Dawkins Interview: “The Greatest Show on Earth”


IN Maclean’s, a Canadadian weekly current affairs magazine, we read The Interview: Richard Dawkins. You’ll want to click over there to read it all, so we’ll just give you a few excerpts, with bold added by us:

Q: You compare creationists to Holocaust deniers — history deniers is the term you’ve coined. Isn’t that a little over the top?

A: No. They are both very similar — both are denying what is a perfectly manifest fact. In the case of Holocaust deniers it’s more recent history, but in both cases the evidence — in favour of the Holocaust and evolution — is simply overwhelming. That doesn’t mean they are morally or politically equivalent. But they are equivalent in denying history.

We prefer comparing creationists to moon-landing deniers, but Dawkins is entitled to his own analogy. Let’s read on:

Q: The book does lay out, in great detail, the case for evolution. What is the most compelling piece of evidence?

A: I think the molecular genetic evidence. The distribution of genes right across the animal and plant kingdoms. Before you could look at anatomy — things like bird wings and bat wings and human hands — and notice similarities. Nowadays you can do the same kind of thing, but in hugely more detail. For a start we have the same genetic code for all living creatures. Then we have a large number of genes that are manifestly the same, but with detail differences — they look like different drafts of the same book. In extreme cases, like a human and a beetroot, it’s like the difference between Matthew and Luke’s Gospel — clearly they tell the same story, but with different words. Whereas with a human and a chimp, it’s like two different printings of Matthew, with a few typos in one. So you end with a beautiful family tree of resemblance, where very close cousins like humans and chimps have almost all their genes in common. Slightly less close cousins like humans and monkeys still have recognizably the same genes. You could carry on right on down to humans and bacteria, and you will find continuous compelling evidence for the hierarchical tree of cousinship.

O what blasphemy! We continue:

Q: In recent years, many creationists have embraced “intelligent design” — the notion that the intricacy of life somehow proves that a higher power had a hand in its making. But you argue just the opposite, that life is too complex to be the work of any god.

A: Yes. The beauty of evolution is that it does provide an explanation of how you can get complexity out of simplicity. It does it by slow, gradual degree. At no point are you postulating the sudden coming into existence of a complicated being.

Q: You cite also a number of examples of what you call “unintelligent design.”

A: Yes, there are places where no sensible designer would commit such an error. I had a rather exciting day helping to dissect a giraffe, which I describe in the book. The recurrent laryngeal nerve — which runs from the head to the voice box — goes all the way down into the chest, loops around a major artery, then goes all the way back up again. It goes right past the larynx on the way down. All a decent designer would have to do is loop it off at that point. What we’re looking at is the legacy of history.

Okay, that’s enough. Now get over to Maclean’s and read it all. Hey, while we’re at it, here’s a link to Dawkins’ book at Amazon: The Greatest Show on Earth. Even if you don’t buy it today, the review section is worth a look.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “Dawkins Interview: “The Greatest Show on Earth”

  1. ” I think the molecular genetic evidence”

    I couldn’t agree more. As a person who did molecular biology as is pertains to neuroscience, I find the denial of evolution utterly incredulous except by completely ignorant people (like banana man and his boy wonder buddy)

  2. Dawkins wrote:

    I had a rather exciting day helping to dissect a giraffe, which I describe in the book

    …and was also part of a splendid TV series in the UK; the giraffe episode is available on YouTube, and worth a viewing.

  3. Great Claw quotes Dawkins: “I had a rather exciting day helping to dissect a giraffe …”

    Yeah, you know how it is. You get to the office, and there’s a giraffe in the in-box.

  4. Curmudgeon: “We prefer comparing creationists to moon-landing deniers..”

    As you know, some creati0nists are moon-landing deniers. And some concede that humans and chimps share common ancestors. And most take one of many positions in between.

    But that’s what you get when there’s so much evidence for evolution: that much more to take out of context to make it look “weak,” but at the cost of making it more hopeless than ever for opponents to agree on what happened instead.