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