Saturday, October 17, 2009

Richard Dawkins: God Among Atheists

October 16, 2009 on
It's been a rather big year for Charles Darwin. 2009 is the bicentennial of the man's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "The Origin of Species," and the explorer and naturalist has been the subject of books (including a graphic novel adaptation of "The Origin of Species"), a movie starring Jennifer Connelly (with its own ensuing controversy), and even a viral video hit starring "Growing Pains" actor Kirk Cameron. Given that evolutionary biology is Richard Dawkins' area of expertise, it's unsurprising that the British scientist, atheist and controversial author of "The God Delusion" has also gotten on the bandwagon -- in rather ambitious fashion.

In "The Greatest Show on Earth," Dawkins has written what is essentially a layperson's primer for the theory of evolution. Dawkins aims to explain to the everyday reader why evolution isn't a "theory" but a fact and that we need only look around us to find evidence of its existence -- from continental drift to the reproductive habits of wasps. Dawkins uses simple language, elaborate metaphors and color photographs to make his point, and the result is a convincing, if occasionally dry, overview of evolutionary biology. It's also clear, from the book's first pages, that Dawkins isn't very tolerant of his creationist opponents (the book includes a memorably confrontational encounter with Wendy Wright, the creationist president of Concerned Women for America).

Salon spoke with Dawkins via Skype about creationism's popularity in America, its connection with religion, and how he feels about his own notoriety. A video excerpt of the conversation is posted below.
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