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Richard Dawkins ( 1941 - )  Category ( Scientists ) [suggest a correction]
 

Richard DawkinsThough Richard Dawkins is a professorial fellow at Oxford University, trained as an ethologist and evolutionary biologist, he is popularly known as a vocal and enthusiastic atheist. Born in Nairobi, Kenya to a father in the British military, the family returned to England in 1949, when Dawkins was eight and full of questions concerning the natural sciences. His parents shared their son's interest and helped to answer his questions in scientific terms. He has stated that he began doubting the existence of God when he was a child, though he remained in the Church of England during his childhood and youth. He finally abandoned the church, feeling that the rituals and customs were absurd, having more to do with forcing people into a specific moral code based on fear, rather than focusing on God. After he undertook the study of evolution, his outlook changed once again when he realized that natural selection could account for the complexity of life, thereby making a supernatural designer superfluous.

Dawkins attended the University of Oxford, earning his D.Phil in 1966. Later he worked as an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. He later returned to Oxford to lecture. In the 1970s he turned to writing, in an attempt to explain the life sciences to a popular audience. His first book was the 1976 The Selfish Gene, which sold well and remains influential. He published a number of books since then, the most recent is the best selling The God Delusion. He is openly critical of creationism and so-called "intelligent design" theories. While Dawkins has participated in debates with theists, he is more inclined not to do so, stating that debating with creationists only gives them the "oxygen of respectability" they crave. He suggests that creationists “don't mind being beaten in an argument. What matters is that we give them recognition by bothering to argue with them in public.” In 2006 Dawkins founded the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, a non-profit organization, which focuses on the psychology of belief and religion, and assists with funding scientists exploring research in the fields of science and religion. Dawkins has attained a good deal of fame and popularity in the UK and the United States, including a successful US lecture tour in 2006-07. He was even featured as an animated character in a two-part episode of the comedy, South Park, that dealt with evolution and atheism. In 2007 he was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2007.

Dawkins married three times, the first two ending in divorce. He has one daughter from his second marriage, and is currently married to British actress Lalla Ward, whom he met through science-fiction author Douglas Adams. Ward has illustrated more than half of Dawkins' books.

Image: Dawkins at the University of Texas, March 2008.


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