When the ancestors of the cheetah first began pursuing the ancestors of the gazelle, neither of them could run as fast as they can today.
I did not end up as broadly educated as my Cambridge colleagues, but I graduated probably better equipped to write a book on my chosen subject.
I live in a post-Christian world in Oxford; it is quite rare to meet somebody who is religious in academic life now, and there is absolutely no tendency for rioting and mayhem, and it is extremely civilised.
I certainly would absolutely never do what some of my American colleagues do and object to religious symbols being used, putting crosses up in the public square and things like that. I don't fret about that at all; I'm quite happy about that.
I suppose I'm a cultural Anglican, and I see evensong in a country church through much the same eyes as I see a village cricket match on the village green. I have a certain love for it.
We've all been brought up with the view that religion has some kind of special privileged status. You're not allowed to criticise it.
Scientists disagree among themselves but they never fight over their disagreements. They argue about evidence or go out and seek new evidence. Much the same is true of philosophers, historians and literary critics.
Science coverage could be improved by the recognition that science is timeless, and therefore science stories should not need to be pegged to an item in the news.
The Bible should be taught, but emphatically not as reality. It is fiction, myth, poetry, anything but reality. As such it needs to be taught because it underlies so much of our literature and our culture.
The chances of each of us coming into existence are infinitesimally small, and even though we shall all die some day, we should count ourselves fantastically lucky to get our decades in the sun.
At least the fundamentalists haven't tried to dilute their message. Their faith is exposed for what it is for all to see.
The enlightenment is under threat. So is reason. So is truth. So is science, especially in the schools of America.
I am one of those scientists who feels that it is no longer enough just to get on and do science. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organised ignorance.
I'm a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims.
If ever there was a slamming of the door in the face of constructive investigation, it is the word miracle. To a medieval peasant, a radio would have seemed like a miracle.
It's an important point to realize that the genetic programming of our lives is not fully deterministic. It is statistical -- it is in any animal merely statistical -- not deterministic.
The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside.
At the deepest level, all living things that have ever been looked at have the same DNA code. And many of the same genes.
Of course in science there are things that are open to doubt and things need to be discussed. But among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know.
I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research.
I do disapprove very strongly of labelling children, especially young children, as something like 'Catholic children' or 'Protestant children' or 'Islamic children.'
I once wrote that anybody who believes the world is only 6,000 years old is either ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.
Sometimes I think it's possible to mistake desire for clarity and talking in a no-nonsense way for aggression.
I suppose if you look back to your early childhood you accept everything people tell you, and that includes a heavy dose of irrationality -- you're told about tooth fairies and Father Christmas and things.
Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.
Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun.
A universe with a God would look quite different from a universe without one. A physics, a biology where there is a God is bound to look different. So the most basic claims of religion are scientific. Religion is a scientific theory.
What has 'theology' ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has 'theology' ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that 'theology' is a subject at all?
One of the things that is wrong with religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not really answers at all.
But perhaps the rest of us could have separate classes in science appreciation, the wonder of science, scientific ways of thinking, and the history of scientific ideas, rather than laboratory experience.
We should take astrology seriously. No, I don't mean we should believe in it. I am talking about fighting it seriously instead of humouring it as a piece of harmless fun.
It's a horrible idea that God, this paragon of wisdom and knowledge, power, couldn't think of a better way to forgive us our sins than to come down to Earth in his alter ego as his son and have himself hideously tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.
Many people want to send their children to faith schools because they get good exam results, but they're not foolish enough to believe that it's because of faith that they get good exam results.
The fact that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.
Isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be part of it?
I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine.
The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no.
When I say that human beings are just gene machines, one shouldn't put too much emphasis on the word 'just.' There is a very great deal of complication, and indeed beauty in being a gene machine.
There is no refutation of Darwinian evolution in existence. If a refutation ever were to come about, it would come from a scientist, and not an idiot.
Secularism is categorically not saying that the religious may not speak out publicly or have a say in public life. It is about saying that religion alone should not confer a privileged say in public life, or greater influence on it. It really is as simple as that.
Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.
Humans have a proven track record in taking over planes by the use of threats, which work because the legitimate pilots value their own lives and those of their passengers.
To put it bluntly, American political opportunities are heavily loaded against those who are simultaneously intelligent and honest.
The very idea of supernatural magic -- including miracles -- is incoherent, devoid of sensible meaning.
Far from being demeaning to human spiritual values, scientific rationalism is the crowning glory of the human spirit.
Far from being demeaning to human spiritual values, scientific rationalism is the crowning glory of the human spirit. Of course you can use the products of science to do bad things, but you can use them to do good things too.
If we are too friendly to nice, decent bishops, we run the risk of buying into the fiction that there's something virtuous about believing things because of faith rather than because of evidence. We run the risk of betraying scientific enlightenment.
If you look up at the Milky Way through the eyes of Carl Sagan, you get a feeling in your chest of something greater than yourself. And it is. But it's not supernatural.
If children understand that beliefs should be substantiated with evidence, as opposed to tradition, authority, revelation or faith, they will automatically work out for themselves that they are atheists.
Nothing is wrong with peace and love. It is all the more regrettable that so many of Christ's followers seem to disagree.
The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity.
God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture.
The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.
Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.
For the first half of geological time our ancestors were bacteria. Most creatures still are bacteria, and each one of our trillions of cells is a colony of bacteria.
I sympathize with politicians who have to watch every syllable they utter for fear it will be misused by somebody with an agenda.
Our animal origins are constantly lurking behind, even if they are filtered through complicated social evolution.
I do understand people when they say that you destroy the magic of childhood if you encourage too much skeptical questioning.
I'm fascinated by the idea that genetics is digital. A gene is a long sequence of coded letters, like computer information. Modern biology is becoming very much a branch of information technology.
The usefulness of science is sometimes exaggerated. You'd never talk about music being useful or art being useful.
Bereavement is terrible, of course. And when somebody you love dies, it's a time for reflection, a time for memory, a time for regret.
Science has taught us, against all intuition, that apparently solid things like crystals and rocks are really almost entirely composed of empty space. And the familiar illustration is the nucleus of an atom is a fly in the middle of a sports stadium, and the next atom is in the next sports stadium.
All the fossils that we have ever found have always been found in the appropriate place in the time sequence. There are no fossils in the wrong place.
I do sometimes accuse people of ignorance, but that is not intended to be an insult. I'm ignorant of lots of things. Ignorance is something that can be remedied by education.
When you make machines that are capable of obeying instructions slavishly, and among those instructions are 'duplicate me' instructions, then of course the system is wide open to exploitation by parasites.
Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.
Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.
We have to find our own purposes in life, which are not derived directly from our scientific history.
Don't kid yourself that you're going to live again after you're dead; you're not. Make the most of the one life you've got. Live it to the full.
We humans are an extremely important manifestation of the replication bomb, because it is through us -- through our brains, our symbolic culture and our technology -- that the explosion may proceed to the next stage and reverberate through deep space.
Design can never be an ultimate explanation for anything. It can only be a proximate explanation. A plane or a car is explained by a designer but that's because the designer himself, the engineer, is explained by natural selection.
From a Darwinian perspective, it is clear what pain is doing. It's a warning: 'Don't do that again.' If you burn yourself, you're never going to pick up a live coal again.
Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that.
We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can't disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Religious fanatics want people to switch off their own minds, ignore the evidence, and blindly follow a holy book based upon private 'revelation'.
Even if you believe a creator god invented the laws of physics, would you so insult him as to suggest that he might capriciously and arbitrarily violate them in order to walk on water, or turn water into wine as a cheap party trick at a wedding?
By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.
By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out. -this quote is actually found in Carl Sagan's book The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, where he attributes it to engineer James Oberg, who says he stole it from someone else.
Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.