Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think : Reflections by Scientists, Writers, and Philosophers

By Alan Grafen; Mark Ridley | Go to book overview

A FELLOW HUMANIST

Richard Harries

RICHARD Dawkins is a brilliant writer and speaker on science. His grasp of the subject and his use of vivid analogies can explain scientific concepts and make them clear even for the non-scientist. I think, for example, of his recent discussion on Radio four with Jonathan Miller on extended phenotypes. Of many examples in his writings I refer to his explanation of 'intermediates' and why creationists are confused in calling for evidence that, by definition, could never be produced in the form they seek.1 Then there is his sense of excitement at what has been or might be intellectually explained whilst his passion for scientific truth can arouse interest in even the most unscientific mind. If pupils at school were taught science by teachers with some of these gifts, the role and status of science in our society today would be very different.

Like Richard, I am at once puzzled by and hostile towards the apparently growing influence of creationism in this country coming over from the United States. I have been very pleased to be associated with him in writing letters and articles opposing the reported teaching of creationism in at least one new school. Like him I believe that science has a proper integrity which needs to be fought for and preserved. This means that letting evidence decide, allowing evidence to modify or refute even one's most cherished notion, is fundamental; as is the scientific method of rigorous testing of hypotheses by experiment. I also have other reasons for being antagonistic to creationism. It involves an unhistorical, uncritical approach to the biblical texts. It misunderstands what those texts set out to do and as a result they belittle God and bring Christianity into disrepute.

Richard's reputation as a gifted communicator of science is

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