Home » Darwinism, Evolution » What’s Your Favorite Dawkins Quote?

What’s Your Favorite Dawkins Quote?

Quotes like “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist” and “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” are right up there, but my all-time favorite is “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” (All these quotes are from The Blind Watchmaker.)

It’s comforting that evolutionary theory is in the capable hands of rigorous empirical scientists like Dawkins.

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47 Responses to What’s Your Favorite Dawkins Quote?

  1. “Do you realize that if the Creationists are correct, the world was created during the most recent ice age!?”

    - From a radio interview with a fellow Atheist, from a couple of years ago.

  2. “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.”

    This is an amazing quotation: Imagine how he would likely react if someone were to replace the word “Darwinian” with “Creationist.”

    I am curious though: there’s an implied “because…” here (I mean, there’s gotta be, right?). Does Dawkins provide any stated reason for his preference?

  3. SteveB, I suspect that like so many other materialists/naturalists, his intellectual identity/pride is so interwoven into his Darwinian faith, that he’d be shattered if he were to admit that there’s any other plausible alternative.

  4. Can’t recall the exact wording, but its the one that says that anyone who doesn’t accept evolution is either ignorant, stupid, … or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that.

    When he met Behe, he added lazy. Said Behe was just too lazy to work on the real answer.

  5. Oh snap! He met Behe? I can’t imagine the sparks when that convergence occured. I wonder what sort of small talk, if any, was exchanged.

  6. The actual quote (with the preceding sentence, which provides necessary context) is:

    “My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right it means that, even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.”

    Just an FYI.

  7. I like the one about raising a Child Catholic being worse than sexual abuse…

  8. “It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe”.-The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316

    Surely he meant “apparently designed?”

  9. Here are a couple of his thoughts from the recent radio program OnPoint:

    “We would be a lot better off without religion.”

    Referring to a belief in a Biblical creation and young earth: “that’s the kind of stone-age mentality we are talking about among these clergymen.”

  10. “It is fashionable to wax apocalyptic about the threat to humanity posed by the AIDS virus, “mad cow” disease, and many others, but I think a case can be made that faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the smallpox virus but harder to eradicate.” – Is Science a Religion? The Humanist Vol 57 Jan/Feb

    “Life is just bytes and bytes of bytes of digital information. Genes are pure information – information that can be encoded, recoded and decoded, without any degradation or change of meaning” – River out of Eden

    I vaguely recall a dude name Bill Dembski has written a thing or two about information as evidence for design, hmm….. :D

  11. (sigh)… nice shirt, Richard: http://www.centerforinquiry.ne.....es/112.jpg

    Unbelievable. (no pun intended)

  12. Steve B asks: “I am curious though: there’s an implied “because…” here (I mean, there’s gotta be, right?). Does Dawkins provide any stated reason for his preference?”

    Yes, he’s an “intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

  13. On debating ID:
    “You might as well have a reproductive biologist debating the stork theory of where babies come from.”

  14. Dawkins on religion: “The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved —Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal — God is the Omnipotent Father — hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is not just in place for one tribe, but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.” From “Stop respecting religion and start submitting it to the same scutiny as any other idea or argument, says Richard Dawkins. And September 11th 2001 makes this scrutiny more urgent than ever…” Written for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Madison, Wisconsin, September 2001. The entire article can be read here: http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/da.....d_up.shtml

  15. “(insert 11 second pause here)”

    Which was his response when asked:

    “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?”
    (from From A Frog To A Prince)

    and then went on to give an ‘answer’ that had nothing to do with the question.

  16. The one where he calls David Berlinski a creationist. hahaha

  17. Take this:

    „The fact that only very small creatures have evolved the wheel suggests what may be the
    most plausible reason why larger creatures have not. (…) But what would the evolutionary
    intermediates have looked like? Evolutionary improvement is like climbing a mountain
    (“Mount Improbable”). You can’t jump from the bottom of a cliff to the top in a single
    leap. Sudden, precipitous change is an option for engineers, but in wild nature the summit
    of Mount Improbable can be reached only if a gradual ramp upwards from a given starting
    point can be found. The wheel may be one of those cases where the engineering solution
    can be seen in plain view, yet be unattainable in evolution because its lies the other side of a
    deep valley, cutting unbridgeably across the massif of Mount Improbable.“

    “Why don’t animals have wheels?” The Sunday Times 24 November 1996 URL.:
    http://www.world-of-dawkins.co.....eels.shtml

    Yes, small creatures have wheels – but where is the “gradual ramp”? Dawkins explanation(-logic) concerning the absence of wheels on the macro-level is also applicable to the wheels of “small creatures”. Ups: The fact that they have wheels is proof enough that there must be a “gradual ramp”;-)

  18. “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”

    This is my absolute favorite quote when someone says “there is NO EVIDENCE for intelligent design”. The fact is that there is overwhelming evidence to intelligent design, as admitted by all the evolutionists. What evolution has done is simply said, “aha! we’ve figured out that apparent design can occur without actual design!” By doing this, they deflated the argument for intelligent design. That means that simply proving their theory incorrect must necessarily re-admit all previous evidence for intelligent design. If design cannot be reproduced by natural processes, then the evidence for design stands as-is, and its negation was the biggest wild-goose-chase since alchemy.

  19. Re comment # 15 by jzs

    If you didn’t know about this old canard, then have a look here http://www.skeptics.com.au/jou.....expose.htm

    One criticism frequently made against proponents of ID is misrepresentation of the views of others, and continuing the misrepresentation after it is pointed out.

  20. Thanks Alan, I’ll check it out.

  21. jzs/Alan, you might also be interested in this brief commentary:

    http://www.evolutiondebate.inf.....0Pause.htm

  22. To be fair, you should read this too, jzs.

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/3907.asp

    “One criticism frequently made against proponents of ID is misrepresentation of the views of others, and continuing the misrepresentation after it is pointed out.”

    Funny, Alan, that accusation is often made about darwinists as well.

  23. Alan Fox -

    Dawkins and Williams are misrepresenting the situation. See these two links:

    http://www.trueorigin.org/ca_gb_01.asp

    http://www.nwcreation.net/wiki.....le=CB102.1

    Skeptics are skeptical of everyone but themselves.

  24. jzs, this is about the same article, but there is more at the end.

    http://www.trueorigin.org/ca_gb_01.asp

    By the way, has Dawkins answered the question yet? He’s had 7 years for god’s sake!

  25. Thanks MGD for the links.

  26. “evolution is suddenly starting to become intelligently designed”

    the quote looks more incriminating than it really is since Dawkins was talking about genetic engineering, but it’s amusing he used the phase, “intelligently designed”, I mean it would be like a creationist saying creation is becoming more Darwinian.

    http://www.salon.com/news/feat.....ex_np.html

    Dawkins has been called the Prophet of Pointlessness by physcist Stephen Barr. Dawkins writes:

    “The universe we observe … has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference.”

    But really my other favorite quote shows his Darth Vader charm which really comes through in his letter to Bill Dembski:
    http://www.kcfs.org/kcfslink/L.....screen.pdf

    “Dear Dr Dembski

    You have invited me to contribute to your journal, and to become a fellow of your society. I decline
    both invitations, having no desire to be used in your publicity campaign (the Wedge, isn’t that what it is called? Apt title, though not very endearing).

    The thing I really resent about people like
    you and Johnson and Behe is that you
    are a gratuitous waste of precious time…”

    We love you too, Richard.

    Sal

  27. You cannot be both sane and well educated and disbelieve in evolution. The evidence is so strong that any sane, educated person has got to believe in evolution.
    — Richard Dawkins, in Lanny Swerdlow, “My Sort Interview with Richard Dawkins” (Portland, Oregon, 1996)

    It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).
    — Richard Dawkins, quoted from Josh Gilder, a creationist, in his critical review, “PBS’s ‘Evolution’ series is propaganda, not science” (September, 2001)

    He probably means “change over time”, though.

  28. “The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear. It is an immensely exciting experience to be born in the world, born in the universe, and look around you and realize that before you die you have the opportunity of understanding an immense amount about that world and about that universe and about life and about why we’re here. We have the opportunity of understanding far, far more than any of our predecessors ever. That is such an exciting possibility, it would be such a shame to blow it and end your life not having understood what there is to understand.”

    [Nick: Thanks for this quote. It is so easy to villainize Dawkins (and he is a villain). But not all of his impulses are bad. --WmAD]

  29. The account of the origin of life that I shall give is necessarily speculative; by definition, nobody was around to see what happened. The Selfish Gene (1989) p.14

    For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was no evolution at all. It made a nonsense of the central point of evolution. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.249

    It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316

    I want to return now to the charge that science is just a faith. The more extreme version of that charge—and one that I often encounter as both a scientist and a rationalist—is an accusation of zealotry and bigotry in scientists themselves as great as that found in religious people. Sometimes there may be a little bit of justice in this accusation. “Is Science a Religion?” The Humanist January 1997

    It is forever true that DNA is a double helix, true that if you are a chimpanzee (or an octopus or a kangaroo) trace your ancestors back far enough you will eventually hit a shared ancestor. To a pedant, these are still hypotheses which might be falsified tomorrow. But they never will be. The Devil’s Chaplain (2003) pp.17-18

    http://bevets.com/equotesd2.htm#rdawkins

  30. A gaggle of enlightening Dickie Dawkinisms about life:

    “apparently designed objects, like eyes”
    “complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”
    “almost as if the human brain were specifically designed”
    “compelling illusion of ‘design’ that pervades every living body”
    “complex biological design”

    Hey Dickie, denial is more than just a river in Egypt! If it looks like a design, and quacks like a design, it’s probably a design. DUH!

  31. Oh dear. Bill, you’ve upset the peanut gallery AGAIN.

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/arc......html#more

    If I didn’t know better I’d think you enjoy yanking their chains. ;-)

  32. it’s amazing how insane those commenting at panda’s thumb sound. the part left out of the quote doesn’t in any way change the meaning of the quote. they’re over there attacking anyone who doesn’t buy into darwinism as a fool, yet they don’t realize that they’re claims of distorting quotes isn’t distorting at all.

    dawkins clearly said- even if there was no evidence to support it (tho there is, ACCORDING to dawkins) it would be better to support that idea than any other. even leaving out dawkins “there is, of course” doesn’t change any of the meaning of what he says. the argument remains the same- dawkins said even IF there wasn’t evidence to support darwinism (which clearly shows he supports the idea that there IS evidence to support it) it would be better to teach it than any other theory.

    reading thru some of the posts over at PT, it seems to be a site full of hatred and darwinian zealotry. i see many comments where people continually claim that ID theorists are all right-wing bible thumping fools or that they’re actually creationists. i’m sure the readers here will easily so how ironic it is that they’re claiming bill was dishonest with his quote, yet they blatantly lie and call ID theorists creationists and attack anyone who doesn’t buy their theory as anti-science, religious whackos, etc. when we all know that isn’t the case.

    they also complain that bill says that dawkins is a villian. and that turns into the argument that bill isn’t a real scientist and shouldn’t be attacking dawkins. funny tho- dawkins is a villian to ANY reasonable person. the guy says that religion is the worst evil in the world and that religious belief is the worst disease in history. only a fool would deny the man who says that IS NOT a villian. those arrogant, bigoted comments alone from dawkins make him a villian in the general sense of the word. i’m sure the PT site comments would call me a villian if i said “all darwinism is evil and it’s the worst disease to ever affect the planet…those who support it are ignorant fools and most likely downright evil” they would rightly call me a villian, yet if dawkins says the same thing of religious people, there’s a double standard!

    it’s amazing the amount of ignorance out there. i’ve been studying the subject of evolution, ID theory, creationism, etc. lately and i’ve noticed that the sensible ones seem to be the anti-darwinists. i don’t see ID’ers saying that darwinists aren’t really scientists and are all hacks, yet that’s exactly what i see of darwinists speaking of ID’ers on nearly every site! doesn’t say that a lot about which group has more credibility, and maybe even more sense? whether one wants to admit it or not, when you have to attack those who disagree with you as christian nuts, anti-science fools, not really scientists, etc. you know you and you’re ideology are both in trouble.

  33. Question: If Dawkins has no problem saying that living things “appear designed”, shouldn’t he, as a scientist, be prepared to give a rigorous definition of what design is. He seems to claim simultaneously that there is no valid way of making claims such as irreducible complexity/specificied complexity, yet feels very free to use the term design as he pleases. Why shouldn’t the burden of definition fall on him?

  34. [...] [...]

  35. The burden of definition does fall on him and the fact that living organisms of all sizes are remarkably engineered makes the burden of proof fall on the un intelligent evolutionary side of the table. I almost never refer to things looking designed, but refer to them looking incredibly well engineered.

    Dan

  36. Desperate Housewives is back! Right now! On ABC!

    Dickie Dawkins is a desperate housewife, by the way.

  37. [...] Bill Dembski asks his readers for their favorite Richard Dawkins quote. Mine is this one: “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” (from The Blind Watchmaker) [...]

  38. The quote from Richard I prefer is:
    “ If the natural selection supplies information to the genic pool, what sort of information is? It is information about surviving” .
    From R.Dawkins, The Devil’s Chaplain, chapter 2.

    There you can see directly from Richard all the impossibility of Darwinism (between “surviving” and “transforming” there is a terrific abyss).

  39. It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316

    That’s amusing.

    One might add: It is almost as if the typology and anti-sequential ordering typical to Nature was designed to communicate, “Darwinism can only be clung to if you have the urge to merge like Darwinists do.”

    Or it is almost as if there is a biotic message designed to communicate, “There is one common designer of fundamental types, yet see how I make things hard for those who want to argue for sequence and common descent.”

    It is little wonder that Darwinists rely on their Mommy Nature and the womb of Naturalism in the face of numerous “gaps,” separation, convergence, teological emergence combined with mountains of anti-sequential empirical evidence in need of some form of merging. Yet crawling into the womb of Naturalism seems to be little more than a shift into a philosophical debate about what is “natural” and so on which avoids dealing with empirical evidence of the natural typology of Nature. I doubt that they are being purposefully dishonest in all the shifting and merging, as their own psychological dynamics seem tightly bound to such shifting. Mommy Nature probably scientifically selected such shifting for them by her au naturale natural selections, naturally enough. Apparently that is just the science of things if one murmurs the term science enough.

    This fellow Carl Zimmer has a funny passage where he seems to be going back to the womb and merging with fishs. We probably had gill slits in the womb of Mommy Nature, don’t you know. I’d like to write about this fellow, perhaps some other time.

    Dawkin’s quote above, “These are sky-god religions.”

    This won’t suit his Cosmic Oedipus complex, I suspect, oh no, no indeed!

    So of course:
    “They are, literally, patriarchal — God is the Omnipotent Father — hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.”

    Yes all theistic husbands and fathers through the ages have loathed women but Dawkin’s knows the feminine just as Mommy Nature selected for him. He’s quite a fortunate fellow in that way because Lady Luck gave him a chance Or did she? Sometimes to have a chance you have to take a chance. Some fellows are not used to doing that.

    “The sky-god is a jealous god, of course.”

    Why are they always such crybabies about things? I think one psychologist described a dynamic typical to effeminates this way, “Tends to cry about nothing…”

    I should go no farther as psychoanalysis is all ad hominem, like satire. I don’t feel bad about that because he lit the rhetorical fire and besides, what is left to deal with if you take the sapience out of the Homo sapiens? Those left will have diminishing intelligence and a lack of purpose by design. Then all that will be left is a bunch of little fellows with brain events which are fodder for some type of analysis based on the nurture and nature of Mother Nature herself. They shouldn’t mind analysis, as they’ve lost their mind of the synaptic gaps in her.

    If mankind is nothing more than a physical organism then Darwinism is its excrement.

    So psychoanalysis seems apposite, as “Psychoanalysis is an occupation in whose very name “psyche” and “anus” are united.”
    (Anti-Freud: Karl Kraus’s Criticism of
    Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry, By Thomas Szasz)

  40. I have a question, and I’m sorry thats it’s a little off topic.

    What are the rules for this site? What is allowed and what is not? I
    ask this because my earlier post was deleted (as well as my old acocunt)
    when I tried to explain why some people view the Dawkins quote as an
    out-of-context quote, and I specifically tried not to use any ad-homs,
    foul language, or accuse Dembski (or anyone else) of purposely
    misquoting Dawkins. Yet it was deleted. So I am curious if there is a
    somewhere that has a set of rules or guidelines for posting on this
    site so that I can view it and hopefully not make the same mistake
    (whatever that mistake was) in the future and have my posts and account
    deleted. Thanks in advance for any answers.

    [Go here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....archives/9 --WmAD]

  41. Here’s another Dawkins tidbit that demonstrates the outright disdain he has for anything having to do with religion.

    “In any case, the belief that religion and science occupy separate magisteria is dishonest. It founders on the undeniable fact that religions still make claims about the world that on analysis turn out to be scientific claims. Moreover, religious apologists try to have it both ways. When talking to intellectuals, they carefully keep off science’s turf, safe inside the separate and invulnerable religious magisterium. But when talking to a nonintellectual mass audience, they make wanton use of miracle stories-which are blatant intrusions into scientific territory.

    The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children. Every one of these miracles amounts to a violation of the normal running of the natural world. Theologians should make a choice. You can claim your own magisterium, separate from science’s but still deserving of respect. But in that case, you must renounce miracles. Or you can keep your Lourdes and your miracles and enjoy their huge recruiting potential among the uneducated. But then you must kiss goodbye to separate magisteria and your high-minded aspiration to converge with science.” (“Snake Oil and Holy Water”, Forbes ASAP, Oct. 4, 1999, pp235-38).”

  42. “It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe”.-The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316

    This may be my new favorite. “almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism”

    That’s what we call common sense and intuition.

  43. my very bad

    “It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe”.-The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316

    This may be my new favorite. “find it hard to believe”

    That’s what we call common sense and intuition.
    It shows us that it’s still possible, though, if we try very hard, to stand on our head.

  44. dawkins:
    “The Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used for religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children”

    let’s change that quote a bit, without really changing the meaning–

    dawkins:
    “newton, kepler, mendel, pascal, faraday, Copernicus, and scores of other famous scientists are unsophisticates and children, because they believed in the virgin birth, resurrection, and raising of the dead by Christ.”

    i have to say it again, does dawkins think before he speaks EVER? does he realize the amount of arrogance in this statement? does he realize that such a statement makes him sound like a child and an “unsophisticate”??

  45. jboze3131 I can’t do better than that. The resurrection of Christ has so much evidence it is wholely inappropriate for Dawkins to so sweepingly disregard it. It is singly the most confrontational opposition to his theories because it proves a personal God who has a purpose and has intervened. I say this as one who is not finding God’s decision to create [at least in the way he has done so] easy to accept, but truth is crucial however harsh it may seem, and Dawkins has bottled out and decided not to go there.

  46. See the recent article Was Richard Dawkins really stumped by a question about genetic information?: [CMI's] Frog to a Prince DVD shows the Apostle of Atheism unable to provide an example of information increase in the genome. See timeline, raw footage, and answer to critics.

  47. #29, bevets.

    ‘It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe. The Blind Watchmaker (1996) p.316′

    Wow! The corollary of his admission that everything in Nature gives the appearance of having been designed..!

    A case for Occam’s razor and parsimony or what! Well, you know, a blind watchmaker is such a farcical concept, it all hangs together. Dawkins is nothing if not consistent in his folly.

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