LUMPENPROLETARIAT—Every once in a while, our comrade Brian Edwards-Tiekert  at KPFA/Pacifica Radio’s Up Front will discuss religion and the contradictions it often poses for general scientific inquiry. This particular broadcast finds KPFA’s Brian Edwards-Tiekert speaking with Dr. Richard Dawkins, author of many great books, including The Selfish Gene (1976) and his latest book, published last month, Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science, the second volume of his autobiographical memoir. (I’ve had the pleasure of catching one of Dawkins’ presentations at the UC Berkeley campus not too long ago, and getting a book signed and all, a very nice chap.)
During the conversation, Brian Edwards-Tiekert prompted: “The field of evolution, at the time [of Darwin], was just only starting to come to a synthesis with our understanding of DNA.”
Richard Dawkins: “True; yes. The big change from Darwin, himself, was in the 1930s, the modern synthesis of the 1930s, which was a marriage of Mendelian genetics with Darwinism. Darwin had no genetics to speak of. But, then, in the 1950s, when DNA was unraveled and genetics were discovered to be purely digital, that gave a great shot in the arm to Darwinian studies.”
Brian Edwards-Tiekert went on to ask about “the idea of Universal Darwinism” and how “it presupposes that whatever form of life exists [throughout the universe or multiverse], it’s gonna be subject to natural selection based on adaption to the environment” (c. 49:30):
Richard Dawkins: “Yes.”
Brian Edwards-Tiekert: “The question it raises for me is we’ve reached this point in human history, where we are exercising control over our environment, where we are beginning to have the tools to manipulate our own genetic sequences. Doesn’t that suggest a different type of evolution going forward?”
Richard Dawkins: “Yes. It might well. I mean it could well be that scientists of the future will look back on this time, the time in which we are living as a kind of great sea change in the course of evolution. And intelligent design may actually come into its own. But it would be human intelligent design. Or it would be design by human-designed robots.
“So, we only know of one way, which is natural selection, for complex organisation to come into the world; and that’s Darwinian natural selection. But, once that’s happened, then we do know of a second way, which is intelligent design. And humans, of course, do exercise intelligent design when they make cars and computers and planes and things.”
Brian Edwards-Tiekert: “I wanna talk about your work and religion and theology and, well, it started, I guess, with taking on snake oil.”
Richard Dawkins: “Yes. And I’ve done a fair bit of television, as well, which is described in Brief Candle in the Dark. Brief Candle in the Dark is arranged, not chronologically, but thematically. And, so, there’s a chapter on television, a chapter on my past books and things.
“I’ve always been hostile to religion. But it only, really, came out in The God Delusion in 2006. But it’s been implicit in all my books.”
Brian Edwards-Tiekert: “You get to pick your battles. You get to pick your topics. Why pick a fight with organised religion?”
Richard Dawkins: (c. 51:16) “My own field of evolutionary biology can be said to be in the front line. You raised the point earlier, which it’s a bit puzzling, why that is the case. But it is the case. Physics has a bit of trouble about the Big Bang, not sure why because you’d think that would be rather friendly to the idea of genesis. But they don’t seem to like it.
“But creation of life, as opposed to evolution, is where the battle is mainly joined. And, so, in a way, people in my field are forced to take on the forces of, not all religion ‘cos, of course, the more intelligent theologians are quite happy with evolution. But, certainly, in America, fundamentalist religion is actually 40% of the American electorate and think the whole world started less than 10,000 years ago, which is a very serious error.”
[This article is a rough draft under construction. Check back to read the final draft.]
UP FRONT—Richard Dawkins discusses his life in science and the public eye, from the debates within evolution, to the all-out war between his field and fundamentalist religion. But first: after years of secret trade negotiations, representatives from 12 countries announce they’ve reached a deal on the Trans Pacific Partnership. We’ll take a look at what’s in it, and what’s next.
- Melinda St. Louis, International Campaigns Director with Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
- Katy Roemer, a nurse at Kaiser Oakland, and a board member for the California Nurses Association
- Richard Dawkins, fellow of the Royal Society, and author of many many books, about evolution, behavior, and the clash between science and theology. His latest is about his own life – it’s entitled Brief Candle in the Dark: my Life in Science. Tickets to his KPFA benefit are available here.
Learn more at UP FRONT.
 Brian Edwards-Tiekert is the host and founder of Up Front, KPFA radio (Berkeley, CA) and the Pacifica radio network throughout the nation.
[Images are used for educational purposes under creative commons licence, CC BY-SA 3.0.]
[Transcript by Messina]
[15:02 PST 8 OCT 2015]
[Last modified 01:02 PST 9 OCT 2015]