Richard Dawkins interview about 'The Greatest Show on Earth'
By STEFANIE MARSH - THE TIMES
Added: Thu, 20 Aug 2009 23:00:00 UTC
A last-minute crisis in the Dawkins household meant that we were unable to meet — as was planned — at his home in Oxford where I had intended to infer from his three libraries, the birdsâ nests that he apparently keeps in his living room, all sorts of deep meanings about Britainâs Top Public Intellectual (Prospect magazine, May 2008).
The day before our interview, however, there was an urgent telephone call from Dawkinsâ assistant: Richardâs beloved dog had died, I was told, the atmosphere in the household was too funereal for an interview. Instead, we were to meet in one of the characterless rooms in New College where, when the day came, Britainâs âangriestâ, most âvituperativeâ atheist — as his many critics like to call him, along with âbelligerentâ, and even âmadâ — greeted me in a cheerful if rather delicate mood from behind a set of double doors.
Anybody who has ever met Dawkins outside a debating room describes him as a rather shy man — not at all the âDarwinâs rottweilerâ of public life. In private I found him to be charming, if slightly irritable at times, a surprisingly romantic creature who is also the kind of person one can imagine bitching behind your back for being too thick. At one point he launched into a long, perfectly articulated and very soulful description of what it was like looking up at the stars at night in an attempt to convey how an understanding of science can enhance oneâs experience of the natural world. He is also passionate about poetry — Haussman, Shakespeare, Yeats — and admits to being ârather embarrassingly, rather shamingly moved to tears when I read poetry aloudâ.
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