Icons of Unbelief: Atheists, Agnostics, and Secularists

By S. T. Joshi | Go to book overview

Richard Dawkins

Donald R. Burleson

Trailblazing evolutionary biologist and eloquently outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins (full name Clinton Richard Dawkins) was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1941 and went to England with his family at the age of eight. Even as a child he struggled with the question of the existence of God, this struggle foreshadowing a lifelong intellectual engagement—ultimately from the standpoint of an accomplished and insightful scientist—with this fundamental philosophical problem.

Having earned a DPhil degree at Oxford in 1966, Dawkins taught biology first at the University of California at Berkeley and later at Oxford, where in 1989 he would take a DSc degree and in 1995 would accept an appointment as the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. By this time he had published exceedingly influential works in genetics and the theory of evolution.

His philosophical position on atheism, in fact, may best be appreciated in terms of his orientation as a scientist. That is, if one understands the value of the contributions Dawkins has made to the scientific scrutiny of how evolution works, one better understands his view of (to use Percy Bysshe Shelley’s phrase) the necessity of atheism, since it is central to Dawkins’s position that, in the end, science and religion are in so fundamental an opposition that it is not possible (or desirable) to reconcile them. Dawkins himself, though in youth he had once accepted the existence of God on the basis of arguments from intelligent design, came to reject these arguments precisely because his understanding of science, especially advances in the theory of evolution, rendered the notion of “design” illusory.


DAWKINS ON THE SELFISH GENE

Dawkins came to high-profile public attention in 1976 with the publication of The Selfish Gene, the book in which he introduced the concept of meme

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Icons of Unbelief: Atheists, Agnostics, and Secularists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali 1
  • Charles Bradlaugh 9
  • Richard Dawkins 27
  • Daniel C. Dennett 39
  • John Dewey 51
  • Albert Einstein 67
  • The Existentialists 79
  • The Founding Fathers 97
  • Sigmund Freud 125
  • Sam Harris 141
  • Thomas Henry Huxley 153
  • Robert G. Ingersoll 175
  • Paul Kurtz 193
  • Corliss Lamont 211
  • H. P. Lovecraft 223
  • H. L. Mencken 241
  • John Stuart Mill 261
  • Kai Nielsen 279
  • Friedrich Nietzsche 297
  • Madalyn Murray O’Hair 319
  • The Philosophes 335
  • Bertrand Russell 357
  • Carl Sagan 379
  • Leslie Stephen 389
  • Mark Twain 401
  • Gore Vidal 415
  • Voltaire 427
  • General Bibliography 443
  • About the Contributors 449
  • Index 455
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