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Interview with Richard Dawkins on 'The Selfish Gene' - Comments

Riley's Avatar Comment 1 by Riley

I tried to link to the audio file and got this message:

"We're sorry. The content you requested is available for UK users only."


Thu, 02 Aug 2007 12:27:00 UTC | #57379

LeeC's Avatar Comment 2 by LeeC


Is someone able to re-post this file somewhere else so the rest of the world could listen?


Thu, 02 Aug 2007 12:36:00 UTC | #57381

maton100's Avatar Comment 3 by maton100

Click the "reposted from" link.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 12:48:00 UTC | #57386

Josh Timonen's Avatar Comment 4 by Josh Timonen

Sorry about that, the link has been fixed.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 12:57:00 UTC | #57387

aoratos philos's Avatar Comment 5 by aoratos philos

Josh keep an eye on your mailbox. Email from me in the next 30 mins. I'm just running off an mp3 conversion of the .ram file posted.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 13:46:00 UTC | #57395

troodon's Avatar Comment 6 by troodon

Imagine - no religion. Imagine a world where our best scientists would be able to devote all their working time to original science and inspiring the public, without having to fight the religious nutcases threatening to drag us back into the dark ages.

Someday maybe. In the meantime, our civilization takes number one priority and I'm grateful to scientists like RD for taking up the fight. But as I listened to this interview I kept thinking what a treat it was to hear RD discussing science again, answering thoughtful original questions from people such as Eugenie Scott. I read The Selfish Gene about 30 years ago and remember how it opened my mind to the wonders of evolution.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 14:56:00 UTC | #57415

bockman's Avatar Comment 7 by bockman

aoratos, could I trouble you for a c.c. on that mp3?

david(.)bockman(@) (remove parenthesis)

Thank you if you can,

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 14:57:00 UTC | #57416

BicycleRepairMan's Avatar Comment 8 by BicycleRepairMan

Josh keep an eye on your mailbox. Email from me in the next 30 mins. I'm just running off an mp3 conversion of the .ram file posted.

Thats cool, If anyone could post this on YouTube (or google video, or dailymotion) as well, it would be much appreciated. Yes, I know it sounds counter-intuitive to post an audio-file in video format, but there is actually alot of good audio there(on YT) and I can also post it on VideoSift, which by the way, is an excellent site, a sort of Youtube for mature people who doesnt want to waste endless hours on video diaries.. Its a video democracy/natural selection site where only the strongest survive :)

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 15:00:00 UTC | #57418

Crazymalc's Avatar Comment 9 by Crazymalc

He must be stoked to be talking about Science again and not so much about the whole god thing

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 15:28:00 UTC | #57432

Yorker's Avatar Comment 10 by Yorker

Refreshing, almost no religion, a welcome change, at least for me.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 15:45:00 UTC | #57437

Yorker's Avatar Comment 11 by Yorker

8. Comment #60659 by BicycleRepairMan

That videosift link was a good move. I'd never seen Bill Hicks so worked up before on that clip you posted. I liked Bill, pity he died so young, what killed him, do you know?

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 15:53:00 UTC | #57439

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 12 by Zaphod

To Yorker

Bill Hicks had Pancreatic cancer.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 16:15:00 UTC | #57444

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 13 by robotaholic

I get all excited when I see a new Richard Dawkins video or hear a new sound clip. Oh yes, hearing him talk science really makes me feel like he's a great scientist-and THAT is the best compliment you can get from me-

It drives me crazy that scientology gets to use the word science in it's name. arggh -

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 18:00:00 UTC | #57490

LDmiller's Avatar Comment 14 by LDmiller

In the course of this program the topic of genetic engineering came up, and Dr Dawkins stated that just about every type of animal except humans had been genetically manipulated via the selection portion of Darwinian evolution. (This was in the context of a statement concerning that we are only now starting to manipulate the mutation part.)

Alas, Dr Dawkins is incorrect on this. Humans were in fact bred for certain characteristics: I refer to slaves in the antebellum South in the US.

Importation of slaves into the US was prohibited after 1808 (this is part of our Constitution), and even before that it had become economically very profitable to breed slaves on plantations in the deep South rather than import them. (The death and disease rates associated with the Atlantic crossing made it so.)

In the 50 years between the 1808 prohibitiion and the Civil War there were in fact human breeding farms, and the slaves were bred in precisely the same way that one would breed prize horses or cattle or dogs, etc. Furthermore, there were slave markets where they were bought, sold and traded.

This went on for long enough that there are still phenotypical differences between American and African blacks that far exceed what you would expect from the length of time that the American population was isolated from the African ones. (Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor (I forget which) commented on in a stand-up routine; he had noticed the differences when he visited his ancestral home in Africa.)

The existence of these "human breeding farms" was famously novelized by a writer named Kyle Onstott in the late 1950's, in which he depicts a particular plantation over a number of generations. There were several senationalized novels (which were fiction, but based on historical data), and one of them was made into a movie: "Mandingo".

Oddly, this was done in an area of the United States where resistance to the ideas of evolution have been (and are now) the strongest.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 21:15:00 UTC | #57562

wezza_'s Avatar Comment 15 by wezza_

Good Interview,
It's good to hear Dawkins talking more as scientist, which he sort of had to depart from when touring for the god delusion.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 23:49:00 UTC | #57587

socratzsche's Avatar Comment 16 by socratzsche

LDmiller, I believe you're referring to artificial selection.

Thu, 02 Aug 2007 23:55:00 UTC | #57589

jesus_christ_himself's Avatar Comment 17 by jesus_christ_himself

I've got an mp3 of Dawkins talking at the Edinburgh Literary festival a couple of years ago, before the GD came out. How do I post it on this site?

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 05:36:00 UTC | #57692

waxwings's Avatar Comment 18 by waxwings

LDMiller, pity you weren't on hand to call in to the Dawkins interview and mention that.

I'd be interested to learn more about these breeding programs though my immediate reaction was 1) there couldn't have been a great deal of time for the selection to take effect and 2) I would imagine that, although such 'breeding farms' existed, they were not widespread enough for their effects to alter the entire slave population (or surely we'd have heard more about them) and 3) post slavery abandonment of such programs would have quickly minimized any of the effects bred into the affected people.

Anyone have any more information on this stuff? I could find shockingly little on this topic. One would think that such programs, horrible as they were, would provide unique opportunities for scientists.

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 06:20:00 UTC | #57716

BicycleRepairMan's Avatar Comment 19 by BicycleRepairMan

I've got an mp3 of Dawkins talking at the Edinburgh Literary festival a couple of years ago, before the GD came out. How do I post it on this site?

Attach it to an email and send it to . alternatively, you can post it on a place like and put a link to it in a post here..

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 08:13:00 UTC | #57746

LDmiller's Avatar Comment 20 by LDmiller


LDmiller, I believe you're referring to artificial selection.

True, but the biology is the same.


Good points. I think that there could have been a number of generations in a few cases, as slavery went on for almost 300 years, and the lifetimes of slaves were much sorter than average (I once read that 7 years of work life was par). As to whether the traits bred for would die out, that would depend on whether they were recessive, etc. And plantations were totally isolated as far as the slaves were concerned.

The reason that there is so little on this is that it is so un-PC. Pity, as it might give scientists some idea of how fast evolution can proceed.

There are other examples (also very un-PC unless you happen to be a social worker) of isolated populations in the US. For example, in WW2 all of the caucasian men were in the military services. Henry Kaiser needed men to build ships, so he went into the South and recruited substantial numbers of black men for this. They settled in what can only be described as a ghetto in east Oakland, CA. With them came some unfortunate genes that rapidly spread in this population, and as a result there is a significant number of mentally retarded people there. Mustn't talk about it, of course, but the truth of the matter is obvious to any public administrator or social worker who has to deal with it. (As a youth I dated a social worker who worked in this problem area. What a downer!)

In many ways, PC and religion are similar, especially in the area of privileged treatment.

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 09:30:00 UTC | #57769

Riley's Avatar Comment 21 by Riley

BicycleRepairMan wrote:
I can also post it on VideoSift, which by the way, is an excellent site, a sort of Youtube for mature people ...

I followed the link to and the top video on the front page of the VideoSift site was:

"Penis lifts tombstone" !!!

LOL !!!

(but I do appreciate the site as an alternative to YouTube, thanks!)

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 11:09:00 UTC | #57795

L.Minnik's Avatar Comment 22 by L.Minnik

sorry, but what does un-PC stand for?

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 11:34:00 UTC | #57802

Riley's Avatar Comment 23 by Riley

Just as our bodies are "merely survival machines that genes have built for their own purpose", could it also be said that genes are just the mechanism which organic molecules have built for their own purpose?

Similarly, but from the top down, could it be said that our bodies are merely survival machines that our social institutions have bred for their own purpose?

Are all these perspectives equally valid? If so, where does it end? If not, why not?

- very curious.

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 11:42:00 UTC | #57803

Dr Benway's Avatar Comment 24 by Dr Benway


Are all these perspectives equally valid?
To answer your own question, ask, "What is the replicator?" A replicator is a unit of information capable of making exact copies of itself, given the right equipment.

Factories may produce widgets without widgets being replicators. Likewise, cells can produce nucleic acids, but this doesn't make nucleic acids replicators.

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 12:34:00 UTC | #57810

Riley's Avatar Comment 25 by Riley

Well, I think an Adenine molecule cooperates with other molecules to reproduce copies of itself. So my answer is, yes. What do you think?

Also, I didn't think that making "exact" copies was necessary. In fact I thought that inexact replication was the basis for evolution.

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 13:53:00 UTC | #57841

jesus_christ_himself's Avatar Comment 26 by jesus_christ_himself

A recording of Dawkins at the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2005. It lasts for about 50 minutes.

Fri, 03 Aug 2007 17:03:00 UTC | #57868

BathTub's Avatar Comment 27 by BathTub

WOLD? ;)

Sat, 04 Aug 2007 13:19:00 UTC | #58055

HFK's Avatar Comment 28 by HFK

Is there any chance jesus_christ_himself could magic up a new link to the Edinburgh festival as its expired, I'd be mighty disapointed if this miracle cannot be performed.


Mon, 20 Aug 2007 08:36:00 UTC | #61156

TeapotTheist's Avatar Comment 29 by TeapotTheist

Is there any chance jesus_christ_himself could magic up a new link to the Edinburgh festival as its expired, I'd be mighty disapointed if this miracle cannot be performed.

Any chance?

Mon, 17 Sep 2007 00:17:00 UTC | #67322