Richard Dawkins (1941 – )

“Don’t ever be lazy enough, defeatist enough, cowardly enough to say 'I don't understand it so it must be a miracle - it must be supernatural - God did it'.

Say instead, that it’s a puzzle, it’s strange, it’s a challenge that we should rise to. Whether we rise to the challenge by questioning the truth of the observation, or by expanding our science in new and exciting directions - the proper and brave response to any such challenge is to tackle it head-on. And until we've found a proper answer to the mystery, it's perfectly ok simply to say 'this is something we don't yet understand - but we're working on it'. It's the only honest thing to do. Miracles, magic and myths, they can be fun. Everybody likes a good story. Myths are fun, as long as you don't confuse them with the truth. The real truth has a magic of its own. The truth is more magical, in the best and most exciting sense of the word, than any myth or made-up mystery or miracle. Science has its own magic - the magic of reality.”

-The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins

Clinton Richard Dawkins was born a British citizen on March 26 1941 in Nairobi, Colony and Protectorate of Kenya. He is a scientist, author and public intellectual who has made significant contributions to science and to the public understanding of science. He is perhaps better known for his views on religion than for his other achievements. At 76 professor Dawkins still writes and appears frequently on television, radio and the internet for interviews, lectures and discussions of science, his work and his atheism.

He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and served as the University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008. His many awards and honors include the Zoological Society of London Silver Medal (1989), the Michael Faraday Prize (1990), and the International Cosmos Prize (1997). The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science was founded in 2006. In 2016, his foundation merged with The Center for Inquiry, an organization whose mission is “... to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.”

His first book, The Selfish Gene (1976), popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and made Dawkins a successful author. In that book he coined the term “meme” - an idea or behavior pattern which operates as a cultural analog to a gene. The book’s title has caused some confusion about the author’s argument, which is essentially that adaptation does not serve an “altruistic” purpose. A living organism is just a survival mechanism for its genes. In the foreword to the 30th-anniversary edition (3rd ed, 2006) Dawkins wrote that he "can readily see that [the book's title] might give an inadequate impression of its contents" and he should have called the book The Immortal Gene instead. In a 2017 poll celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Royal Society science book prize, The Selfish Gene was listed as the most influential science book of all time, pulling ahead of even Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica.

Another of his most popular and influential books is The Blind Watchmaker (1986), winner of the Royal Society of Literature Award and the Los Angeles Times Prize. In it Dawkins describes how the processes of evolution - reproduction, selection and mutation - are unguided by any designer. The process of evolution begins in simplicity and results in increasingly complex structures, with no designer needed to do its work.

The God Delusion (2006) is perhaps Dawkins’ most-read book, in which he argues that religious faith is a delusion. Taking this position has garnered the author as much criticism as it has praise. Dawkins has defended the arguments he presents in that work in countless debates and interviews. He argues against the teaching of creationism in public schools and in favor of secular values in public education and government.

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (2011), is an illustrated science book written for children and young adults. Dawkins’ intended the book for children 12 and older. In trials before publishing it was shown that younger readers could understand the material with some help from adults. The book covers much ground, ranging from evolutionary biology to planetary motion, plate tectonics, and speculation on exobiology.

An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist (2013) and Brief Candle in the Dark: My Life in Science (2015) constitute his his two-volume autobiography.

Books by Richard Dawkins