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Charles Darwin Erasmus Darwin Leonard Darwin Richard Dawkins William Dembski Daniel Dennett Michael Denton Alan Dershowitz
Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University Web 2 Amazon IMDb LoC GBS QMP AV
The full implications of Darwin's revolution have yet to be widely realized. Zoology is still a minority subject in universities, and even those who choose to study it often make their decision without appreciating its profound philosophical significance. Philosophy and the subjects known as ‘humanities’ are still taught almost as if Darwin had never lived. No doubt this will change in time. The Selfish Gene (1989) p.1
The account of the origin of life that I shall give is necessarily speculative; by definition, nobody was around to see what happened. The Selfish Gene (1989) p.14
It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that). “Put Your Money on Evolution” The New York Times (April 9, 1989) section VII p.35
Evolution is very possibly not, in actual fact, always gradual. But it must be gradual when it is being used to explain the coming into existence of complicated, apparently designed objects, like eyes. For if it is not gradual in these cases, it ceases to have any explanatory power at all. Without gradualness in these cases, we are back to miracle, which is simply a synonym for the total absence of explanation. River out of Eden (1995) p.83
The illusion of purpose is so powerful that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool. River out of Eden (1995) p.98
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. River out of Eden (1995) p.133
Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.1
All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.5
Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.6
In the Cambrian strata of rocks, vintage about 600 million years (evolutionists are now dating the beginning of the Cambrian at about 530 million years), are the oldest in which we find most of the major invertebrate groups. And we find many of them already in an advanced state of evolution, the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say, this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.229
For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was no evolution at all. It made a nonsense of the central point of evolution. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.249
My argument will be that
Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle
explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right it means that, even
were no actual evidence in favour of Darwinian theory (there
is, of course) we should still be
justified in preferring it over all rival theories.
One way to dramatize this point is to make a prediction. I predict that, if a form of life is ever discovered in another part of the universe, however outlandish and weirdly alien that form of life may be in detail, it will be found to resemble life on earth in one key respect: it will have evolved by some kind of Darwinian natural selection. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) pp.287-288 see also: Fark
It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316
All we can say about such beliefs is, firstly, that they are superfluous and, secondly, that they assume the existence of the main thing we want to explain, namely, organized complexity. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316
I want to return now to the charge that science is just a faith. The more extreme version of that charge—and one that I often encounter as both a scientist and a rationalist—is an accusation of zealotry and bigotry in scientists themselves as great as that found in religious people. Sometimes there may be a little bit of justice in this accusation. “Is Science a Religion?” The Humanist January 1997
In plain language, there came a moment in the evolution of hominids when God intervened and injected a human soul into a previously animal lineage (When? A million years ago? Two million years ago? Between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens? Between 'archaic' Homo sapiens and H. sapiens sapiens?). The sudden injection is necessary, of course, otherwise there would be no distinction upon which to base Catholic morality, which is speciesist to the core. You can kill adult animals for meat, but abortion and euthanasia are murder because human life is involved.
Catholicism's "net" is not limited to moral considerations, if only because Catholic morals have scientific implications. Catholic morality demands the presence of a great gulf between Homo sapiens and the rest of the animal kingdom. Such a gulf is fundamentally anti-evolutionary. The sudden injection of an immortal soul in the time-line is an anti-evolutionary intrusion into the domain of science.
More generally it is completely unrealistic to claim, as Gould and many others do, that religion keeps itself away from science's turf, restricting itself to morals and values. A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. Religions make existence claims, and this means scientific claims. You can't have it both ways: Irreconcilable differences? Skeptical Inquirer July 1999 pp.62-64
Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is the only workable explanation that has ever been proposed for the remarkable fact of our own existence, indeed the existence of all life wherever it may turn up in the universe. It is the only known explanation for the rich diversity of animals, pants, fungi and bacteria. Forward to The Theory of Evolution by John Maynard Smith (2000) p.xv
Natural selection is the only workable explanation for the beautiful and compelling illusion of 'design' that pervades every living body and every organ. Knowledge of evolution may not be strictly useful in everyday commerce. You can live some sort of life and die without ever hearing the name of Darwin. But if, before you die, you want to understand why you lived in the first place, Darwinism is the one subject that you must study. Forward to The Theory of Evolution by John Maynard Smith (2000) p.xvi
There are good things and bad about the poetry of general evolutionism. On balance I think it fosters confusion more than illumination, but there is certainly some of both. Unweaving the Rainbow (2000) p.192
It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that). Ignorance is No Crime Free Inquiry Summer 2001
As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) p.10
It is forever true that DNA is a double helix, true that if you are a chimpanzee (or an octopus or a kangaroo) trace your ancestors back far enough you will eventually hit a shared ancestor. To a pedant, these are still hypotheses which might be falsified tomorrow. But they never will be. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) pp.17-18
Darwin's achievement, like Einstein's, is universal and timeless. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) p.79
Maybe we are neo-Darwinists today, but let us spell neo with a very small n! Our neo-Darwinism is very much in the spirit of Darwin himself. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) p.80
Genomes are littered with nonfunctional pseudogenes, faulty duplicates of functional genes that do nothing, while their functional cousins (the word doesn't even need scare quotes) get on with their business in a different part of the genome. And there’s lots more DNA that doesn’t even deserve the name pseudogene. It, too, is derived by duplication, but not duplication of functional genes. It consists of multiple copies of junk, “tandem repeats”, and other nonsense which may be useful for forensic detectives but which doesn’t seem to be used in the body itself. Once again, creationists might spend some earnest time speculating on why the Creator should bother to litter genomes with untranslated pseudogenes and junk tandem repeat DNA. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) p.99
There may be some deep questions about the cosmos that are forever beyond science. The mistake is to think that they are therefore not beyond religion too. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) p.149
In any case, the belief that religion and science occupy separate magesteria is dishonest. It founders on the undeniable fact that religions still make claims about the world which, on analysis, turn out to be scientific claims. Moreover, religious apologists try to have it both ways, to eat their cake and have it. When talking to intellectuals, they carefully keep off science's turf, safe inside the separate and invulnerable religious magesterium. But when talking to a non-intellectual mass audience they make wanton use of miracle stories, which are blatant intrusions into scientific territory. The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, The Raising of Lazarus, the manifestations of Mary and the Saints around the Catholic world. Even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and very effective they are with an audience of unsophisticates and children. Even on of these miracle amounts to a scientific claim, a violation of the normal running of the natural world. Theologians, if they want to remain honest, should make a choice. You can claim your own magisterium, separate from science's but still deserving of respect. But in that case you have to renounce miracles. Or you can keep your Lourdes and your miracles, and enjoy their huge recruiting potential among the uneducated. But then you must kiss goodbye to separate magesteria and your high-minded aspiration to converge on science. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) p.150
Next time somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself, 'Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority or revelation?' And next time somebody tells you that something is true, why not say to them, 'What kind of evidence is there for that?' And if they can't give you a good answer, I hope you'll think very carefully before you believe a word they say. A Devil's Chaplain (2003) p.248
I toyed with atheism from the age of about nine, originally because I worked out that, of all the hundreds of religions in the world, it was the sheerest accident that I was brought up Christian. They couldn’t all be right, so maybe none of them was. I later reverted to a kind of pantheism when I realised the shattering complexity and beauty of the living world. Then, around the age of 16, I first understood that Darwinism provides an explanation big enough and elegant enough to replace gods. I have been an atheist ever since. You Ask The Questions Independent February 20 2003
As a Darwinian, the aspect of religion that catches my attention is its profligate wastefulness, its extravagant display of baroque uselessness. Nature is a miserly accountant, grudging the pennies, watching the clock, punishing the smallest waste. If a wild animal habitually performs some useless activity, natural selection will favor rival individuals who instead devote time to surviving and reproducing. Nature cannot afford frivolous jeux desprits. Ruthless utilitarianism trumps, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. Free Inquiry June 2004
The world is divided into things that look designed (like birds and airliners) and things that don't (rocks and mountains). Things that look designed are divided into those that really are designed (submarines and tin openers) and those that aren't (sharks and hedgehogs). The diagnostic of things that look (or are) designed is that their parts are assembled in ways that are statistically improbable in a functional direction. They do something well: for instance, fly.
Darwinian natural selection can produce an uncanny illusion of design. An engineer would be hard put to decide whether a bird or a plane was the more aerodynamically elegant.
So powerful is the illusion of design, it took humanity until the mid-19th century to realise that it is an illusion. NewScientist September 17 2005 p.33
The Universe could so easily have remained lifeless and simple -- just physics and chemistry, just the scattered dust of the cosmic explosion that gave birth to time and space. The fact that it did not -- the fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved literally out of nothing -- is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice. And even this is not the end of the matter. Not only did evolution happen: it eventually led to beings capable of comprehending the process, and even of comprehending the process by which they comprehend it. The Ancestor's Tale 2005 p.613
I should have been talking about the combined probability of life's originating on a planet and leading, eventually, to the evolution of intelligent beings capable of anthropic reflection. It could be that the chemical origin of a self-replicating molecule (the necessary trigger for the origin of natural selection) was a relatively probable event but later steps in the evolution of intelligent life were highly improbable. Intelligent Thought (2006) p. 95-6
Now if you take your science as narrowly evidential, you'll say something like, "Since you've never seen life on another planet other than this one, how can you possibly say anything about the way life might be universally, on other planets.?" On the face of it that sounds like a reasonable complaint, but on the other hand there surely must be some things that theory tells us must be so. And it can't be right to rule out of bounds everything that we can't see with our own eyes. The Selfish Gene: Thirty Years On March 16 2006
I am very seriously interested in the sorts of questions which 500 years ago would have been given religious answers. What are we here for? Where did it all come from? In a way, I think religion is to be admired for asking the right questions. I just think it's got the wrong answers. Dawkins and the missionary position The Age December 23, 2006
I don’t want to discuss evidence. Discussion with Rupert Sheldrake 2007
We only need to use
the word ‘faith’ when there isn’t any evidence.
Lennox: No, not at all. I presume you’ve got faith in your wife — is there any evidence for that?
Dawkins: Yes. Yes, plenty of evidence.
Lennox: Hmmm The God Delusion Debate October 3 2007 Part I 36.20
What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question. byFaith December 2007
Contrary to Huxley, I shall suggest that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other. Even if hard to test in practice, it belongs in the same TAB or temporary agnosticism box as the controversies over the Permian and Cretaceous extinctions. God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice. The God Delusion (2008) p.72-3
Whatever else they may say, those scientists who subscribe to the 'separate magesteria' school of thought should concede that the universe with a supernaturally intelligent creator is a very different kind of universe from one without. The difference between the two hypothetical universes could hardly be more fundamental in principle, even if it is not easy to test in practice. And it undermines the dictum that science must be completely silent about religion's central existence claim. The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question, even if not in practice -- or not yet -- a decided one. The God Delusion (2008) p.82
When faced with miracle stories, Gould would presumably retort along the following lines. The whole point of NOMA is that it is a two-way bargain. The moment religion steps on science's turf and starts to meddle in the real world with miracles, it ceases to be religion in the sense that Gould is defending, and his amicabilis concordia is broken. Note, however, that miracle-free religion defended by Gould would not be recognized by most practicing theists in the pew or on the prayer mat. It would, indeed, be a grave disappointment to them. The God Delusion (2008) p.84
Any creationist lawyer who got me on the stand could instantly win over the jury simply by asking me: 'Has your knowledge of evolution influenced you in the direction of becoming an atheist?' I would have to answer yes and, at one stroke, I would have lost the jury. The God Delusion (2008) p.93
We really need Darwin's powerful crane to account for the diversity of life on Earth, and especially the persuasive illusion of design. The origin of life, by contrast, lies outside the reach of that crane, because natural selection cannot proceed with out it. Here the anthropic principle comes into its own. We can deal with the unique origin of life by postulating a very large number of planetary opportunities. Once that initial stroke of luck has been granted – and the anthropic principle most decisively grants it to us – natural selection takes over: and natural is emphatically not a matter of luck.
Nevertheless, it may be that the origin of life is not the only major gap in the evolutionary story that is bridged by sheer luck... the origin of the eucaryotic cell (or kind of cell with a nucleolus and various other complicated features such as mitochondria, which are not present in bacteria) was an even more momentous, difficult and statistically improbable step than the origin of life. The origin of consciousness might be another major gap whose bridging was of the same order of improbability... Natural selection works because it is a cumulative one-way street to improvement. It needs some luck to get started, and the 'billions of planets' anthropic principle grants it that luck. Maybe a few later gaps in the evolutionary story also need major infusions of luck, with anthropic justification. The God Delusion (2008) p.168-9
The Battle over evolution is only one skirmish in a much larger war. Expelled April 18 2008 2.50Ben Stein: How did it start?
I suppose it's possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the details of biochemistry or molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer. Expelled April 18 2008 1.31.11
I must say I wasn’t the real enthusiastic naturalist. My route to science and biology was almost more philosophical. I was interested in the questions of existence -- why are we here? Times Online July 19 2008
We don’t need fossils in order to demonstrate that evolution is a fact. We, I mean, it would be an obviously true fact even if not a single fossil had ever been formed. Hugh Hewitt Interview October 21 2009
As I said, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if a man called Jesus or Yehoshua existed. I would say the evidence that He worked miracles, He rose from the dead, He was born of a virgin, is zero... All right, then there may be some... All right. I will accept that there are some ancient historians who take the Gospels seriously. Hugh Hewitt Interview October 21 2009
Did you ever believe in
God, Richard Dawkins?
RD: Of course, I was a child.
HH: And when did you put off your foolish belief in God?
RD: When did I put away childish things?
RD: At the age of about fifteen.
HH: And under who’s influence was it?
RD: I suppose it was the influence, not of Darwin directly, but of the education in evolution that I was receiving. Hugh Hewitt Interview October 21 2009
Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. RicharadDawkins.net post February 24 2010
I have a certain niggling sympathy for the creationists, because I think, in a way, the writing is on the wall for the religious view that says it's fully compatible with evolution. I think there's a kind of incompatibility, which the creationists see clearly. Adventures in Democracy March 8 2010 2.20
Charles Darwin Erasmus Darwin Leonard Darwin Richard Dawkins William Dembski Daniel Dennett Michael Denton Alan Dershowitz
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