Even if it were true that we need God to be moral, it would of course not make God's existence more likely, merely more desirable (many people cannot tell the difference).
The physicist's problem is the problem of ultimate origins and ultimate natural laws. The biologist's problem is the problem of complexity.
Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned.
Of course you can have an opinion about Islam without having read Qur'an. You don't have to read Mein Kampf to have an opinion about Nazism.
To succumb to the God Temptation in either of those guises, biological or cosmological, is an act of intellectual capitulation.
No doubt soaring cathedrals, stirring music, moving stories and parables, help a bit. But by far the most important variable determining your religion is the accident of birth.
Science has eradicated smallpox, can immunise against most previously deadly viruses, can kill most previously deadly bacteria. Theology has done nothing but talk of pestilence as the wages of sin.
Religion is a powerful weapon that can be used because it persuades people to do things. And thus it can be used for good or ill. But it should not be a powerful weapon at all.
If you want to do evil, science provides the most powerful weapons to do evil; but equally, if you want to do good, science puts into your hands the most powerful tools to do so.
It is universally accepted that an admission of atheism would be instant political suicide for any (U.S.) presidential candidate.
Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results. Myths and faiths are not and do not.
So Occam's razor -- Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward -- leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination.
What we see of the real world is not the unvarnished real world but a model of the real world, regulated and adjusted by sense data -- a model that is constructed so that it is useful for dealing with the real world.
Let our tribute to the dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe.
If it suits God to be a deity that we must seek without being forced to, would it not have been sensible for him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation?
Reductionism is a dirty word, and a kind of 'holistier than thou' self-righteousness has become fashionable.
Science is wonderful, science is important, and so are children, so are young people, and so what could be better than to write a science book for young people?
Everybody is an atheist in saying that there is a god -- from Ra to Shiva -- in which he does not believe. All that the serious and objective atheist does is to take the next step and to say that there is just one more god to disbelieve in.
It requires a deliberate mental effort to turn biology the right way up again, and remind ourselves that the replicators come first, in importance as well as in history.
I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.
Leaders who forbid their followers to use effective contraceptive methods express a preference for natural methods of population limitation, and a natural method is exactly what they are going to get. It is called starvation.
I am an enthusiastic Darwinian, but I think Darwinism is too big a theory to be confined to the narrow context of the gene.
Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
What you cannot have is a gene that sacrifices itself for the benefit of other genes. What you can have is a gene that makes organisms sacrifice themselves for other organisms under the influence of selfish genes.
I've always been antagonistic to any naïve application of the selfish gene theory to politics. Some people have attempted to suggest that it means we are selfish or we should be selfish.
Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr's death will send them straight to heaven.
People who criticize The Selfish Gene like that often haven't read it. The selfish gene accounts for altruism toward kin and individuals who might be in a position to reciprocate your altruism.
A gene might be able to assist replicas of itself that are sitting in other bodies. If so, this would appear as individual altruism but it would be brought about by gene selfishness.
Any altruistic system is inherently unstable, because it is open to abuse by selfish individuals, ready to exploit it.
Sometimes in life it is a good idea to stop,sometimes it is a good idea to go on. The trick is to decide when to stop.
As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers.
If children were taught to question and think through their beliefs, instead of being taught the superior virtue of faith without question, it is a good bet that there would be no suicide bombers.
My untidy habits drive me to follow the slash-and-burn principle. Work on a virgin table until the mess becomes unbearable, then move on to a clean table in a clean room -- or, on a beautiful summer day like this, one of the five tables dotted around the garden. Trash that table and move on again.
My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a they as opposed to a we can be identified at all.
Even if it were true that evolution, or the teaching of evolution, encouraged immorality that would not imply that the theory of evolution was false.
I speculate that we shall come to accept the more radical idea that each one of our genes is a symbiotic unit. We are gigantic colonies of symbiotic genes.
How thoughtful of God to arrange matters so that, wherever you happen to be born, the local religion always turns out to be the true one.
False beliefs can be every bit as consoling as true ones, right up until the moment of disillusionment.
When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong.
All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.
My love of truth and honesty forces me to notice that the liberal intelligentsia of Western countries is betraying itself where Islam is concerned.
There is no reason for believing that any sort of gods exist, and quite good reasons for believing that they do not exist and never have. It has all been a gigantic waste of time and a waste of life. It would be a joke of cosmic proportions if it weren't so tragic.
Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts which simply do not make evolutionary sense.
There are very interesting controversies within evolution; however, whether evolution occurs is not one of them. It definitely does.
Charles Darwin made arguably the greatest discovery any human has ever made. He was a man of great persistence. He wasn't probably a natural genius, he worked very hard -- even though he was an invalid. He was a great family man, a very nice man. I think he was admirable in all sorts of ways.
Pope Francis seems to be a much nicer man than Pope Benedict, but I'm not sure that his views on things that really matter are all that different. Whereas Benedict was perhaps a wolf in wolf's clothing, Francis is perhaps a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Being dead will be no different from being unborn -- I shall be just as I was in the time of William the Conqueror or the dinosaurs or the trilobites. There is nothing to fear in that.
The so-called sophisticated theologians, especially ones who are very nice, like Rowan Williams and Jonathan Sacks, you sometimes don't quite know where you are with them. You feel that when you attack them, you're attacking a wet sponge.
There's an element of paradox there -- that at least you know where you stand with the fundamentalists. I mean, they're absolutely clear in their error and their stupidity, and so you can really go after them.
I'm not so fond of the sort of science fiction that isn't really science fiction but is sometimes thought to be -- Gothic princesses and white horses and bats and castles and things.
When I sign books, I get lines of people and what they usually say is: Thank you. You have changed my life. I am really moved by that.
It could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small -- at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that's the case.
An atheist is just somebody who feels about Yahweh the way any decent Christian feels about Thor or Baal or the golden calf. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
Don't ask God to cure cancer and world poverty. He's too busy finding you a parking space and fixing the weather for your barbecue.
If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them, without having himself tortured and executed in payment-thereby, incidentally, condemning remote future generations of Jews to pogroms and persecution as 'Christ-killers': did that hereditary sin pass down in the semen too?
To describe the forests of the world as its 'lungs' does no harm, and it might do some good if it encourages people to preserve them. But the rhetoric of holistic harmony can degenerate into a kind of dotty, Prince Charles-style mysticism.
I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is still in its infancy, still drfiting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate which leaves the old gene panting far behind.
It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, mad cow disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world's great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.
Along with William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin is Britain's greatest gift to the world. He was our greatest thinker.
If you were to actually travel around schools and universities and listen in on lectures about evolution you might find a fairly substantial fraction of young people, without knowing what it is they disapprove of, think they disapprove of it, because they've been brought up to.
What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, not warm breath, not a 'spark of life.' It is information, words, instructions... If you want to understand life, don't think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology.
Matthew and Luke handle the problem differently, by deciding that Jesus must have been born in Bethlehem after all. But they get him there by different routes.
Let's get up off our knees, stop cringing before bogeymen and virtual fathers, face reality, and help science to do something constructive about human suffering.
It's a truly disgusting idea that the creator of the universe -- capable of inventing the laws of physics and designing the evolutionary process -- that this protégé of supernatural intellect couldn't think of a better way to forgive our sins than to have himself tortured to death.
However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747.
Any entity capable of intelligently designing something as improbable as Dutchman's Pipe (or a universe) would have to be even more improbable than a Dutchman's Pipe. Far from terminating the vicious regress, God aggravates it with a vengeance.
We have seen that living things are too improbable and too beautifully 'designed' to have come into existence by chance.
My God is not improbable to me. He has no need of a creation story for himself or to be fine-tuned by something else.
Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well.
You can't statistically explain improbable things like living creatures by saying that they must have been designed because you're still left to explain the designer, who must be, if anything, an even more statistically improbable and elegant thing.
There are sincere believers who interpret Genesis 1 and 2 in a very literal way that is inconsistent, frankly, with our knowledge of the universe's age or of how living organisms are related to each other.
The odd thing about tradition is, the longer it's been going, the more people seem to take it seriously -- as though sheer passage of time makes something which to begin with was just made up, turns it into what people believe as a fact.
No matter how much knowledge and wisdom you acquire during your life, not one jot will be passed on to your children by genetic means. Each new generation starts from scratch.
No matter how much knowledge and wisdom you acquire during your life, not one jot will be passed on to your children by genetic means. Each new generation starts from scratch. A body is the genes' way of preserving the genes unaltered.
There are all sorts of things that would be comforting. I expect an injection of morphine would be comforting... But to say that something is comforting is not to say that it's true.
A deep understanding of Darwinism teaches us to be wary of the easy assumption that design is the only alternative to chance.
There was something built into the human brain by natural selection which was once useful, and which now manifests itself as religion.
Oxygen flooded into the atmosphere as a pollutant, even a poison, until natural selection shaped living things to thrive on the stuff and, indeed, suffocate without it.
Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.
Things exist either because they have recently come into existence or because they have qualities that made them unlikely to be destroyed in the past.
If you're willing to answer yes to a God outside of nature, then there's nothing inconsistent with God on rare occasions choosing to invade the natural world in a way that appears miraculous.
If there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now imperfectly understood, we hope to eventually understand it and embrace it within the natural. As ever when we unweave a rainbow, it will not become less wonderful.
We are digital archives of the African Pliocene, even of Devonian seas; walking repositories of wisdom out of the old days. You could spend a lifetime reading in this ancient library and die unsated by the wonder of it.
That was unfortunate. I should have compared religion with religion and compared Islam not with Trinity College but with Jews, because the number of Jews who have won Nobel Prizes is phenomenally high.
My objection to supernatural beliefs is precisely that they miserably fail to do justice to the sublime grandeur of the real world. They represent a narrowing-down from reality, an impoverishment of what the real world has to offer.
Such a bandwidth! God, who may not have a brain made of neurons, or a CPU made of silicon, but if he has the powers attributed to him he must have something far more elaborately and non-randomly constructed than the largest brain or the largest computer we know.
There's nothing nonsensical about saying that what would evolve if Darwinian selection has its head is something that you don't want to happen. And I could easily imagine trying to go against Darwinism.
I am passionate about truth and passionate about clarity, and I don't regard myself as particularly militant or aggressive. I simply wish to discuss what is true and to listen to evidence and put evidence forward to other people and have a sensible, sane, moderated argument.
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 child.
Real life seeks the gentle slopes at the back of Mount Improbable, while creationists are blind to all but the daunting precipice at the front.
The resemblance of the signs of the zodiac to the animals after which they are named... is as unimpressive as the predictions of astrologers.
The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification. The rest of us are expected to defend our prejudices. But ask a religious person to justify their faith and you infringe 'religious liberty'.
They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.
If any remedy is tested under controlled scientific conditions and proved to be effective, it will cease to be alternative and will simply become medicine. So-called alternative medicine either hasn't been tested or it has failed its tests.
Cloning may be good and it may be bad. Probably it's a bit of both. The question must not be greeted with reflex hysteria but decided quietly, soberly and on its own merits. We need less emotion and more thought.
You can't blame science for being used for evil purposes. What you can do is say, 'This is an exceedingly powerful tool.' And you want to make sure it is used for good purposes, not bad ones. That is a political decision.
Religion is nothing more than a useless and sometimes dangerous, evolutionary accident. Religious behavior may be a misfiring, an unfortunate byproduct of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful.
The moral law is a reason to think of God as plausible -- not just a God who sets the universe in motion but a God who cares about human beings, because we seem uniquely amongst creatures on the planet to have this far-developed sense of morality.
I am at a loss to reconcile the expensive and glossy production values of this book with the breathtaking inanity of the content.
In a way, I think religion is to be admired for asking the right questions. I just think it's got the wrong answers.
It is an absurd law Section 295A of the Indian penal code but also extremely dangerous because it gives fanatics, whether they are Hindus, Catholics or Muslims, a licence to be offended. It also allows people who are in dispute with you to make up false accusations of blasphemy.
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.
People will say, You're never going to convince me that something as complicated as an eye could come about by sheer chance. And the answer is that natural selection is the very opposite of sheer chance. Natural selection is a non-random process.
As a scientist, I am hostile to fundamentalist religion because it actively debauches the scientific enterprise. It teaches us not to change our minds, and not to want to know exciting things that are available to be known. It subverts science and saps the intellect.
I'm easily persuaded that a really good novelist who gets inside somebody else's head could be serving a valuable purpose. I enjoy satirical novels that take a wry, humorous, ironic look at modern life.
Evolution may explain some features of the moral law, but it can't explain why it should have any real significance.
Richard Leakey is a robust hero of a man, who actually lives up to the cliché, a big man in every sense of the word. Like other big men he is loved by many, feared by some, and not over-preoccupied with the judgments of any.
I am not absolutely positive there is no god. Only in the sense that I'm not absolutely positive there is no large china teapot in orbit in the solar system.
The idea that God could only forgive our sins by having his son tortured to death as a scapegoat is surely, from an objective point of view, a deeply unpleasant idea. If God wanted to forgive us our sins, why didn't he just forgive them? Why did he have to have his son tortured?
Creationists are possibly gaining more political power. In the U.S., you are constantly hearing stories of school boards harassing teachers and trying to get textbooks banned.
I think by the age of about nine I recognized that there were a lot of different religions, and it was an accident I happened to be born into one of them. If I had been born somewhere else, I would have had a different one. Which is a pretty good lesson, actually. Everyone should learn that.
It is possible in medicine, even when you intend to do good, to do harm instead. That is why science thrives on actively encouraging criticism rather than stifling it.
Again, it is belief without evidence. In the case of Stalinism, people actually distorted science, because it was for the good of the Communist Party.
Religions are not imaginative, not poetic, not soulful. On the contrary, they are parochial, small-minded, niggardly with the human imagination, precisely where science is generous.
I think we certainly benefit from social institutions which encourage us towards moral behavior. It's very important to have law. It's very important to have a moral education.
Whenever conditions arise in which a new kind of replicator can make copies of itself, the new replicators will tend to take over, and start a new kind of evolution of their own. Once this new evolution begins, it will in no necessary sense be subservient to the old.
You can make some inferences about a man's character if you know something about the conditions in which he has survived and prospered.
If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worst than ignorant, they are the deluded to the point of perversity.
We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA. ... This is exactly what we are for. We are machines for propagating DNA, and the propagation of DNA is a self-sustaining process. It is every living object's sole reason for living.
The rule of thumb based into the brain by natural selection would not have been, Be nice to your kin and be nice to potential reciprocators. It would have been, Be nice to everybody, because everybody would have been included.
After sleeping through a hundred million centuries, we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life.
After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked -- as I am surprisingly often -- why I bother to get up in the mornings.
Yes, testosterone-sodden young men too unattractive to get a woman in this world might be desperate enough to go for 72 private virgins in the next.
The God of the Old testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
Though the details differ across the world, no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth consuming, hostility provoking rituals, the anti-factual, counter-productive fantasies of religion.
Gravity is not a version of the truth. It is the truth. Anyone who doubts it is invited to jump out a tenth-storey window.
You cannot be both sane and well educated and disbelieve in evolution. The evidence is so strong that any sane, educated person has got to believe in evolution.
It can be consoling to think your children are in heaven. You have got to understand that that doesn't make it true. Many people cannot understand that distinction.
To describe religions as mind viruses is sometimes interpreted as contemptuous or even hostile. It is both. I am often asked why I am so hostile to organized religion.
Like computer viruses, successful mind viruses will tend to be hard for their victims to detect. If you are the victim of one, the chances are that you won't know it, and may even vigorously deny it.
Christopher Hitchens was a writer and an orator with a matchless style, commanding a vocabulary and a range of literary and historical allusion far wider than anybody I know.
The atheist view is correspondingly life-affirming and life-enhancing, while at the same time never being tainted with self-delusion, wishful thinking, or the whingeing self-pity of those who feel that life owes them something.
I believe that an orderly universe, one indifferent to human preoccupations, in which everything has an explanation even if we still have a long way to go before we find it, is a more beautiful, more wonderful place than a universe tricked out with capricious ad hoc magic.
What is interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading.
The Internet is by far the most important innovation in the media in my lifetime. It's like having a huge encyclopedia permanently available. There's a tremendous amount of rubbish on the world wide web, but retrieval of what you want to so rapid that it doesn't really matter.
If you divide Christians into denominations, agnostics and atheists come in third, behind Catholics and Baptists. That's interesting when you contrast it with the lack of influence of nonbelievers.
I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.
It is interesting to ask whether there's any general reason why being religious might make you do nice things or indeed nasty things. It's possible that people do nice things because they're religious. One reason might be they're hoping for a reward in Heaven, which is not a very noble reason.