Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

British evolutionary biologist and author
26 March 1941 —

Follow this author

Richard Dawkins's books


It has become almost a cliché to remark that nobody boasts of ignorance of literature, but it is socially acceptable to boast ignorance of science and proudly claim incompetence in mathematics.

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous - indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.

Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.

If you don`t know anything about computers, just remember that they are machines that do exactly what you tell them but often surprise you in the result.

Mutation is random; natural selection is the very opposite of random.

DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

Science is the disinterested search for the objective truth about the material world.

Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true, inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena under a single heading.

One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.

Evolution is something that happens, willy-nilly, in spite of all the efforts of the replicators (and nowadays of the genes) to prevent it happening.

We should not seek immortality in reproduction. But if you contribute to the world`s culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a spark plug, write a poem, it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool.

However many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive.

When you see a tiger, you had better not delay your prediction of its probable behaviour.

Sometimes in life it is a good idea to stop, sometimes it is a good idea to go on. The trick is to decide when to stop.


We use cookies to personalise ads and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our advertising and analytics partners. By using our site, you accept the use of these cookies. See details