Streams

How We Know What's Really True

Monday, October 03, 2011

Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and author talks about his new graphic science book, The Magic of Reallity: How We Know What's Really True, illustrated by Dave McKean, which explores what we should teach our kids about science, the world and why.

Guests:

Richard Dawkins

The Morning Brief

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Comments [98]

Esther from Baltimore

Interestingly, Dawkins does allow for other Big Bang theories, eg. the occillating model of expansion/contraction, & other creative ideas that can be postulated, but certainly not verified by scientific theory. Amusingly, he finds no problem entertaining these ideas.

Oct. 06 2011 09:26 AM
Esther from Baltimore

In Judaism, the words used for the name of G-d in Hebrew describe what we believe G-d to be in essence. In other words, the name in & of itself has meaning. One of the names of G-d that Dawkins refers to, is spelled Yud, Hay, Vav & Hay. That name is a contraction of the time tenses. I doubt that Dawkins knew that. The time tenses in Hebrew are Haya, Hove & YeHeyeh. That there is a Being Who is now, Who was before we can conceive of time & Who will be after we can conceive of anything. This is what we mean when we say G-d. Meaning He is, He was, & He will be. On a primary level, that is our statement about what G-d is. In Western culture, belief is often associated with the word “blind”, or perhaps wishful thinking. Like believing in the toothfairy, as Dawkins likes to compare belief in G-d. But this is not the Jewish concept. There is no mizvah in believing something without it being based on knowledge, as expressed by the Rambam, because one may then come to believe in anything.

There is no word in Hebrew that means belief as in “blind faith” because this concept does not exist. A more accurate translation of the word “emunah” would be faithfulness. Belief should be based on knowledge & the question is, will we be faithful to that knowledge. In the Mishna Torah, the Rambam’s code, the foundation is KNOWLEDGE that there is a G-d.

So, how can one “know” G-d”?
Nobody in their right mind would believe if I were to tell you that a book, let’s say “Great Expectations”, wrote itself. The reason nobody would believe it is because we have no experience of anything making itself. Knowledge is based on what is observable. There is no observable phenomena that makes itself. When we look at the physical world, with it’s incredibly intricacy, and in partial agreement with Dawkins, what we see is all physical matter seems to come from simpler physical matter. No matter what you reduce it to, as long as you are not willing to state “this made itself”, you are always going to remain with one question… who made it? So it doesn’t matter in the end how you come to describe the process of Being, in terms of the steps between the simplest matter to the most sophisticated matter, no matter how it is described, there always remains the same question, “where did that come from.” In Judaism we answer this question that it came from the Being that is eternal. Not that it came from G-d, like it’s some person out there or some tooth fairy, but it came from a reality that the only words we have to describe that Reality is something that was there before, & is there now, & will be there later.

Oct. 06 2011 09:25 AM
Esther from Baltimore

I recently listened to a university lecture online about the Big Bang theory & there was a question from a student: he asked “What was before the Big Bang?” The professor’s answer was: “you can’t ask that”. Exactly, it is beyond our human brain/capacity to even think what was before time & space were created. WHY? Because we are bound by those limitations. Of course Professor Dawkins is of the opinion, that if G-d does not fit into the enlightened theory of evolution, then G-d can’t possibly exist! And that is his proof & the basis of his entire book The G-d Delusion. Since G-d can’t possibly be omniscient/all powerful, etc & by definition be “simple”, thereby fitting G-d into the Darwinian model, then He most certainly does not exist! Of course, Dawkins can’t prove anything. He just defined the problem when one tries to fit the concept of G-d into the theory of evolution. Of course this make no sense because if G-d does exist, he would not be bound to the rules of nature that He created. The concept of G-d’s essence is by definition OUTSIDE of nature & just like the professor who wouldn’t allow the question: what came before the Big Bang, we can’t ask the question: what is the essence of G-d. This is, basically, the same question but people like Dawkins have difficulty in acknowledging their non-omniscience.

Oct. 06 2011 09:18 AM
Noelle Newell from Easton

Whatever one may reason to believe to be the truth is irrelevant. What matters is if one is kind, polite, ethical, compassionate and rightly so don't impose your beliefs in or out of God on others equally.

I have to say that I did find Richard Dawkins a bit smug.

Brian, bravo on a wonderful show.

Oct. 05 2011 11:36 AM
Bruce from NYC

Yeah, sorry, there is no "leap of faith" involved in atheism, except such "leaps of faith" as are involved in getting up in the morning, in thinking it advisable to make a cup of coffee after waking, in doing the laundry in advance of needing clean clothes. What isn't there quite simply isn't there. End of story. Funny how that goes. It just stops.

Oct. 04 2011 03:28 PM
Noelle from Easton

Tom:

I never tried a belief like a pair of shoes.

I believe in separation btwn church and state.

We are all entitled to our opinions.

You haven't a clue in what I believe in. I have sincere appreciation and gratitude for nature that surrounds us.

Oct. 04 2011 12:18 PM
Bill

Emmanuel,

It takes no leap of faith to be an atheist.

How can a rational and supernatural being not be behind the natural order of the universe? The onus is on no one to prove negatives like that. It is on you to prove that there is a rational and supernatural being behind the natural order of the universe. That scientists haven't explained how life has come out of non-life isn't de facto proof that life came out of non-life by divine agency any more than my life-long bafflement at the continued disappearance of one of a pair of socks is proof of malicious supernatural harassment. That agency you insist must exist must anyway itself be an existent life and a life for which no one has yet provided an explanation, let alone demonstrated to exist. You're merely deferring the same unanswered question into an unreachable, fantastical remove and dusting off your hands satisfied that you need no longer do any work for answers.

Meanwhile, there are no failures in science. Science is not in its results but in the process by which they're arrived at, problems begetting solutions begetting problems theoretically ad infinitum. It is always forging ahead and constantly self-critical, and calling any of its activity a failure is like calling any effort a failure for not achieving its goal in the instant it begins the attempt. We know the earth revolves around the sun and always has; for thousands of years, though, the sun was thought to revolve around the earth. That wasn't a "failure" of science. The models constructed around a stationary earth were full of accurate observations, but over time they generated problems needing a better explanation that Copernicus eventually provided. Process. The "failures" to know better before Copernicus were no more proof of your agent god than any of the current "failures" of science to know--what? Everything? It must know everything now or there is a god? Silly.

Oct. 04 2011 11:39 AM
rh from NYC area

Both this Dawkins interview, and Leonard Lopate's Randall interview, made me cringe. I am a scientist and people like these have no right to speak for me. I don't take global warming "on face value" because I don't believe the science behind it. Just because the media puts forth global warming as true, and minimize stories that refute it, doesn't mean global warming is as much as a problem as the proponents say.

I also cringe because I am an atheist and am raising my children with no religion. Science is not my religion, and we respect people who choose to follow any religion. My leaving the church that I grew up in was not because I am a scientist, it was because as much as we do know about religion is inconsistent with the most basic level of thinking: if A, then B. You don't have to be a scientist to doubt what billions of people have individual opinions on.

Many of the media's stories on atheists forget the fact that there are many atheists who profess a religion to their family and friends, to avoid being ostracized. It's amazing how quick others agree with your lack of belief yet rue that they have to raise their children in something they don't believe. Atheists are everywhere, even in your churches and synagogues.

Oct. 03 2011 10:54 PM

Thank you Dr Dawkins for a refreshing antidote to the likes of those horrid little comics with the apes that the fundamentalists used to leave on public transport, which tried to trash the logic behind evolution and secular society.

I wish you could use your brilliant mind, though, to provide us with more than just that. It seems to me you possess a self-satisfaction that leads you to exceed the role of tat-for-titter that you play so well with the fundies: you are a much needed mirror to their *storm-und-drang*!

As you know, research affirms the insight of "gestalt psychology" - that the human brain seeks desparately to fill in holes in their picture of the world with *something*, and reflexively does just that. But instead of leaving it at that, and saying "We can fill those holes with anything and in my opinion, the religious fill those holes with mumbo jumbo," you go a step further and colonise those holes in the name of Science. With several turns of false reasoning, you end up with: Religion -- all spirituality -- is rubbish, since everyone knows that truth can only be determined in a laboratory. You do an end-run on common sense and, in a brilliant coup d'etat, turn science from *method* into *monolith*. Like we need another monolith.

What interests me is *meaning*. Meaning is just as *real* as the physical reality that science strives to describe. Orthodox science will only bestow upon *meaning*, or *love*, or *magic*, the status of a "meta-phenomenon": an appearance or illusion appearing to arise out of other (“actually” real) things, like neurochemicals and hormones. Similarly, religion bestows upon physical reality the nature of being the creation of a bearded heavenly gentleman. Neither are all that helpful.

Science is methodical study to determine what is true. But study of exterior, physical reality is different from study of interior reality. To someone who observes the former, it is solid, like a rock, and the latter by comparison, is like jello. Constantly changing, impossible to pin down.

But not real? Not true? Observers and observations are real - quantum physics says this. It’s not Science’s department to say that inner reality, or those who observe it, are less real or true. Cearly it has a different nature than external reality, and is not accessible in the same way. The control groups, shall we say, are difficult to agree upon. Methodical study of ethics, or love, or meaning can indeed yield agreements that advance society, but may also end up, rather inconveniently, only being expressed as "i feel x" and "you feel y". They may be like jello, but a decidedly real (and delicious jello). It’s not a neat fact of reality. But closing your eyes to this fact will not make it disappear; it just means you’ll stop seeing it.

Oct. 03 2011 10:41 PM
Emmanuel from Bay Shore, NY

It takes a greater leap of faith to be an atheist, than a believer in God. How can a rational and supernatural being not be behind the natural order of the universe and the existence of life on earth and not elsewhere in the universe. Scientists have failed to explain to us, how life came out of nonlife, how order came out of chaos, how conciousness came out of unconciousness, how reason came out of non-reason, how we are born with an innate sense of good and evil. We see God in the beauty of nature, in the wonders of the universe and we know that all these are not the product of chance.

Oct. 03 2011 09:54 PM
Tom

Noelle - you dont just try atheism. You either believer in the super-fantastic in some manner, or you do not. Clearly you believe in the super-fantastic, and need to.

You cant just try on beliefs like shoes.

Oct. 03 2011 05:17 PM
Bruce from NYC

Funny what some people do to defend their belief systems. Rather than present a fact or a body of facts in a reasoned argument, they feel a need, likely born of a sort of desperation, to make accusations of insanity. A screw needs to be loose because they can't present a refutation or a rebuttal? Of course this proves the existence of the unprovable. I guess insanity is yet another of the "last resorts" of the intellectually incompetent. Dry and Dusty? No, more like Inadequate and Incompetent.

Oct. 03 2011 03:34 PM
Noelle from Easton

I tried the atheist thing and it just made me sad believing in something anything makes the day to day life easier. We created God to make life easier. We long for reason outside of what can just be proven. Love for example in it's purest form is not exactly logical. There is a thought that all of our thoughts are the collective consciousness is God. God is pure energy. The ancients were probably closer to the truth by worshiping the Sun as without the Sun and the Moon we are not. Mother Earth herself is a living being that we live off of. If one wanted to truly worship God it would start w. a lot more caring behavior to Earth beneath our feet. For me Science/God/Faith go hand in hand. Since I see God in the very green blades of grass outside my door. There are a lot of people who abuse religion for political gain. Far easier to put the fear of God in the masses than try to control them w. nihilism. People who take texts verbatim as the word from God. It isn't logical yet many ancient texts are a good read just like the Greek Mythology. We know they are myths yet great stories w. a lot to learn from. The ancient Vedic texts are an endless supply of amazing reads that offer great insight as well.

Oct. 03 2011 01:46 PM
Bill

Marc,

What has he overlooked? There were more southern Christians justifying slavery than there were northern abolitionists willing to take its immorality seriously enough to take a stand against it. Radical abolitionism was always a fringe minority.

Perhaps religions can be seen as serving sometimes as post-hoc rationalizations for the moral positions people would take otherwise. The vast majority of antebellum Americans, even those who were anti-slavery, were virulent racists. Their empathy didn't extend to blacks and I'm sure they all found in their respective denominations justification for their positions. John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry has been defined, though him, as an act of religious zealotry, but Brown's children, many of whom had turned agnostic probably as a result of his overbearing nature, remained committed abolitionists and some of the men who followed Brown to die at Harper's Ferry liked to nettle him with open and frank discussions about Paine's Age of Reason. Brown saw Christianity as affirming a brotherhood of man that included blacks; the atheists with whom he associated believed in the same thing without religion. Southern slave theorists saw Christianity as affirming the superiority of whites; we know people don't need religion to believe that (though the belief itself, especially after Darwin, is tantamount to religion).

Oct. 03 2011 11:47 AM
Calls'em from Dry and Dusty

It's good the phones weren't working, because your audience - people from all walks of life think this fellow is missing the boat and perhaps a few screws, too. Though I'm sure you would have put a couple of Godless marxists on the air. despite the 10-1 questioning his own dogmatic ideology and pompousness.

Oct. 03 2011 11:47 AM
John A.

Just a little ad saying that religion can be non-fundamentalist.
-
Some commenters are starting to pile on to RD. In that he helped start the revolution of self* back in the 70's, I could too. *"The Selfish Gene", when read by the masses, became a way to support selfishness in general, and with it greed, and now social dysfunction.

Oct. 03 2011 11:43 AM
Pauline Park from Queens

I coordinate the Philosophy Forum, a discussion group that meets at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan, and we read "The God Delusion" when it came out, based on the suggestion of one of our members -- a majority of whom are atheists. By the end of our 2-hour-long discussion, even the most adamant atheists & Dawkins fans in the group had to admit that the argument that Dawkins articulates simply doesn't hold up; it's nothing but a polemic against religion. Atheism is in fact a religion because it's based on a faith that cannot be substantiated by science, and Dawkins is one of the most unscientific thinkers (if one could even call him that) I've ever read. Dawkins is nothing but a bundle of unexamined prejudices, and his assertion that religion has had nothing to do with social progress is a case in point. It was people of faith who led the abolitionist movement as well as the African American civil rights movement, and the fact that Dawkins isn't aware of that history says all one needs to know about him.

Oct. 03 2011 11:39 AM
rh from NYC area

Neither science nor religion is infallible, but at least I myself can check if science is true or false. I cannot check whether God exists myself, I would have to always depend on others. But I can boil water and measure the temperature, or add two chemicals, and analyze the result.

The media tends to push the idea that science is the religion of atheists, but it is not. I raise my children to be moral, honest, honorable, and non-judgmental, and without a religion. We do also teach respect for others who choose to follow a religion.

Oct. 03 2011 11:37 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Atheism is as silly as religion. Anthropomorphism exposed in man-made religious Gods, does not mean there is no "creator". Our brains tell us there is always a begining and an end; in reality - the truth is beyond our comprehension.

Oct. 03 2011 11:33 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

The guest has overlooked (I suspect conveniently) the association between evangelical Christianity and Abolitionism in the years leading up to the Civil War. Somehow I'm not surprised.

Oct. 03 2011 11:31 AM
Calls'em from Dry & Dusty

I wonder how "science" will do under Islamic extremism. This guy will be longing for the tyranny of Judeo-Christian society when he meets the future that his Godlessness is helping to create.

This guy needs to spend some time in a foxhole. I think there is foolishness in renouncing something that he can't prove. Not much of a scientist. Just another delusional lib who thinks that his sh-t doesn't stink.

Oct. 03 2011 11:31 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

Is it me, or does Mr. Dawkins sound very egotistical. He doesn't worship a god, and so he worships himself? Is this a pitfall of atheism? How to prevent it?

Oct. 03 2011 11:30 AM
Paul from new rochelle

How does "evolutionary altruism" where species sacrifice the self for the group preserve and advance the species?

Oct. 03 2011 11:29 AM
Angela from Manhattan

I appreciate your views, theories and the very eloquent way in which you express them.
I am an aetheist and what I resent about devout people is the tendency to be suspect of those who do not believe in a God. Religious texts are written by people, invented by people and did not fall down from the sky as a gift to humans. It's all theory. Unfortunately religion also breeds ignorance, often.

Oct. 03 2011 11:29 AM
Jess from White Plains

I respect Professor Dawkin's erudition and the right to his opinions regarding issues of faith. However as an Orthodox Jew (and now I know I've just lost his respect) and academic, what I find bothersome about his work is not the work itself, but his dismissive and smug attitude (same with Hitchens). Why does he feel such a need to show utter disrespect, almost, I'd argue, to the point of near fanaticism, for those who find solace or meaning in religious belief?

Oct. 03 2011 11:29 AM
Bill

Atheists are agnostics by default because they're reasonable people. Faced with evidence proving that, say, ghosts and faeries exist, they'll adjust their belief accordingly. Religion, on the other hand, is impervious to evidence. Many self-styled agnostics aren't agnostic on the same terms as atheists: they think there must be "something" to which a religion could answer, but which religion is it. That, or they are one of the meta-pious, who proclaim all religions "valid" even while that position contradicts any one religion's truth claims. They aren't agnostic on the existence of some god-something, as "frustrated agnostics" they're nebulous deists, and they have no basis for their position but their feelings. If I tell you flatly that I don't think ghosts exist but that I'm agnostic on the faerie question, the implication is that there's some basis for my fence-sitting. Cause for doubt is cause for agnosticism, but the merest possibility that Santa Clause really does live at the North Pole and distributes presents on Christmas Eve isn't sufficient cause not to be practically decided against its probability. I will be agnostic regarding any evidence you present, but until then proclaiming myself agnostic is as willful as proclaiming myself a believer.

Oct. 03 2011 11:28 AM
Marina from Amsterdam, NL

Prof. Dawkins, you say that that religious impulses are highly unlikely to be any different from any other behaviors that are prone emerge due to evolution (which I agree with). Why not then say something similar about the existence of "super natural beings"? I mean can one logically fully disprove the existence of gods?

Oct. 03 2011 11:28 AM
Monique in Tarrytown

I've learned long ago not to debate atheists-
they have made their bet. I in a more Pascalian mode think that faith does not contradict reason, but sometimes cannot be explained. As a mother, there are things that my heart knows, that my reason only catches later. I raise my children to be strong of mind, body and soul - and to strive to have integrity in all three. That is the central issue of "occupying the center" - government and bankers are all driven by individuals- and when we all begin to seek and develop our spiritual center - we can all move on to a more just and peaceful world. That is my bet. ( I also think that is why the scientists I know are atheists while most mathematicians are theists.)

Oct. 03 2011 11:28 AM
Steve from NYC

This is a very interesting interview, but I can't get beyond that Dawkins sounds just like KIT from Night Rider.

:)

Oct. 03 2011 11:28 AM
Connie from nj

Hooray for Richard Dawkins!

Oct. 03 2011 11:27 AM
Steve from Flatbush

Pantheist.

Oct. 03 2011 11:27 AM
Francyne from Pelham Bay Park

I've been an atheist since I was in grade school, before I even knew the word. Enjoyed The God Delusion and will buy Dr. Dawkin's new work. It sounds great!

Oct. 03 2011 11:27 AM
Edward from NJ

@Joe from Bayside,

Statistically improbable things happen, and we notice them because of how improbable they are. The Radiolab episode "Stochasticity" goes into this at length, and it's very entertaining.

http://www.radiolab.org/2009/jun/15/

Oct. 03 2011 11:27 AM

Does your view of reality have to postulate human reason as a precondition for the validity of science? If so, does evolution create any conflicts if it calls human reason into question?

Oct. 03 2011 11:27 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

During my trip to Iceland, I was amazed by the natural landscape; some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the world. I find the natural world infinitely more awe-inspiring than the thought of some super-powered patriarch sitting on a cloud looking down on all of us.

Oct. 03 2011 11:27 AM

I've read articles on "Group Selection", as opposed to individual gene natural selection. Could you explain what this is and comment? Thank you.

Oct. 03 2011 11:25 AM
Ben Major from NJ

Mr. Dawkins: how did the inamnimate evolve into animate? How did "soups" of inanimate material come together and get the drive to "have sex" (procreate)?

Oct. 03 2011 11:25 AM
Amit Fernandes from Westchester, NY

What are your thoughts on reincarnation? Brian, you're the man!

Oct. 03 2011 11:25 AM
Matt from Jackson Heights

What are some examples of human evolutionary adaptations that have occurred in the last five or ten thousand years?

Oct. 03 2011 11:24 AM
Melissa from Staten Island

There must be an explanation for why people cling to their belief in whichever mythology as their reality, do you cover this in one of your books, or do you have a resource to recommend on this? Thanks for your work and for trying to help us all understand and accept real-reality.

Oct. 03 2011 11:24 AM
eric from brooklyn

I know you can't speak for everyone, but why do you think it is that many people seem to need something beyond just life and death, or "need" religion, and can't be satisfied with, just this physical world? It seems they are so afraid of this being all there is.

Oct. 03 2011 11:24 AM
George from Westchester

Do you believe in free will, or do you believe that free will is only possible within the parameters of the chemistry (DNA) organism person or animal?

Oct. 03 2011 11:24 AM
Kabir from Manhattan

Why is religion seen as separate and secondary to science? Wouldn't this make the atheist's view of religion as narrow an understanding as the fundamentalist's?

Oct. 03 2011 11:24 AM
ggjones from soho

mr. dawkin's wife is an actress. she enters a metaphysical space every time she goes on stage how can you deny that confine where the perigrinator, the audience goes to be transformed. also art museums et al.

Oct. 03 2011 11:24 AM
Jim from Park Slope

When you experience great art or music, does your spirit soar? If not your spirit, is it just brain chemicals stimulated by sight, sound,etc,,,,,or what?

Oct. 03 2011 11:24 AM
sb605 from New York, NY

Why are God and science always presented as mutually exclusive? It betrays a bias to only Judeo-Christian tradition. Philosophies such as Vedanta seek to unite belief in God with science as we know it.

Oct. 03 2011 11:23 AM
Calls'em from Dry & Dusty

There is nothing in science that eliminates God; and nothing about believing in God that should make people reject science. Most scientists believe in God including most of the great ones. This is as true today as it was over the past few years. When I see the Grand Canyon, I see God even though I know the "science." The miracles of this planet and off outer space speak to me of a God, again even as I read and know the science. This fellow just lacks imagination.

Oct. 03 2011 11:23 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Personally, I will choose to continue to believe in my God, the God of Israel, as long as the State of Israel continues to exist. If Israel goes down, my belief in God goes down with it.

Oct. 03 2011 11:23 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

By it's very definition, atheism is not a "religion". I've always found that line of argument to be pathetic, revealing a basic lack of understanding of the english language.

Of course, Dawkins' answer was 100% spot on. I also liked Penn Gillete's response a week or so ago on Lopate's show about the same thing. Anyway, Dawkin's response reveals the problem with the position of so-called "agnosticism". Is there truly any difference between an "agnostic" and an atheist aside from matters of semantics?

Oct. 03 2011 11:22 AM
Daniel from Yonkers

Is it the believe that we may have evolved from a bacteria a type of speculation, as it is to believe in god without proving his/her existence???

Oct. 03 2011 11:22 AM
Leaozinho

Perhaps Mr Dawkins would like to explain where It All started? An even greater challenge is for him to do it without insulting the overwhelming majority of the world.

He can't, science can't, and neither of them ever will - without a leap of faith.

Although I'm willing to take the answer "42" as a place holder until he realizes that just as Mr Adams most likely did on or after his death bed.

Oct. 03 2011 11:22 AM
Scott

What does Mr. Dawkins make of the post-structuralist critique of science in the humantities or in some philosophy of science programs?

Oct. 03 2011 11:22 AM
Jim Sheridan from Pittsburgh

Can he please define what supernatural is? This seems like a word that has lost all value. Is non-organic food supernatural? What about items that contain man made products and don't contain the label 'All-Natural'. Or is it just anything that he disagrees with? Perhaps what is not in the current paradigm? How would copernicus feel about that? Does your commentator feel that his worldview will be the general consensus of manking in 500 years?

Oct. 03 2011 11:22 AM
Pat from Maplewood, NJ

But doesn't science ask how, and religion ask why? As in, why do we all exist? Is that the definition of faith, and isn't it a completely different pursuit than science, which is a quest for fact?

Oct. 03 2011 11:21 AM

Is it possible to use evolution in a controlled environment to guide/expedite natural selection and possibly find cures for presently incurable diseases?

Oct. 03 2011 11:21 AM
Oliver from Manhattan

Mr. Dawkins,

With your characterization of the third kind of magic, the magic of reality, you succinctly put words to my world view! I do not believe in any god or follow any religion, but I find that the intricacies of the universe as expressed scientifically give me the feeling of solace and reason which I imagine religious believers feel.

Thank you!

Oct. 03 2011 11:21 AM
Robert Matlock from Staten Island

I believe creationist attack on evolution has engendered an overall attack on science that has been used to sew disbelief in, among other things, global climate change and the utility of vaccines. Please have Prof. Dawkins comment.

Oct. 03 2011 11:20 AM
larry

would dr dawkins comment on a direction to evolution.?

Oct. 03 2011 11:20 AM

This book sounds like a sound addition to my young Childs education, given the integral role of logic and reason. But can you suggest a corresponding book to represent the opposing view? (seriously - anybody?)

Oct. 03 2011 11:20 AM
Steve from NJ from NJ

I have seen 2 PBS shows in which evolutionary-type changes were made seemingly very quickly, as opposed to 10's of thousands of years. Specifically, one had to do with dogs becoming very quickly domesticated via selective breeding (and the color/texture of their fur coats changed radically, too); and the other the point was that by turning on/off specific genes then features in birds would immediately change - teeth vs, beak, scales vs. feathers, spinal tail vs. not, etc. I wonder if Mr. Dawkins has commentary on this way of change occurring vs. taking millions of years. Thanks!

Oct. 03 2011 11:19 AM
Joel from Nyack

Why is there so much discrimination against atheists? Is it based on some kind of fear?

Oct. 03 2011 11:19 AM
Andy from bkln

Does Dr Dawkins enjoy (aesthetically) supernatural tales (e.g. greek myths, buffy, etc.)?

Oct. 03 2011 11:19 AM
Richard from New York, NY

Why does science dismiss alternative explanations when science does not explain everything? There are alternatives to religion. I believe in spiritual connection between man and the universe. Who's to say that we will not be able to scientifically measure that energy one day. The complete dismissal of everything not science related is in itself a dismissal of reasoned thought IMO. Science on it's own leaves us with so many unanswered questions, however wonderful it is.

Oct. 03 2011 11:19 AM
Edwin Rosenberg from Oldwick, NJ

I DO believe in Mother Goose, in the sense that I learned many important life lessons at my mother's knee, from fairy tales. I could have learned those lessons in some other way, but that does not negate the learning. Science, ultimately, does not tell us how to live a good life, how to relate to our fellow persons. Religion may not be necessary, but it can be useful.

Oct. 03 2011 11:19 AM
Smokey from LES

Are you excited by the new interest in Lucretius and The Nature of Things?

Oct. 03 2011 11:18 AM
Frank De Canio from Union City, NJ

While we need not postulate the specific nature of a cause beyond the perceivable world, isn't science just as presumptuous to believe that the cause of the universe is itself? How can you have an uncaused event? And if not, if the cause is not in itself uncaused, do you not have an infine regress?

Oct. 03 2011 11:18 AM
brooklynmom78 from Park Slope, Brooklyn

IN what ways do you feel modern society has influenced human evolution?

Do you feel that some people are biologically predisposed to be religious, while others are not?

Oct. 03 2011 11:18 AM
LL from UWS

Any comment about how to deal with the fact that instincts and emotions can so easily overwhelm the rational part of the mind?

Oct. 03 2011 11:18 AM
Matthew L Williams from NYC

Has Mr. Dawkins been surprised at all by the level of backlash to his (and, by extension, Christopher Hitchens') books on the non-existence of God, even in liberal quarters?

Oct. 03 2011 11:18 AM
Michael from Staten Island

Is there a moral theology compatible with science?

Oct. 03 2011 11:18 AM
Joe from Bayside

Gamblers speak of "hot" or "cold" dice or cards when speaking about streaks. I don't believe in luck, but I was wondering what the scientific/mathematical explanation for those kinds of streaks is.

Oct. 03 2011 11:17 AM
Susan from New York

Mr. Dawkins, have you yourself experienced what others would call a mystical or psi experience?

Oct. 03 2011 11:17 AM
Ray Fuller

Does Science have a credible hypothesis for what happens after we die? Are there any scientific hypothesis about life or what happens after death?

Oct. 03 2011 11:17 AM
Bill from Queens

To Professor Dawkins:
Do you feel as though you are done examining and engaging directly with the issue of god, faith, and religion?
If so, why?

Oct. 03 2011 11:17 AM
Haym from Manhattan

What does Mr. Dawkins say to Rick Perry ?

Oct. 03 2011 11:17 AM
Susan from New York

Mr. Dawkins, have you yourself experienced what others would call a mystical or psi experience?

Oct. 03 2011 11:16 AM
Karen from NYC

People who reject science are not going to be convinced by this book, because they reject evidence and reasoning as bases for knowledge. The struggle is a political one, in that Republicans have learned to marshal such ignorance to their political advantage.

I think this books will be useful in giving people arguments against irrational thinking; but the irrational thinkers won't listen. The struggle must be re politics, not epistemology.

Oct. 03 2011 11:16 AM
peter from queens

Will the format of The Magic of Reality work well as for school text books? Is this the next step in education?

Oct. 03 2011 11:16 AM
Mike from Midtown

How Do I best defend atheism over thanksgiving dinner this year? I'm keen to come out of the closet.

Oct. 03 2011 11:15 AM
Dennis from New York

The problem, as usual, is that we're comfortable with answers to our questions without evidence or arguments. At some points in European history religious movements provided new revolutionary answers rebelling against the established doctrines, but quickly became rigid themselves.

Oct. 03 2011 11:15 AM
Brian from Brooklyn, NY

I don't see how one can seriously deny the reality of God, if by the real, one means something that has effects on the world (as evidenced by all the wars and acts of mercy performed in the name of this Thing). Whether It is fictional or not (which I agree that It is) is not the same question as to whether or not it is real. But one can still make true or false statements about fictional entities.

Oct. 03 2011 11:15 AM
Sher from Lower Manhattan

I think a main reason for belief in God, the Supernatural and "reasons" for bad outcomes, is that people naturally seek to understand the universe and cannot bear the notion of "randomness."
We just need a Great deal more science education to the wonders of the universe and the astounding nature of "reality."

Oct. 03 2011 11:15 AM
Michael from Staten Island

Is there a moral theology that is compatible with science?

Oct. 03 2011 11:14 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Another question for your guest.

Why are we the only animals that want to believe in God or gods, or spirits, etc.?

Oct. 03 2011 11:14 AM
@EvilPRGuy from Bay Ridge

For Prof. Dawkins: What advice does he have for raising an atheist child in 21st Century America (yes, I know he's from the UK)?

Oct. 03 2011 11:14 AM
Nick

Would humanity be better off without religion?

Oct. 03 2011 11:14 AM
antonio from bayside

Why don't other apes keep evolving?

Oct. 03 2011 11:13 AM
Jim

Atheism is a religion. Being convinced of anything with respect to God requires an irrational faith in your knowledge of the universe. Only agnosticism can be defended as truly logical. How does Richard respond to that?

Oct. 03 2011 11:12 AM
John from Orangeburg, NY

One of the principles of physics is that everything seeks a greater degree of entropy. Why then has evolution taken place by taking simple elements and building them into millions of highly complex organisms via DNA?

Oct. 03 2011 11:12 AM
Dr from Manhattan

Ever since I learned that whales fame from cows I started to question evolutionary origins, but not evolution itself. One thing that I could never grasp is how polymerase and ribosomes evolved and then became incorporated into dna. This photocopier and processor of DNA, respectively, raise a hard chicken or egg dilemma for me that I have never been able to answer as a scientist nor as a philosophical issue.

Oct. 03 2011 11:12 AM
antonio from bayside

Given the recent news of neutrinos, and the discoveries that gravity (doesn't work in some places in the cosmos) isn't it possible God exists but maybe the physics in our universe don't allow him to be tested by science?

Oct. 03 2011 11:12 AM
Scott

I'm reading Karen Armstrong's "A History of God." And the more I learn about religion and how it's evolved, the more I can't help thinking of it as a kind of intellectual disease, or at least disability. Hopefully through science humanity can eradicate it as it has polio and smallpox. Before it kills us.

Oct. 03 2011 11:12 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Dawkins and McKean? I'm getting this book!

Oct. 03 2011 11:10 AM
Matthew from New Rochelle

To Ricahrd: Why causes an otherwise intelligent person to reject ration and logic and believe so strongly in religion?

Oct. 03 2011 11:10 AM
John A. from (a Science education, BTW)

For some reason I've not been troubled with religion either as science or anti-science. Perhaps the reason is, reason itself. Religion makes for a good personal moral philosophy and the development of conscience. Two different file drawers, professor.

Oct. 03 2011 11:07 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

What I want to know from Mr. Dawkins, is when is science going to wrap it all up, having answered every conceivable question left, so that we can finally rule out all supernatural possibilities?

IOW, when is science going to run out of questions to answer, and wrap it all up?

Oct. 03 2011 11:05 AM
ML from queens

So... what does Richard think about the whole Rebecca Watson debacle?

Oct. 03 2011 11:03 AM
Alvin from Manhattan

Phlogiston. Luminiferous Ether. Ultraviolet Catastrophe. Steady-State Theory. Yes, science always tells us what's true. 13th-century kabbalist Yitzak of Acco proved, through religious text, that the universe had a beginning billions of years ago. Science came to this conclusion less than 100 years ago. Is today's "dark matter" tomorrow's Cosmological Constant? Is epistemology the sole providence of science?

Oct. 03 2011 11:00 AM

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