Richard Dawkins is arguably the best-known atheist and evolutionary biologist in the World today. Along with the late Charles Darwin, T. H. Huxley, and Stephen Jay Gould, Dawkins is a prime target for criticism by religious Creationists.
Dawkins, a prominent professor of zoology, produced a book in 1976, called The Selfish Gene, in which the word Memes first appeared, concerning the transmission of ideas through a culture. Dawkins was showing that genetic coding could transmit itself in a similar way through DNA. He often compares the transmission of life to computer viruses, propagating itself just to carry DNA coding which is programmed by nature (not by God) to replicate itself as much as possible. Gould’s theories were less exclusively dependent on genes, and there was sometimes bitter rivalry between Dawkins and Gould over this. The Dawkins supporters have generally fared better however.
An outspoken Humanist and atheist, Dawkins regards belief in God despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary to be a dangerous delusion, and an irrational impulse. His 2006 book on the subject, The God Delusion (see my review at http://arthurchappell.me.uk/book.review-richard.dawkins-the.god.delusion.htm) has become a major world best seller. Other books also challenge religion on many fronts. The Blind Watch-maker (1986) is a devastating critique of the arguments from Intelligent Design, by showing how blind nature can generate life without seeing, or planning of any kind.
Dawkins can be brutal in his condemnation of religion. Huxley was known as Darwin’s bulldog. Dawkins has been referred to as Darwin’s Rottweiler. He has become more reluctant to take on Creationists in public debate. Though he invariably knocks their theories into a cocked hat, he finds that many are willing to try to challenge him just to get publicity for daring to stand up to him, and that the endless debate will tend to detract from his serious zoology and biology research.
Dawkins encourages atheists in the World to declare themselves ‘out’ of faith, in a move comparable to gay people declaring their homosexuality, as many atheists are afraid to speak out on their doubts and lack of beliefs. He is also highly critical of new age beliefs and pseudo-sciences, as shown in his TV show, The Enemies Of Reason, where he challenged the beliefs of Natural and homeopathic medicine practitioners, dowsers, astrologers, spiritualists, Channellers, etc.
Dawkins is married to former Doctor Who actress, Lalla Ward, who illustrates and provides audio-narration versions of some of his books.
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