[The following text is only a summary of the full interview published in Spanish and Catalan]
Richard Dawkins’ investiture as honorary doctor by the University of Valencia was one of the most remarkable events of the Year of Darwin (2009). Richard Dawkins is one of the most influential intellectuals of the last decades. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Literature. He has been awarded with an honorary doctorate by ten different universities. The one awarded by the University of Valencia was the first one from a non English speaking university.
Dawkins is the author of almost a hundred titles combining chapters in books and articles, most of which deal with evolution and animal behaviour. However, he is better known by his eleven published books. The selfish gene (1976), his first book, is a wonderful account of natural selection mechanisms and is considered one of the best popular science books ever written.
Jacques Monod used to say that something curious about the theory of evolution is that everyone claims to understand it. Why do you think evolution is so difficult to understand? Has it to do with our difficulties to assimilate the immensity of geological time?
What kind of big advances can we expect in coming decades?
What five books would you recommend to someone who wants to learn about evolution?
His book on transitions in evolution?
Is there any area of human nature that can’t be explained by evolutionary theory?
What do you think of animal consciousness? Are animals self-aware?
You said once that you were first interested in biology due to your interest in deep philosophical issues, like «who are we» or «what are we doing here». Do you think that this is the main motivation for most biology students?
Why are you interested in the global understanding of science?
Is a good science communication enough to mitigate the mistrust scientific and technological advances cause?
But there are many popular science books on evolution, good books, and even so…
Probably there are many people who agree with you regarding the relationship between science and religion, but choose to keep their opinions for themselves. How and when did you decide to come out?
Is creationism gaining ground in Europe?
One last question that my Etology students usually ask — «selfish gene» or «selfish allele»?
«Many people think that if they believed in evolution they would be betraying their religion, or that one cannot be religious and an evolutionist at the same time»
«The scientific understanding of the world, the universe and life is so extremely exciting, that it would be a pity if someone died without appreciating it»
«I don’t know if communicating science is enough to mitigate the mistrust science causes, but I don’t know what else can we do»
© Mètode 2009 - 63. Feared Science - Issue 63. Autumn 2009