Richard Dawkins – Science and the New Atheism

December 07, 2007

Richard Dawkins, considered one of the world’s most influential scientists, is the first holder of the Charles Simonyi Professorship of the public understanding of science at Oxford University and the recipient of a number of awards for his writings and for his science, including the International Cosmos Prize, the Kistler Prize, and the Shakespeare Prize. He is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books, such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving the Rainbow, The Devil’s Chaplain, and The Ancestor’s Tale. His most recent title is the best selling The God Delusion which is now out in paperback.

In this candid discussion with D.J. Grothe recorded in front of a live audience at the recent Secular Society and Its Enemies conference, Richard Dawkins discusses the impact of his book The God Delusion, whether or not his uncompromising attack on religion undermines science education, and how people can find meaning in a godless universe. He also explores strategies for advancing atheism in society and highlights what secularists may learn from the gay rights and feminist movements. Additionally, during the audience Q&A, Dawkins fields a question from the eminent ethicist Peter Singer.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Friday, December seven, 2007. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry, I’m DJ Grothe a point of is the radio show, the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing science reason and secular values in public affairs. Before we get to this week’s interview, which was recorded live at the recent conference in New York entitled The Secular Society and Its Enemies, here’s a word from this week’s sponsor, Free Inquiry magazine. 

The world is under assault today by religious extremists who invoke their particular notion of God to try and control what others think can do. One magazine is dedicated to keeping you up to date with analysis that cuts through the noise and the surprising courage to appear politically incorrect. That magazine is Free Inquiry, the world’s leading journal of secular humanist opinion and commentary. Regular contributors include Richard Dawkins, Wendy Kaminer, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer and Sam Harris. Their views are reasoned, thought provoking and to some, unpardonable, infuriating. Subscribe to free inquiry today. One year, six controversial issues for 1995. Call one 800 four five eight one three six six or visit us on the Web at Secular Humanism, dawg. 

It’s a pleasure for me to have Richard Dawkins back on point of inquiry. This interview was recorded a few weeks ago and it’s the first time we recorded an interview live in front of a large audience. A little background on Richard Dawkins. He’s professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and the recipient of a number of awards for his writing on science, including the Royal Society of Literature Award and the L.A. Times Literary Prize. He’s also been awarded the Royal Society. Michael Faraday Award for the Furtherance of the Public Understanding of science in a poll recently in the United Kingdom. He was named Britain’s leading public intellectual. He’s the author of a number of critically acclaimed books, influential books such as The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker and one of my favorites on Weaving the Rainbow. So here is the interview with Richard Dawkins. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry again, Professor Richard Dawkins. 

It’s a great pleasure to be on point of being Clark. 

I used to think, Professor, that atheist books, Richard Richard used to think Richard, the atheist books just didn’t sell. And with the recent titles and especially your book, a million point five copies sold around the world, we realize that’s just not true. Atheist books do sell. Let me ask you to start off. Have you discovered that now’s the cultural moment for everyone to just wake up and say, aha, I get it. God’s a delusion. 

My literary agent, John Brockman, is no fool. And he, when it comes to business in the book world. And he told me about seven years ago when I first broached possibility of writing The God Delusion. He said, don’t do it. You might be able to sell that book in Britain, but you’ll never sell it in America. And for all I know and the implication of your question is yes, that he was right, that maybe seven years ago you couldn’t sell a book like that in America. Now you clearly can. You only quoted sales figures, which are very encouraging. And by the way, added to that, the sales in English, it’s being published in 31 foreign languages, which has never happened to me before in any of my books. I mean, I’ve been up in the 20s, but never, never. 

So it looks as though something has happened. One of the speakers on an earlier panel today fingered 9/11 as a possible turning point in this culture war. And I think that’s highly plausible. Certainly my immediate reaction was to stand up. I mean, I sort of felt like my first reaction was to quote John F. Kennedy and say, you know, we are all Americans now. And then I participated in a in an evening event in a London theater where writers were invited to go and respond to it. And I said something. Rather similar. I felt we are now at war, but I didn’t think of it as being at war with Islam. I thought of it as being at war with. I forget whether at that time I thought of it as fundamentalist religion or just just I think I probably thought of it as religion, actually, although, of course, I wouldn’t be so naive as not see that there’s a difference between extremist fundamentalist religion and the sort of moderate religion which the majority of the religious people that I meet in Britain at least espouse. But I did feel that we that this is this is the start of a new phase in this culture war. And I that was why I suggested to my literary agent that I wanted to talk to write this book. It was about, yes, about seven, seven years ago. And that time he said, no, don’t do it. And and then I wrote another book, which was the ancestors tale and which was pure science. And then after that, I, I reverted to the point. And then at that time, my literary agent, John Brockman, said, yes, now go for it. You not now’s the time. It could have been because by then we’d had, what, six years of Bush. And and that that might have been what swung him around. 

So in one sense, your book, the success of it is that it is it’s responding to a cultural moment. But you’re also aiming, it seems to me, to create a cultural moment from the book, get something of a phenomenon. People are motivated by it to kind of change the way they’re doing things to get more involved. And you’re now organizing something of a movement around the attention that the books received. 

I have started a website, Richard Dawkins Dot Net. I’ve started two charities, one in Britain and one in America. The primary aim is what I call consciousness raising. And if you want to be, just say more about that later. I will. One of the most recent parts of that consciousness raising campaign is what we call the out campaign, which you can see on on the website. And it really is kind of modeled on the on the gay pride movement, which was so successful out means, among other things, come out, come out of the closet. I think one of the main things that I’ve said this evening at times that I’m kind of fearful that people are getting bored with hearing me say that I may naively have thought that the book had a good chance of converting devout religious people to two atheists. I’m not sure that that’s realistic. What does seem to be happening? And Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris report the same thing is an enormous upsurge in people who are already sort of atheists or kind of perhaps haven’t thought about it very much, but are not at least not very not very religious, having their consciousness raised to the point that they realize, actually, I am an atheist. And apparently lots of other people are, too. And I never realized it. So all three of us who have lived, the ones I mentioned, have found as we went around the United States giving talks, presenting our books. We got terrific receptions wherever we went. If anything, I found the most enthusiastic receptions I got in the Bible Belt. And it was as though people and indeed people said this to me explicitly afterwards. People were was shown that they were not alone. They thought they were. And they suddenly found themselves standing up, literally standing up in a standing ovation and medicate, in many cases, looking around and seeing a room full, a huge hall full of people in the Bible Belt. And they never realized that there were lots of other people like them. So I think that’s the most important thing that we’re that we’re doing is raising consciousness up, encouraging atheists to come out of the closet and to stand up and be counted, stand up, look each other in the eye, recognize that that that they are surrounded by other people of like mind. 

Politically speaking, I should be a little bit cautious because I’m not a citizen of this country. But I get the feeling that the widespread acceptance of the fact that you cannot become elected to public office if you’re if you’re an atheist is something that could be changed by an effective lobbying movement because far smaller lobbies than ours, at least in our potential, are enormously success. In lobbying politicians, there are some causes that no politician would dream of offending because they know they would lose the so-and-so vote. Nobody seems to be afraid of losing the atheist vote. And I think that I mean, we are far more numerous than than some of these other lobbies. I think that that’s something that just requires some organization. Of course, atheists are notoriously hard to organize. Which is a tribute to us. 

Let’s talk about the out campaign. Let’s get into that a little more in-depth. I understand the analogy with the gay rights movement. G.L. V.T. activists 15 years ago, or however long it was ago, had a national coming out day and it succeeded at raising consciousness. People everywhere came out and you realized your cousin was gay or your uncle was gay or or you had the courage to come out. Not you, but me. I had the courage to come out as gay. So I’m sensitive to these issues, but I see that the analogy kind of breaks down. And if we use the GOP tea metaphor, seems to me gays and lesbians want to raise conscious consciousness and increase acceptance of them, kind of have a place at the table, but they don’t add to that. I want to convince the heterosexuals to become gay. But the atheist movement says not only do I want to come out as atheist, but, doggone it, I want to get all the other religious people to turn into atheists. Well, yes. 

I mean that you make a very good point. There are sort of two tiers, I suppose, to the to the atheist out movement. The very least, it would be nice to achieve what the gay movement achieved and simply win a place at the table so that we are no longer despised, rejected and acquainted with grief. But then there’s there’s a there’s the second tier, which as you, as you say, is actually to to convert people. And I’m into the second part. But I. But I know that a number of my colleagues are not. I mean, for them, it would be sufficient just to be accepted as a as as human like everybody else with rights and with with a with a vote and somebody that you that you’ve got to take account of. So there is a difference and you point out the difference. But I don’t think it’s a difference that just put us off. I mean, I think that the precedent is strong enough that the success of the gay rights movement should give us courage. And we should we should go ahead and try to emulate. I mean, I think that the women’s liberation movement is another one, which in both cases there, they’re achieved by consciousness raising, which is afraid. I constantly use I. I’ve sometimes been accused when I let them on its own. 

So if if our goal if your goal at the RDF and your ambition was getting atheists around the world or in the United States, North America, Europe, the West to come out as atheist. If your goal is to increase that number by raising consciousness. Do you think that having an uncompromising stance, speaking the truth as you see it, because you interested in the truth at all costs, no matter how painful, do you think that uncompromising stance hurts the cause? Makes it harder for people to kind of go through that process of self-examination and looking at why they believe what they believe? Or do you just want to wallop them with the truth and hope it smacks them? You know, it’s snaps him out of it, you know, out of their credulity. 

It’s a very difficult political decision. And I stress I stress the word political. I’m not a very expert politician. And I could very easily be persuaded. A little bit of this came up in the panel I was on this morning. I could very easily be persuaded that it’s actually the wrong tactic politically to be so in your face. Rottweilers are very nice dogs, but I had a sort of public debate with the physicist Lawrence Krauss. It was it was published in Scientific American. And some of you may have seen it. And it I think it’s rather interesting because we completely share the same well view. But we have a slightly different political view. He his point was, was we’re in the business of seduction. And you don’t seduce people by saying you’re an idiot. And so what you do is you flatter them, you cajole them, you sweet talk them. And I guess I’m not a very good seducer because I find it very. To do that, if somebody is talking palpable nonsense, then I find it just it’s not quite my style to say it. 

Very interesting point you make now. Have you considered it? But I suppose I think it’s quite a good thing that there are other people out there doing that, like like Lawrence Krauss. 

And in the particular instance of the evolution creation battle by creation, by the way, including intelligent design. Right. It’s a total fiction, to use the separate phrase, with creationism, intelligent design in the political battle in American schools over the teaching of evolution or or creation. I am very conscious that I am not the most effective advocate. I mean, I actually noticed this when I met Eric Rothschild, the lead lawyer for our side in the Pennsylvania Kitzmiller. Yeah, Kitzmiller. And we had a very nice talk over and over lunch. And at the end he said, well, thank goodness we didn’t call you as an expert, but just let me touch on that a little bit. 

You have kind of a dual you have two careers, almost. You’re the world’s most prominent atheist. You’re also one of the world’s most prominent spokes persons for science. Your position at Oxford is Charles Simoni, chair of the Public Understanding of Science. So I understand how you might say, well, I might not be the best voice when it comes to science education, especially in the states. Church, state separation or intelligent design in schools. But it seems to me you’re not just one of many voices in many conversations. You’re the only voice because of your prominence, because of your authority. And a lot of Americans who aren’t up on the issues like we are, they say, well, here’s this brilliant. No, no, we’re all from England, from Oxford, who is telling me my central beliefs are wrong. And he’s doing that because he’s a scientist. And so science is somehow on the opposite side of all the issues I hold dear. 

That is exactly what it was, one of the points that Rothchild meant and that other other people hadn’t meant. 

I’ve been told that the prominent creationists love me because they knew they could use me to say, look, you see the evolution of science generally, but especially evolution leads to Athie ism. 

And what were I to go into where I to have gone into the court in Dover, Pennsylvania, and the lawyer for the other side had said, Mr. Dawkins, is it true that you were led to atheist because of your understanding of evolution? I would have had to say yes. 

And do you equate science and ethics? No, I don’t equate it. 

But nevertheless, I would have had to have answered yes to that to that question, whereupon the lawyer would simply have said, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my case rests because it is axiomatic that anything that promotes ism has got to be bad. And so if if some parts of science promotes atheist, then then you when you’re trying to achieve a political objective of winning the battle about the teaching of evolution in American schools, the politically shrewd tactic, the tactic which might get the best results, is to say, oh, no, no, not a problem. 

Of course you can be religious. That religion is totally compatible with with with evolution. It’s just God’s way of doing it. I mean, why why wouldn’t God use natural selection as the as the way that he chooses to to make to make life? 

Of course, you can go on being being religious. Now, that is that’s the expedient political tactic. And that’s the tactic that the most effective lobbyists in America for the teaching of evolution use. And they don’t like what I did and I don’t blame them. 

So you concede you may undercut their mission, but you’re fighting a different fight? 

I mean, I think it’s a it’s a sort of different fight. 

But I do have somewhat divided loyalties because my my profession as a scientist is I’m an evolutionary scientist and I hate to see the teaching of evolution, which I think is the most. It’s my father. The central subject in biology. My my own field. It also gives you what I mean. It’s a it’s a wonderfully exciting thing. Well, I understand. I think it’s truly tragic that so many children are being denied the opportunity to learn about this wonderful idea because of systematic subversion from from religious interests. And so if it’s true that I let my waging of all of what in one sense is a larger war is causing those who are fighting this battle within the war. If it’s if I’m making life difficult for them, then I really do have divided. I mean, I really feel very conflicted about that. 

So you’ve just a moment ago you implied the answer to this question, but I’d like to pin you down on it. What’s the bigger issue for you? Science education, people appreciating science, edge evolution being taught in the schools or waging a war against religion, diminishing its role in American or in public life. 

What’s what has priority for you? Well, I. I’m a bishop. 

I think I’m in a minority among my scientific colleagues in that I actually think that the question of of religious belief. The question of God. The question of God is the existence of gods. I believe it’s a scientific question. And many of my colleagues don’t. They say nothing to do with science. Completely separate. You do you do your science. Whether it happens, you would, in addition to the belief in a supernatural creator. It’s entirely your business. Nothing to do with science. It’s private. Just just leave it totally on one side. I can’t do that because I do think it’s a scientific question. I think that if there is a supernatural creator who made the laws of physics, perhaps who intervened to cause life to originate in the primal soup, primeval soup, perhaps, who even intervened at certain crucial, difficult stages to sort of help evolution over the jumps at some later stage in in history then or indeed. And suddenly, whoo hoo hoo causes miracles to occur if there is a supernatural intelligence somewhere in the universe who is doing that kind of thing? That is a scientific question and it should be of great interest to science. If it were true, just suppose it were true that that they the universe that in the universe somewhere there lurks a gigantic. 

Super mind an overmind. Which could be called God. 

Wouldn’t that be the most fascinating scientific fact of all? How could a scientist possibly not be utterly intrigued? If that if that were true? So if you think it’s false, as I do, then as a scientist, how can I not argue the case for its false? I can’t go along with people who say, oh, it’s nothing to do with science. It’s private. It’s it’s outside the purview of science. So of course I think it’s it’s the larger war. Yes. 

Some I mean you’ve gotten criticism from all sides might suggest you’re doing something right or might suggest everybody thinks you’re wrong. I don’t know. But there’s some criticism that you’ve gotten is from the humanist movement, the secular non religious humanist movement, who, you know, some thinkers in the humanist movement have said it’s not enough to just decry widespread belief in God. There has to be something more. You can’t pull the rug out from under people and expect them to be happy about it. Just to follow up, I, I would I want your reaction to an anecdote I’d like to share. I hear that criticism of you and I read The God Delusion. And there’s not a whole lot in the God Delusion about the meaning of life and how you can be good and happy and fulfilled without God. But you’ve touched on that in other books I mentioned on Weaving the Rainbow earlier in Chicago. This may seem unseemly and I apologize if this is inappropriate, but I want to share this in Chicago. End of last year, a young man I was there to speak with were opening a center in Chicago and a young man came up and he think like a lot of people did today. I love hearing this kind of stuff. Thanked me for a point of inquiry. And he said, listening to your episode on Point of inquiry changed his life. And he said it with that trembling kind of emotionality of being very moved. The man’s name is the young man’s name is Jeffrey was Jeffrey Harrison. Jeffrey had terminal cancer and he recently passed away before he passed away. You might not know this. He got to meet you in Chicago just a couple of months ago. He was in the audience. You spoke to the group at University of Chicago. And he he found the experience very moving. And he sent us at CFI an email. And his Paire girlfriend, other people were in touch saying this changed his life. This gave him a meaning that his kind of his religion didn’t. So that seemed to suggest that there is somehow meaning or enough in your message, even if it’s not explicit. So with that as background, what do you say to the charge that you’re you’re just giving one shoe? Not letting both shoes drop? 

Plus, I’m curious why you should for a moment or thought it was unseemly to tell that story in the back of my head. 

I’m just thinking, you know, that he recently passed away. 

So but but the fact that he mentioned his name, right? Yes. Well, from the way you tell the story, it doesn’t sound too likely that he would have minded. And the only possible person who might have minded would be would would would be him. I am greatly moved to hear that story. I have heard similar similar stories. That’s why I’m related in the press. Preface the new preface to the paperback edition of The God Delusion, which hasn’t yet come out in this country. It’s a not dissimilar story. A doctor in Britain called Doctor Ashton wrote to me to say that his 17 year old son, Luke. 

Had died suddenly and unexpectedly on Christmas Day 2006 after reading The God Delusion. And he, the father and the boy had discussed. How much they wanted to support my charitable foundation and after his death. The father at the funeral, which took place on the Isle of Man. Said that if anybody at the funeral wanted to make any kind of donation in Luke’s memory, they shouldn’t send flowers or anything like that, they should send donations to my foundation. And from just that, that funeral, including a collection which just passed around at the local pub, two thousand pounds was contributed. That’s four thousand dollars was contributed in memory of this of this boy. I like to think that both these these cases. There is some solace, some consolation that comes from our world view. You’re right that I haven’t, but I didn’t in the God Delusion, dwell much on that aspect. One of my other books you also mention on Weaving the Rainbow is sort of my. Testament on that aspect, on the on the spiritual quality of life that you get from science that you get from. Contemplating your situation in the universe with clear, open eyes, the eyes that have been opened by science. Facing up to reality. Facing what? More than. Not not so much facing up, but rejoicing in the astonishing good fortune that you have in being alive. 

It’s a it’s an astonishingly unlikely contingency that you should be here, that any of us should be here. I don’t have a copy of I’m Weaving the Rainbow it me. But the opening words are something like, we are going to die. And that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they never get to be born. The number of possible people who could be standing here in my place. But who will never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. We know this because the set of possible combinations of DNA so massively outnumber set of actual. So we are fantastically lucky to be alive. And as I said this morning, nobody should ever complain of being bored. It’s a kind of insult to the zillions of people who will never be born to complain of being bored. It’s an insult to them to complain that our time in the sun is limited to some decades. We’re just fantastically lucky to have those decades at all. And it is an insult to them to whimper and whine at the prospect of it’s coming to an end. We we owe it to them and to ourselves to to make the most of the time that we have on the planet. And there are all sorts of other aspects in which, I mean, the book I Weaving the Rainbow develops the theme that I’d like to think that all my books about expounding some evolutionary science. Contribute to the same feeling of. Spiritual, I don’t mind using the word spiritual welfare. 

I could sink my teeth into what you just said. I find it inspiring. I think many people in this room would say, right on, I get it. But the the way that you are portrayed in the media, you know, consumers of information out there, they don’t you know, most people don’t read every book. That’s a bestseller. Right. Most people don’t study issues in depth before they make up their mind if they’re kind of what’s called what Matt Newsbeat is called cognitive misers or that, you know, they use cognitive shortcuts. They look at you and say Athie ism is meaningless. There’s there’s no point in a universe without God. Do you think if the atheist movement you’re out campaign is really going to take off, that you need to address these more existential questions, not just from logical questions about another reason why God doesn’t exist, another reason why your religious neighbor is full of it? 

Well, were the best one in the world. No, no matter what I decide to do. If people won’t read my book, obviously nothing that I say can possibly influence them. I mean, the people you’re talking about. 

You’ve Morris said they they haven’t read the book. I mean, why should they? I mean, obviously, you don’t want to read my book. You don’t have to, but I can’t do very much about it, at least in the written word. If people will read it. 

But the question was about the movement. If the movements are going to catch on. Do you need to address these more hand-wringing questions? 

Well, I think we do, yes. And I think that all sorts of other things we need to do. I think one of the earlier discussion panels. The point came up that we need to convey the idea that there’s nothing particularly unusual or sinister about atheists that are just ordinary people like anybody else, who they’re nice people. 

Well, but you’re not just like anyone else. Atheists aren’t just like the religious neighbors because you want to shake up their whole world view. 

They will take from you. They’re central that well. They want to shake up mine as well. Great song. Yeah, you’re right. Yeah. 

So, I mean, we we don’t, after all, go around knocking on doors and I don’t go around in pairs saying, are you saved? So I mean I write a book and if people want to read it, they can. But I don’t sort of thrust it through their letterbox and then say, you you must read this. 

I don’t I don’t have to let it keep that right. Am I right? 

And so it seems to me the point you’re making there is take it or leave it. You everyone has a right to their opinion. Yes. You’re saying what you think is the truth about the universe and the fit, though few will get it. The the the people who are ready for this truth will get it. And and if it’s not, you know, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. And there ain’t no sugar in the brew. Truth. 

God, Bill. Okay, I. But that is what I said. But I better back up and think a bit more. 

I mean, you we we we probably could use other media. I don’t use television use videos for people who would read that. And there are other ways of doing it. And yes, I mean, it would be good to use all media at our disposal. And the World Wide Web certainly is a is a medium that is new. And I’m truly delighted by the by that success in hit rate that Richard Dawkins dot net is enjoying. 

And I know that it’s reaching an awful lot of people because we want to really make sure we have some time for some back and forth. We’ll take some questions now if you want to line up. 

I’ve been instructed to ask Peter Singer to ask the first question. 

Thanks very much. Richard, you. Perhaps you’ve been set up a little bit in discussing things. I wanted to try and link what I said in my session, which I know you and I had a conversation about earlier today with what you’ve been saying, because we share a Darwinian view of the world. And one of the claims I made in my session is that the Darwinian view undermines the basis for some of the distinctions we draw between ourselves and animals, undermines the idea that we’re special because we are made in the image of God or that God gave us dominion over the animals, and that if we get rid of these preconceptions, we would take a different view of the moral status of animals. That would require us to treat them in very different ways from the idea that they are simply things there for us to use as we see fit. So I wondered if I could ask you as a Darwinian whether you share that view. 

Yes, let’s not say animals. Let’s say non-human animals. I am very happy to do them. That’s that’s consciousness raising, by the way. That’s that’s that’s a good example. 

It’s just like what the feminists did with consciousness raising about sex passed language. It is a logical implication of the Darwinian view that there is continuity between all species, at least theoretically continuity. 

I’m very fond of pointing out that. It’s an accident of history that the evolutionary intermediates between ourselves and, for example, chimpanzees or actually between any species and any other species is an it’s an accident that they happen to be extinct. If they were not extinct and the thought experiment would be suppose we discovered relict populations of Australopithecus. Lucy in the jungles of Africa and relic populations of continuous series of intermediates from ourselves back to the common ancestor with chimpanzees and the continuous series from the bat, from chimpanzees to the common ancestor with chimpanzees. And let’s say that the series is sufficiently continuous. There’s no reason why why it shouldn’t be that we could actually meet and reproduce all the way along the chain so I could meet with a female in the jungle who could meet with a male, could make with another one, and we could link all the way in a chain, all the way to chimpanzees. Now, it is pure historic accident that that that we actually can’t do that. If only all the intermediates had survived, we could literally do that. And if that were the case, then the only way we could maintain our present species ist morality, which draws an absolute wall around Homo sapiens and distinguishes us from every other species on the planet. The only way we could maintain that under the conditions of the thought experiment that I advanced would be to have courts exactly like the apartheid courts in South Africa, which decided with a sentence that would pass the white. And when you put it like that, we would all we will shrink back in horror from such a prospect. And yet most of us accept, without question, the presumption that we are completely unique species. In many ways we are the unique species. But lots of other species are on that. The point I’m making with the thought experiment is that there is a continuum. 

I would I’ve thought about, and I mentioned this to you this morning, about possibly writing a science fiction novel in which this this thought experiment is what is realized. Or another way to do it would be to hybridize humans and chimpanzees produce an actual an actual hybrid. And the point of the novel would be to explore the implications. What what effect will that have on society? What effect would that have on on moral philosophy? What effect would that have on religion? It would be dynamite. And I would love it in some ways, not always, but in some ways I would love to see that actually done. It shouldn’t be necessarily necessary to do it in actuality, because the thought experiment is clear. No, nobody can possibly deny unless they deny evolution, of course. But as long as where evolution is, as long as Darwinians, nobody could possibly deny that. Which means that all of us who are meat eaters, including me, are in a very difficult moral position. We are we are at least speaking for myself. What? What I am doing is going along with the fact that I live in a society which is where meat eating is accepted as as the norm. And it requires a level of sort of social courage, which I haven’t yet produced to break out of that. It’s a little bit like the position which anybody. Most not everybody, but many people would have been a couple of hundred years ago over over slavery. Well, lots of people felt kind of morally uneasy about slavery, but went along with it because I don’t know, the the whole economy of the South depended upon slavery. Of course, none of us like the idea of slavery. But you can’t seriously contemplate doing away with it. I mean, you know, the whole economy would collapse. So I. I find myself in something like that, that situation. I think what I’d really like to see would be a mass consciousness raising movement. We all become vegetarian. 

And then and then I mean, it would be so much easier for those of us who find it difficult to to to go along with that. I’m quite apart from that. 

You then have brilliant chefs making wonderful, wonderful recipes, and you wouldn’t have to. 

Oh, yeah. Thank you. Thank you very much. Please join me in thanking Richard Dawkins for. 

You’ve seen the headlines, Bill seeks to protect students from liberal bias. The right time for an Islamic reformation. Kansas School Board redefined science. These stories sum up the immense challenge facing those of us who defend rational thinking, science and secular values. What one adviser to the Bush administration dismissed as the reality based community. Who could have imagined that reality would need defenders? The educational and advocacy work of the Center for Inquiry is more essential than ever. And your support is more essential than ever. Show your commitment to science, reason and secular values. By becoming a friend of the center today, whether you are interested in the work of psychology and skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry Magazine, the Commission for Scientific Medicine or Center for Inquiry on Campus. By becoming a friend of the center, you’ll help strengthen our impact. If you’re just learning about CFI, take a look at our Web site. W w w dot. Center for Inquiry dot net. We hosted regional and international conferences, college courses and nationwide campus outreach. You’ll also find out about our new representation at the United Nations, an important national media appearances. We cannot pursue these projects without your help. Please become a friend of the center today by calling one 800 eight one eight seven zero seven one or visiting w w w dot center for inquiry dot net. We look forward to working with you to enlarge the reality based community. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to get involved with our online community and converse about today’s episode yourself. Go to our online discussion forums at Center for Inquiry dot net slash forums. Views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the same views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org or by visiting our Web site. Point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiries produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Executive producer Paul Cook’s point of inquiry’s music is composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael Quailing. 

Contributors to today’s show included Debbie Goddard and Sarah Jordan. And I’m your host, DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.