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Richard Dawkins

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Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins
Dawkins at Cooper Union, New York City (2010)
Born Clinton Richard Dawkins
(1941-03-26) 26 March 1941
Nairobi, Kenya
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Thesis Selective pecking in the domestic chick (1967)
Doctoral advisor Nikolaas Tinbergen
Doctoral students Alan Grafen, Mark Ridley
Known for Gene-centred view of evolution, concept of the meme, "Middle World", advocacy of atheism and science
Influences W. D. Hamilton, Daniel Dennett, Bertrand Russell, Nikolaas Tinbergen, John Maynard Smith, Robert Trivers
Notable awards ZSL Silver Medal (1989)
Faraday Award (1990)
International Cosmos Prize (1997)
Michael Faraday Prize (2001)
Nierenberg Prize (2009)
Spouse Marian Stamp (1967–1984)
Eve Barham (1984–?)
Lalla Ward (1992–present)
Children Juliet Emma
Official website

Clinton Richard Dawkins , DSc, FRS, FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is an ethologist, evolutionary biologist,[1] and writer. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford,[2] and was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.[3]

Dawkins came to prominence with his 1976 book The Extended Phenotype.[4]

Dawkins is an atheist, a vice president of the British Humanist Association, and a supporter of the Brights movement.[5] He is well known for his criticism of creationism and intelligent design. In his 1986 book The Blind Watchmaker, he argues against the watchmaker analogy, an argument for the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the complexity of living organisms. Instead, he describes evolutionary processes as analogous to a blind watchmaker.

He has since written several popular science books, and makes regular television and radio appearances, predominantly discussing these topics. In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith is a delusion—"a fixed false belief".[6]:5 As of January 2010, the English-language version had sold more than two million copies and had been translated into 31 languages.[7] Dawkins founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to promote the teaching of evolution and to counteract those who advocate classroom programs against evolution.


  • Background 1
    • Kenya 1.1
    • Education 1.2
    • Teaching 1.3
    • Personal life 1.4
  • Work 2
    • Evolutionary biology 2.1
    • Meme 2.2
    • Criticism of creationism 2.3
    • Advocacy of atheism 2.4
    • Foundation 2.5
    • Other fields 2.6
  • Awards and recognition 3
  • Media 4
    • Selected publications 4.1
    • Documentary films 4.2
    • Other appearances 4.3
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7



Dawkins was born in Nairobi, Kenya.[8] He is the son of Jean Mary Vyvyan (née Ladner) and Clinton John Dawkins (1915–2010), who was an agricultural civil servant in the British Colonial Service in Nyasaland (now Malawi).[9][10] Dawkins self-identifies as being English and currently lives in Oxford, England.[11][12] Having been born in Kenya, he is a British citizen.

Dawkins has a younger sister.[13] His father was called up into the King's African Rifles during World War II;[14][15] he returned to England in 1949, when Dawkins was eight. His father had inherited a country estate, Over Norton Park in Oxfordshire, which he turned into a commercial farm.[9] Both his parents were interested in natural sciences; they answered Dawkins's questions in scientific terms.[16]

Dawkins describes his childhood as "a normal Anglican upbringing".[17] He was a Christian until halfway through his teenage years, at which point he concluded that the theory of evolution was a better explanation for life's complexity, and ceased believing in a god.[13] Dawkins states: "the main residual reason why I was religious was from being so impressed with the complexity of life and feeling that it had to have a designer, and I think it was when I realised that Darwinism was a far superior explanation that pulled the rug out from under the argument of design. And that left me with nothing."[13]


Dawkins attended Oundle School in Northamptonshire, an English public school with a distinct Church of England flavour,[13] from 1954 to 1959, where he was in Laundimer house.[18] He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating in 1962; while there, he was tutored by Nobel Prize-winning ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. He continued as a research student under Tinbergen's supervision, receiving his MA and DPhil degrees by 1966, and remained a research assistant for another year.[8] Tinbergen was a pioneer in the study of animal behaviour, particularly in the areas of instinct, learning and choice;[19] Dawkins's research in this period concerned models of animal decision-making.[20]


From 1967 to 1969, he was an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. During this period, the students and faculty at UC Berkeley were largely opposed to the ongoing Vietnam War, and Dawkins became heavily involved in the anti-war demonstrations and activities.[21] He returned to the University of Oxford in 1970, taking a position as a lecturer. In 1990, he became a reader in zoology. In 1995, he was appointed Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, a position that had been endowed by Charles Simonyi with the express intention that the holder "be expected to make important contributions to the public understanding of some scientific field",[22] and that its first holder should be Richard Dawkins.[23]

Since 1970, he has been a fellow of New College, Oxford.[24] He has delivered a number of inaugural and other lectures, including the Henry Sidgwick Memorial Lecture (1989), the first Erasmus Darwin Memorial Lecture (1990), the Michael Faraday Lecture (1991), the T. H. Huxley Memorial Lecture (1992), the Irvine Memorial Lecture (1997), the Sheldon Doyle Lecture (1999), the Tinbergen Lecture (2004) and the Tanner Lectures (2003).[8] In 1991, he gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children on Growing Up in the Universe. He has also served as editor of a number of journals, and has acted as editorial advisor to the Encarta Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Evolution. He is listed as a senior editor and a columnist of the Council for Secular Humanism's Free Inquiry magazine, and has been a member of the editorial board of Skeptic magazine since its foundation.[25]

He has sat on judging panels for awards as diverse as the Royal Society's Faraday Award and the British Academy Television Awards,[26] and has been president of the Biological Sciences section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2004, Balliol College, Oxford instituted the Dawkins Prize, awarded for "outstanding research into the ecology and behaviour of animals whose welfare and survival may be endangered by human activities".[27] In September 2008, he retired from his professorship, announcing plans to "write a book aimed at youngsters in which he will warn them against believing in 'anti-scientific' fairytales."[28]

Personal life

Dawkins has been married three times, and has one daughter. On 19 August 1967, Dawkins married fellow ethologist Marian Stamp in Annestown, County Waterford, Ireland;[29] they divorced in 1984. Later that same year, on 1 June, he married Eve Barham (19 August 1951[30]–28 February 1999) in Oxford. They had a daughter, Juliet Emma Dawkins (born 1984, Oxford).[30] Dawkins and Barham also divorced.[31] In 1992, he married actress Lalla Ward[31] in Kensington and Chelsea, London.[30] Dawkins met her through their mutual friend Douglas Adams,[32] who had worked with her on the BBC's Doctor Who.


Evolutionary biology

Dawkins at the University of Texas at Austin, March 2008

In his scientific works, Dawkins is best known for his popularisation of the gene as the principal unit of selection in evolution; this view is most clearly set out in his books:[33]

Dawkins has consistently been sceptical about non-adaptive processes in evolution (such as

  • Works by or about Richard Dawkins in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • National Geographic Interviews – A series of video interviews with National Geographic Channel with Richard Dawkins on Darwin, Evolution and God.
  • Video interview with Riz Khan for Al Jazeera English
  • An Appetite for Wonder: Richard Dawkins in Conversation at the Royal Institution
  • The Real Romance in the Stars (1995) – A critical view of astrology.
  • The giant tortoise's tale, The turtle's tale and The lava lizard's tale (2005) – A series of three articles written after a visit to the Galápagos Islands.

External links

  1. ^ Ridley, Mark (2007). Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think : Reflections by Scientists, Writers, and Philosophers. Oxford University Press. p. 228.  , Extract of page 228
  2. ^ Emeritus, Honorary and Wykeham Fellows of New College, Oxford
  3. ^ "Previous holders of The Simonyi Professorship". The University of Oxford. Retrieved 23 September 2010. 
  4. ^ "European Evolutionary Biologists Rally Behind Richard Dawkins's Extended Phenotype". 20 January 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  5. ^ "Richard Dawkins on militant atheism". TED Conferences, LLC. Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Transworld Publishers.  
  7. ^ "The God Delusion – back on the Times extended list at #24". Richard Dawkins at 27 January 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
    • "Richard Dawkins — Science and the New Atheism". Richard Dawkins at Point of Inquiry. 8 December 2007. Retrieved 14 March 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h "Curriculum vitae of Richard Dawkins". The University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2008. 
  9. ^ a b Dawkins, Richard (11 December 2010). "Lives Remembered: John Dawkins".  
  10. ^ "Dawkins, Richard 1941- - Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  11. ^ "A twitter status update by Dawkins saying that he identifies as English". Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  12. ^ Andrew Anthony (15 September 2013). "'"Richard Dawkins: 'I don't think I am strident or aggressive. The Guardian. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d Hattenstone, Simon (10 February 2003). "Darwin's child". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2008. 
  14. ^ Richard Dawkins (October 2004). The Ancestor's Tale. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 317.  
  15. ^ Dawkins, Richard. "Brief Scientific Autobiography". Retrieved 17 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "Richard Dawkins: The foibles of faith". BBC News. 12 October 2001. Retrieved 13 March 2008. 
  17. ^ Pollard, Nick (April 1995). "High Profile".  
  18. ^ "The Oundle Lecture Series".  
  19. ^ Schrage, Michael (July 1995). "Revolutionary Evolutionist". Wired. Retrieved 21 April 2008. 
  20. ^ Dawkins, Richard (1969). "A threshold model of choice behaviour". Animal Behaviour 17 (1): 120.  
  21. ^ a b c Belief" interview""". BBC. 5 April 2004. Retrieved 8 April 2008. 
  22. ^  
  23. ^ "Aims of the Simonyi Professorship". 23 April 2008. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
  24. ^ "The Current Simonyi Professor: Richard Dawkins". The University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 13 March 2008. 
  25. ^ "Editorial Board". The Skeptics' Society. Retrieved 22 April 2008. 
  26. ^ Richard Dawkins, 2006. Curriculum Vitae. Archived April 23, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "The Dawkins Prize for Animal Conservation and Welfare". Balliol College, Oxford. 9 November 2007. Archived from the original on 12 September 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2008. 
  28. ^ Martin Beckford and Urmee Khan (24 October 2008). "Harry Potter fails to cast spell over Professor Richard Dawkins". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 November 2008. 
  29. ^ "Marriage". The Times (London). 23 August 1967. p. 8. 
  30. ^ a b c "Births, Marriages and Deaths, England and Wales 1984–2006". Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  31. ^ a b McKie, Robin (25 July 2004). "Doctor Zoo". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  32. ^ Simpson, M. J. (2005). Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams. Justin, Charles & Co. p. 129.  , Chapter 15, p. 129
  33. ^ Lloyd, Elisabeth Anne (1994). The structure and confirmation of evolutionary theory. Princeton University Press.  
  34. ^ Gould, Stephen Jay; Lewontin, Richard C. (1979). "The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. B (London) 205 (1161): 581–598.  
  35. ^ Dawkins, Richard (1999). The extended phenotype: the long reach of the gene (Rev. ed. with new afterword and further reading. ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press.  
  36. ^  
  37. ^ Trivers, Robert (1971). "The evolution of reciprocal altruism". Quarterly Review of Biology 46 (1): 35–57.  
  38. ^ Dawkins, Richard (1979). "Twelve Misunderstandings of Kin Selection". Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie 51: 184–200.  
  39. ^ Williams, George Ronald (1996). The molecular biology of Gaia. Columbia University Press. p. 178.  , Extract of page 178
  40. ^ Schneider, Stephen Henry (2004). Scientists debate gaia: the next century. MIT Press. p. 72.  , Extract of page 72
  41. ^ Dawkins, Richard (2000). Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 223.  , Extract of page 223
  42. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (24 June 2012). "Richard Dawkins in furious row with EO Wilson over theory of evolution. Book review sparks war of words between grand old man of biology and Oxford's most high-profile Darwinist". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 3 October 2012. 
  43. ^ Dover, Gabriel (2000). Dear Mr Darwin. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.  
  44. ^ Williams, George C. (1966). Adaptation and Natural Selection. United States: Princeton University Press.  
  45. ^  
  46. ^ Midgley, Mary (1979). "Gene-Juggling". Philosophy 54 (210). pp. 439–458.  
  47. ^ Dawkins, Richard (1981). "In Defence of Selfish Genes". Philosophy 56. pp. 556–573.  
  48. ^ Midgley, Mary (2000). Science and Poetry. Routledge.  
  49. ^ Midgley, Mary (2010). The solitary self: Darwin and the selfish gene. McGill-Queen's University Press.  
  50. ^  
  51. ^ Brown, Andrew (2000). The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man. London: Touchstone.  
  52. ^ Brockman, J. (1995). The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster.  
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  54. ^ Morris, Richard (2001). The Evolutionists. W. H. Freeman.  
  55. ^ Dawkins, Richard (24 January 1985). "Sociobiology: the debate continues". New Scientist. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2008. 
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  57. ^ "Transworld signs new book from Dawkins". The Bookseller. 15 February 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2009. 
  58. ^ Dawkins, Richard (2009). The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. London: Transworld Publishers. pp. xii.  
  59. ^ a b Dawkins, Richard (1989).  
  60. ^ Burman, J. T. (2012). The misunderstanding of memes: Biography of an unscientific object, 1976–1999. Perspectives on Science, 20(1), 75-104. [1] doi:10.1162/POSC_a_00057 (This is an open access article, made freely available courtesy of MIT Press.)
  61. ^ Kelly, Kevin (1994).  
  62. ^ Shalizi, Cosma Rohilla. "Memes". Center for the Study of Complex Systems. University of Michigan. Retrieved 14 August 2009. 
  63. ^ a b Laurent, John (1999). A Note on the Origin of 'Memes'/'Mnemes' 3 (1). Journal of Memetics. pp. 14–19. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  64. ^ James Gleick (15 February 2011). The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. Pantheon. p. 269.  
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  68. ^ Catalano, John. "Book: The Blind Watchmaker". The University of Oxford. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008. 
  69. ^ Dawkins, Richard (2004). A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 218.  , Chapter 5, p 218
  70. ^ Moyers, Bill (3 December 2004). with Bill Moyers"Now". Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 29 January 2006. 
  71. ^ Dawkins, Richard and Coyne, Jerry (1 September 2005). "One side can be wrong". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2006. 
  72. ^ Hall, Stephen S. (9 August 2005). "Darwin's Rottweiler".  
  73. ^ Swinford, Steven (19 November 2006). "Godless Dawkins challenges schools". London: The Times. Retrieved 3 April 2008. 
  74. ^ Bass, Thomas A. (1994). Reinventing the future: Conversations with the World's Leading Scientists. Addison Wesley. p. 118.   Extract of page 118
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  76. ^ "The HSS Today". The Humanist Society of Scotland. 2007. Archived from the original on 18 April 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2008. 
  77. ^ "Secular Coalition for America Advisory Board Biography". Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  78. ^ "The International Academy Of Humanism — Humanist Laureates".  
  79. ^ "The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry — Fellows".  
  80. ^ "Humanism and Its Aspirations — Notable Signers".  
  81. ^ McNally, Terrence (17 January 2007). "'"Atheist Richard Dawkins on 'The God Delusion. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  82. ^ Sheahen, Laura (October 2005). "The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins (2)". Retrieved 11 April 2008. 
  83. ^ "Interview with Richard Dawkins". PBS. Retrieved 12 April 2008. 
  84. ^ Van Biema, David (5 November 2006). "God vs. Science (3)".  
  85. ^ Dawkins, Richard. "Is Science A Religion?". The Humanist. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  86. ^ Powell, Michael (19 September 2011). "A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy". New York Times. Retrieved 31 December 2012. 
  87. ^ Hooper, Simon. "The rise of the New Atheists". CNN. Retrieved 16 March 2010. 
  88. ^ Smith, Alexandra (27 November 2006). "Dawkins campaigns to keep God out of classroom". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2007. 
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  90. ^ Powell, Michael (19 September 2011). "A Knack for Bashing Orthodoxy". The New York Times. p. 4. Retrieved 20 September 2011. 
  91. ^ Beckford, Martin (24 June 2010). "'"Richard Dawkins interested in setting up 'atheist free school. London: Telegraph. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  92. ^ Garner, Richard (29 July 2010). "Gove welcomes atheist schools – Education News, Education". London: The Independent. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  93. ^ Chittenden, Maurice; Waite, Roger (23 December 2007). "Dawkins to preach atheism to US". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
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  95. ^ "The Out Campaign (original announcement)". 30 July 2007. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008. 
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  97. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (3 February 2012). "In Defense of Richard Dawkins". London: Free Inquiry. Retrieved 1 January 2013. 
  98. ^ Ruse, Michael (2 November 2009). "Religion (News),Atheism (News),Richard Dawkins,Creationism (News),Philosophy (News)". The Guardian (London). 
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  103. ^ Jha, Alok (29 May 2007). "Scientists divided over alliance with religion". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2008. 
  104. ^ Peter Higgs criticises Richard Dawkins over anti-religious 'fundamentalism' The Guardian 26 December 2012
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  108. ^ "Our Mission". The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Archived from the original on 17 November 2006. Retrieved 17 November 2006. 
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  111. ^ Diamond, John (2001). Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations. United Kingdom: Vintage.  
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  114. ^ edited by Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer.; Paola Cavalieri; Peter Singer (1993). The Great Ape Project. United Kingdom: Fourth Estate.  
  115. ^ Dawkins, Richard (22 March 2003). "Bin Laden's victory". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 15 March 2008. 
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  118. ^ "Our supporters". Republic. 24 April 2010. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
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  120. ^ "Richard Dawkins: Keep Libel Laws OUT of Science".  
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  142. ^ "Honorary FFRF Board Announced". Archived from the original on 17 December 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2008. 
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  144. ^ Richard Dawkins named world's top thinker in poll The Guardian, 25 April 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  145. ^ The Magic of Reality - new book by Richard Dawkins this Fall" 10 May 2011""". 10 May 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2011. 
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  149. ^
  150. ^
  151. ^ Dawkins, Richard (3 October 2000). "Obituary by Richard Dawkins". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 March 2008. Retrieved 22 March 2008. 
  152. ^ Critical-Historical Perspective on the Argument about Evolution and Creation, John Durant, in "From Evolution to Creation: A European Perspective (Eds. Sven Anderson, Arthus Peacocke), Aarhus Univ. Press, Aarhus, Denmark
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a. ^ secular memorial service.[151]

b. ^ The debate ended with the motion "That the doctrine of creation is more valid than the theory of evolution" being defeated by 198 votes to 115.[152][153]


  • Doctor Who: "The Stolen Earth" (2008) – as himself
  • The Simpsons: "Black Eyed, Please" – appears in Ned Flanders' dream of Hell; provided voice as a demon version of himself[148]
  • Nightwish: Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish have announced Dawkins as a guest star on their upcoming 2015 album. Nightwish keyboardist and song writer Tuomas Holopainen has stated about Dawkins works: "I have been so enthusiastic about this kind of literature for the past few months, and will be for the upcoming months, that it's going to come out somehow... something has happened say during the past five, six, seven years, and a lot of it has to do with the books that I've read, mainly Whitman, Hitchens and Dawkins."[149][150]

Other appearances

Documentary films

  • Richard Dawkins (1976).  
  • Richard Dawkins (1982).  
  • Richard Dawkins (1986).  
  • Richard Dawkins (1995).  
  • Richard Dawkins (1996).  
  • Richard Dawkins (1998).  
  • Richard Dawkins (2003).  
  • Richard Dawkins (2004).  
  • Richard Dawkins (2006).  
  • Richard Dawkins (2009).  
  • Richard Dawkins (2011).  [145]
  • Richard Dawkins (2013).  

Selected publications


In a poll held by Prospect magazine in 2013, Dawkins was voted the world's top thinker based on 65 names chosen by a largely US- and UK-based expert panel.[144]

In 2012, ichthyologists in Sri Lanka honored Dawkins by creating Dawkinsia as a new genus name (members of this genus were formerly members of the genus Puntius). Explaining the reasoning behind the genus name, lead researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda was quoted as stating that "Richard Dawkins has, through his writings, helped us understand that the universe is far more beautiful and awe-inspiring than any religion has imagined [...] We hope that Dawkinsia will serve as a reminder of the elegance and simplicity of evolution, the only rational explanation there is for the unimaginable diversity of life on Earth.".[143]

In February 2010, Dawkins was named to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Honorary Board of distinguished achievers.[142]

Since 2003, the Atheist Alliance International has awarded a prize during its annual conference, honouring an outstanding atheist whose work has done the most to raise public awareness of atheism during that year; it is known as the Richard Dawkins Award, in honour of Dawkins's own efforts.[141]

Dawkins topped Prospect magazine's 2004 list of the top 100 public British intellectuals, as decided by the readers, receiving twice as many votes as the runner-up.[134][135] He was short-listed as a candidate in their 2008 follow-up poll.[136] In 2005, the Hamburg-based Alfred Toepfer Foundation awarded him its Shakespeare Prize in recognition of his "concise and accessible presentation of scientific knowledge". He won the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science for 2006, as well as the Galaxy British Book Awards's Author of the Year Award for 2007.[137] In the same year, he was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2007,[138] and he was ranked 20th in The Daily Telegraph's 2007 list of 100 greatest living geniuses.[139] He was awarded the Deschner Award, named after German anti-clerical author Karlheinz Deschner.[140]

His other awards include the Zoological Society of London's Silver Medal (1989), the Finlay Innovation Award (1990), the Michael Faraday Award (1990), the Nakayama Prize (1994), the American Humanist Association's Humanist of the Year Award (1996), the fifth International Cosmos Prize (1997), the Kistler Prize (2001), the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic (2001), the 2001 and 2012 Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Bicentennial Kelvin Medal of The Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow (2002),[8] and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest (2009).[133]

In 1987, Dawkins received a Royal Society of Literature award and a Los Angeles Times Literary Prize for his book The Blind Watchmaker. In the same year, he received a Sci. Tech Prize for Best Television Documentary Science Programme of the Year for his work on the BBC's Horizon episode The Blind Watchmaker.[8]

Dawkins was awarded a Doctor of Science by the University of Oxford in 1989. He holds honorary doctorates in science from the University of Huddersfield, University of Westminster, Durham University,[129] the University of Hull, the University of Antwerp, and the University of Oslo,[130] and honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen,[131] Open University, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel,[8] and the University of Valencia.[132] He also holds honorary doctorates of letters from the University of St Andrews and the Australian National University (HonLittD, 1996), and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997 and the Royal Society in 2001.[8] He is one of the patrons of the Oxford University Scientific Society.

Dawkins receiving the Deschner Prize in Frankfurt, 12 October 2007, from Karlheinz Deschner

Awards and recognition

In 2011, Dawkins joined the professoriate of the New College of the Humanities, a new private university in London established by A. C. Grayling, which opened in September 2012.[128]

These books are famous for their criticism of postmodernism in US universities (namely in the departments of literary studies, anthropology, and other cultural studies).[127] In the same occasion, Dawkins also criticised Cambridge University for awarding philosopher Jacques Derrida an honorary doctorate.[127]

In 1998, Dawkins expressed his appreciation for two books connected with the Sokal affair:

In a More4 documentary entitled Faith School Menace? and presented by Dawkins, he argues "for us to reconsider the consequences of faith education, which... bamboozles parents, and indoctrinates and divides children."[125][126]

Continuing a long-standing partnership with Channel 4, Dawkins participated in a five-part television series Genius of Britain, along with fellow scientists Stephen Hawking, James Dyson, Paul Nurse, and Jim Al-Khalili. The five-episode series was broadcast in June 2010. The series focuses on major British scientific achievements throughout history.[124]

In the 2007 TV documentary The Enemies of Reason,[123] Dawkins discusses what he sees as the dangers of abandoning critical thought and rationale based upon scientific evidence. He specifically cites astrology, spiritualism, dowsing, alternative faiths, alternative medicine, and homoeopathy. He also discusses how the Internet can be used to spread religious hatred and conspiracy theories with scant attention to evidence-based reasoning.

Dawkins also regularly comments in newspapers and Republic's campaign to replace the British monarchy with a democratically elected president.[118] Dawkins has described himself as a Labour voter in the 1970s[119] and voter for the Liberal Democrats since the party's creation.[120] In 2009, he spoke at the party's conference in opposition to blasphemy laws, alternative medicine, and faith schools. In the UK general election of 2010, Dawkins officially endorsed the Liberal Democrats, in support of their campaign for electoral reform and for their "refusal to pander to 'faith'."[121] In August 2014, Dawkins was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[122]

As a supporter of the Great Ape Project—a movement to extend certain moral and legal rights to all great apes—Dawkins contributed the article "Gaps in the Mind" to the Great Ape Project book edited by Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer. In this essay, he criticises contemporary society's moral attitudes as being based on a "discontinuous, speciesist imperative".[114]

Dawkins has expressed concern about the growth of the planet's human population and about the matter of overpopulation.[113] In The Selfish Gene, he briefly mentions population growth, giving the example of Latin America, whose population, at the time the book was written, was doubling every 40 years. He is critical of Roman Catholic attitudes to family planning and population control, stating that leaders who forbid contraception and "express a preference for 'natural' methods of population limitation" will get just such a method in the form of starvation.[59]:213

In his role as professor for public understanding of science, Dawkins has been a critic of pseudoscience and alternative medicine. His 1998 book Unweaving the Rainbow considers John Keats's accusation that by explaining the rainbow, Isaac Newton diminished its beauty; Dawkins argues for the opposite conclusion. He suggests that deep space, the billions of years of life's evolution, and the microscopic workings of biology and heredity contain more beauty and wonder than do "myths" and "pseudoscience".[110] For John Diamond's posthumously published Snake Oil, a book devoted to debunking alternative medicine, Dawkins wrote a foreword in which he asserts that alternative medicine is harmful, if only because it distracts patients from more successful conventional treatments and gives people false hopes.[111] Dawkins states that "there is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't work."[112]

Dawkins speaking at Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, California, 29 October 2006

Other fields

Dawkins has said the "trend toward theocratic thinking in the United States is a danger not only for America but for the entire world."[109] Connected to this concern, Dawkins invited Sean Faircloth to serve as opening speaker on Dawkins's 2011 US book tour. Faircloth is author of the book Attack of the Theocrats, How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It. The Richard Dawkins Foundation (United States branch) later hired Faircloth, who has ten years experience as a state legislator, as Director of Strategy and Policy.[109]

In 2006, Dawkins founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS), a secular in nature. The foundation also offers humanist, rationalist, and scientific materials through its website.[108]


Dawkins's advocacy of atheism has been controversial. Writer Christopher Hitchens defended the perceived stridency of Dawkins's stance towards religion while Nobel laureates Sir Harold Kroto and James D. Watson and psychologist Steven Pinker lavished praise on his book The God Delusion.[96][97] In contrast, literary critic Terry Eagleton, theologian Alister McGrath, and science philosopher Michael Ruse[98][99] have accused Dawkins of having fundamentally misapprehended the theological arguments he claimed to refute, while scientists Martin Rees and Peter Higgs have criticised Dawkins's confrontational stance towards religion as unhelpful, with Higgs going as far as to label him a fundamentalist.[100][101][102][103][104] In response to his critics, Dawkins maintains that theologians are no better than scientists in addressing deep cosmological questions and that he himself is not a fundamentalist as he is willing to change his mind in the face of new evidence.[6]:55–56[105][106] Recently, in May 2014, at the Hay Festival in Wales, Dawkins was quoted as saying, "I would describe myself as a secular Christian in the same sense as secular Jews have a feeling for nostalgia and ceremonies."[107]

Dawkins suggests that atheists should be proud, not apologetic, stressing that atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.[6]:3 He hopes that the more atheists identify themselves, the more the public will become aware of just how many people actually hold these views, thereby reducing the negative opinion of atheism among the religious majority.[93][94] Inspired by the gay rights movement, he founded the Out Campaign to encourage atheists worldwide to declare their stance publicly and proudly.[95] He supported the UK's first atheist advertising initiative, the Atheist Bus Campaign in 2008, which aimed to raise funds to place atheist advertisements on buses in the London area.

Dawkins with Ariane Sherine at the Atheist Bus Campaign launch in London

Dawkins sees education and consciousness-raising as the primary tools in opposing what he considers to be religious dogma and indoctrination.[21][88][89] These tools include the fight against certain stereotypes, and he has adopted the term bright as a way of associating positive public connotations with those who possess a naturalistic worldview.[89] He has given support to the idea of a free thinking school,[90] which would not indoctrinate children in atheism or in any religion but would instead teach children to be critical and open-minded.[91][92] Inspired by the consciousness-raising successes of feminists in arousing widespread embarrassment at the routine use of "he" instead of "she", Dawkins similarly suggests that phrases such as "Catholic child" and "Muslim child" should be considered as socially absurd as, for instance, "Marxist child", as he believes that children should not be classified based on their parents' ideological or religious beliefs.[89]

Dawkins became a prominent critic of religion and has stated his opposition to religion is twofold: Religion is both a source of conflict and a justification for belief without evidence.[6]:282–286 He considers faith—belief that is not based on evidence—as "one of the world's great evils".[85] He rose to prominence in public debates relating science and religion since the publication of his book The God Delusion in 2006, which became an international best seller.[86] Its success has been seen by many as indicative of a change in the contemporary cultural zeitgeist and has also been identified with the rise of New Atheism.[87]

:50[6] to be a scientific hypothesis like any other.existence of God and considers the [84]nonoverlapping magisteria's principle of Stephen Jay Gould He disagrees with [83] and is puzzled by belief in God among individuals who are sophisticated in science.[82] He revealed that his understanding of evolution led him to atheism[81] Although he was confirmed into the Church of England at the age of thirteen, he started to lose his religious faith when he discovered Darwin.[80][79][78][77][76][75][8] Dawkins is an outspoken

Dawkins lecturing on his book The God Delusion, 24 June 2006.

Advocacy of atheism

Dawkins has ardently opposed the inclusion of Truth in Science, which promotes the teaching of creationism in state schools, and he plans through the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to subsidise schools with the delivery of books, DVDs, and pamphlets that counteract their (Truth in Science's) work, which Dawkins has described as an "educational scandal".[73]

In a December 2004 interview with American journalist Bill Moyers, Dawkins said that "among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know." When Moyers questioned him on the use of the word theory, Dawkins stated that "evolution has been observed. It's just that it hasn't been observed while it's happening." He added that "it is rather like a detective coming on a murder after the scene... the detective hasn't actually seen the murder take place, of course. But what you do see is a massive clue... Huge quantities of circumstantial evidence. It might as well be spelled out in words of English."[70]

[69] with them at all". He suggests that creationists "don't mind being beaten in an argument. What matters is that we give them recognition by bothering to argue with them in public."engaging and refused to participate in formal debates with creationists because "what they seek is the oxygen of respectability", and doing so would "give them this oxygen by the mere act of Stephen Jay Gould In general, however, Dawkins has followed the advice of his late colleague [b]).Biblical Creation Society (president of the Edgar Andrews) and Young Earth creationist (a A. E. Wilder-Smith debate against Oxford Union participated in an John Maynard SmithIn 1986, Dawkins and biologist
Dawkins at the 34th annual conference of American Atheists, 2008

Dawkins is a prominent critic of creationism (the religious belief that humanity, life, and the universe were created by a deity[65] without recourse to evolution[66]). He has described the Young Earth creationist view that the Earth is only a few thousand years old as "a preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood",[67] and his 1986 book, The Blind Watchmaker, contains a sustained critique of the argument from design, an important creationist argument. In the book, Dawkins argues against the watchmaker analogy made famous by the 18th-century English theologian William Paley via his book Natural Theology, in which Paley argues that just as a watch is too complicated and too functional to have sprung into existence merely by accident, so too must all living things—with their far greater complexity—be purposefully designed. Dawkins shares the view generally held by scientists that natural selection is sufficient to explain the apparent functionality and non-random complexity of the biological world, and can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, albeit as an automatic, nonintelligent, blind watchmaker.[68]

Criticism of creationism

Although Dawkins invented the specific term meme independently, he has not claimed that the idea itself was entirely novel,[62] and there have been other expressions for similar ideas in the past. For instance, John Laurent has suggested that the term may have derived from the work of the little-known German biologist Richard Semon.[63] In 1904, Semon published Die Mneme (which appeared in English in 1924 as The Mneme). This book discusses the cultural transmission of experiences, with insights parallel to those of Dawkins. Laurent also found the term mneme used in Maurice Maeterlinck's The Life of the White Ant (1926), and has highlighted the similarities to Dawkins's concept.[63] Author James Gleick describes Dawkins's concept of the meme as "his most famous memorable invention, far more influential than his selfish genes or his later proselytizing against religiosity".[64]

Dawkins's meme refers to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator of a certain idea or complex of ideas. He hypothesised that people could view many cultural entities as capable of such replication, generally through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient (although not perfect) copiers of information and behaviour. Because memes are not always copied perfectly, they might become refined, combined, or otherwise modified with other ideas; this results in new memes, which may themselves prove more or less efficient replicators than their predecessors, thus providing a framework for a hypothesis of cultural evolution based on memes, a notion that is analogous to the theory of biological evolution based on genes.[61]

Dawkins coined the word meme (the behavioural equivalent of a gene) as a way to encourage readers to think about how Darwinian principles might be extended beyond the realm of genes.[59]:11 Indeed, it was intended as an extension of his "replicators" argument, but it took on a life of its own in the hands of other authors such as Daniel Dennett and Susan Blackmore. These popularisations then led to the emergence of memetics, a field from which Dawkins has distanced himself.[60]


Dawkins's book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution expounds the evidence for biological evolution,[57] and coincided with Darwin's bicentennial year.[58]

In a set of controversies over the mechanisms and interpretation of evolution (what has been called 'The Darwin Wars'),[50][51] one faction is often named after Dawkins, while the other faction is named after the American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould, reflecting the pre-eminence of each as a populariser of the pertinent ideas.[52][53] In particular, Dawkins and Gould have been prominent commentators in the controversy over sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, with Dawkins generally approving and Gould generally being critical.[54] A typical example of Dawkins's position is his scathing review of Not in Our Genes by Steven Rose, Leon J. Kamin, and Richard C. Lewontin.[55] Two other thinkers who are often considered to be allied with Dawkins on the subject are Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett; Dennett has promoted a gene-centred view of evolution and defended reductionism in biology.[56] Despite their academic disagreements, Dawkins and Gould did not have a hostile personal relationship, and Dawkins dedicated a large portion of his 2003 book A Devil's Chaplain posthumously to Gould, who had died the previous year.

Advocates for higher levels of selection (such as Richard Lewontin, David Sloan Wilson, and Elliott Sober) suggest that there are many phenomena (including altruism) that gene-based selection cannot satisfactorily explain. The philosopher Mary Midgley, with whom Dawkins clashed in print concerning The Selfish Gene,[46][47] has criticised gene selection, memetics, and sociobiology as being excessively reductionist;[48] she has suggested that the popularity of Dawkins's work is due to factors in the Zeitgeist such as the increased individualism of the Thatcher/Reagan decades.[49]

Critics of Dawkins's approach suggest that taking the [44] Another common objection is that a gene cannot survive alone, but must cooperate with other genes to build an individual, and therefore a gene cannot be an independent "unit".[45] In The Extended Phenotype, Dawkins suggests that from an individual gene's viewpoint, all other genes are part of the environment to which it is adapted.

In June 2012 Dawkins was highly critical of fellow biologist E.O. Wilson's 2012 book The Social Conquest of Earth.[42]

He has also been strongly critical of the Gaia hypothesis of the independent scientist James Lovelock.[39][40][41]

[38], and developed them in his own work.The Selfish Gene Dawkins popularised these ideas in [37]

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