Talk:Richard Dawkins

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the Richard Dawkins page.

Old issues[edit]

Several quotes are included multiple times (in different sections). Is this intended?

Aragorn2 17:43, 2 Oct 2003 (UTC)

Unless he said the same thing in multiple books, they are probably duplicates. Possibly some of the ones in General Quotes are selections from his books? Nanobug

That's how it seems to be. If you read it sequentially (as I did, in part), there are some General Quotes that show up again in later sections, which is somewhat irritating. But I'm not sure whether they should be deleted (in GQ), since some people might prefer reading only the General Quotes, where a compilation of the most interesting quotes should go. Maybe a small note should be included at the beginning of General Quotes that some are also found in other sections.

An example of such a quote is

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

But there are many more. Aragorn2 22:13, 12 Oct 2003 (UTC)

The page these quotes were copied from had the general quotes as small concise quotes which would be good for use in signatures for posts or e-mails. So like favourites. Quoth 02:06, 13 Oct 2003 (UTC)


This article needs some reformatting based on Wikiquote:Templates/People. Specifically, it should be split cleanly into "Sourced" and "Attributed" sections. The former should include subheadings for all the cited works, which are by definition "sourced". We can also lose the "from this and that" and just give the titles of the works (and preferably their years of publication) as headings. Finally, We Should Lose The Excessive Capitalization. I'll try to get to this shortly, but if someone else wants to jump in, feel free. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 05:33, 2 September 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I done the basic Sourced/Attributed separation, based on the claims existing in the article. However, none of the quotes from others' works are properly sourced; i.e., identifies a publication or other medium from which one can identify the article or interview and verify the cited quotes. All we have are apparent titles, some of which (e.g., "An Interview by Sheena McDonald") which seem likely to have an actual title different from what is listed. If these aren't properly sourced, they will have to be moved into the Attributed section. ~ Jeff Q (talk) 01:41, 30 January 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I understand that "I believe in an open mind, but not [one] so open that your brains fall out." is by Arthur Sulzberger (publisher, 1891-1968). 05:51, 3 January 2011 (UTC) 3 January 2011Reply[reply]

BBC Newsnight interview (Sep 06)[edit]

I recall that some good, simple statements were made in this interview with Paxman. Anyone know where a transcript can be found? 14:17, 5 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Books copyrights[edit]

Is there a blanket fair use or whatever agreement applicable to Dawkins's books? I could add my reading notes from Climbing Mount Improbable (about 12 quotes). Marc Girod 23:30, 14 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Dawkins's "laws"[edit]

Perhaps someone could select some quotes from The Edge Annual Question - 2004: "What's Your Law?" See esp. "Dawkins's Law of Divine Invulnerability, Lemma 4":

"The fury with which untenable beliefs are defended is inversely proportional to their defensibility."

-- 12:57, 8 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

'Black hole'[edit]

I don't know who included this but it made me laugh so much I wish to thank him|her very much.

I have a source for an 'unsourced' quote[edit]

"If somebody believes that the world is only a few thousand years old, when the true age of the Earth is of the order of a few billion years old, that means they are out by a factor of... a million. Which is not a trivial error! It's equivalent to believing the distance from New York to San Francisco to be 28 feet." - I have a source. A video, with him talking and answering questions, taken from a lecture at Liberty University. He was also reading Chapter 2 of "The God Delusion" during the lecture. The link is to a video of the quote itself: YouTube Video of Quote

It is also said as a footnote in The God Delusion (page 378 of my paperback edition). The text says: "One of Emmanuel's alumni, Peter French, has equally categorically stated, 'We were taught that the earth was 6000 years old'*"

And the footnote: "* To get an idea of the scale of this error, it is equivalent to believing that the distance from New York to San Francisco is 7.8 yards." --C0d3b0y 14:37, 16 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Repeated vandalism in 'sourced' section[edit]

A user has twice added the following quote in the sourced section:

"I occasionally doubt that Atheists will win the war against Religion, but then my conscious tucks at me and I go on to think of new ways to harm religion and religious people. Whenever a religious person dies, I get a jolt of happiness. People like Francis Collins need to be killed, because they show it is possible to believe in god and evolution at the same time. Since I want to either kill every religious person or convert them to atheism, this is not accetable." -At a pro-atheist rally in Miami

I highly doubt Dawkins said anything like this, and have removed the quote until such a time as a source is found.

—This unsigned comment is by Br0k3nglass (talkcontribs) .
It is an obvious hoax effort. That IP has been pasting the same phony "quote" or part of it on pages of several different people. I reverted edits on several of them the other day, and posted a standard warning at User talk: Long term blocking of that IP seems in order. ~ Touchstone 20:04, 2 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have just blocked that IP for 6 months, for repeated vandalism and malicious hoaxing. ~ Kalki 20:20, 2 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The above incident has been cited as if it were a clearly an act of unethical use of two of my accounts by some people. I do NOT see how this is so. It might be an absurdly bold indiscretion, but hardly an inately unethical one. I made a comment here, and I do not remember all that might have been involved in my decision to switch to my main account, and block the vandal. If I had SIMPLY done that without commenting at all here, HONESTLY in BOTH cases, there would be NO controversy about that act at all. To post a declaration of that fact here was perhaps was admitedly somewhat deceiving, but certainly not maliciously so to anyone, and done more out of politeness to the commentor, than out of any actual need, desire or intent to deceive — nor was it actually detrimental to anyone but myself — as it has now been cited by some as if it were an incident of manifestly unethical behavior. Frankly I don't believe it as clearly unethical or contemptible a deception as declaring it such is — but I grant other people with other biases have the right to their opinions. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 05:14, 30 May 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please add link[edit]

Please add this link to a big list of RD quoatations:

Also: please remove the link because that website is dead.--Livingrm 18:22, 8 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

These suggestions have now been used. ~ Kalki 18:55, 8 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please consider adding this link, which is about 50 quotes at Dawkins' own web site: --Livingrm 08:44, 10 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This link has also been added. ~ Kalki 15:53, 10 October 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please add "What if you're wrong?" quote[edit]

To a question posed by a w:Liberty University student (in the sprit of w:Pascal's wager) at his God Delusion book tour stop at w:Randolph College on 2006-10-23 : What if you're wrong? Richard Dawkins: "Well, what if I'm wrong, I mean... anybody could be wrong. We could all be wrong about the w:Flying Spaghetti Monster and the w:Pink Unicorn and the flying teapot. Uhm, you happen to have been brought up, I would presume, in the Christian faith. You know what it's like to not believe in a particular faith because you're not a Muslim. You're not a Hindu. Why aren't you a Hindu? Because you happen to have been brought up in America, not in India. If you had of been brought up in India, you'd be a Hindu. If you had been brought up in... in uh.. Denmark in the time of the Vikings you'd be believing in w:Wotan and w:Thor. If you were brought up in classical Greece you'd be believing in, in w:Zeus. If you were brought up in central Africa you'd be believing in the great w:Juju up the mountain. There's no particular reason to pick on the Judeo-Christian god, in which by the sheerest accident you happen to have been brought up and, and ask me the question, "What if I'm wrong?" What if you're wrong about the great Juju at the bottom of the sea?"

Ref: Pascal's Wager Girl (Lynchburg, Virginia - The God Delusion Book Tour
Ref: What if you're wrong?
Ref: What if you're wrong? 2006-10-23
Ref: Dawkins at Lynchvill, VA

- unsigned comment by on 16:14, 14 October 2009‎‎‎

This is an example of the "Genetic Fallacy"
- unsigned comment by on 21:38, 14 February 2013‎
No, no part of that was a genetic fallacy. A genetic fallacy has nothing to do with where a person was raised, it has to do with valuing an idea based on its origin rather than its merit.
But thanks for suggesting this quote. Please sign your posts with ~~~~ in the future. ~ Robin Lionheart (talk) 23:38, 16 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It would have been a genetic fallacy if Richard had claimed to "disprove" God by simply showing how one comes to believe in Him. But he made no such claim. He did NOT say "you only believe in X because of the way you were brought up, therefore X is false"; what he did imply was that the way people come to believe in their particular Gods makes X very likely to be false. No logical fallacy there. ~ Daniel Tomé (talk) 00:10, 17 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You're wrong. It's actually a straw man. He doesn't answer the question and instead rebounds the question back at her because she's highlighting the fact it is a logical fallacy to assert the answer 'there is no God'. - unsigned comment by on 21:00, 3 February 2015‎

A straw man would be if he misrepresents her position as something easier to defeat. All Dawkins does is assume she's Christian, probably because "What if you're wrong?" is a staple of Christian evangelical scripts. But her actual religion is irrelevant to his response. If she were Muslim instead, his response would be just the same with the words "Christian" and "Muslim" swapped.
It isn't a logical fallacy to assert "there is no God", it's merely an assertion. It's also a straw man of Dawkins' position, because he doesn't assert that. The slogan of the bus campaign he supported was "There's probably no God...", and what he actually asserts in The God Delusion is "There almost certainly is no God". He makes a point of not saying he knows it for a fact. ~ Robin Lionheart (talk) 12:19, 30 June 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Indeed, he does not answer the question on its own terms, which entail unstated suppositions: the putative consequences of unbelief (not to mention the particulars of what must be believed) depend in a circular way on the particular belief system in question.

By responding with the argument from inconsistent revelations Dawkins is saying that Pascal's Wager depends on beliefs that are only an accident of birth. This is no straw man: Pascal himself was well aware of this argument but thought, on its merits, that Christianity is the only faith worthy of consideration. ~ Ningauble (talk) 16:46, 30 June 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think there is a straw man. It should not be a problem to swap "Christian" and "Muslim" according to a religion of asker, but it is harder to swap "Atheist" and "Christian". I think everyone should ask oneself, what would be true, if he were wrong, which proofs and evidence one has etc (this is not only a matter of religion, but also of a science and the other things we believe in - may it be because it was in w:Nature_(journal) or we read it in newspaper). This answer would be valid answer to the question "I inherited the faith from my ancestors. Have they lied each other for dozens of generations?". But it is possible also atheist could have laid that question and the counterattack was completely off the question. As the answer would not be the same, if the atheist had asked, I think the answer uses a straw man. 19:22, 27 September 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Moving to Talk for analysis per current guideline at WQ:LOQ. Gordonofcartoon 00:41, 10 December 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators.
    • Supposedly offered in response to physicist and Nobel laureate Leon Lederman's half-jokingly remark that the real goal of physics was to come up with an equation that could explain the universe but still be small enough to fit on a T-shirt.
  • Hot on the heels of its magnanimous pardoning of Galileo, the Vatican has now moved with even more lightning speed to recognise the truth of Darwinism.
  • Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain.
  • ... the stereo-type of scientists being scruffy nerds with rows of pens in their top pocket is just about as wicked as racist stereotypes.
  • Who will say with confidence that sexual abuse is more permanently damaging to children than threatening them with the eternal and unquenchable fires of hell?
  • Justifying space exploration because we get non-stick frying pans is like justifying music because it is good exercise for the violinist's right arm. (RD paraphrases this argument in a discussion with Lawrence Krauss, 3:50 min - 5:10 min)
  • If somebody believes that the world is only (...) a few thousand years old, when the true age of the Earth is of the order of a few billion years old, that means they are out by a factor of... a million. Which is not a trivial error...It's akin to believing the distance from New York to San Francisco to be 28 feet.

Dawkins's Evolution[edit]

  • ... a fairly common pattern in television news: right at the end a smile comes onto the face of the newsreader and this is the scientific joke – "some scientist has proved that such and such is the case." ... And it's clearly the bit of fun at the end, it's not serious at all. I want science to be taken seriously, because, after all, it's less ephemeral – it has a more eternal aspect than whatever the politics of the day might be, which, of course, gets the lead in the news.
  • Very often in science one finds that there are ideas in the air, and lots of people hold them, but they don't even realise they hold them. The person who can crystallize them, and lay out not only the central idea but its implications for future scientific research can often make a tremendous contribution. And I think that's what "The Selfish Gene" did. Lots of scientists, they'd been Darwinians all their lives, but they'd been inarticulate Darwinians. And now they really understood what was foundational to Darwinism and what was peripheral. And once you understand what is foundational, then you begin to deduce conclusions.
  • I really want to say that there are no major disagreements ... I think the tendency of American intellectuals to learn their evolution from him [Gould] is unfortunate, and that's putting it mildly.
  • Religions do make claims about the universe – the same kinds of claims that scientists make, except they're usually false.
  • It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe.
  • I'm a friendly enough sort of chap ... I'm not a hostile person to meet. But I think it's important to realise that when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.

On Debating Religion[edit]

  • When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When a million people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion.
  • Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the "know-nothings", the "know-alls", and the "no-contests".
  • I suspect that today if you asked people to justify their belief in God, the dominant reason would be scientific. Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don't know it.
  • A universe with a God would look quite different from a universe without one. A physics, a biology where there is a God is bound to look different. So the most basic claims of religion are scientific. Religion is a scientific theory.
  • The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion. If a physicist says God is another name for Planck's constant, or God is a superstring, we should take it as a picturesque metaphorical way of saying that the nature of superstrings or the value of Planck's constant is a profound mystery. It has obviously not the smallest connection with a being capable of forgiving sins, a being who might listen to prayers, who cares about whether or not the Sabbath begins at 5pm or 6pm, whether you wear a veil or have a bit of arm showing; and no connection whatever with a being capable of imposing a death penalty on his son to expiate the sins of the world before and after he was born.
  • Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one.
  • Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain. It postulates the difficult to explain, and leaves it at that.

Revolutionary Evolutionist[edit]

  • When I wrote this program, I never thought that it would evolve anything more than a variety of treelike shapes. I had hoped for weeping willows, cedars of Lebanon, Lombardy poplars, seaweeds, perhaps deer antlers. Nothing in my biologist's intuition, nothing in my 20 years experience of programming computers, and nothing in my wildest dreams prepared me for what actually emerged on screen. I can't remember exactly when in the sequence it first began to dawn on me that an evolved resemblance to something like an insect was possible. With a wild surmise, I began to breed, generation after generation, from whichever child looked most like an insect. My incredulity grew in parallel with the evolving resemblance ... I still cannot conceal from you my feeling of exultation as I first watched these exquisite creatures emerging before my eyes. I distinctly heard the triumphal opening chords of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (the 2001 theme) in my mind. I couldn't eat, and that night "my" insects swarmed behind my eyelids as I tried to sleep.
  • My prize would be for a visually appealing world in which the life-forms have a visible, and preferably 3-D, morphology on the computer screen. They must evolve adaptations not just to "inanimate" factors like the weather (which would produce essentially predictable, not emergent evolution) but to other evolving life forms (which is a recipe for emergent properties).

Science Offers Solace for the Selfish Gene[edit]

  • What are all of us but self-reproducing robots? ... We have been put together by our genes and what we do is roam the world looking for a way to sustain ourselves and ultimately produce another robot, a child.

Speciesism and Vegetarianism[edit]

  • ...what I am doing is going along with the fact that I live in a society where meat eating is accepted as the norm, and it requires a level of social courage which I haven’t yet produced to break out of that. It’s a little bit like the position which many people would have held a couple of hundred years ago over slavery. Where lots of people felt morally uneasy about slavery but went along with it because the whole economy of the South depended upon slavery.
    • In reply to a question from Peter Singer author of Animal Liberation during an interview on Point of Inquiry

The Real Romance in the Stars[edit]

  • We should take astrology seriously. No, I don't mean we should believe in it. I am talking about fighting it seriously instead of humoring it as a piece of harmless fun.
  • There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out.
  • Note, accordingly, how little it means to say something like "Uranus moves into Aquarius". Aquarius is a miscellaneous set of stars all at different distances from us, which have no connection with each other except that they constitute a (meaningless) pattern when seen from a certain (not particularly special) place in the galaxy (here). A constellation is not an entity at all, not the kind of thing that Uranus, or anything else, can sensibly be said to "move into".
  • The shape of a constellation, moreover, is ephemeral. A million years ago our Homo erectus ancestors gazed out nightly at a set of very different constellations. A million years hence, our descendants will see yet other shapes in the sky, and their astrologer (if our species has not grown up and sent them packing long since) will be fabricating their oracles on the basis of a different zodiac.
  • Scientific truth is too beautiful to be sacrificed for the sake of light entertainment or money. Astrology is an aesthetic affront. It cheapens astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles.
  • Scorpio could go retrograde up Uranus and it wouldn't make any difference.

Where'd You Get Those Peepers[edit]

  • Thus the creationist's favourite question "What is the use of half an eye?" Actually, this is a lightweight question, a doddle to answer. Half an eye is just 1 per cent better than 49 per cent of an eye, which is already better than 48 per cent, and the difference is significant.
  • Nilsson and Pelger began with a flat retina atop a flat pigment layer and surmounted by a flat, protective transparent layer. The transparent layer was allowed to undergo localised random mutations of its refractive index. They then let the model deform itself at random, constrained only by the requirement that any change must be small and must be an improvement on what went before ... The results were swift and decisive. A trajectory of steadily mounting acuity led unhesitatingly from the flat beginning through a shallow indentation to a steadily deepening cup, as the shape of the model eye deformed itself on the computer screen. The transparent layer thickened to fill the cup and smoothly bulged its outer surface in a curve. And then, almost like a conjuring trick, a portion of this transparent filling condensed into a local, spherical subregion of higher refractive index. Not uniformly higher, but a gradient of refractive index such that the spherical region functioned as an excellent graded-index lens.
  • But even with these conservative assumptions, the time taken to evolve a fish eye from flat skin was minuscule: fewer than 400,000 generations. For the kinds of small animals we are talking about, we can assume one generation per year, so it seems that it would take less than half a million years to evolve a good camera eye.
  • I'm not a very good politician, and it doesn't really occur to me to think about what's the best way to achieve something politically. If you look at the historical struggle for women's suffrage, for example...women who militantly campaigned for the right to vote were written off as strident extremists, and people accused them of alienating the very people whose support they should have been courting. But today, the idea of women not being allowed to vote is preposterous. Would you be moderate? Would you be respectful? You wouldn't.

Quote limit[edit]

Shouldn't this page be trimmed by now? It contains to many quotes here.(StarWarsFanBoy 20:26, 19 January 2010 (UTC))Reply[reply]


This quote should probably be removed. It is taken out of context and not really notable. The reason he received a standing ovation was that the answer concluded his speech and q&a. They weren't applauding the answer. - unsigned comment by at 00:20, 13 February 2010‎

Twitter Section[edit]

Why include those speech? I don't think it reflect his best ones. If there is no justification, I shall remove them. --維基小霸王 (talk) 13:52, 9 November 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Naked queen[edit]

One of the listed quotes is: "Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of William the Conqueror. Yet it is quite probable that she bares not a single one of the old king's genes." I don't have access to the cited source, but someone should recheck this and either correct the spelling ('bears') or mark it as an editorial error ('[sic]'). Agricolae (talk) 15:55, 14 July 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]