Richard Dawkins

(Clinton Richard Dawkins)

Quote Topics Cited
… 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. Secrecy & Transparency ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
American political opportunities are heavily loaded against those who are simultaneously intelligent and honest. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
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. Religion & God
In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
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. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
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. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
To claim equal time for creation science in biology classes is about as sensible as to claim equal time for the flat-earth theory in astronomy classes. Or, as someone has pointed out, you might as well claim equal time in sex education classes for the stork theory. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
We've reached a truly remarkable situation: a grotesque mismatch between the American intelligencia and the American electorate. Human Nature
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. Terrorism
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. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
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.'
A delusion is something that people believe in despite a total lack of evidence.
A guided missile corrects its trajectory as it flies, homing in, say, on the heat of a jet plane's exhaust. A great improvement on a simple ballistic shell, it still cannot discriminate particular targets. It could not zero in on a designated New York skyscraper if launched from as far away as Boston.
A universe with a creator would be a totally different kind of universe, scientifically speaking, than one without.
All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation.
An Internet meme is a hijacking of the original idea. Instead of mutating by random change and spreading by a form of Darwinian selection, Internet memes are altered deliberately by human creativity. There is no attempt at accuracy of copying, as with genes - and as with memes in their original version.
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.
As Darwin himself was at pains to point out, natural selection is all about differential survival within species, not between them.
Astrology is an aesthetic affront. It cheapens astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles.
Biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.
By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out. Humor
Christopher Hitchens was a great warrior, a magnificent orator, a pugilist and a gentleman. He was kind, but he took no prisoners when arguing with idiots.
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.
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.
Discrimination is not liberal. Arguing against discrimination is not intolerance.
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. Life
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. Life
Even if 'going retrograde' or 'moving into Aquarius' were real phenomena, something that planets actually do, what influence could they possibly have on human events? A planet is so far away that its gravitational pull on a new-born baby would be swamped by the gravitational pull of the doctor's paunch.
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? Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;Religion & God
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. Power
Evil is a miscellaneous collection of nasty things that nasty people do.
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. Religion & God
Far from being demeaning to human spiritual values, scientific rationalism is the crowning glory of the human spirit.
For me, the level at which natural selection causes the phenomenon of adaptation is the level of the replicator - the gene.
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. Time
God exists, if only in the form of a meme with high survival value, or infective power, in the environment provided by human culture. Power ;Religion & God
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. Government ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
How can you take seriously someone who likes to believe something because he finds it 'comforting'?
I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world. Religion & God
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. Time ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I am very comfortable with the idea that we can override biology with free will.
I detest 'Jingle Bells,' 'White Christmas,' 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,' and the obscene spending bonanza that nowadays seems to occupy not just December, but November and much of October, too.
I do disapprove very strongly of labelling children, especially young children, as something like 'Catholic children' or 'Protestant children' or 'Islamic children.'
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. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales.
I have a strong feeling that the subject of evolution is beautiful without the excuse of creationists needing to be bashed.
I have begun several projects which were never completed, not necessarily because they failed, but because I got interested in other things.
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. Life
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.
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. Truth ;Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex
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.
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. Religion & God ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking will change it.
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. Religion & God
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 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. Life
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. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I'm sure Obama is an atheist; I'm sure Kennedy was an atheist, but I doubt if Pope Frank is.
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.
In the case of Stalinism, people actually distorted science because it was for the good of the Communist Party. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
In the original introduction to the word meme in the last chapter of 'The Selfish Gene,' I did actually use the metaphor of a 'virus.' So when anybody talks about something going viral on the Internet, that is exactly what a meme is, and it looks as though the word has been appropriated for a subset of that.
Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. Life
Islands are natural workshops of evolution.
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?
It has become almost a cliche 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. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
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. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training ;Religion & God
It's very likely that most mammals have consciousness, and probably birds, too.
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.
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. Religion & God
My decision to be a scientist was a bit of a drift really, more or less by default.
My eyes are constantly wide open to the extraordinary fact of existence. Not just human existence, but the existence of life and how this breathtakingly powerful process, which is natural selection, has managed to take the very simple facts of physics and chemistry and build them up to redwood trees and humans. Life
My personal feeling is that understanding evolution led me to atheism.
My thoughts, my beliefs, my feelings are all in my brain. My brain is going to rot.
Natural selection will not remove ignorance from future generations. Future
Nothing is wrong with peace and love. It is all the more regrettable that so many of Christ's followers seem to disagree. Love, Romance, Marriage & Sex ;War & Peace
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. Religion & God
Our animal origins are constantly lurking behind, even if they are filtered through complicated social evolution.
Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the world chess championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
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. Religion & God
Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time. Truth ;Time ;Religion & God
Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness. Religion & God
Religious fanatics want people to switch off their own minds, ignore the evidence, and blindly follow a holy book based upon private 'revelation'.
Saddam Hussein could have provided irreplaceable help to future historians of the Iran/Iraq war, of the invasion of Kuwait, and of the subsequent era of sanctions culminating in the current invasion. Future ;War & Peace
Science - or the products of science like technology - is just a way of achieving something real, something that happens, something that works. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
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. Life ;Religion & God
Segregation has no place in the education system. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Sometimes I think it's possible to mistake desire for clarity and talking in a no-nonsense way for aggression.
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. Literature, Writers & Writing
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.
The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale. Life
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. Life
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. History ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry. Religion & God
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.
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. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The solution often turns out more beautiful than the puzzle.
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. Time
The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside.
The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
The very idea of supernatural magic - including miracles - is incoherent, devoid of sensible meaning.
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. Religion & God
The word 'excess' has no meaning for a male.
There are many very educated people who are religious, but they're not creationists.
There are quite a lot of YouTube clips of me that have gone viral. One that I think of is of a young woman at a lecture I was giving - she came from Liberty University, which is a ludicrous religious institution. She said, 'What if you are wrong?' and I answered that rather briefly, and that's gone viral.
There does seem to be a sense in which physics has gone beyond what human intuition can understand. We shouldn't be too surprised about that because we're evolved to understand things that move at a medium pace at a medium scale. We can't cope with the very tiny scale of quantum physics or the very large scale of relativity.
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? Respect
To an honest judge, the alleged marriage between religion and science is a shallow, empty, spin-doctored sham. Religion & God ;Families, Children & Parenting ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
We admit that we are like apes, but we seldom realise that we are apes.
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. Religion & God
We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can't disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Religion & God
We have a huge amount of DNA in common with jellyfish.
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. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
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.
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.
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?
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.
Why are we so obsessed with monogamous fidelity?
You can legally lie about the real world to your heart's content, but until some human being is materially damaged, nobody will complain.
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. Life