Our brains are separate and independent enough from our genes to rebel against them.. we do so in a small way everytime we use contraception. There is no reason why we should not rebel in a large way too.
We have sexual lust even though we know perfectly well that, because we're using contraception, it is not going to result in the propagation of our genes. That doesn't matter, because the lust was built into our brains at a time when there was no contraception.
As my colleague, the physical chemist Peter Atkins, puts it, we must be equally agnostic about the theory that there is a teapot in orbrit around the planet Pluto. We can't disprove it. But that doesn't mean the theory that there is a teapot is on level terms with the theory that there isn't.
People who believe the earth was created 6000 years ago, when it's actually 4.5 billion years old, should also believe the width of North America is 8 yards. That is the scale of the error.
It is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.
Why did God make tigers so good at catching prey, and at the same time make prey so good at getting away from tigers? You'd think that if God wanted one thing or the other to happen he'd have engineered it rather better. Maybe he enjoyed the spectator sport?
More generally, as I shall repeat in Chapter 8, one of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.
Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.
Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose. Physics is the study of simple things that do not tempt us to invoke design.
My passion is for scientific truth. I don't much care about good and evil. ... I care about what's true.
We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.
Religion ends and philosophy begins, just as alchemy ends and chemistry begins, and astrology ends and astronomy begins.
Science is interesting, and if you don't agree you can fuck off.
Note: Dawkins was quoting a former editor of New Scientist Magazine, who is as yet unidentified (possibly Jeremy Webb).
It has become almost a cliché to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.
There are so many different faiths. How do you know the holy book you have been brought up with is the true one? And if all the others are wrong, what makes you think your holy book isn't wrong too?
Creationists eagerly seek a gap in present-day knowledge or understanding. If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default, must fill it.
Creationists eagerly seek a gap in present-day knowledge or understanding. If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default, must fill it. What worries thoughtful theologians such as Bonhoeffer is that gaps shrink as science advances, and God is threatened with eventually having nothing to do and nowhere to hide.
Why would an all-powerful creator decide to plant his carefully crafted species on islands and continents in exactly the appropriate pattern to suggest, irresistibly, that they had evolved and dispersed from the site of their evolution?
It is a remarkable coincidence that almost everyone has the same religion as their parents and it always just so happens they're the right religion.
Writing a computer virus program is child's play. Any fool can do it, which is why the silly little twerps who do have nothing to be proud of.
The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable.
The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.
The deceitful misquoting of scientists to suit an anti-scientific agenda ranks among the many unchristian habits of fundamentalist authors.
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).
All qualified physicists, biologists, cosmologists and geologists agree, on the basis of massive, mutually corroborating evidence, that the earth's age is at least four billion years.
Quantum mechanics, that brilliantly successful flagship theory of modern science, is deeply mysterious and hard to understand. Eastern mystics have always been deeply mysterious and hard to understand. Therefore, Eastern mystics must have been talking about quantum theory all along.
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think.
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.
A god who is capable of sending intelligible signals to millions of people simultaneously, and of receiving messages from all of them simultaneously, cannot be, whatever else he might be, simple. Such Bandwidth!
The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.
Nevertheless, they are obviously functional units of great importance, and it is now necessary to establish exactly what their role is.
Jesus was not content to derive his ethics from the scriptures of his upbringing. He explicitly departed from them. ... Since a principal thesis of this chapter is that we do not, and should not, derive our morals from scripture, Jesus has to be honoured as a model for that very thesis.
When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme's propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell.
We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.
Do those people who hold up the Bible as an inspiration to
moral rectitude have the slightest notion of what is actually written
Selection favours those genes which succeed in the presence of other genes, which in turn succeed in the presence of them.
I remember at the age of six regaling my poor little sister with stories about the planets, and how far away they were and which ones might have life.
I've been reading an Alabama newspaper that one man shot another man because he beat him in a Bible-quoting competition.
Blindness to suffering is an inherent consequence of natural selection. Nature is neither kind nor cruel but indifferent.
Whatever the claims of memes to be regarded as replicators in the same sense as genes, the first part of this chapter established that individual organisms are not replicators.
Faith can be very very dangerous, and deliberately to implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.
I think what I'd really like to see would be a mass consciousness-raising movement so that we would all become vegetarian.
It is a lamentable observation that because of the way our laws are skewed toward the plaintiff, London has become the libel capital of the world.
Don't feel embarrassed if you've never heard of William Lane Craig. He parades himself as a philosopher, but none of the professors of philosophy whom I consulted had heard his name, either.
Compassionate doctors sometimes lie to patients about the severity of their condition, and it is not always wrong to do so.
I didn't know children were expected to have literary heroes, but I certainly had one, and I even identified with him at one time: Doctor Dolittle, whom I now half identify with the Charles Darwin of Beagle days.
What Darwinian theory shows us is that all human races are extremely close to each other. None of them is in any sense ancestral to any other; none of them is more primitive than any other. We are all modern races of exactly equal status, evolutionarily speaking.
I do think imagination is enormously valuable, and that children should be encouraged in their imagination. That's very true.
I read novels for entertainment rather than for edification, so I tend not to read the sort of novels that are said to illuminate the human condition.
I'm fond of science fiction. But not all science fiction. I like science fiction where there's a scientific lesson, for example -- when the science fiction book changes one thing but leaves the rest of science intact and explores the consequences of that. That's actually very valuable.
Science -- or the products of science like technology -- is just a way of achieving something real, something that happens, something that works.
We frequently look into the future of mankind and see dangers. We see if we carry on doing what we are doing in 20 years' time there will be no rainforests left, just to use one example. Looking into the future may be one of the reasons that brains evolved in the first place.
The central dogma of the New Testament is that Jesus died as a scapegoat for the sin of Adam and the sins that all we unborn generations might have been contemplating in the future. Adam's sin is perhaps mitigated by the extenuating circumstance that he didn't exist.
Do you advocate the Ten Commandments as a guide to the good life? Then I can only presume that you don't know the Ten Commandments.
If you read Islamic creationist literature, it's pretty much lifted from American evangelical literature.
We are a unique ape. We have language. Other animals have systems of communication that fall far short of that. They don't have the same ability to communicate complicated conditionals and what-ifs and talk about things that are not present.
The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It's almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren't that interested in whether Jesus was real.
Rather than say he's an atheist, a friend of mine says, 'I'm a tooth fairy agnostic,' meaning he can't disprove God but thinks God is about as likely as the tooth fairy.
What's going to happen when I die? I may be buried, or I may be cremated, I may give my body to science. I haven't decided yet.
The interesting question would be whether there's a Darwinian process, a kind of selection process whereby some memes are more likely to spread than others, because people like them, because they're popular, because they're catchy or whatever it might be.
If your plane is being hijacked by an armed man who, though prepared to take risks, presumably wants to go on living, there is room for bargaining.
As Darwin himself was at pains to point out, natural selection is all about differential survival within species, not between them.
In the World Wars, people were perfectly able to shoot other people just because they belonged to the wrong country, without ever asking what their opinions were. Faith too is like that.
I like to think 'The God Delusion' is a humorous book. I think, actually, it's full of laughs. And people who describe it as a polarizing book or as an aggressive book, it's just that very often they haven't read it.
Every night of our lives, we dream, and our brain concocts visions which are, at least until we wake up, highly convincing. Most of us have had experiences which are verging on hallucination. It shows the power of the brain to knock up illusions.
I think it's misleading to use a word like 'God' in the way Einstein did. I'm sorry that Einstein did. I think he was asking for trouble, and he certainly was misunderstood.
What's wrong with being elitist if you are trying to encourage people to join the elite rather than being exclusive?
I was never much bothered about moral questions like, 'How could there be a good God when there's so much evil in the world?'
Humans are just a very, very small part of the panoply of life, and it is arguable that in a certain sense, humans have emancipated themselves from Darwinian selection.
I think a fundamentalist is somebody who believes something unshakably and isn't going to change their mind.
I don't actually think 'The Selfish Gene' is a very good title. I think that's one of my worst titles.
Nico Tinbergen was my doctoral supervisor, and he was a benign, avuncular sort of influence; everybody loved him.
The state of Israel seems to owe its very existence to the American Jewish vote, while at the same time consigning the non-religious to political oblivion.
I have begun several projects which were never completed, not necessarily because they failed, but because I got interested in other things.
I can remember at the age of about six being fascinated by the planets and learning all about Mars and Venus and things.
There's branches of science which I don't understand; for example, physics. It could be said, I suppose, that I have faith that physicists understand it better than I do.
The reason we personify things like cars and computers is that just as monkeys live in an arboreal world and moles live in an underground world and water striders live in a surface tension-dominated flatland, we live in a social world.
The history of science has been one long series of violent brainstorms, as successive generations have come to terms with increasing levels of queerness in the universe.
There are many religious points of view where the conservation of the world is just as important as it is to scientists.
Disagreements between incompatible beliefs cannot be settled by reasoned argument because reasoned argument is drummed out of those trained in religion from the cradle.
In the 1920s and 1930s, scientists from both the political left and right would not have found the idea of designer babies particularly dangerous -- though, of course, they would not have used that phrase.
When a company seeks a new chief executive officer, or a university a new vice-chancellor, enormous trouble is taken to find the best person.
The population of the U.S. is nearly 300 million, including many of the best educated, most talented, most resourceful, humane people on earth. By almost any measure of civilised attainment, from Nobel prize-counts on down, the U.S. leads the world by miles.
If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.
If you set out in a spaceship to find the one planet in the galaxy that has life, the odds against your finding it would be so great that the task would be indistinguishable, in practice, from impossible.
Either Jesus had a father, or he didn't. The question is a scientific one, and scientific evidence, if any were available, would be used to settle it.
If Bush and Blair are eventually put on trial for war crimes, I shall not be among those pressing for them to be hanged.
The obvious objections to the execution of Saddam Hussein are valid and well aired. His death will provoke violent strife between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and between Iraqis in general and the American occupation forces.
Anybody who has something sensible or worthwhile to say should be able to say it calmly and soberly, relying on the words themselves to convey his meaning, without resorting to yelling.
Astrology is an aesthetic affront. It cheapens astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles.
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.'
There are risks in the sheer brevity of Twitter, and it's actually quite an elegant art reducing what you have to say to 140 characters, and it's something that I quite enjoy attempting to do.
I think my love of truth and honesty forces me to notice that the liberal intelligentsia of Western countries is betraying itself where Islam is concerned.
I did a film that's on YouTube of me reading hate mail with a woman playing the cello in the background.
People really, really hate their religion being criticized. It's as though you've said they had an ugly face; they seem to identify personally with it.
Any teaching of falsehoods in science classes should certainly be identified and stopped by school inspectors. School inspectors should be looking at science teachings to make sure they are evidence-based science.
The supernatural is ubiquitous in children's entertainment, from Grimm and Hans Andersen to Disney and 'Harry Potter.'
Notoriously, the United States is the most religious of the Western advanced nations. It's a bit mysterious why that is.
I would like to find a way in which people in Saudi Arabia could learn that they can be something other than a Muslim. Some people may not realize this. Of course, there is the problem that you can get in trouble or get stoned.
Something about the cultural tradition of Jews is way, way more sympathetic to science and learning and intellectual pursuits than Islam.
I am baffled by the way sophisticated theologians who know Adam and Eve never existed still keep talking about it.
Darwin gives courage to the rest of science that we shall end up understanding literally everything, springing from almost nothing -- a thought extremely hard to comprehend and believe.
I guess the Democrats have to pretend to be more pious than the Republicans because they are under suspicion of not being.
Coming out as an atheist can cost an academic his or her job in some parts of America, and many choose to keep quiet about their atheism.
Of course, we would love to know more about the exact moment of Big Bang, but interposing an outside intelligence does nothing to add to that knowledge, as we still know nothing about the creation of that intelligence.
If there are other worlds elsewhere in the universe, I would conjecture they are governed by the same laws of natural selection.
How any government could promote the Vardy academies in the North-East of England is absolutely beyond me. Tony Blair defends them on grounds of diversity, but it should be unthinkable in the 21st century to have a school whose head of science believes the world is less than 10,000 years old.
I've never been the sort of firebrand that I've been made out to be. I'm actually quite a mild person.
A universe with a creator would be a totally different kind of universe, scientifically speaking, than one without.
You can't understand European history at all other than through religion, or English literature either if you can't recognise biblical allusions.
A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.
The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible. Not only should we not get our moral compass from religion, as a matter of fact we don't.
If you think about it, 534 members of the U.S. Congress cannot all be religious. That's just statistical nonsense. Many of them are quite well-educated.
There are people who try to get atheists to form a sort of atheist church and have atheist community singsongs and things. I don't see the need for that, but if people want to do it, why shouldn't they?
I think that people in the Bible Belt are far less monolithically religious than many people imagine. There are lots and lots of people who are free-thinking, secularists, or atheists in the so-called Bible Belt.
Just as I wouldn't expect a gynecologist to have a debate with somebody who believes in the Stork-theory of reproduction, I won't do debates with Young Earth creationists.
I have a strong feeling that the subject of evolution is beautiful without the excuse of creationists needing to be bashed.
You can't imagine how gratifying it is to have a reader come up to you and say, 'You changed my life.'
The psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown great courage, in the face of spiteful vested interests, in demonstrating how easy it is for people to concoct memories that are entirely false but which seem, to the victim, every bit as real as true memories.
If I say that I am more interested in preventing the slaughter of large whales than I am in improving housing conditions for people, I am likely to shock some of my friends.
Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs.
The world is well supplied with spiders whose male ancestors died after mating. The world is bereft of spiders whose would-be ancestors never mated in the first place.
Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a different reason: It gives them something to do.
All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation.
Of course you can use the products of science to do bad things, but you can use them to do good things, too.
There's clearly a lot of Ludditism, and you see it in all the hysteria about every scientific story.
You can't even begin to understand biology, you can't understand life, unless you understand what it's all there for, how it arose -- and that means evolution.
I wouldn't want to have the thought police going to people's homes, dictating what they teach their children. I don't want to be Big Brotherish. I would hate that.
As a liberal, I would hesitate to propose a blanket ban on any style of dress because of the implications for individual liberty and freedom of choice.
For me, the level at which natural selection causes the phenomenon of adaptation is the level of the replicator -- the gene.
Why did humans lose their body hair? Why did they start walking on their hind legs? Why did they develop big brains? I think that the answer to all three questions is sexual selection.
I was brought up in a family which valued natural history. Both my parents knew the names of all the British wildflowers, so as we went walking the country, I was constantly being exposed to a natural history sort of knowledge.
I want very much to communicate science to as wide an audience as possible, but not at a cost of dumbing down, and not at a cost in getting things right.
We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes.
We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes. Our common ancestor with the chimpanzees and gorillas is much more recent than their common ancestor with the Asian apes -- the gibbons and orangutans. There is no natural category that includes chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans but excludes humans.