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    Clinton richard dawkins Clinton richard dawkins Document Transcript

    • Clinton Richard Dawkins (1941 - ) Oxford zoologist, author and media commentator, famous for his popular science books on evolution and his views on religion, atheism and "cultural evolution". General Quotes • "Life results from the non-random survival of randomly varying replicators." o Notes: Leon Lederman, the physicist and Nobel laureate, once half- jokingly remarked that the real goal of physics was to come up with an equation that could explain the universe but still be small enough to fit on a T-shirt. In that spirit, Dawkins offered up his own T-shirt slogan for the ongoing evolution revolution. • The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry. • There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out. • "By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out." - Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder BBC1 TV, 1996/11/12 • ...when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong. • It is grindingly, creakingly, crashingly obvious that if Darwinism was really a theory of chance, it could not work. • With so many mindbytes to be downloaded, so many mental codons to be replicated, it is no wonder that child brains are gullible, open to almost any suggestion, vulnerable to subversion, easy prey to Moonies, Scientologists and nuns. • ...it is a telling fact that, the world over, the vast majority of children follow the religion of their parents rather than any of the other available religions. • 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. • The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn't seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as 'faith'.
    • • 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. • It may be that brain hardware has co-evolved with the internal virtual worlds that it creates. This can be called hardware-software co-evolution. • It is an article of passionate faith among "politically correct" biologists and anthropologists that brain size has no connection with intelligence; that intelligence has nothing to do with genes; and that genes are probably nasty fascist things anyway. • ...the likelihood is that, in 100,000 years time, we shall either have reverted to wild barbarism, or else civilisation will have advanced beyond all recognition-- into colonies in outer space... • We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes. • Hot on the heels of its magnanimous pardoning of Galileo, the Vatican has now moved with even more lightning speed to recognise the truth of Darwinism. • Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the "know-nothings", the "know-alls", and the "no-contests". • Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don't know it. • 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. • The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion. • 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. • There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies? • Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain. 2
    • • Thus the creationist's favourite question "What is the use of half an eye?" Actually, this is a lightweight question, a doddle to answer. Half an eye is just 1 per cent better than 49 per cent of an eye... • For the kinds of small animals we are talking about, we can assume one generation per year, so it seems that it would take less than half a million years to evolve a good camera eye. • 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). • 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. • Paranormal phenomena have a habit of going away whenever they are tested under rigorous conditions. This is why the $740,000 reward of James Randi, offered to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal effect under proper scientific controls, is safe. • If you are in possession of this revolutionary secret of science, why not prove it and be hailed as the new Newton? Of course, we know the answer. You can't do it. You are a fake. • The universe is a strange and wondrous place. The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudo-scientific charlatans. • You could give Aristotle a tutorial. And you could thrill him to the core of his being ... Such is the privilege of living after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues. • 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. • 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's been suggested that if the super-naturalists really had the powers they claim, they'd win the lottery every week. I prefer to point out that they could also win a Nobel Prize for discovering fundamental physical forces hitherto unknown to science. 3
    • • How do we account for the current paranormal vogue in the popular media? Perhaps it has something to do with the millennium - in which case it's depressing to realise that the millennium is still three years away. • The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear. • 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. • I don't want to sound callous. I mean, even if I have nothing to offer, that doesn't matter, because that still doesn't mean that what anybody else has to offer therefore has to be true. • Most of what we strive for in our modern life uses the apparatus of goal seeking that was originally set up to seek goals in the state of nature. • I think it is not helpful to apply Darwinian language too widely. Conquest of nation by nation is too distant for Darwinian explanations to be helpful. • Group selection of any kind is not Darwinism as Darwin understood it nor as I understand it. • Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. 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 • 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, a child. • ...the stereo-type of scientists being scruffy nerds with rows of pens in their top pocket is just about as wicked as racist stereotypes. • I want science to be taken seriously, because, after all, it's less ephemeral--it has a more eternal aspect than whatever the politics of the day might be, which, of course, gets the lead in the news. • Religions do make claims about the universe--the same kinds of claims that scientists make, except they're usually false. • It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe.. 4
    • • Who will say with confidence that sexual abuse is more permanently damaging to children than threatening them with the eternal and unquenchable fires of hell? • Justifying space exploration because we get non-stick frying pans is like justifying music because it is good exercise for the violinists right arm. • I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world • We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. • 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. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,1294822,00.html) From Papers and Commentary by Dawkins The Richard Dimbleby Lecture: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder • You could give Aristotle a tutorial. And you could thrill him to the core of his being. Aristotle was an encyclopedic polymath, an all time intellect. Yet not only can you know more than him about the world. You also can have a deeper understanding of how everything works. Such is the privilege of living after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues. • 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. • 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. • 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. The trick is to want the right things, then science will provide you with the most effective methods of achieving them. • 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. • It really comes down to parsimony, economy of explanation. It is possible that your car engine is driven by psychokinetic energy, but if it looks like a petrol 5
    • engine, smells like a petrol engine and performs exactly as well as a petrol engine, the sensible working hypothesis is that it is a petrol engine. • It's been suggested that if the super-naturalists really had the powers they claim, they'd win the lottery every week. I prefer to point out that they could also win a Nobel Prize for discovering fundamental physical forces hitherto unknown to science. Either way, why are they wasting their talents doing party turns on television? • How do we account for the current paranormal vogue in the popular media? Perhaps it has something to do with the millennium - in which case it's depressing to realise that the millennium is still three years away. • The popularity of the paranormal, oddly enough, might even be grounds for encouragement . I think that the appetite for mystery, the enthusiasm for that which we do not understand, is healthy and to be fostered. It is the same appetite which drives the best of true science, and it is an appetite which true science is best qualified to satisfy. • You contain a trillion copies of a large, textual document written in a highly accurate, digital code, each copy as voluminous as a substantial book. I'm talking, of course, of the DNA in your cells. • You don't have to be a scientist - you don't have to play the bunsen burner - in order to understand enough science to overtake your imagined need and fill that fancied gap. Science needs to be released from the lab into the culture. Viruses of the Mind (1993) • "I have just discovered that without her father's consent this sweet, trusting, gullible six-year-old is being sent, for weekly instruction, to a Roman Catholic nun. What chance has she?" • "With so many mind-bytes to be downloaded, so many mental codons to be replicated, it is no wonder that child brains are gullible, open to almost any suggestion, vulnerable to subversion, easy prey to Moonies, Scientologists and nuns. Like immune-deficient patients, children are wide open to mental infections that adults might brush off without effort." • "Think about the two qualities that a virus, or any sort of parasitic replicator, demands of a friendly medium,. the two qualities that make cellular machinery so friendly towards parasitic DNA, and that make computers so friendly towards computer viruses. These qualities are, firstly, a readiness to replicate information accurately, perhaps with some mistakes that are subsequently reproduced accurately; and, secondly, a readiness to obey instructions encoded in the information so replicated." 6
    • • "The second requirement of a virus-friendly environment --- that it should obey a program of coded instructions --- is again only quantitatively less true for brains than for cells or computers. We sometimes obey orders from one another, but also we sometimes don't. Nevertheless, it is a telling fact that, the world over, the vast majority of children follow the religion of their parents rather than any of the other available religions. Instructions to genuflect, to bow towards Mecca, to nod one's head rhythmically towards the wall, to shake like a maniac, to ``speak in tongues --- the list of such arbitrary and pointless motor patterns offered by religion alone is extensive --- are obeyed, if not slavishly, at least with some reasonably high statistical probability. " • "Ten years ago, you could have travelled thousands of miles through the United States and never seen a baseball cap turned back to front. Today, the reverse baseball cap is ubiquitous. I do not know what the pattern of geographical spread of the reverse baseball cap precisely was, but epidemiology is certainly among the professions primarily qualified to study it." • "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. Accepting that a virus might be difficult to detect in your own mind, what tell-tale signs might you look out for? I shall answer by imaging how a medical textbook might describe the typical symptoms of a sufferer (arbitrarily assumed to be male)." • "1. The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn't seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as 'faith.' " • "If you have a faith, it is statistically overwhelmingly likely that it is the same faith as your parents and grandparents had. 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. The convictions that you so passionately believe would have been a completely different, and largely contradictory, set of convictions, if only you had happened to be born in a different place. Epidemiology, not evidence." The Evolutionary Future of Man • "It seems to follow that there is no general reason to expect evolution to be progressive--even in the weak, value-neutral sense. There will be times when increased size of some organ is favoured and other times when decreased size is favoured. Most of the time, average-sized individuals will be favoured in the population and both extremes will be penalised. During these times the population exhibits evolutionary stasis (ie, no change) with respect to the factor being measured. If we had a complete fossil record and looked for trends in some 7
    • particular dimension, such as leg length, we would expect to see periods of no change alternating with fitful continuations or reversals in direction--like a weathervane in changeable, gusty weather." • "arms races probably account for the spectacularly advanced engineering of eyes, ears, brains, bat "radar" and all the other high-tech weaponry that animals display." • "It may be that brain hardware has co-evolved with the internal virtual worlds that it creates. This can be called hardware-software co-evolution." • "It is an article of passionate faith among "politically correct" biologists and anthropologists that brain size has no connection with intelligence; that intelligence has nothing to do with genes; and that genes are probably nasty fascist things anyway." • "But the likelihood is that, in 100,000 years time, we shall either have reverted to wild barbarism, or else civilisation will have advanced beyond all recognition-- into colonies in outer space, for instance. In either case, evolutionary extrapolations from present conditions are likely to be highly misleading." • "The late Christopher Evans, a psychologist and author, calculated that if the motor car had evolved as fast as the computer, and over the same time period, 'Today you would be able to buy a Rolls-Royce for ?.35, it would do three million miles to the gallon, and it would deliver enough power to drive the QE2.'" • "Scientific and technological progress themselves are value-neutral. They are just very good at doing what they do. If you want to do selfish, greedy, intolerant and violent things, scientific technology will provide you with by far the most efficient way of doing so. But if you want to do good, to solve the world's problems, to progress in the best value-laden sense, once again, there is no better means to those ends than the scientific way." Gaps in the Mind • "But it is we that choose to divide animals up into discontinuous species. On the evolutionary view of life there must have been intermediates, even though, conveniently for our naming rituals, they are usually extinct" • "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." 8
    • • "Molecular evidence suggests that our common ancestor with chimpanzees lived, in Africa, between five and seven million years ago, say half a million generations ago. This is not long by evolutionary standards. ... in your left hand you hold the right hand of your mother. In turn she holds the hand of her mother, your grandmother. Your grandmother holds her mother's hand, and so on. ... How far do we have to go until we reach our common ancestor with the chimpanzees? It is a surprisingly short way. Allowing one yard per person, we arrive at the ancestor we share with chimpanzees in under 300 miles." On Debating Religion • "Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the 'know-nothings', the 'know-alls', and the 'no-contests'." • "I suspect that today if you asked people to justify their belief in God, the dominant reason would be scientific. Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don't know it." • "A universe with a God would like 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." • "The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion. If a physicist says God is another name for Planck's constant, or God is a superstring, we should take it as a picturesque metaphorical way of saying that the nature of superstrings or the value of Planck's constant is a profound mystery. It has obviously not the smallest connection with a being capable of forgiving sins, a being who might listen to prayers, who cares about whether or not the Sabbath begins at 5pm or 6pm, whether you wear a veil or have a bit of arm showing; and no connection whatever with a being capable of imposing a death penalty on His son to expiate the sins of the world before and after he was born." • "Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one." 9
    • • "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." • "It is often said, mainly by the 'no-contests', that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?" • "Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain. It postulates the difficult to explain, and leaves it at that." Where'd You Get Those Peepers • "Thus the creationist's favourite question "What is the use of half an eye?" Actually, this is a lightweight question, a doddle to answer. Half an eye is just 1 per cent better than 49 per cent of an eye, which is already better than 48 per cent, and the difference is significant." • "Nilsson and Pelger began with a flat retina atop a flat pigment layer and surmounted by a flat, protective transparent layer. The transparent layer was allowed to undergo localised random mutations of its refractive index. They then let the model deform itself at random, constrained only by the requirement that any change must be small and must be an improvement on what went before. ... The results were swift and decisive. A trajectory of steadily mounting acuity led unhesitatingly from the flat beginning through a shallow indentation to a steadily deepening cup, as the shape of the model eye deformed itself on the computer screen. The transparent layer thickened to fill the cup and smoothly bulged its outer surface in a curve. And then, almost like a conjuring trick, a portion of this transparent filling condensed into a local, spherical subregion of higher refractive index. Not uniformly higher, but a gradient of refractive index such that the spherical region functioned as an excellent graded- index lens." • "But even with these conservative assumptions, the time taken to evolve a fish eye from flat skin was minuscule: fewer than 400,000 generations. For the kinds of small animals we are talking about, we can assume one generation per year, so it seems that it would take less than half a million years to evolve a good camera eye." 10
    • The Real Romance in the Stars • "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." • "There's this thing called being so open-minded your brains drop out." • "Note, accordingly, how little it means to say something like "Uranus moves into Aquarius". 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). 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'." • "The shape of a constellation, moreover, is ephemeral. A million years ago our Homo erectus ancestors gazed out nightly at a set of very different constellations. A million years hence, our descendants will see yet other shapes in the sky, and their astrologer (if our species has not grown up and sent them packing long since) will be fabricating their oracles on the basis of a different zodiac." • "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." Human Gullibility Beyond Belief • "Yet scientists are required to back up their claims not with private feelings but with publicly checkable evidence. Their experiments must have rigorous controls to eliminate spurious effects. And statistical analysis eliminates the suspicion (or at least measures the likelihood) that the apparent effect might have happened by chance alone." • Paranormal phenomena have a habit of going away whenever they are tested under rigorous conditions. This is why the $740,000 reward of James Randi, offered to anyone who can demonstrate a paranormal effect under proper scientific controls, is safe. Why don't the television editors insist on some equivalently rigorous test? Could it be that they believe the alleged paranormal powers would evaporate and bang go the ratings?" • "Consider this. If a paranormalist could really give an unequivocal demonstration of telepathy (precognition, psychokinesis, reincarnation, whatever it is), he would be the discoverer of a totally new principle unknown to physical science. The discoverer of the new energy field that links mind to mind in telepathy, or of the new fundamental force that moves objects around a table top, deserves a Nobel prize and would probably get one. If you are in possession of this revolutionary 11
    • secret of science, why not prove it and be hailed as the new Newton? Of course, we know the answer. You can't do it. You are a fake." • "Yet the final indictment against the television decision-makers is more profound and more serious. Their recent splurge of paranormalism debauches true science and undermines the efforts of their own excellent science departments. The universe is a strange and wondrous place. The truth is quite odd enough to need no help from pseudo-scientific charlatans. The public appetite for wonder can be fed, through the powerful medium of television, without compromising the principles of honesty and reason." From Interviews and Articles about Dawkins An Interview by Sheena McDonald • "The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear. It is an immensely exciting experience to be born in the world, born in the universe, and look around you and realise that before you die you have the opportunity of understanding an immense amount about that world and about that universe and about life and about why we're here. We have the opportunity of understanding far, far more than any of our predecessors ever. That is such an exciting possibility, it would be such a shame to blow it and end your life not having understood what there is to understand." • "Maybe somewhere in some other galaxy there is a super-intelligence so colossal that from our point of view it would be a god. But it cannot have been the sort of God that we need to explain the origin of the universe, because it cannot have been there that early." • McDonald: "Now a lot of people find great comfort from religion. Not everybody is as you are-- well-favoured, handsome, wealthy, with a good job, happy family life. I mean, your life is good-- not everybody's life is good, and religion brings them comfort." Dawkins: "There are all sorts of things that would be comforting. I expect an injection of morphine would be comforting-- it might be more comforting, for all I know. But to say that something is comforting is not to say that it's true." • "It is a very helpful insight to say we are vehicles for our DNA, we are hosts for DNA parasites which are our genes. Those are insights which help us to understand an aspect of life. But it's emotive to say, that's all there is to it, we might as well give up going to Shakespeare plays and give up listening to music and things, because that's got nothing to do with it. That's an entirely different subject." 12
    • • "I don't want to sound callous. I mean, even if I have nothing to offer, that doesn't matter, because that still doesn't mean that what anybody else has to offer therefore has to be true." Darwin's Dangerous Disciple: An Interview by Frank Miele • "Most of what we strive for in our modern life uses the apparatus of goal seeking that was originally set up to seek goals in the state of nature." • "...but the dominance hierarchy itself is not something that natural selection favours or disfavours. What natural selection favours or disfavours is the individual behaviour of which the dominance hierarchy is a manifestation. I would put war and overpopulation in that category." • "I think it is not helpful to apply Darwinian language too widely. Conquest of nation by nation is too distant for Darwinian explanations to be helpful. Darwinism is the differential survival of self-replicating genes in a gene pool, usually as manifested by individual behaviour, morphology, and phenotypes. Group selection of any kind is not Darwinism as Darwin understood it nor as I understand it. There is a very vague analogy between group selection and conquest of a nation by another nation, but I don't think it's a very helpful analogy. So I would prefer not to invoke Darwinian language for that kind of historical interpretation." • "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." Going the Whole Hog • "You see, if you say something positive like the whole of life - all living things- is descended from a single common ancestor which lived about 4,000 million years ago and that we are all cousins, well that is an exceedingly important and true thing to say and that is what I want to say. Somebody who is religious sees that as threatening and so I am represented as attacking religion, and I am forced into responding to their reaction. But you do not have to see my main purpose as attacking religion. Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. 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. And that is what is so exciting for me." 13
    • Revolutionary Evolutionist • "When I wrote this program, I never thought that it would evolve anything more than a variety of treelike shapes. I had hoped for weeping willows, cedars of Lebanon, Lombardy poplars, seaweeds, perhaps deer antlers. Nothing in my biologist's intuition, nothing in my 20 years experience of programming computers, and nothing in my wildest dreams prepared me for what actually emerged on screen. I can't remember exactly when in the sequence it first began to dawn on me that an evolved resemblance to something like an insect was possible. With a wild surmise, I began to breed, generation after generation, from whichever child looked most like an insect. My incredulity grew in parallel with the evolving resemblance.... I still cannot conceal from you my feeling of exultation as I first watched these exquisite creatures emerging before my eyes. I distinctly heard the triumphal opening chords of 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' (the 2001 theme) in my mind. I couldn't eat, and that night 'my' insects swarmed behind my eyelids as I tried to sleep." • "My prize would be for a visually appealing world in which the life-forms have a visible, and preferably 3-D, morphology on the computer screen. They must evolve adaptations not just to 'inanimate' factors like the weather (which would produce essentially predictable, not emergent evolution) but to other evolving life forms (which is a recipe for emergent properties)." Science Offers Solace for the Selfish Gene • "What are all of us but self-reproducing robots?" he asked. "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, a child." Richard Dawkins' Evolution • "...a fairly common pattern in television news: right at the end a smile comes onto the face of the newsreader and this is the scientific joke--'some scientist has proved that such and such is the case.' ... And it's clearly the bit of fun at the end, it's not serious at all. I want science to be taken seriously, because, after all, it's less ephemeral--it has a more eternal aspect than whatever the politics of the day might be, which, of course, gets the lead in the news." • "Very often in science one finds that there are ideas in the air, and lots of people hold them, but they don't even realise they hold them. The person who can crystallise them, and lay out not only the central idea but its implications for future scientific research can often make a tremendous contribution. And I think that's what 'The Selfish Gene' did. Lots of scientists, they'd been Darwinians all their lives, but they'd been inarticulate Darwinians. And now they really understood what was foundational to Darwinism and what was peripheral. And once you understand what is foundational, then you begin to deduce conclusions." 14
    • • "I really want to say that there are no major disagreements." But he added, "I think the tendency of American intellectuals to learn their evolution from him [Gould] is unfortunate, and that's putting it mildly." • "Religions do make claims about the universe--the same kinds of claims that scientists make, except they're usually false." • "It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe.." • "I'm a friendly enough sort of chap," Dawkins told me. "I'm not a hostile person to meet. But I think it's important to realise that when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong." From 'The Selfish Gene' (1976, 1989) • We no longer have to resort to superstition when faced with the deep problems: Is there a meaning to life? What are we for? What is man? • Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun • The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. • We are survival machines--robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment. • I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. • 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 a chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do. • 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. • No doubt some of your cousins and great-uncles died in childhood, but not a single one of your ancestors did. Ancestors just don't die young! 15
    • • The genes are the master programmers, and they are programming for their lives. • Whenever a system of communication evolves, there is always the danger that some will exploit the system for their own ends. • ...it is certainly wrong to condemn poor old Homo Sapiens as the only species to kill his own kind, the only inheritor of the mark of Cain, and similar melodramatic charges. • Group selection theory would therefore predict a tendency to evolve towards an all-dove conspiracy... But the trouble with conspiracies, even those that are to everybody's advantage in the long run, is that they are open to abuse. • ...a lion wants to eat an antelope's body, but the antelope has very different plans for its body. This is not normally regarded as competition for a resource, but logically it is hard to see why not. • What is the selfish gene? It is not just one single physical bit of DNA. Just as in the primeval soup, it is all replicas of a particular bit of DNA, distributed throughout the world. • ...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. • It is normally possible to be much more certain who your children are than who your brothers are. And you can be more certain still who you yourself are! • The truth is that all examples of child protection and parental care, and all associated bodily organs ... are examples of the working in nature of the kin- selection principle. • But you cannot have an unnatural welfare state, unless you also have unnatural birthcontrol, otherwise the end result will be misery even greater than that which obtains in nature. • They 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. From 'River out of Eden' (1995) • The world becomes full of organisms that have what it takes to become ancestors. That, in a sentence, is Darwinism. 16
    • • Each generation is a filter, a sieve; good genes tend to fall through the sieve into the next generation; bad genes tend to end up in bodies that die young or without reproducing. • ...you need more than luck to navigate successfully through a thousand sieves in succession. • The river of my title is a river of DNA, and it flows through time, not space. It is a river of information, not a river of bones and tissues. • ...the genetic code is in fact literally identical in all animals, plants and bacteria ... All earthly living things are certainly descended from a single ancestor. • What is truly revolutionary about molecular biology in the post-Watson-Crick era is that it has become digital. • There is no spirit-driven life force, no throbbing, heaving, pullulating, protoplasmic, mystic jelly. Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information. • Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results. Myths and faiths are not and do not. • Your DNA may be destined to mingle with mine. Salutations! • Never say, and never take seriously anyone who says, "I cannot believe that so- and-so could have evolved by gradual selection." I have dubbed this kind of fallacy "the Argument from Personal Incredulity." Time and again, it has proven the prelude to an intellectual banana-skin experience. • ...it seems that it would take less than half a million years to evolve a good camera eye ... It's no wonder 'the' eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom ... It is a geological blink. • This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous - indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose. • If there is only one Creator who made the tiger and the lamb, the cheetah and the gazelle, what is He playing at? Is he a sadist who enjoys spectator blood sports? ... Is he manoeuvring to maximise David Attenborough's television ratings? • ...the true utility function of life, that which is being maximised in the natural world, is DNA survival. But DNA is not floating free; it is locked up in living bodies and it has make the most of the levers of power at its disposal. 17
    • • The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. Taken from John Catalano's "The World of Richard Dawkins (http://www.world-of- dawkins.com)" 18