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article imageAl Jazeera's Riz Khan interviews biologist Richard Dawkins

By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Jan 9, 2010 in Science
Riz Khan, the host of One on One on Al Jazeera English, interviewed world-renowned biologist Richard Dawkins about his life and his work for his programme on 9 January 2010. The video of this programme can now be seen on YouTube.
When Richard Dawkins appears in the media, it is usually to talk about science, religion or his books on these subjects. This is a different interview as Riz Khan asks more questions about Richard Dawkins, his life and his experiences, than about science and religion per se, and as such, it is quite refreshing, because it shows a side of him which we don't often get to see. A few highlights:
Riz Khan asks Richard Dawkins what he is trying to achieve when he is speaking out so publicly about the subject of atheism. Says Dawkins:
Truth, really, I feel passionately about what's true, partly because it is so exciting. [...] The truth of existence, of what the world is like, of what the universe is like, what life is like, how life comes into being, all that is so utterly intriguing that I really want to infect other people with my own enthusiasm for it.
They then go on about how Richard Dawkins sometimes describes himself as a cultural Christian and taking village cricket matches and pubs as an example, he says that he is fond of the sort of mild Church-of-England Christianity where nobody really believes it or takes it very seriously, a bit like many of his Jewish friends who call themselves cultural Jews but who are actually atheists.
When Riz Khan asks him if people with strong religious views bother him, Dawkins replies that they frustrate him when they interfere with scientific truth, when they try to miseducate people and try to persuade children that the world is less than ten thousand years old.
To the question if he is worried about offending people, Richard Dawkins replies that he doesn't want to offend people but that he also thinks that people don't have a right to be immune to being offended, just because they are religious.
Dawkins also talks about what he learned from Nikolaas Tinbergen, the Nobel prize winning biologist with whom he worked for a number of years. He quotes the phrase "machinery for survival," a phrase which illustrates how Tinbergen thought of animals as machines, machines of which he wanted to know how they worked. The second thing he names is that Tinbergen understood that certain behavioural patterns can be selected by Darwinian selection in very much the same way that organs such as bones can be selected.
Richard Dawkins says that he is disturbed about the fact that children are sometimes prevented from learning about evolution, and he insists that he doesn't want to indoctrinate them, but rather that he wants to encourage them to think for themselves, to look at the evidence and to evaluate it critically.
The conversation between Riz Khan and Richard Dawkins also touches subjects such as his childhood, his daughter Juliet, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, the website and more.
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