9.07.2012

Richard Dawkins Speaks to CNN About Scientific Literacy, Morality & Creationism

CNN has a nice in-depth video interview with writer/biologist Richard Dawkins. It's definitely worth your time if you care about scientific literacy.

A few highlights:

On whether or not evolution should be taught to young children:
You can't even begin to understand biology, you can't understand life, unless you understand what it's all there for, how it arose - and that means evolution. So I would teach evolution very early in childhood. I don't think it's all that difficult to do. It's a very simple idea. One could do it with the aid of computer games and things like that.

I think it needs serious attention, that children should be taught where they come from, what life is all about, how it started, why it's there, why there's such diversity of it, why it looks designed. These are all things that can easily be explained to a pretty young child. I'd start at the age of about 7 or 8.

There’s only one game in town as far as serious science is concerned. It’s not that there are two different theories. No serious scientist doubts that we are cousins of gorillas, we are cousins of monkeys, we are cousins of snails, we are cousins of earthworms. We have shared ancestors with all animals and all plants. There is no serious scientist who doubts that evolution is a fact.

On the source of morality:
We have very big and complicated brains, and all sorts of things come from those brains, which are loosely and indirectly associated with our biological past. And morality is among them, together with things like philosophy and music and mathematics. Morality, I think, does have roots in our evolutionary past. There are good reasons, Darwinian reasons, why we are good to, altruistic towards, cooperative with, moral in our behavior toward our fellow species members, and indeed toward other species as well, perhaps.

There are evolutionary roots to morality, but they’ve been refined and perfected through thousands of years of human culture. I certainly do not think that we ought to get our morals from religion because if we do that, then we either get them through Scripture – people who think you should get your morals from the Old Testament haven’t read the Old Testament – so we shouldn’t get our morals from there.

Nor should we get our morals from a kind of fear that if we don’t please God he’ll punish us, or a kind of desire to apple polish (to suck up to) a God. There are much more noble reasons for being moral than constantly looking over your shoulder to see whether God approves of what you do.

Where do we get our morals from? We get our morals from a very complicated process of discussion, of law-making, writing, moral philosophy, it’s a complicated cultural process which changes – not just over the centuries, but over the decades. Our moral attitudes today in 2012 are very different form what they would have been 50 or 100 years ago. And even more different from what they would have been 300 years ago or 500 years ago. We don’t believe in slavery now. We treat women as equal to men. All sorts of things have changed in our moral attitudes.
Watch:


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