He's baaack: Selfish Gene author pens one for the kids

The author of The Selfish Gene is back in Charlottesville. This time, however, the British scientist and atheist extraordinaire (he's also author of the 2006 best-seller The God Delusion) will speak at a venue that may be big enough to hold the crowds clamoring for his rational view of the world.

When he spoke here at Gilmer Hall in 2009, hundreds were shunted to overflow video-feed rooms to hear Richard Dawkins argue that, unlike religion, the theory of Natural Selection sets itself up for disapproval every day. All it would take to undo Darwin, he said then, would be to find something out of place amid the fossils– like a bunny rabbit mixed in a stratum of dinosaurs.

Now he's back in the States to launch a new lecture tour and promote a new book for teens and young adults, The Magic of Reality, to be published by Simon & Schuster on the day of his talk at UVA. We had a few minutes on the phone with Dawkins this morning.

You're 70: what do you think of other people getting to that age without entertaining the idea of a rational existence?
Dawkins: I feel pity for them, and I would like to do all in my power for children in the next 70 years to be brought up in fuller knowledge of the world in which we live.

Will there come a day when the shout "You atheist!" is no longer an insult?
Dawkins: Well, it already carries no negative implication in the whole of Western Europe and in at least half the population of the United States.

So what's your advice to parents?
Dawkins: Explain to children never to believe anything without evidence.

But in the short term, won't children find themselves in an uncomfortable minority as non-believers in Santa and the Easter Bunny?
Dawkins: I don't want to shatter illusions of childhood fantasy, but I think that Santa and the Easter Bunny are rather boring.

This is a pretty new paradigm for parenting. What are some advantages of your method?
Dawkins: It leads to the truth.

As a practical matter, what are some ills that might be avoided?
Dawkins: Don't you think the truth is valuable in itself? It's fascinating, it's enthralling.

But what might be a concrete example?
Dawkins: There are millions of children all over the Islamic world taught almost nothing but memorizing the Koran, that it's virtuous to die a martyr's death, that it's virtuous to kill Jews. One dose of skepticism would cure that.

Modern American parents practice a lot of cocooning.
Dawkins: Count me as an enemy of cocooning.

How do you address the concern that you're ripping some of the magic out of life?
Dawkins: I'm adding magic to life. Science is magical. The truth is magical. The truth that life arose on this one planet and possibly nowhere else from the extraordinary process of Natural Selection– what could be more magical than that?
Dawkins spoke at noon on Tuesday, October 4, in Old Cabell Hall, (which seats 851).

Free, but ticket required via UVA Arts Box Office. Book signing afterwards.

Note: Corrected to show that, although free, the event requires a ticket. Also, corrected to insert the protagonist's first name.

Read more on: richard dawkins


Any more information about his stop in cville? Where, When, How (do we get in), etc would be greatly appreciated.

OK, fine, i will take some some initiative if i have too.

"Richard Dawkins will hold a free lecture and book signing on Tuesday, October 4 at 12 pm in Old Cabell Hall. Tickets are required and must be picked up in-person at the Arts Box Office in the lobby of the Drama Building."

Hard to believe anyone would care to hear him but it takes all kinds.

Nice example of evolution Logan.

nice work reporting... um, by Logan.

"Hard to believe anyone would care to hear him but it takes all kinds."

Yes, mostly people with IQs over 100.

"I'm adding magic to life. Science is magical. The truth is magical. The truth that life arose on this one planet and possibly nowhere else from the extraordinary process of Natural Selection– what could be more magical than that?"

This is right. Nothing could be more 'magical' than that. It is 'magic' trying to counter 'magic'. Where is reality in all of this?


He does not mean 'Magic' as in Harry potter or raising the dead Lazarus Stylie. For Magic feel free to exchange Awe-inspiring, Breath Taking, Wondrous, Magical even.

The real world is simply stunning and breath taking as Richard says 'Magical' in is jaw dropping complexity and splendour.

@Ohnhai :

Yeah, and I think he tried to explain this during his interview on RT. I don't know why I said it. Maybe because I was thinking that the book is mainly for kids, and kids are usually very prone to interpreting everything within a 'fairytale' context. They might start thinking that the magic that turned the pumpkin into a carriage was not real, but the 'magic' that created us through evolution by natural selection is real.

Hard to believe anyone would care to hear him but it takes all kinds.

Yes BB, I`d rather hear Doctor Dino.

"Hard to believe anyone would care to hear him but it takes all kinds."

Yes, hard to believe that anyone would want to hear from one of the world's leading biologists about the fascinating process of life on earth and ways that the next generation might begin to learn about plants and animals and about genetics, embryology etc ... I can see that's hard to believe.

On the other hand it's very easy to believe that an invisible thing chose a small group of goat-hearder to be special, guided them to the only place in the middle east with no oil, then sent his son which the original chosen ones didn't accept but those who do believe the the new testement stories become the new chosen ones and everyone else will burn for eternity because they either would have liked just 1 piece of evidence or they believed that the invisible one had slightly different rules about gays, beard-length etc .... Now that IS totally believable!

So 97% of the world's population is ignorant? Amazing.

I am so grateful for that 3% that rule the world, discover cures for diseases, and make sure the world does not explode.

What would we do with you?

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd.......cue to 1,500 posts of religion vs. Atheism round and round!

We're only at 12! We can do better than this!

@Spencer: Does "Dawkins" have a first name? You know, "the British scientist and atheist extraordinaire," the subject of your article. If you were writing about Morrissey then maybe skipping mention of the first name would be appropriate, but I don't think Richard Dawkins is going on tour as "Dawkins".

Only closed minded individuals dismiss things that cannot be proven to them. I suppose scientific theories are also cast aside as mythical or things dreamed up by the stupid. Kind of ironic isn't it?

Religion serves a purpose. Some times that purpose is bad but more often than not it is good.
If non-believers cannot comprehend unity, trust, fellowship, and faith then you my friend will die a very lonely person.

Whether or not God exists is unlikely to be revealed by science, and, lacking direct, "scientific" evidence one way or the other, scientists are hardly in a position to speak with authority on the subject. Perhaps the scientist's greatest handicaps are their arrogance and their hubris, which has only served to retard their sometimes valuable work. After all, it was the scientific community which once said the earth was very gradually and nonviolently formed to be what it is today; it was the scientists who claimed man could not fly, and it was scientists who believed disease was to be cured by letting blood. And now we learn that even the presumed universal speed limit (the speed of light) may possibly be exceeded. And what will science discover over the next century that topples the assumptions they make today? Hard to say what, but very plausible to assume that some of what is "right" now will be shown to be "wrong" later.

This is not to defend the existence of God, whose presence or absence is established independently of what Dick Dawkins or the Pope might say. But the professor's self-assured attitude appears to be as likely a target for correction as is the faith of a true believer.

woohoo! Up to 16 posts! 1,500, here we come!

In all seriousness though, something the scientific community doesn't like to admit is that quite a few of the doctrines they teach in schools and universities are actually only still just theories. Theories, as in, *lacks definitive proof.*

Apparently it's okay when science relies on unproven theories as factual doctrine, but not anybody else.


btw I'm not a Christian, or a religious anything, and in fact I used to be an atheist at one point in time. But you don't need to be religious to see the faults in science. Both sides are severely flawed. Our society is fond of polarized two-choice dichotemies though. Either/or. Black/white. Liberal/conservative. Religion/atheism.

Anybody who suscribes to false two choice dichotemies is doomed to fail, no matter what it involves. While the crowd is screaming and fighting with each other in the ring about which polarized side is correct, I'll be wandering away to go take a look behind that curtain over there. I hear there's a man behind it.......

Science defines the word "theory" differently and with more
complexity than the way it's used in everyday conversation.
Don't forget there are "laws" too which might get more
respect esp for example the law of gravity.

Whats to say about religion or the lack there of. Regardless of ones belief system we are here for a very short time. Make the best of it, take one person at a time, treat them as you'd like to be treated and sleep well. I wonder what guides a politicians life? It can't be good whatever it is.


As Mer points out 'Theory' has a very different usage within the science community than the far woolier definition in everyday use. Please grasp the basic concept that the two uses are not interchangeable. Theories in science are not loose conjecture but robust models that have stood the onslaught of concerted peer scrutiny and backed up by veritable mountains of data.

Scientific Theories are our current best understanding of that which is actually going on out there in reality. And they are not immune to criticism and further scrutiny. All it would take to collapse the seemingly undeniable theory of evolution would be a fossilised rabbit in pre-cambrian strata (or any strata where it shouldn't be for that matter)

And yes Science is not perfect. It is after all a human endeavour. There are scientists who don't hold to the highest ideals of the calling, and mistakes can be made, but that is the very strength of science. The whole set up is designed to check and validate the work of every other scientist. Frauds and the simply inept will get caught out. And past assumptions WILL be looked at in new light as new evidence comes in.. (just look at cold fusion)

Case in very recent point... Those smart people at CERN have for the last few years been running the same experiment over and over (over 16000 times by now) because they discovered a result that would have MAJOR implications on, well... pretty much everything.

With the mountain of data they have collected they would be WELL within their rights to announce this find as an actual discovery (the statistical certainty of their data seems to be very high) but rather than come out and announce it they put out a call basically saying "We have found this. We think we are right but the implications make us want to shit our pants! So please before we make an official announcement come and check our data and PLEASE point out to us where we have made a mistake!!"

Their potential discovery? That some stuff can travel faster than the speed of light!! Which, as far as we know, should be impossible. So much of science is underpinned by this apparently immutable fact that, as I said, the implications of this discovery (should no experimental or methodological error be found) would ripple through out the entire spectrum of science as we know it and shake it's very foundations.

This, the speed of light was one of the things we thought immutable, unchangeable, undeniable, unbreachable now we have to start thinking other wise.. And Science WILL if this is verified, trawl back through everything we thought we knew and re examine it in the light of this new paradime. Where will be a lot of shock and uncertainty over this potential discovery but more than anything else there will be a overwhelming feeling of excitement. Excitement at the fact that we were wrong and that there is yet more to puzzle over and discover. This behaviour is the very antithesis of the dogmatic nature you accuse science of.

Not that you can find evidence for the non existence of a non existent but should such evidence ever be found that categorically demonstrates the non existence of god to do you think the theists would behave in the same maker? heck NO!

And finally I hate to break it to you if you are not Christian or 'Any kind of religious' you, my friend are by simple definition Atheist. your claim to be neither theistic or atheistic simply demonstrates that you simply have no clue of what you dribble on about.


@boooo! Science insists upon calling its results theories while religion rather ludicrously claims to be speaking TRUTH. Dawkins himself addresses the issue here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLeztJkhi4U

The article you commented on says that last time Dawkins was here he even argued "that, unlike religion, the theory of Natural Selection sets itself up for disapproval every day." Both mentioning that it is a theory and inviting disproof.

@BB: Don't sit there imagining Dawkins as a speaker; get on YouTube (among many other sources) and actually listen. The man is enthralled with the wonders of the natural world, and does a great job of getting his audience excited as well. It's educational and fascinating stuff.

Go listen and report back. Enjoy!

Whenever I've watched Dawkins speak I'm amazed at his arrogance. The first time I was excited to hear what I thought would be an intellectually stimulating discussion. I was greatly disappointed. I wouldn't waste my time listening to him now.

I have watched several of the Dawkins Utube videos and note with some curiosity that Dawkins told Ben Stein he (Dawkins) assigned a low probability to God's existence, as opposed to a zero probability. But most of the material is, otherwise, basically a conflict of semantics and logic and at the end of it all, we have what we started with: some don't believe, some do, some don't know and/or don't care. And none of this speaks to the existence (or not) of God. Nor does it address exactly what anyone means when they refer to God. What is it, exactly, that Dawkins does not believe, when he says he doesn't believe (or sees no evidence to support) the existence of God? By the same token, what does the believer mean by God?

Setting aside the God question, Dawkins enters more dangerous territory when he assaults the concept of faith itself, and casts a vast portion of humanity as being delusional unless they think as he does, or think "scientifically." Should I be judged delusional because I believe (or I think) I am loved by another person? If Dawkins establishes the criteria for classifying others as delusional (or not) and then classifies us accordingly, it would seem that Dawkins, himself, is God. How nice for him.

When I was a kid I asked my father what was up with the Bible thing. I had visited churches in session with friends but it was never a family thing. As it was never a practice sought out by any of our extended family. Anyway his response to my query was "just another Aesop's Fables". I said thank you and went on my way. The rest is history. Dawkins is stuck on himself. Sometimes its a disservice to speak too long on a subject that obviously has nothing but emotional roots. I read his book and was quite disappointed. Too much verbiage.