among the things that science does know, evolution is about as certain as anything we know…evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening… it is rather like a detective coming on a murder after the scene… the detective hasn’t actually seen the murder take place, of course. But what you do see is a massive clue … Huge quantities of circumstantial evidence. It might as well be spelled out in words of English.
—Richard Dawkins, December, 2004
Richard Dawkins, the British ethnologists, for his contributions to evolutionary biology and public understanding of science, and, currently, for his supports to the current British Humanist Association’s atheist ads on public buses, is our Humanist of the Month.
The man popularly referred to in the British media as ‘Darwin’s Rottweiler’ was born on 26 March 1941, in Nairobi, Colony of Kenya, British Empire, where his father was serving then as a member of the Allied Forces during the World War II.
Dawkins was at Oundle School from 1954 to 1959. He later on moved to study zoology at the Balliol College, Oxford, where he was tutored by Nobel Prize-winning ethnologist Nikolaas Tinbergen, graduating in 1962. Convinced of need for advanced education, Clinton Richard Darwin continued as a research student under Tinbergen’s supervision at the University of Oxford, receiving his M.A. and D.Phil. degrees in 1966.
Between 1967 and 1969, Dawkins worked as an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. He was active during this period in the anti-Vietman war that the United States was involved in. Richard returned to the University of Oxford in 1970 taking a position as a lecturer. He became a Reader in 1990 and in 1995, he was appointed Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science in the University of Oxford.
In fulfillment of the dictates of his professorial chair, Dawkins turned to explaining the life sciences to a popular audience, beginning with his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene, which was used to commence his popularisation of the gene-centered view of evolution.
In 1986, Dawkins participated in the Oxford Union’s Huxley Memorial Debate, in which he and English biologist John Maynard Smith debated Young Earth creationist A. E. Wilder-Smith and Edgar Andrews, president of the Biblical Creation Society. But he has since stopped involving himself in such debates based on the advice of his late friend, Stephen Jay Gould
Dawkins has also unrepentantly opposed the inclusion of intelligent design in science education, describing it as “not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one”. He has been a strong critic of the British organisation Truth in Science, which promotes the teaching of creationism in state schools, and he plans − through the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science − to subsidise the delivering of books, DVDs and pamphlets to schools, in order to counteract what he has described as an “educational scandal”.
In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that faith qualifies as a delusion − as a fixed false belief. He argued that atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind and also sees education and consciousness-raising as the primary tools in opposing what he considers to be religious dogma and indoctrination.. As of November 2007, the English language version had sold more than 1.5 million copies and had been translated into 31 other languages, making it his most popular book to date
The man who describes himself as a “cultural Christian”, and proposed the slogan “Atheists for Jesus” is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, a vice-president of the British Humanist Association (since 1996), a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland, a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism, and a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. In 2003, he signed Humanism and Its Aspirations, published by the American Humanist Association; the same year that the Atheist Alliance International started awarding the Richard Dawkins Award at its annual conferences, in honor of Dawkin’s work, honoring an outstanding atheist whose work has done most to raise public awareness of atheism during that year.
In 2007, Dawkins founded the Out Campaign to encourage atheists worldwide to declare their stance publicly and proudly. Inspired by the gay rights movement, Dawkins hopes that atheists’ identifying of themselves as such, and thereby increasing public awareness of how many people hold these views, will reduce the negative opinion of atheism among the religious majority.
Dawkins retired from his post as Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science in September, 2008, announcing plans to “write a book aimed at youngsters with the goal of warning them against believing in “anti-scientific” fairytales. True to his promise, a book by Dawkins, supporting the theory of evolution, is scheduled to be published in the United States by Free Press on 24 November 2009, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
Let’s believe that this book will also be a shelvable masterpiece, that we all, as humanists, can be proud of as being a contribution to public understanding of science and evolution theory by one of our own, our very own Clinton Richard Dawkins.