistheman

      Here is the difference.
      When a scientist makes a claim (like the speed of light), that is an experiment that can be repeated by others. In this case, it has been confirmed many times over and it would now be delusional to withhold provisional consent.

      People of all stripes (you included) don't actually put faith in these scientific concepts. Whether you realize it or not, the "faith" (if you want to call it that – I never understand why godbotherers use words like 'religion' and 'faith' in derogatory ways when arguing with atheists) you have is in the scientific method. That is, that someone can declare a result, but must show their work. Their results must be verifiable, their theory falsifiable. It is through this peer review annealing process that ideas are strengthened and become the bedrock of the computer/keyboard you are using to yammer away at.

      September 25, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
      • RCollins

        Sure, hard science produces mostly "Facts". But soft science i.e.. biology and medicine produce "well we THINK it's like this, until someone comes up with a better idea" in other words biologists produce ideas which never stop changing, ideas which are temporary until someone gets a better idea. Much of biology is not so much facts as beliefs. Biologists once believed that all inheritance comes from the genes, and all inherited diseases can be traced back to faulty genes. This is no longer the case now that scientists have better information. So you see not all science is the hard core immutable facts that people think. So what is a fact if it might be falsified sometime in the future? It is a belief, a human interpretation of reality.

        September 26, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • Hello

      oh you mean that story in Gensis that the earth, plants and all were created.... and functioning.. BEFORE the sun was created? god never heard of Photosynthesis.... and it took the sun to provide it to plants. god failed biology.. and a whole lot of other ologies..... too. and there is proof in the bible... he failed them all.

      September 28, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
      • Hello

        oh yeah... no sun.. no Photosynthesis... then no oxygen... and just what were all those plants, animals and first humans breathing.. be fore the sun was created.. LAST... humm.. god gas.. I guess.

        September 28, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
  5. Crazy Teavangelical Jeff

    Mr. Dawkins, are you aware of over 2000 different biblical propehcy's (such as the rise and fall of nations, coming of Christ) that have been predicted by the bible (mostly O.T.; which was complete in 270 A.D.), and later proven to be true. And over 1,000 scientific inferences that the bible made such as the hydronic cycle, and blood clotting (vitimen K) that when they were written there was no way of knowing if it was true, but later was proven true. And can anyone actually give one biblical contraction that does not hold up to the smallest amount of scrutiny when you factor in Context (historical, personal, literary etc.) And does any part of you fear, that the word of God, may just be the truth- and because you are a unrepentant sinner, you may burn in hell for all enternity.

    September 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
    • Tim

      The bible also justified the apartheid system in S Africa.
      You can find a passage to justify anything – even genocide.
      Lots of mumbo-jumbo.
      Dawkins has it figured out.

      September 25, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • Steve

      Jeff – I"m a Christian, I believe Jesus was son of God, died on the Cross and will come again. In my 8+ years walking in faith, blood of the lamb and word of our testimony is something people can't question. They can try, but wont' convince me otherwise. I almost hesitate to converse with a strong non-believer, because I sound like a thumper, I don't want to be too direct although accepting Jesus changed my life forever. I don't care how much this response is questioned. The argument I see is we discriminate, judge (although it's one of the hardest things I resist). It saddens me the state of our moral conscience (amazing has science in the name) today. I wish my testimony published in a couple of devotional books I wrote could convince others....If you need a book to share, read Heaven is for Real explain some of the facts there.

      September 25, 2013 at 10:55 pm |
      • sjones581

        Only someone very childish or gullible would believe that "Heaven is for Real" is a factual account of the "afterlife". Santa Clause is more believable.

        September 26, 2013 at 5:54 am |
      • Steve

        sjones-have you actually read the book? How does a four year old boy find about his Grandpa nick name called POP and his 'other' sister when his parents hadn't told him about the accounts? Makes me think 🙂 Believe what you want...Santa is pretty cool too!

        September 26, 2013 at 6:25 am |
    • james Pfeiffer

      "crazy Teavangelical Jeff" have certainly chosen a perfect name for your internet yammering. What makes human beings unique is that we are able, as a species, to actually contemplate our own deaths. The idea of death, and what happens after death, is unbearable and frieghtening to many people. Therefore we create fairy tales, fantasies, religions, bibles and delusional thinking in order to assuage our predictable deaths. Also, religion pretty much gives a person the excuse to stay scientifically ignorant and intellectually lazy.

      September 26, 2013 at 6:57 am |
      • Scott

        I just wish I could be there to see the look on your face when you see how wrong you were. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

        September 26, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  6. William

    In this world, so many people are utterly content with "not knowing". Many will fight to the bitter death to hold on to their delusions and unsubstantial ideas. They honestly believe they are doing good by teaching hokum to their own children. They honestly believe that they are in the right when they force their nonsense down the throats of other children whose parents are too "neglectful" to teach them about god and other myths. What can we do to help get science education beyond the perception of it being all about "memorizing facts" to the understanding that it is just an elegant process?

    September 25, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
  7. Steve

    Have you read the book Heaven is for Real? How does science explain some of the facts?

    September 25, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
    • sjones581

      Heaven complete with clouds, winged inhabitants, and a baby sister his parents had lost to a miscarriage. Only in America could a book like this be classified as nonfiction.

      September 26, 2013 at 5:45 am |
    • Tony

      Which facts are you talking about here?

      September 26, 2013 at 8:27 am |
      • Steve

        Hmm I'll take a chance here and actually post. How does a four year old boy find about his Grandpa nick name called POP and his 'other' sister when his parents hadn't told him about the accounts?

        September 27, 2013 at 3:05 am |
  8. Kathy

    David Attenborough recently said that he believes human evolution has stopped. Do you believe this as well? Why or why not?

    September 25, 2013 at 11:05 pm |
  9. Rat Bastrd

    Any word on a new book, or perhaps a release date for The Unbelievers?

    September 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
  10. Rubens Dantas de Oliveira

    Modern computers are a product of intensive research and careful engineering. They did not “just happen.” What about the human brain?

    From Brazil

    September 25, 2013 at 11:24 pm |
    • Aleks

      The human brain didn't "just happen." It is the result of billions of years of evolution starting with single cell organisms that utilized electrical potential. As evolution progressed, organisms with more advantageous systems and mechanisms were more successful at reproducing. The long chain of evolution of nervous systems has culminated in the mammalian brain we have today.

      September 26, 2013 at 12:35 am |
  11. Rubens Dantas de Oliveira

    If highly trained scientists are unable to produce new species by artificially inducing and selecting favorable mutations, is it likely that an unintelligent process would do a better job?

    September 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
    • Milton Platt

      Speciation has been done and observed in the laboratory with organisms that have short life spans allowing many generations to be produced within an observable timeline.

      September 26, 2013 at 7:10 am |
  12. Rubens Dantas de Oliveira

    What does the fossil record actually show?

    September 25, 2013 at 11:29 pm |
    • Milton Platt

      Visit talk for Ana swer to your question. There is not enough space here to list 150 years of evidence.

      September 26, 2013 at 7:13 am |
  13. ✠RZ✠

    Putting space and time aside, it is generally accepted from a scientific perspective (of course) that all things and processes are either directly related to or entirely dependent upon matter. Yet we do not even know what matter is intrinsically. So, is there any convincing theory that something real might exist completely independent of matter? And if so, how imight matter be defined from that perspective?

    September 25, 2013 at 11:30 pm |
  14. neorohit

    Dear Dr. Dawkins,

    In the Blind Watchmaker, you reject the prejudice of speciesism which enables human beings to treat non-human animals as simply means to an end. As you have expressed in other forums, arbitrarily drawing lines between human beings and other species is logically erroneous, given that evolution has provided a continuum of consciousness and sentience based on the complexity of nervous systems. Why have you not joined the ranks of Peter Singer and other atheists who have adopted a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle based on this realization? Do you see any ethical justification in the anguish inflicted on billions of sentient animals every year for frivolous reasons (like culinary taste) – and if so, what would that be? What advice would you give to secular activists who are trying to shift our moral paradigm with regards to this issue?

    Best Wishes,

    September 25, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Big Biceps

      Great post and I love to hear a response from Mr. Dawkins.

      September 26, 2013 at 1:28 am |
  15. Rubens Dantas de Oliveira

    According to the fossil record, is it correct that all the major groups of animals appeared suddenly and remained virtually unchanged?


    September 25, 2013 at 11:33 pm |
    • Milton Platt

      In a

      September 26, 2013 at 7:15 am |
  16. woodsy123


    September 26, 2013 at 12:33 am |
  17. woodsy123

    What about metaphysics, the study of that which is beyond matter. There is a belief that one non physical intelligence is "appearing" as this universe, as you and me and as everyone and everything so that "it" may experience physical life. There are many people who through meditative experiences have come to such conclusions. These people do not have any religious beliefs, no dogmas or creeds and in fact love science. To believe that "one" is appearing as all, should not be regarded as delusional thinking. To disregard books like "I Am That" by nisargadatta as nonsense is not intelligent thinking. There is something to this universe and to this life which cannot be explained by finite mind thinking, but when you can "see" it through the eyes of an infinite oneness through contemplation and introspection you will be very close to true reality.

    September 26, 2013 at 12:43 am |
  18. Phelix Unger

    I'll start by saying how much I enjoyed The God Illusion. As a youngster I was raised catholic, I'm now over 50 and yet some of the indoctrination stays with me. I don't believe in any religion written by humans as it was written by humans. My question is if I at 50 still have remnants of the man made bogeyman, how long do you think that we as a society will be able to put the voodoo to rest and start working together globally as a race of men and women to further our own existence? After reading HG Wells An Outline of History, I came away with his strong feeling of education being the light that will shine through the mists of confusion created by religion. Although we have come a fair way since he wrote that in 1919, we still have a long way to go. My own estimate is somewhere within the next 2 to 3 hundred years. Care to hazard a guess of your own?

    Thank you

    September 26, 2013 at 1:04 am |
    • Sam

      Unfortunately, we are in deep trouble on this front. From Thomas Jefferson April 11, 1823:

      "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter"

      We are closing in on 200 years and this is still a lively "debate". I wish I had a good answer here as well. The safest bet: Nobody currently living today will see this come to fruition. I hope my great grand children will live to see this (my eldest son is 9 at present and already being trained in critical thinking).

      September 26, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  19. Phelix Unger

    Just wanted to add that I have raised to free thinkers and remind them never to drink the koolaid.

    September 26, 2013 at 1:07 am |
  20. p-nautilus

    Dr. Dawkins,

    Do you believe that technological advances have an impact on our genome in the long-term? Is it possible that developments like global communication, social networks, nano-technology, etc, represent an early step toward humankind evolving toward a collective state of consciousness? Thanks.

    September 26, 2013 at 1:16 am |
  21. Rob S

    I believe in God, whereas Mr. Dawkins apparently does not. So?

    September 26, 2013 at 2:48 am |
  22. tensai13

    I no longer see any point in debating with the religiously deluded, it is a waste of my valuable time. How do you, Professor Dawkins, find the strength to go on?

    September 26, 2013 at 4:41 am |
  23. Masoud

    proffesor dowkins pleaaase answer me...i've read your "The god delusion" and i"m a gold medalist in biology olympiad that makes my work more complicated tu decide...just tell me how can i know which way is right...i accept all your views but i can't easily disregard all things that i have learnt from my childhood in islamic atmosphere of iran....please help me to choose my way...

    September 26, 2013 at 6:23 am |
  24. klamer1446

    IIs there such a thing as absolute good or evil in the absence of an ultimate source, i.e. God?

    September 26, 2013 at 7:32 am |
    • Lesser Known Richard

      Why should there need to be? Is there something wrong with making a subjective decision as a group (murder is wrong) followed by rational thought and careful consideration of evidence to determine when killing another human might be justified (self defense, etc.). That's how it is already done. Most just haven't given it much thought. If it's ultimate justice you're after, there is no such thing. Rather than sadden you, this should compel you to play a more active role in ending all forms of needless suffering... for your sake, and the sake of future generations.

      September 26, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  25. Deluded no more

    Do you believe a historical Jesus existed? Why or why not?

    September 26, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  26. Tony

    In my (limited) experience, most people who speak negatively of atheists tend to think that atheists believe there is no god, rather than simply lacking a belief in a god.
    Do you think this is harmful, and if so how can it be remedied?

    September 26, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  27. Rich Donahue

    Is it probable that religion has a genetic component – e.g. worship of elders extending back thrrough worship of ancestors?

    September 26, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  28. Robert S

    Do not all forms of conclusion, religious or otherwise, result in closed mindedness and thus insensitivity to reality? For instance, has not the physicalist emphassis on knowledge on only though physics, biology and mathematics hindered us from being more introspective and thus more understanding of our own insecurites and desires and also being more senstive to the suffering and great beauty in the world?

    September 26, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  29. sandalista

    Can you explain why so many people have faith (belief without evidence)? Is it fear of dying, fear of punishment? What motivates a person to worship an improbable and vicious deity contrary to all logic and evidence?

    September 26, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Hello

      religions focus on death and dieing because they have a FIX for that... its called believing.. its part of the scam.. our greatest fear is death... the myth masters have created a way to avoid it.. you just believe... a very simple solution for very simple minds.. the life after death thing was a very important part of the Egyptian myth... it worked for them so the idea was carried over to the Jewish and then the subsequent plagiarizing myths..
      The moving forward to being a non-supernatural species will take a long long time... even longer than it took to create the myths to begin with because.. once an idea is implanted in an brain it is very difficult to remove it.
      like a bad habit.. the best way to avoid it is to not start it in the first place... religions are bad habits for humanity...
      and they linger on for generations after generations... even when they make no sense or completely false.

      September 28, 2013 at 11:27 pm |
  30. PushingBack

    It seems to me that social media has provided a network of support to atheists and allowed us to connect and realize we are not alone. Do you believe atheism has reached a critical mass moving forward and if not yet, will we see that occur soon?

    September 26, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Hello

      If more and more people read Caesar's Messiah... and learn and understand.. with proof the creation of the christian myth and by whom... people might realize that is was not just a Christian thing.. but is also very much the same path that all the other religions were created too... they were created as political tools.... of the few to control the many...

      September 28, 2013 at 11:31 pm |
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