Talk:Richard Dawkins/Archive 2

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Archive 1 Archive 2 Archive 3

"Dawkins' law"

Similar to the discussion of the "Williams revolution" above, I'm concerned that Dawkins' Law of Differential Survival is a neologism. Is there a history for the use of the term outside of Wikipedia? Pete.Hurd 23:24, 21 January 2006 (UTC)

Feeding it to Google, this was the only site it came up with, other than this page:, and it contains nothing but a direct quote from the book. - Samsara contrib talk 03:46, 22 January 2006 (UTC)
Good research. Looks like OR that needs removal, no? Alienus 03:56, 22 January 2006 (UTC)
Samsara, that page you found seems to be written by the same person that added the text in question to the Dawkins page. Pete.Hurd 03:59, 22 January 2006 (UTC)
I'd say more neologism than OR, but my feeling is that it should go. Pete.Hurd 04:12, 22 January 2006 (UTC)

Rational response to Dawkins

Written by someone who isn't a nutjob, in response to Dawkins' very good TV programme:

Keith Ward - professor of Divinity, Gresham College, London, and Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus, University of Oxford.

Good criticism like this should be encouraged, it's a good article, I'll add a link.


Well, he's not a nut-job, but that's all the faint praise I can come up with. Alienus 02:26, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

"But, as anyone who teaches philosophy knows, there are also reasons for believing in God." Doh, then I guess I should give up atheism and humanism? On the other hand, perhaps the author of this sentence is a nutjob after all... --Couttsie 10:04, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

Well you should only give them up if you hold them simply because you think there are "no reasons for believing in God". The question is, are the reasons sufficient, and if you have considered them (and not the caractaures put forward by Dawkins) and considered them insufficient then intellectually it's OK to hold on to them, as it is for believers to hold on to their faith. NBeale 10:53, 31 October 2006 (UTC)

I love it when a "theologian" accuses someone of intellectual dishonesty. --Laurence Boyce 14:42, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

Let's try to refrain from letting our POVs get too obvious, eh. If we could focus on *constructive* criticism, rather than baiting the trolls... Pete.Hurd 15:27, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

"I love it when a "theologian" accuses someone of intellectual dishonesty." Really? It makes me homicidal.


Barbara Shack 15:30, 28 January 2006 (UTC)I've put the image of Richard Dawkins onto all the articles about Dawkins' books. The copyright holder allows it to be used.


The following has been moved to talk pending references:

  • From religion section: Dawkins is known for his outspoken manner, which some would call blunt or even abrasive, and this carries over to his statements on social issues and religion. This has offended some people who would otherwise generally agree with him.

Joe D (t) 01:25, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

Joe, I think I was the one who added that text (or at least I edited it into the form you see). The reference I base it on is, which I read in print when it first came out. Take a look and let me know if you think that article is sufficient citation for the text you cut. Alienus 04:22, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, I hope it didn't sound from my comment that I was dismissing the claim -- I have no doubt of it -- but I wanted to reword it and move it to different section(s) so put it here for safe keeping! I think his style (I like the description "angry", I'll try and find something with that) is notable enough for the introduction, since it's the side of Dawkins most people see. Joe D (t) 05:04, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough. I happen to disagree with the author of that article, in that it seems to me that Dawkins has good reason to be angry with people like Brown, but the article does describe how some people see him and what some have said.
In any case, do you want to reinsert some version of this text or do you want me to try? Alienus 05:45, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
OK, I've added a little to the introduction, and some more to the third paragraph of the religion section, you may be able to word it slightly more elegantly than me though, I'm a little articulately challenged this evening... Joe D (t) 06:00, 5 February 2006 (UTC)
Looks good, although it did need some light editing. Alienus 06:39, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

McGrath's Dawkins' God

Does anyone know if Dawkins has responded to it? ENCEPHALON 06:15, 5 February 2006 (UTC)

Anyone? ENCEPHALON</span> 01:31, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

Nothing came up on Google. Alienus 05:22, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
It is an extraordinarily badly-argued book. I suppose he doesn't think it's worth responding to. --ajn (talk) 13:31, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
Roger Steer's book is even worse. At the end he predicts that Dawkins will become a Christian.—Laurence Boyce 14:23, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
And I predict that pigs will fly. Alienus 17:52, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
Anthony Flew of all people became "religious" recently... u never know... Mikkerpikker ... 18:00, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
. . . or did he? Did anyone ever make sense of this in the end?—Laurence Boyce 18:50, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
Richard Carrier has been keeping up with Flew on this subject, he keeps updates on his correspondence with Flew here. The funny bit is that Flew actually blames Dawkins in part! (You'll just have to read it.) — Coelacan | talk 00:56, 15 November 2006 (UTC)
This was presented as Dawkins' reply in Science & Theology News (can't find a direct link, sorry):
"Yes, I have, of course, met this point before. It sounds superficially fair. But it presupposes that that there is something in Christian theology to be ignorant about. The entire thrust of my position is that Christian theology is a non-subject. It is empty. Vacuous. Devoid of coherence or content. I imagine that McGrath would join me in expressing disbelief in fairies, astrology and Thor's hammer. How would he respond if a fairyologist, astrologer or Viking accused him of ignorance of their respective subjects?
The only part of theology that could possibly demand my attention is the part that purports to demonstrate that God does exist. This part of theology I have, indeed, studied with considerable attention. And found it utterly wanting.
As for McGrath's book, I read it with genuine curiosity to discover whether he had any argument to offer in favor of his theistic belief. The nearest I could find was his statement that you cannot disprove it. Well, that may be true, but it isn't very impressive, is it?"
I don't have the time right now to integrate it into the article myself, but I think this would make a good general quote as to Dawkins' known unwillingness to debate theologians on their "own turf", so to speak, as it basically sums up the contents of his famous essay "The Emptiness of Theology" (title from memory, I may have gotten that wrong). Mortene 11:00, 23 February 2006 (UTC)
I found it. Here's a link to the quote in its original context: Taking On Dawkins' God:An interview with Alister McGrath. At the bottom of the page. Mortene 11:15, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

Dawkins is undoubtably my favourite person. But I'd feel terrible for not letting everyone know about this:

Perhaps this could be fitted in somewhere.

In terms of polemics against Dawkins, this is 100% better than anything any creationist has ever said ever. But I still think McGrath is wrong, even if this would convince 99% of Christians.


This would be a good link to include, since it allows McGrath to speak for himself, rather than just have his thoughts characterized, and it might save someone the expense of purchasing his book. McGrath has an obvious preference for the Christian religion, yet focuses on a rational attack on Dawkins rhethoric, rather than defense of Christianity, a much more difficult task.--Poodleboy 05:09, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
It might be more appropriate on McGrath's page itself, but there's a spot in the external links section that would suit. I can't say I was overwhelmed by McGrath's arguments (to say the least), but in that interview link he does identify something about Dawkins' transition from first-rate populariser to reactionary atheist that rings true (though this is already mentioned in passing in the article). It hardly constitutes a source, but it's a fair point that might be developed. Certainly it's an opinion that's widely held among my immediate scientist (and agnostic/atheist) colleagues. From personal experience, Dawkins' rabid atheism is a real rabble-rouser that perfectly suits the purposes of creationists (at least). Just my two cents. Cheers, --Plumbago 08:41, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
I agree that Dawkin's is not particularly gifted at opening channels of communication with people of faith, and the tone of his rhetoric can be counter-productive. The McGrath link is informative of the type of response Dawkins engenders. As a fan of Dawkins' scientific contributions, I think he can stand and withstand the criticism. I choose to combat fundamentalism and daemonization of "opponents" in science as well as in religion, and try to discuss evidence and arguments on their merits. We shouldn't worry too much if the "other side" gets its say, if they can't stick to the merits and try to suppress others, they are often their own worst enemy, and unfortunately, like all fundamentalists, probably live in fear.--Poodleboy 10:47, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

This section of the entry needs completing. The Dawkins quote that's provided here does not even attempt to respond to the main charges, inter alia (to quote the McGrath article) that :

- the scientific method cannot conclusively prove that God does or does not exist.
- the theory of evolution does not necessarily entail any particular atheistic, agnostic, or Christian understanding of the world.
- Dawkins’ refutation of William Paley’s watchmaker analogy does not equate to a refutation of God’s existence.
- Dawkins’ proposal that memes explain the evolutionary development of human culture is more illogical and unscientific than a clearly articulated defence of Christianity.

If the response section of the entry remains as it is, it rather supports the argument that Dawkins uses significantly different degrees of rigour when stating his position on theism as compared to when expounding evolutionary theory.

Holdspa 20:06, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Thanks Holdspa. There's some debate (below) as to whether we will keep those particular Dawkins quotes. But we can't have a huge section just on McGrath, so I think it's always going to be a bit sketchy. Laurence Boyce 20:21, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

That article is crap. He distorts a lot of what Dawkins actually says, then he makes the common mistake of saying that there's no proof God doesn't exist in response to the fact that there's no proof God does exist, then he says there is proof and that all faith is based on adequate evidence (though he neglects to suggests what that evidence/proof might be). The guy's really grasping at straws. 16:30, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Pedants corner

Why do you say Dawkins' in this article? I think it should be Dawkins's. Please see my subpage on the apostrophe if you're interested.—Laurence Boyce 11:41, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

Hi, my personal taste is also Dawkins's but if you read WP:STYLE it says: "Possessives of singular nouns ending in s may be formed with or without an additional s. Either form is generally acceptable within Wikipedia. However, if either form is much more common for a particular word or phrase, follow that form, such as with "Achilles' heel"." Mikkerpikker ... 11:57, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
So far as I'm aware, British English syntax drops the second "s" in such instances. I've just tried saying "Dawkins' book is about..." and "Dawkins's book is about..." to myself; saying the repeating the "s" in the latter ("Daw-kin-ses") feels unnecessary. I grant, though, that there is then no distinction between saying [Dawkin's] and [Dawkins'], but I suppose context would clarify which is meant. End of muse, David Kernow 13:02, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
Fowler/Gowers says the opposite - the possessive should retain the second "s". My observation is that dropping it is far more common in US usage, though the Chicago Manual of Style website[1] says the same as Fowler. In fact it says that given the choice between "Dickens' novel" and "Dickens's novel" the latter is to be preferred - almost the same as "Dawkins's". --ajn (talk) 13:36, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
The actual Chicago Manual says that the second s is preferred but that leaving it off is acceptable as long as you are consistent. -- 08:03, 3 November 2006 (UTC)
There has been extensive debate about this at the talk page of WP:STYLE. I suggest you peruse those & make suggestions for changes to the guideline accordingly. (BTW: no consensus has ever been reached on this; which is why we say the s can be included or excluded. Compromise is a good thing, especially when the subject is not all that important! :). Mikkerpikker ... 13:45, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
The actual pronunciation isn't contentious. With a few lingering exceptions for some famous historical people (e.g. see Possessive of Jesus), both American and British English apply the extra possessive syllable only when the word ends in a voiceless s. Thus, a car owned by Ross is "Ross-ez car" but a car owned by Higgins is just "Higginz car". The sound at the end of Dawkins is a z, not an s, and thus is not pronounced Dawkinziz. I've always shared your intuition that whether to use 's or ' should be determined by which suffix is used orally, but this is not a universal opinion. -- Schaefer (talk) 09:25, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

AIG Video

I don't think this should have been removed on grounds of POV, though it might not be notable:

In a video called "From a Frog to a Prince" (1998) produced by the Answers in Genesis organisation, the interview asked Dawkins the question, "Professor Dawkins, can you give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome?". After a long pause he was unable to answer the question.

Instead it could be expanded to include the fact that the video was dishonestly edited and the producers were dishonest about the purpose of the documentary. The long pause was because Dawkins was shocked at the stupidity of the question, and because he realised who he was talking to. Joe D (not logging in from shared work computer) 20:39, 9 February 2006 (UTC)

Mmmm... seems both nn & pov to me. Perhaps it could be expanded as you suggest (and then it might be npov), but it would still be nn. Who cares about some random doccy he did in 1998? I'm sure there are lots and lots of other appearances that are more notable... Mikkerpikker ... 20:52, 9 February 2006 (UTC)
It is definitely POV and should not be in the article because it is presented (sensationally) in the manner of an accusation by creationists ("Even Richard Dawkins doesn't understand evolution! We GOT him!"). Dawkins himself has explained his silence in this well-known clip as occurring due to his sudden realization that the interviewers deceived him about their intentions in interviewing him: they were propagandists for creationism making a hit piece, not journalists interested in reporting on evolutionary biology. His silence was an expression of his surprise at the fact he had been duped by a couple of zealous propagandists. Inoculatedcities 18:51, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

peer review then FAC?

Several people have recently worked on the article and to me it seems good enough for a try at FAC. (tho we should do a peer review first...) Thoughts? Mikker ... 17:33, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

I was thinking exactly the same thing, and was considering opening a PR a couple of days ago. I'm not sure it's quite comprehensive yet (we could still say a little more about academic disputes re gene centric view, memetics, etc), but opening a PR would certainly help get us there. Joe D (t) 21:09, 11 February 2006 (UTC)
Yeah, comprehensiveness is my main worry too - we prob need another 500 words or so on the academic side of things. I'll see what I can do... Mikker ... 22:15, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

Books by Dawkins

Anyone else think this section should be prose with a few sentences describing the subject and structure of each book? Joe D (t) 22:54, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

Personally, I prefer a list at the end; leaving the main body text to explain the ideas contained in the books. That said, I'm not staunchly opposed either... Mikker ... 23:03, 11 February 2006 (UTC)

The publication date for 'The God Delusion' has now been announced. I suggest that (some of) this information is added to the page.

Product Details:

  1. Hardcover 372 pages (September 25, 2006)
  2. Publisher: Bantam Press
  3. Language: English
  4. ISBN: 0593055489
  5. Category(ies): Science & Nature
  6. Sales Rank: 18,693


Alternative Medicine

Removed the following from page pending discussion:

"Dawkins describes alternative medicine as that set of practices that cannot be tested, refuse to be tested or consistently fail tests."

Firstly, why is this notable? (Dawkins has opinions about many many things but we need only include his opinions about matters he is either involved with strongle (religion) or an expert at (evolution)). Secondly, this is an unreffed stub - needs to be reffed + expanded before inclusion in the main page. Mikker ... 16:12, 3 March 2006 (UTC)

I fully agree with the need for a ref before this text is allowed. I'm not sure I agree regarding a lack of notabiity. Granted, not every opinion by Dawkins is worth mentioning -- I'm sure we don't care whether he prefers chocolate ice cream to vanilla -- but he is known as a skeptic against astrology and other pseudo-sciences, so this might fit into a section on his skepticism. On its own, though, it sticks out awkwardly. Alienus 18:46, 3 March 2006 (UTC)
Good point... perhaps something along these lines is needed to show his wider position concerning scientific and psuedo-scientific theories. That said, this does definately need to be reffed + expanded somewhat before inclusion. Any takers? Mikker ... 20:05, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
"Any takers?" Done!:
Views on "Alternative medicine" -- Fyslee 21:29, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
Erm... please no. I was thinking something along the lines of a paragraph or two explaining his views and how it relates to his scientific outlook. As it stands there is FAR too much info given how tangential this topic is wrt Dawkins (he's not a doctor after all) and what is there should at most be paraphrased (not quoted). WP:NOT#Wikipedia_is_not_an_indiscriminate_collection_of_information so these quotes really can't stay... Mikker ... 22:30, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
Okay.....let me shorten it. The last two quotes can go, leaving only the links. BTW, the NOT reference doesn't apply, since the quotes are far from indiscriminate, but right to the point, in fact couldn't be more to the point! But to shorten it a bit would be in order.
That he isn't an MD is actually irrelevant, since the conflict between conventional medicine (which is allied with science) and alternative medicine (which often claims the scientific method is irrelevant to its purposes) is a scientific, logical, and ethical matter, and Dawkins can weigh in on these matters better than most MDs.
His views on this matter are far from tangential, even though he uses most of his time on other matters. His views are cited extremely frequently in support of scientific medicine and against alternative medicine, so others must find his views on this matter to be very relevant and important. That's the price of fame! -- Fyslee 22:44, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
Perhaps rather than having an alternative medicine section we could have a section on "other fields" or something, which could also introduce his criticism of cultural relativism and political opinions. A few sentences on each would be good, IMO. Joe D (t) 23:42, 4 March 2006 (UTC)
A Google search reveals that Dawkins' views on this subject are considered to be quite important, and thus this section is certainly appropriate. It strengthens the article and improves an understanding of Dawkins' views. -- Fyslee 00:10, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

I have shortened it and improved the reference links. [2]

For the record, here is the original, uncut, version:

Views on Alternative Medicine Critics of alternative medicine assert that they are not effective and consequently are not a legitimate alternative to conventional medicine. Dawkins understands the matter well and has this to say:

"...scientific medicine is defined as the set of practices which submit themselves to the ordeal of being tested. Alternative medicine is defined as that set of practices which cannot be tested, refuse to be tested, or consistently fail tests. If a healing technique is demonstrated to have curative properties in properly controlled double-blind trials, it ceases to be alternative. It simply.....becomes medicine. Conversely, if a technique devised by the President of the Royal College of Physicians consistently fails in double-blind trials, it will cease to be a part of "orthodox" medicine. Whether it will then become "alternative" will depend upon whether it is adopted by a sufficiently ambitious quack (there are always sufficiently gullible patients).
"But isn't it still an arrogance to demand that our method of testing should be the scientific method? By all means use scientific tests for scientific medicine, it may be said. But isn't it only fair that "alternative" medicine should be tested by "alternative" tests? No. There is no such thing as an alternative test....Either it is true that a medicine works or it isn't. It cannot be false in the ordinary sense but true in some "alternative" sense. If a therapy or treatment is anything more than a placebo, properly conducted double-blind trials, statistically analysed, will eventually bring it through with flying colours. Many candidates for recognition as "orthodox" medicines fail the test and are summarily dropped. The "alternative" label should not (though, alas, it does) provide immunity from the same fate." - Richard Dawkins, Foreword to the posthumous book "Snake Oil, and Other Preoccupations" by John Diamond [3]

He states it even more succinctly:

"There is no alternative medicine. There is only medicine that works and medicine that doesn't work." - Richard Dawkins, A Devil's Chaplain : Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love

Dawkins thus places himself in line with many other scientists and medical practitioners in their open skepticism of alternative medicine:

"There is no alternative medicine. There is only scientifically proven, evidence-based medicine supported by solid data or unproven medicine, for which scientific evidence is lacking. Whether a therapeutic practice is 'Eastern' or 'Western,' is unconventional or mainstream, or involves mind-body techniques or molecular genetics is largely irrelevant except for historical purposes and cultural interest. . . . As believers in science and evidence, we must focus on fundamental issues- namely, the patient, the target disease or condition, the proposed or practiced treatment, and the need for convincing data on safety and therapeutic efficacy." - Fontanarosa P.B., and Lundberg G.D. "Alternative medicine meets science" JAMA. 1998; 280: 1618-1619. [4]
"There cannot be two kinds of medicine -- conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work. Once a treatment has been tested rigorously, it no longer matters whether it was considered alternative at the outset. If it is found to be reasonably safe and effective, it will be accepted. But assertions, speculation, and testimonials do not substitute for evidence." - Angell M, Kassirer JP, "Alternative medicine--the risks of untested and unregulated remedies." N Engl J Med 1998;339:839. [5]

-- Fyslee 00:03, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

We have to think carefully about what is notable where. I'd agree that Dawkins's views on alt. med. are notable with respect to that topic. This does not, however, mean his views are important with respect to Dawkins himself. In other words, his views on alternative medicine may be important enough to include in alternative medicine but alternative medicine may not be important enough to Dawkins to be included in his article. This may be somewhat confusing, so take this example: if Stephen Hawking comments on Wacky theory A about black holes his views are certainly notable with respect to that theory and should be included in the article on that theory. However, Wacky theory A about black holes is not important enough to the life/career/thought of Stephen Hawking to be included in the article about him. That said, I think I'd go with Joe D's suggestion and create a "other fields" section with a couple of sentences on alt. med. Mikker ... 00:47, 5 March 2006 (UTC)

How about this: we put the following two paragraphs,

Dawkins has expressed a Malthusian concern over the exponential growth of human population and the issue of overpopulation, though his proposed solutions can be described as typically Humanist. He is critical of Catholic attitudes to family planning and population control.

As a supporter of the Great Ape Project, a movement to extend human rights to all great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans), he contributed an article to the Great Ape Project book entitled "Gaps In The Mind". In this article, he criticised contemporary society's moral attitudes as being based on a "discontinuous, speciesist imperative."

with a prose (not quoted) section on alt. med. in a "Other views" sub-section? Mikker ... 02:11, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

External links

I've done a very thorough review of the external links and I've decided to re-work matters a bit: after moving links that should have been under "Interviews and feature articles" out of "In the news", there were only four external links left in the "news" section. One of these ([6]) didn't seem to fit under "news" whilst another article under "Interviews" ([7]) didn't seem to fit there either. Moreover, the three BBC News articles that were left under "In the news" didn't seem terribly useful - they were mainly reports on what Dawkins thought, it would be better to link to what Dawkins himself has said in each instance. So I've deleted the BBC links, created a new "Criticism" section containing the answers in genesis nonsense and the two other articles just linked. That ok? Mikker (...) 02:09, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

I would be very warey indeed of putting AiG articles near the likes of Michael Ruse. Ruse is a gung-ho Darwinian, in his own words, who thinks creationism is total nonsense. The problem with putting stuff he writes with what the creationists write is that it could give the false impression that they're in the same camp - that they're united against Dawkins. This is very much not the case. Even Keith Ward accepts evolution, and he would dismiss the creationists as doing theology very badly. Their critiques of Dawkins, then, vary considerably.
I would suggest two catergories:
Criticisms of Dawkins' Views On Religion
Creationist Criticisms of Dawkins' Science
Even 'Gouldians' would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Dawkins on most things. The criticism offered by AiG is very specific to the creationist POV. I would note that Dawkins' books are required reading on many university course to this day.
I've changed it to the above, although it's easily changed back if anyone disagrees. Also, all of those AiG articles... wouldn't it make more sense to just have a link to a search of 'Richard Dawkins' on AiG? I'm sure that list will grow and grow and grow and grow everytime Dawkins does something and right now it looks like the AiG directory on Dawkins. If so, we could put everything under the same 'Critcisms' section without it being 60% links to AiG.
Alrighty, that's fine with me. Mikker (...) 10:32, 7 April 2006 (UTC)

Ward's criticism

Keith Ward says:

The other reason is that a creator would be as improbable or complex as the complexity he was supposed to explain, so would not really be an explanation. This is more interesting, for it introduces a discussion about what an “explanation” is. A theist claims that scientific explanation, in terms of general laws and initial states, is not the only sort of explanation. There is also “personal explanation”, in terms of purposes and values. This is the sort of explanation used by historians, novelists, anthropologists, critics of the arts and ethicists. It is a perfectly familiar form of explanation. The question “Could there be a personal explanation for the universe?” is one on which there is rational discussion, and on which different views are held. It does no service to clear thinking to say that if anyone thinks there is such an explanation – for instance, that the universe exists because God chooses it – they are irrational, non-thinking, and have suspended their critical faculties. This is abuse, not argument.[8]

I wanted to include maybe one or two sentences in the religion section on Ward's criticism, but I personally can find nothing in this paragraph that resembles sanity. Since Dawkins does indeed use the "who created the creator" argument often, can anybody translate all of the unique definitions of words into anything that could make a concise, notable and rational contribution to the article? Joe D (t) 03:36, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

Hmm, this is a tough one because Ward is so clearly full of it. I'm at a loss, frankly. Alienus 04:09, 9 April 2006 (UTC)
I certainly found it amusing that he chose this paragraph to accuse Dawkins of doing a disservice to "clear thinking". Joe D (t) 04:29, 9 April 2006 (UTC)
I don't know who Ward is, but he seems, erm, lacking in basic mental skills. Nothing salvageable in that para. Mikker (...) 16:29, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

I think Ward is attempting to argue the 'truth in personal philosophy' thing (ref: kierkengaard??). Not a scientific argument and therefore totally irrelevant to this article. He's not insane, just retarded (the poor boy).

Should we delete such unsigned nonsense? Ward has a PhD in Biology and is a Prof at Oxford. It's perfectly clear that "scientific explanation" is not the only kind of "explanation." I'll try to suggest a tightening up of the Ward section of the article. I also think that Dawkins is mistaken in his complexity point, because he is confusing the complexity of a concept with the complexity of its implications. The Einstein Equation the Dirac Equation and the definition of the Mandelbrot Set are all (relatively) simple but have immensely complex implications. Similarly the concept of an Ultimate Creator Revealed in Jesus (a reasonable philosophical approximation to what Christians believe in)is relatively simple, even though the full implications of the existence of such an entity are immense. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that such an entity does, or does not, exist, and pretty well everyone including Dawkins seems to agree that scientific arguments, however suggestive they may be, cannot conclusively demonstrate this one way or another. But surely everyone knows that "There exists a UCRJ" is a pretty strong and specific claim(?) NBeale 12:19, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
What "Ward section"? There isn't one. This article is principally about Dawkins. I fear you may have picked the wrong forum to attempt to undermine his arguments. Laurence Boyce 12:30, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Could you please explain what's "simple" about the existence of a hypothetical being who is all-powerful and all-loving but takes human form in the guise of a baby born to a homeless virgin, allows his body to die then come back to life, and rises up to Heaven, all in the name of absorbing the sins which are inherent to humanity? When you say "Ultimate Creator Revealed in Jesus", that implies a rationality that the actual belief doesn't have. I'm not talking about any implications yet, I'm just saying the bare facts: This is the "Creator" that Christians believe in, correct? It seems like quite a complex series of unproven assumptions to me, very very far from simple. But maybe I just don't understand it. ThatGuamGuy 16:47, 2 November 2006 (UTC)sean


Can somebody check through my latest additions to make sure they're not incomprehensible to the lay reader? Other than that, the only thing I can think of is a good copyedit. Does anyone have anything else to add, or should we go for WP:FAC? Joe D (t) 06:28, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, it does need a copy edit IMHO. Also, stuff definitely needs to be added about The Extended Phenotype - this is Dawkins's main contribution to evolutionary theory and, if I remember correctly, he called it his "pride and joy". I've been meaning to do this for a while, but I don't have my copy of Extended at the moment; I'll see what I can do though... Mikker (...) 12:45, 9 April 2006 (UTC)


Is Image:World population evolution.png really relevant to the article? I don't really see how it helps to illustrate anything. (I know we need images for FAC but we can almost certainly add one once I've done the Extended Phenotype section - e.g. a beaver's dam, etc.) Mikker (...) 13:14, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

No, I think the images must directly relate to Dawkins or his work, so I feel that both the graph and Balliol college should be removed. Also the book cover of The Selfish Gene should be the original version. In fact I'll sort that out now. (I'll load a separate image, so you can change it back if you don't like it.)—Laurence Boyce 16:54, 9 April 2006 (UTC)

I'm sorry Joe, I've removed those pics, they were annoying me too much! Latterly he was at New college anyway.—Laurence Boyce 15:52, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

Mmmm... could you please help look for other images? We need 'em for FAC. And do u mind if we move the book cover to the right? Left looks so... I donno... wrong... Mikker (...) 16:00, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
OK. I put it on the left because that's what it says here, but I agree it looks a bit funny. I quite like spiders webs but none of the pictures on Commons were that good.—Laurence Boyce 19:46, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
The population growth figure did illustrate that paragraph, but it was such a minor part of Dawkins' work anyway (I personally wouldn't have thought to mention population growth if somebody else hadn't added a sentence on it) that I don't have any issue with it. I was hoping to get a screen shot of Dawkins with Ted Haggard, the weirdo headmaster bloke, or the Bishop of Oxford instead of the screenshot we have, but my computer is quite broken at the moment and won't play the video so I had to make do with looking on Google images. On one of the awards pages there's a picture of Dawkins, but it's argued fair use to illustrate the award, since no other photo can be obtained for that page, so I doubt we'd get away with using it here. Joe D (t) 17:55, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
The list of featured pics will, I am sure, have a number of great animal pics to choose from to illustrate the article. (Dawkins is a biologist after all...). Mikker (...) 18:08, 11 April 2006 (UTC)
Dawkins and Haggard

This is a digital camera shot of The Root of All Evil? archived on DVD. My computer screen grab options don't work with its DVD player program, and short of finding and installing shareware this as good as I can do. If it meets the required standard and more shots from the programme are wanted, let me know. The DVD also includes the Horizon programme A War On Science which opens with a voice-over, then Dawkins saying"It's enormously damaging if the world's leading economic power was, subverted and undermined by this kind of anti-scientific tendency" followed by statements from the other two main speakers against intelligent design, David Attenborough and Kenneth R. Miller (there's also a statement by Father George Coyne. Dawkins features several times during the programme, an early quote being his memorable "As far as I'm aware in no other field of science does this happen, physicists don't have to fight a kind of rear-guard action against the yapping terriers of ignorance the way biologists do." If you wish a screen shot can be taken from that programme to a similar standard and any further points wanted noted. ...dave souza, talk 18:44, 16 April 2006 (UTC)


The Documentaries section either needs more details or to be deleted. AFAIK, only one of those Documentaries listed was written by Dawkins, though IIRC he also did a Horizon episode which isn't listed, and the lecture which isn't a documentary. The Atheism Tapes had a full 30 mins of Dawkins, but AFAIK the rest of them just featured a few comments, and Dawkins was just one of many people featured. If that's grounds for inclusion, I can probably find loads of trivial media appearances to list. Joe D (t) 21:21, 11 April 2006 (UTC)

I say delete it or trim it to those documentaries in which he plays a major role. We already have lots of info at the end, it needs to be cut down a bit. Mikker (...) 14:25, 12 April 2006 (UTC)


I recently made this edit because it appeared that footnotes had become smaller by defualt, so 90% made them look even smaller still. Now things seem to have changed back again. I think footnotes should be smaller, but I don't really care how it's done—by default would be better I suppose. Does anyone know what's going on?—Laurence Boyce 12:43, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

The God Delusion

Amazon have given a release date, cover and blurb to the book here:

"As the author of many, now famous, classic works on science and philosophy, he has always asserted the irrationality of belief in God and the grievous harm it has inflicted on society. He now turns his fierce intellect exclusively on this subject, denouncing its faulty logic and the suffering it causes."


"Darwin's rottweiler."

I changed it to this wording:

In a play on Thomas Huxley's epithet "Darwin's bulldog," Dawkins' impassioned defence of Darwinian evolution has earned him the appellation "Darwin's rottweiler."

I've always thought it is due to his general defence of Darwinism that he gets this epithet. I don't like the idea that it's simply in his reaction to creationism, as for one thing it seems silly to constantly define peoples views in negative terms (a-theist, anti-creationist etc.), and for another although ID is definitely mostly creationists, I'm sure he'd attack those people who hold to ID who aren't fundamentalist Christians, and defend evolution.

What does everyone else think?


It was actually used by Adrian Desmond in his 1994 biography of Huxley, *of* Huxley. First use in relation to Dawkins I can find is Charles Simonyi in 1996. See[9] . I don't know if that article helps. --Dannyno 20:57, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

As a practicing Buddhist I would love to hear Dawkins views on some of the fundamental concepts of Buddhism such as "emptiness" and "dependant arising". In Buddhism we do not believe in a God, nor do we believe in taking extreme views as this would be another example of the ego grasping to a dualistic reality of "I" and "other", darkness and light, right and wrong. In fact ultimate reality seems to be based in subtleness, symmetry and beauty. Between the opposites and extremes. Because the ego and the mind want to grasp to absolutes, be it atheism, creationism, a paternal god, a heaven and a hell. No where in nature, nor in science do these absolutes prevail, everything be it matter, energy, stars, plants and people go through a process of creation, destruction and re-creation. Everything is impermanent, constantly evolving and changing. This is a fact of nature and the Universe itself. The Universe or nature doesn't care about you the individual. We create the meaning to our experience, make it personal, give it labels and concepts. We create myths and beliefs that give us meaning. You have to very skeptical and open minded to see through the delusion. You have to be aware that words, thoughts, concepts and experience is not reality itself but only a representation based on memory, learning, feeling and perception. 23:49, 16 August 2006 (UTC)Mark

Propose adding Dawkins' self description as even more authoritative:

Dawkins stated: I represent the ultra-Darwinist view . . .I'm a Darwinist because I believe the only alternatives are Lamarckism or God . . .[1] DLH 02:41, 22 August 2006 (UTC)

Hi DLH. Yesterday I removed the line you mention which may or may not have been inserted by you. I felt that it didn't add much where it was added and upset the balance of the paragraph a bit. But others may disagree. I suppose I feel that it's an interesting quote – but not that intersting! Laurence Boyce 10:08, 22 August 2006 (UTC)
Laurence Boyce - Appreciate your effort to keep the flow. I think Dawkins' statement is important because it is Dawkins' authoritative self description. It appears to fit much better here next to the commentator's description of him as "Darwin's rottweiler." DLH 20:55, 24 August 2006 (UTC)
I don't agree at all. 'Darwin's rottweiler' is much better than 'ultra-Darwanist' and, honestly, I doubt very much it is an "authoritative self description" - it is more of an excercise in rherotic, 'planting one's flag' as such. Mikker (...) 20:03, 25 August 2006 (UTC)

Surely Darwin's rottweiler is more a reference to Pope Benedict's "God's Rottweiler" than to Huxley's ephithet? 15:03, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

As I recall, Dawkins was being refered to as Darwin's rottweiler long before Ratzinger was being called God's rottweiler. Davorg 15:58, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

New Image of Dawkins?

The new image is okay, but the previous one was far better in my opinion. Please can we change it back? Photos of people with their mouths half open are generally not as good as photos taken of people who are posing for them. 22:44, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

The previous image seems to have disappeared from Wikimedia Commons. Maybe somebody will put it back. Also, I've reverted your edit. I'm a big fan of Harris, but the paragraph was about McGrath.—Laurence Boyce 13:07, 30 July 2006 (UTC)
Fair enough. but I really do think we need something about Sam Harris in there. He's obviously a massive fan of his and they quote each other quite a lot, not to mention the obvious influence Harris has had on the publication of 'The God Delusion'. 14:35, 30 July 2006 (UTC)
Actually Harris never mentioned Dawkins in The End of Faith. But he then made up for it in the paperback edition by kicking off the new afterword with a Dawkins quote, and has since frequently cited Dawkins. Dawkins has applauded Harris a fair bit, but only by virtue of completely ignoring Harris's politics and mysticism. It should be interesting this autumn with a book out from each; I do hope they never fall out. Anyway, if you're interested in Harris and Dawkins, please get an account and come on board!—Laurence Boyce 16:32, 30 July 2006 (UTC)
If any of you would like the older image of Dawkins, I have it here on my machine because I had cached this entry a few months ago, when the image was still up. I agree; he does look a lot better in the old image than this new one! --Insolectual 18:54, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

New Infobox

Richard Dawkins
File:Richard dawkins3.jpg
Clinton Richard Dawkins
Born March 261941
Nairobi, Kenya
Residence UK
Nationality English
Fields Biologist
Institutions University of California, Berkeley, Oxford University
Alma mater Oxford University
Doctoral advisor Niko Tinbergen
Doctoral students Theodore E. Burk
Known for Evolutionary biology, memetics
Notable awards Zoological Society of London Silver Medal (1989), Faraday Award (1990), Kistler Prize (2001), Kelvin Medal (2002)
Spouse Marian Stamp, Eve Barham, Lalla Ward
Children Juliet
Home Page at Oxford University

The new infobox has been shortened. This is perfectly fine to do this, however if it is done too quickly it doesn't give time for people to see the longer version and reach a consensus of which fields to leave in or out. So for the purpose of discussion here is the longer one. Does anyone have any arguments for the retention or commenting out of various fields in the box for the Dawkins article? bunix 23:39, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Thanks bunix, I shortened the info box. To be honest I'm not a great fan of info boxes at all. Is there any way to make it narrower? And Dawkins' head looks extremely large. Which some might say is appropriate!—Laurence Boyce 08:53, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

Hi, Lawrence. Hmmmm....good question. Cannot think of a way to make it narrower without globally changing the whole infobox template. A global change might not go down too well as this infobox has propagated to biographies of many other scientists on the wikipedia. So we would get stoned to death by editor's of other pages :-( FYI, the width of this box pretty much follows the standard... if you look at the boxes for celebrities, authors etc they all seem to follow this width. Liked your joke about the big head...I guess we should just leave that photo until someone else can find a better one. It's certainly a lot better than the last one! Best regards, bunix 11:11, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

I think putting something about memetics in the infobox would be very good. A lot of people will hear of him as the inventor of the term so its worth putting in the infobox. It is, along with extended phenotype, one if his best original ideas IMO. Unsigned comment from: 15:43, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

Given there is a bit of spare white space under the present infobox, to put the "known for" field back in so that memetics can be listed should be quite painless. Also I'd like to pop the "doctoral advisor" and "doctoral student" fields back in as this is a key feature of these infoboxes. (The intention being that you can then easily find the doctoral advisor or "father" of a scientist, then the "grandfather" and so on. This is a very powerful tool for those interested in the history of science. Also the public are generally interested in clicking on "succession boxes" to explore and see where they lead.) So if there are no further comments or dissenting voices, I propose to pop those three fields back in and revert the infobox. I'll give it a few days for people to sleep on it and give time for further for/against comments. bunix 16:08, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Thanks bunix. I can see how that works up the chain, but not down. Surely academics have several students? I've never heard of Burk to be honest. It's an unfortunate name. Laurence Boyce 18:51, 5 August 2006 (UTC)
Over a career of 35, maybe 40 years of study, an average of 2 PhD students at once each for three years, comes out at about 20 students. They won't fit. Wikipedia has a very simple database structure that is unsuited to anything but raw text. — Dunc| 22:34, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Gentlemen, you both make excellent points. In reply to Laurence, Burk can be found at and yes he does have a rather unfortunate name :-) As you say, going up the chain is easy, but going down is much more interesting as one can track up & down alternative paths and learn lots of interesting facts! In reply to Dunc's excellent comment about 20 students, the intention is to not list all 20 students. The idea is only to list those that are sufficiently famous that they have a wiki page (or ought to have a wiki page). Most scientists only have one student that is famous...and only in exceptional cases there can be up to 4-5, but this is very rare. At the moment I am erring on the side of putting in any doctoral students without making judgements about how "famous" they are. I leave that up to sucessive wiki writers & editors to weed through them and comment out ones that are deemed "uninteresting." My philosophy is to give the potter some clay to work with, rather than leave stuff blank :-) Does anyone have any more comments for/against reversion of the infobox? Best regards, bunix 05:24, 6 August 2006 (UTC)

Edit query

I'm not entirely happy with this edit by Mortene, so I thought I would just query it. There is already a block quote in the Religion section which is punchy and to the point, and therefore worth inclusion in my view. But I'm not sure what is gained from quoting Dawkins on McGrath directly. I preferred the factual reporting we had previously. What does everyone else think? Laurence Boyce 12:08, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

I preferred the precis - there was a link to the original article if people wanted to read RD's own words, and a shorter but accurate summary seems better to me. --ajn (talk) 12:14, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
I'm reverting on two to one. But please continue to discuss if you disagree. Laurence Boyce 20:27, 6 September 2006 (UTC)
Agreed, the previous version was much better. Mikker (...) 22:33, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

I preferred the actual quote instead of the paraphrasing partly because the latter seemed rather wishy-washy compared to Dawkins' own words, partly because I think the quote explains fairly well why Dawkins has little patience for theologicians, which seems to be a major issue for those who feel they are under attack. Plus, paraphrasing tends to insert small shifts to the POV, and even minor errors. (Arguments for God's existence "might command his attention"? That just seems erroneous, as his direct quote is that he has studied this with "considerable attention" already.) So it seemed better to use his own words.

But I don't feel too strongly about this, so if you guys still prefer the paraphrasing, that's fine by me. Mortene 09:50, 7 September 2006 (UTC)

Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life

If anyone is interested, or would like to help, I've created an article for Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life - mainly because I hate red links. If anyone has any info that could improve this article, I would appreciate the input. -Neural 16:35, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Thanks Neural. Good effort. Laurence Boyce 16:53, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

External links...

I've put a lot of effort into the links & am quite happy with them as they stand. However, I am a bit worried about the "Multimedia" subsection - thanks to our friendly local telecommunication monopolist surfing the web is slow & expensive in SA so I haven't been able to assess the quality of all the links / possible links. (I've listened to the point of inquiry interview [very good] & the TEDTalk [quite good, not exactly what we're looking for though]). I'm wondering, can someone with a better internet connection than me check out some of the other multimedia available to see whether it is good enough to link to directly? Specifically, I think we really do need a link to a video/audio file where Dawkins actually discusses his work on evolutionary biology. Mikker (...) 00:18, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

I have a general issue with including links to "meta" sites, that is to say linking to a page of links. It then becomes unfeasible to verify all the links which may break over time. Maybe we should hand pick some good links, and be responsible for them, as it were. This is a reasonable link which is referred to in the article text. Laurence Boyce 09:54, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
I agree with you in general about 'meta' sites, but think this one is pretty damn useful. The same website maintains quality links for Pinker & several other "evolutionists" so I think it ought to stay. That said, please do feel free to add multimedia links you think are particularly good... (Again, it would be very useful if we could link to something where Dawkins discusses evolutionary biology instead of religion, or other topics). Mikker (...) 23:35, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
I think we've found the solution the the "meta" pages problem under multimedia... The new Dawkins foundation website has an extensive (and, it seems, growing) archive of audio and video files here and here (respectively). Any objections to deleting the current meta site and linking directly to these? Mikker (...) 15:16, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
The trouble with those video links is that there's a lot of other guys there too. Laurence Boyce 15:36, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
Yeah... I saw that too but, I donno, perhaps the other guys in there don't distract that much? I.e. as long as we warn users to expect it ("A large archive of videos featured Dawkins and others" or something like that). What do you think? Mikker (...) 15:48, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that'll be fine. Laurence Boyce 15:57, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
FYI... I've emailed the webmaster of the foundation website and (among other things) asked him to create a separate section where only Dawkins's multimedia would be listed. I've gotten a positive response, saying he'll look into it. Mikker (...) 02:23, 26 September 2006 (UTC)

Newsnight interview

I wonder how many readers of this saw the interview on the series Newsnight that Dawkins had with Jeremy Paxman? If this could be incorporated into this article (the interview was broadcast on September 22 2006) within fourteen days of today (September 23 2006), it would help to maintain the standard of Wikipedia as being a very up-to-date encyclopaedia. ACEO 20:32, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

I don't think specific interviews are notable enough for inclusion in the article content, though a case could be made that we should add a link to the interview under the external linls... (Tho, we have sooo many already...). Mikker (...) 12:45, 24 September 2006 (UTC)
I saw the interview, and I didn't see anything particularly new and interesting about it. The interviewer just brought up common objections to atheism, and Dawkins used a lot of the replies he's used before in his other writings. -- Schaefer (Talk) 14:53, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

Author query

In the section pertaining to memetics, one bit of info is surely misleading if not incorrect. "The Soul of the White Ant" was a book written by Eugene Marais of South Africa. It was plagiarized by Maeterlinck under the name of "Life of the White Ant", in 1926. So, it may be that Maeterlinck introduced this word into his plagiarized version, or it was in the original version, but it shouldn't be written as though Maeterlinck wrote "Soul of the White Ant". I personally am not familiar enough with the material to answer that question, but I really would like to see it reworded. Eugene Marais was a true genius and should be given proper respect for his works. Esteedee 20:23, 27 September 2006 (UTC)


Is Dawkins a vegetarian as a result of his anti-speciesism, or does he draw the line somewhere? 16:27, 30 September 2006 (UTC)

No, he's not vegetarian.[10] Laurence Boyce 17:57, 30 September 2006 (UTC)


Is it correct to label Dawkins as a Skeptic without specifying whats he's skeptical about(no prizes for stating the bleeding obvious)? Is he skeptical about the limits of human knowledge, for example? If he is, fair enough, but if not then maybe its too general a tag...--KaptKos 07:47, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

It's not strictly correct to label him as a skeptic at all - I wish people would stop "correcting" the English spelling to the American one. Sceptic is usually shorthand for taking a scientific attitude to the world - rejecting faith-without-evidence, accepting that empirical "truth" has to be potentially falsifiable, etc. Which leads to rejection of religion and the spiritual world in general. So usually it means atheism/agnosticism, and disbelief in the paranormal - both of which Dawkins has actively espoused. I wouldn't be unhappy to see the word disappear from the article in favour of more specific terms, though. --ajn (talk) 09:03, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Right on, bout the spelling, I'm bad... It seems unnecessary since he is already described as a scientist and an atheist, therefore it follows he is a sceptic in the way you define it but also sceptism is a term that , IMO, is loaded with negative conotations, rejection/disbelief and so on, where Dawkins, to me, is a resolutely positive and inclusive thinker. So sceptism seems a POV label. I realise not including it can also be interperated as POV. However if we can agree that sceptism is specific and not general than maybe its removal can be justified. Collins def "..the doctine that no facts can be certainly known.." doesn't sound like his attitude to evolution --KaptKos 10:49, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Technically, since he's a scientist, he's also theoretically a sceptic about evolution. "It hasn't been disproven yet" ought to be the strongest statement any scientist can make about any theory. In practice, of course, evolution's as certain as the atomic theory or the heliocentric solar system theory. "Sceptic" is not quite as old-fashioned a term as "freethinker", but there are better alternatives, I'm sure - and I agree, it has negative connotations as if being a sceptic about poltergeists and archangels means you don't also have firm positive beliefs. --ajn (talk) 18:15, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
Skeptic or Sceptic ... either way there is absolutley no reference to him in the Evolution Article in Wikipedia ... not even a reference to his works in the "General References". Such a well written article on Dawkins without any links from the "main page". Goulds all over the place.
I've pleaded in their discussion for an edit to include him yet it falls on deaf ears... so now I come to you. I mean, who would be reading a discussion page on Dawkins except someone interested enough to have him "FAIRLY" represented in one of Wiki's most widely read articles "Evolution". So someone march right over there and fix that. I would ... but I don't know how.
J. Butler -- 01:53, 18 October 2006 (UTC)
Someone added a reference for Dawkins within the body of the text and linked him back to here. He could still be added to the general references; but it is a start. Also, feel free to replace the Gould photo with a Dawkins pic. on the evolution site. Wouldn't it be funny if I was actually Richard. Of course, if I were I would ask you to remove that horrible photo of me standing at the podium and replace it will something a little more flattering. J. Butler -- 03:11, 19 October 2006 (UTC)


He was raised as a Lutheran. His mother, Jean Mary Vyvyan Ladner, commented on his atheism, saying, "Richard is an atheist, and our family is not. I love my son, oh yes, but I just pray that he reaches for God before his death, because if he doesn't God won't reach for him when he is in eternal darkness." [citation needed]

This smells funny. Earlier in the article is a properly cited reference to Dawkins having had an Anglican upbringing, which would be in keeping with his upper-class English background. Lutheranism is quite rare in the UK. I simply don't believe the quote attributed to his mother (especially as it gives her maiden name). None of this should go back in the article without a reference. --ajn (talk) 05:26, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Pointers to Russell, Haekel, Noble, May etc..

I'd like to re-instate something along the lines of my edit of yesterday which: 1. Compares Dawkins to Russell and Haeckel as well as to Huxley 2. Notes the critque of the selfish gene passage on "robots" by Dennis Noble 3. Avoids giving the highly misleading impression that the genetic basis of altruism is now well-understood.

May I try to explain my reasons and see what people think?

1. As the Huxley reference recognises, Dawkins is by no means the first prominent intellectual to adopt the position he has in society. Huxley was of course famously an "Agnostic" (he coined the term). In the UK Bertrand Russell was saying very similar things in his time, a point which Dawkins and others have noted. Haeckel is also directly relevant because he took up positions substantially identical to Dawkins's in 19th Century Germany (rather to Darwin's disgust).

2. The main entry now shows that Dawkins no longer holds the view that we are merely "lumbering robots" controlled by our genes. However this serious misconception is widely held. Dennis Noble who was one of the pioneers of systems biology and made the first working mathematical model of the heart has written a brilliant and beautiful book called The Music of Life which expressly critiques an corrects this view, and also explaining the fact that genes are by no means simple entities and almost never work alone (he uses the analogy of organ pipes playing chords and tunes). Real bio-scientists know this but most readers of Dawkins don't understand this at all.

3. In his Presidential Address to the Royal Society last year Robert May made the point that the evolution of altrisim is currently one of the hottest and most exciting areas of research in science (his former pupil Martin Nowak is one of the leading figures. I have studied this quite closely (I know them both) and it really is not a done deal. I am not at all saying that it is an intrinsically inexplicable mystery - the conditions under which various forms of "Altruistic" behaviour can emerge and many and various and are becoming increasingly better understood but it is still a pioneering field and could well win someone a Nobel.

I am of course very happy to accept and listen to any reasoned criticism and amendments. NBeale 21:34, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

:*The latest detail which you added comparing Dawkins to Huxley is unrefererenced, so whatever weight you see this lending to your argument is lost on me for one, the previous argument is by what I would consider an unreliable source as in the opening paragraph he states that he considers Dawkins unworthy of he subect he is writing about. Use this in the critisms of Dawkins by all means but this is pretty weak for the lead section :*I don't know if your next point is true or not, but you know what, I think its time you read Wikipedia:No original research. :*Point 3. Are they your friends? Is that what you mean by "I know them both"?

--KaptKos 23:54, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

I withdraw my comments as I was tired and emotional when I made them so I apologies for wasting everyones time by not contributing in a coherent and usefull fashion. regards --KaptKos 10:27, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Hi KaptKos.
1. ?? I don't want to add anything about Huxley. All I want to say is:He has also been called "the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell"[1] and compared to Ernst Haekel[2]. Although Prof E criticises Dawkins in his review, the comparison per se is anything but critical and I would suggest non-controversial. Dawkins consciously borrows Russell's "teapot" and FWIW there are about 75k google hits on ("Richard Dawkins" "Bertrand Russell") (OK I know there are about 2.25M on ("Richard Dawkins" God) but I trust you see the point :-) )
2. I'll think about how to reformulate what I want to say in point 2. it's not original research by me!
3. I wouldn't wish to claim such eminent people as "friends" but I've known Bob for many years and he introduced me to Martin who I visited in Harvard last month.NBeale 01:26, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Placement of that first quote might be questionable, might be better put in the "Career" section (probably in place of the comparison to the pope which needs to be removed). The second addition - "Presidential Address to the Royal Society" seems inappropriate, as the ref doesn't even mention Dawkins. It probably belongs in the reciprocal altruism article. *Sparkhead 12:03, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Thanks NBeale. I am still not happy with your recent edits. To deal with these edits specifically, rather than with what went before, I do not find it particularly interesting that a couple of journalists have compared Dawkins to a couple of geezers. So what? I agree with KaptKos – very weak for the lead section. Neither do I think that you are saying anything astonishing when you point out that the evolution of altruism is not fully understood. Nothing is fixed; everything is subject to revision and rethink and Dawkins would be the first to acknowledge that. The edit is also unencyclopedic in tone – "a very hot topic in biology." Why not begin by writing an article on Dennis Noble? Just a thought. Laurence Boyce 12:13, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Hi Laurence. Eagleton is not a journalist but one of the UK's leading atheist professors! And the other ref is a full-length book publised by CUP. Furthermore Russell and Haeckel are not a couple of geezers, I suggest your read their entries :-) they are figures at least as important as Thomas Huxley and scientifically far more significant that Dawkins. Dawkins fits into a clear intellectual tradition and it really helps understand who he is and what he is saying if we point users to this. I thought there was a page on Dennis Noble if not I'll try to create one. NBeale 12:29, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
There is an article on Denis Noble and I've just created a redirect from Dennis Noble to it. *Sparkhead 12:40, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Whatever. I must say I'm not a great fan of "intellectual traditions." And it's a bit soon to say what Dawkins's significance will be in the grand scheme of things. But I'm happy to concede on this point, I don't really mind either way; but I still feel the edit on altruism is unencyclopedic. Ah, I see, Denis with one "n". Never heard of him. Laurence Boyce 12:45, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I agree that the altruism edit doesn't belong as I stated above. The other quote belongs in the career section. Any objects to that move/delete? *Sparkhead 12:47, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
No objections your honour. Laurence Boyce 12:52, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
I moved/edited, but still not happy with the comparison quote. I'm sure he's been compared to lots of people. *Sparkhead 13:07, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
Hang on guys - you asked for objections and then make the edit within 20 minutes. People can't be everywhere you know. Of course Bob doesn't mention Dawkins - nor does the section in question. At present the para claims that "The gene-centered view also provides a basis for understanding altruism." The fact is that there is no plausible gene-centered mechanism even for kin reciprocity (it is as certain as anything can be in genetics that complex behaviours are the product of many thousands of genes collaborating in very complex ways, and that there is no "gene for" autruism)and that the work on the evolution of altruism shows that of the 5 basic types listed by Nowak in his latest paper on the Evolution of Cooperation (Kin, Direct Reciprocity, Indirect Reciprocity, Graph Selection and Group Selection)only the first need have a genetic component.NBeale 13:54, 28 October 2006 (UTC)
It's a democracy! Two to one against, or three to one if you count KaptKos. Of course there's no gene for altruism; it's a higher level paradigm. This is an article about Dawkins and his writings which, with the exception of The Extended Phenotype, are largely a representation of the work of others. In my view, this is not really the right forum to argue for a different view of altruism. I also think you may be inserting too many criticisms concerning The God Delusion. Once again, you could work on a balanced criticism section in that article instead. Laurence Boyce 14:38, 28 October 2006 (UTC)


OK it would be accurate to say "The gene-centered view also provides a basis for modelling some forms of altruism." would you be happy with that? NBeale 14:10, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

It would be appropriate to put it in the altruism article previously mentioned. It isn't directly related to his bio, but may be related to the topic itself. *Sparkhead 14:31, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

Bleh – I'm not ecstatic. This article is about Dawkins; there's a separate article on the Gene-centered view of evolution. By the way, I like this. I didn't realise you'd been at it before! Laurence Boyce 14:38, 28 October 2006 (UTC)

"Rating" Reviews

It would seem saying anything about a review beyond "here it is" is judgemental and POV. Think all commentary should be removed in that section and simply have the links? *Sparkhead 12:27, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

None of these book reviews belong here

Reviews for the books here already exist in the wikipedia book articles. Since they relate to the book and not Dawkins directly, they don't belong here, and they're already on the book pages (sometimes put there by the same editor). *Sparkhead 18:17, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

I agree. God Delusion reviews belong in that article. Laurence Boyce 18:38, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't.
  1. These reviews were posted by a number of editors and it is disrespectful to their work to delete them.
  2. They don't all relate to The God Delusion
  3. They help people to put Dawkins work in context.
Unless there is a clear Wikipedia Policy not to have this section then we should leave it in unless there is a wide consensus (not just 2:1) that it should be moved. Let's try to contact the other Editors and see what emerges. In the meantime, leave the hard work in please NBeale 22:56, 29 October 2006 (UTC)
See WP:OWN regarding "disrespectful to their work". The work as it is, exists in other article. There is wikipedia guideline: Wikipedia:Guide_to_writing_better_articles#Stay_on_topic. What he's written is on topic for a BLP article. But since articles for the books in question exist, reviews of said books belong on their respective pages. Not here. *Sparkhead 23:12, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Kelvin Medal

Are you certain that's not correct? It's listed in the Institute's article and elsewhere, I'll see if I can dig up a better reference. *Sparkhead 18:49, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

  • You are correct. With all the notable historical people in the region you'd think they could come up with a few different names for their awards.... *Sparkhead 18:54, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

I was going by Dawkins's own CV over here. Having said that, it wouldn't be the first time the CV was inaccurate. Laurence Boyce 18:57, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

  1. ^ A Survival Machine: A Special Forum: 'Richard Dawkins' at the edge within the third culture