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Richard Dawkins on Hardtalk - Comments

deviljelly's Avatar Comment 1 by deviljelly

A nice tough interview as usual for hardtalk.... I wish the BBC would up the quality though. They are doing a high quality flash trail at the moment I wish this one was picked for that.

P.S. You *HAVE* to see this video ( at 7:58

It blew my mind... are these things real?!?!?

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 12:46:00 UTC | #55137

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 2 by Paula Kirby

I thought this a fatuous interview by Stephen Sackur. Is he aware, I wonder, that he simply regurgitated one old hat after another? Richard Dawkins is always so unfailingly polite when interviewing his opponents - it must have been extremely galling to be faced with an interviewer who seemed so convinced of the force of his frankly unintelligent questions, and was also rude and aggressive with it. (Not that RD can't more than hold his own!) Dawkins' own interviews prove that it's possible to question someone challengingly, rigorously and probingly without resorting to a Jeremy Paxman impression.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 12:51:00 UTC | #55139

Eamonn Shute's Avatar Comment 3 by Eamonn Shute

>> It blew my mind... are these things real?!?!?

I love Kinesin too. Who would believe that a molecule could have a personality! This video gives more info.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 13:00:00 UTC | #55141

crumbledfingers's Avatar Comment 4 by crumbledfingers

It's as if the interviewer looked himself in the mirror prior to the program and asked, "How can I present my questions in a manner such that it appears I have never read the book?" Which he probably hasn't.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 13:05:00 UTC | #55144

redkris's Avatar Comment 5 by redkris

Sackur is continuing his Paxman impersonation i see. Oh dear! if only he had the intelligence to go with it. Another dose of simpleton questions for the atheist.

Nice vid deviljelly.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 13:08:00 UTC | #55145

posiedon's Avatar Comment 6 by posiedon

Sorry deviljelly, I couldn't watch your link, buffering every 5 or 6 seconds.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 13:35:00 UTC | #55148

John Yates's Avatar Comment 7 by John Yates

Am I the only one that found the interview sad, but also strangely amusing? The conviction and aggression with which Sackur poses completely hackneyed and unoriginal questions was rather disappointing, but also pretty funny in the sense that the interviewer obviously had no idea how unintelligent and easy to answer they were. Spurting out old chestnuts like Einstein's God (read the first chapter of the God Damned book, Stephen), as if he was actually on to something, certainly elicited a smirk if nothing else. Like Grim Reaper says in the forums, the programme's called Hard Talk, so where the hell were the hard questions? He was certainly talking in a deliberately stern and 'hard' manner, but the actual questions were vacuous and ineffectual nonsense.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 13:58:00 UTC | #55153

martyb's Avatar Comment 8 by martyb

A good interview for people who are just getting to know about Dawkins' work.

The interview was done in the style that Hardtalk advertises.

Why expect anything else?

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:05:00 UTC | #55157

John Yates's Avatar Comment 9 by John Yates


The way in which Sackur engaged with Dawkins could easily be construed as 'hard', but the actual content of the questions were easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey. That could easily be a consequence of the fact that Richard is unequivocally correct in his position, but a stimulating and intelligent discussion this was not! There is playing devil's advocate and there is looking to point score, and on this performance Sackur seems to be more comfortable with the latter. His assertion that it doesn't matter if you label children as "Christian" or "Muslim", for example, because they are just going to grow up to believe in what their parents believe in anyway, was just one example of his ludicrous line of argument. Also, this seemed to be his actual position, not just him playing devil's advocate, judging by the amount of time that he devoted to it!

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #55159

maton100's Avatar Comment 10 by maton100

What the fuck? Was Sackur supposed to interview Richard or debate him? Sackur runs his mouth like an annoying salesman.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:14:00 UTC | #55160

martyb's Avatar Comment 11 by martyb

I can answer my own question. From the BBC website about HARDtalk:

'The half hour interview is the result of detailed research and in-depth investigations.'

It appears that this was not done!

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:21:00 UTC | #55162

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 12 by Don_Quix

I've never seen or heard of this person who is interviewing Dawkins before, but he reminds me of most of the obnoxious blowhards on Fox News and CNN these days. I'm pretty sure he asked every single cliched creationist "gotcha" question in the book. I was surprised he didn't pull out the old "Well, since the eye is so complicated, it must have been designed by something, so therefore there is a god. HAH! ANSWER THAT ONE SMARTY MAN!"

The question the interviewer should have been asking himself is, "Am I qualified to be interviewing Professor Dawkins?" Clearly, the answer would have been a resounding "NO!"

It is strangely comforting and disturbing to me that the talking heads on tv in the UK are just as idiotic as the ones we have here in the US ;)

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:31:00 UTC | #55164

John Yates's Avatar Comment 13 by John Yates


I don't think we've got anyone to match the raw, unintentional hilarity that is Bill O'Reilly, but we have our moments!

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:39:00 UTC | #55165

the_assayer's Avatar Comment 14 by the_assayer

I think this sort of argument at best is only ideological. A person who reads any book may not understand or follow the arguments completely. It could be that the author has poor communicative ability or it could be that the reader is too conditioned prior to the read that he takes off on a tagent of his own with every argument posed. Might it be, that idea of calling religious people "faithheads" further tightens the grip these prejudices have on them? I can think of a lot of books that I didn't completely
'get' on my first read or even the second. Often when we do a background search on the author or read a few of his/her articles you connect with the book in a better way.

I think the interviewer was clearly prejudiced, but that is what is required for a debate to be a debate. If the interviewer had completely followed our side of the argument and had't taken an effort to compare it with his existant prejudices, he would be agreeing with Dawkins all the way.

Dawkins was moderately good in this debate.I don;t think he handled the point of Stalin and Hitler very well.

But I see a major problem here. Atheists are constantly being suspected of having no moral values or atleast our position seems precarious. To a believer an important reason for belief in God is that it gives a ready-made system of morality which for the most part gaurantees a life of peace and happiness. Assuming an authoritative God makes these rules absolute and uncompromisable.
You see they have figured out a way towards peace and harmony, albeit a pretty close-minded and dogmatic one.

Now the basis for secular morality will have to be a rational one. Can there be one? I'm optimistic.
We need to amp up our research in psychology and neuroscience inorder to come up with emperical findings that we can use to propose a secular theory of morality.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:43:00 UTC | #55167

the_assayer's Avatar Comment 15 by the_assayer

hmmmm... i realised a mistake in my argument... this was an interview, not a debate...

But I guess an interview is bound to become a debate especially with touchy subjects like religion.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:51:00 UTC | #55169

the_assayer's Avatar Comment 16 by the_assayer

what is the precedure to get articles posted?

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:53:00 UTC | #55170

etny's Avatar Comment 17 by etny

Stephen Sackur does not really bother to listen to Dawkins' answers. He keeps interrupting him and just follows his "attack" script. This does not make for an interesting discussion at all. The content of the book is hardly touched upon. This is getting tedious.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:54:00 UTC | #55171

Chris Roberts's Avatar Comment 18 by Chris Roberts

"...but you were raised as an Anglican child?"

"Yes, so what?"

Nearly spat coffee all over my screen.

Stephen Sackur also displays a hugely ignorant view of the selfish gene theory.
Obviously very little detailed research done, maybe there is just a standard question card kicking around for interviewing atheists.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 14:55:00 UTC | #55172

Don_Quix's Avatar Comment 19 by Don_Quix

Nails wrote:
Nearly spat coffee all over my screen.

Stephen Sackur also displays a hugely ignorant view of the selfish gene theory.

I had a very similar reaction. The depth of his complete cringe-inducing misunderstanding of "The Selfish Gene" and the concept of memes made me feel embarrassed. What sucks is that a fair number of people who saw this interview will now also have the same misunderstanding.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:10:00 UTC | #55174

Theocrapcy's Avatar Comment 20 by Theocrapcy

This was embarrassing to watch, Sackur is way out of his depth.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:11:00 UTC | #55175

Thor's Avatar Comment 21 by Thor

Come on, people, it wasn't THAT bad, was it?

Yes, the interviewer was very persistent but that's his job. He HAD to voice the arguments that are commonly used to counter Dawkins because he wanted Dawkins to answer these counterclaims - I for my part think that is perfectly reasonable.
Why would you blame him for challenging Dawkins on his positions?
It's what this TV format is supposed to do.

The interview was very thorough and straightforward and Sackur gave Dawkins all the time he needed to make his points.
Comparing this to the tendentious drivel of a Sean Hannity is really an insult to this British journalist.

No offence, but sometimes the knee-jerk attacks on anyone challenging Dawkins' positions - and be it only for the sake of journalistic clarity - get a little out of hand here.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:21:00 UTC | #55176

baal's Avatar Comment 22 by baal

Nice to hear Richard Dawkins again, although the interviewer seems to be a bit thick - he isn't raising any good questions at all and seems to have a small grasp of logic, a bit like a school bully.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:23:00 UTC | #55177

Veronique's Avatar Comment 23 by Veronique


Buffering all the time gives me the shits as well. What I do is wait 'til the vid starts , then click the stop/pause button and go make a cup of tea.

By the time I come back, the buffering is complete and I can sit and watch the vid without any interruption and enjoy the cuppa as well! I wish he showed more of the vid that he made. Stunning stuff. Found it!!

Thanks Eammon, saw the youtube clip and found this one which is the full version of the TED talk. At least it looks like it to me. The voice over is great as well.

There are some wonderful related vids on youtube as well. You don't have to worry about buffering on these Posiedon:-). Sorry about the link - I don't know why it didn't work. You'll have to copy and paste.


Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:31:00 UTC | #55178

fides_et_ratio's Avatar Comment 24 by fides_et_ratio

I keep reiterating to my four year old the need to say please and thank-you. He seems to be finally picking it up. I wonder if, whilst perhaps approving of my actions, Mr. Dawkins might label a friend of mine, who remarked that I had a polite child, wicked for doing so?

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:33:00 UTC | #55179

John Yates's Avatar Comment 25 by John Yates


"No offence, but sometimes the knee-jerk attacks on anyone challenging Dawkins' positions - and be it only for the sake of journalistic clarity - get a little out of hand here."

I'm sure that Stephen Sackur is a journalist with a great deal more integrity than many of the nut-cases who have interviewed Dawkins in the past (O'Reailly, Hannity), and it is for exactly the reason that he is a British anchor working for the respected BBC, and not Fox frigging news, that makes this interview so disappointing. No originality, no 'hard' questions, only seemingly unresearched and regurgitated claptrap, with an air of aggression which suggested that there was more behind his confrontational demeanour than mere devil's advocacy. The way in which Sackur, for example, went to such pains to assert that it doesn't matter if you label children as "Christian" or "Muslim", because they are just going to grow up to believe in what their parents believe in anyway, seemed to indicate that he wasn't just voicing a contradictory point of view, for the sake of fairness, but that he himself actually believed in the crap that he was spouting. There's being a good journalist and playing devil's advocate and there's seeming to have strange ideas about the topic at hand, and on this evidence Sackur falls into the latter camp.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:38:00 UTC | #55181

John Yates's Avatar Comment 26 by John Yates


"I keep reiterating to my four year old the need to say please and thank-you. He seems to be finally picking it up. I wonder if, whilst perhaps approving of my actions, Mr. Dawkins might label a friend of mine, who remarked that I had a polite child, wicked for doing so?"

The difference is that children who are labelled "Christian" and "Muslim" are labelled as such before they can possibly have any understanding of what this implies. Being polite does not require anything more than a superficial understanding of the term; being "Christian" or "Muslim", does.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:42:00 UTC | #55182

fides_et_ratio's Avatar Comment 27 by fides_et_ratio

I disagree, I don't think my four year old understands the term or concept of politeness. He understands that when he says please and thank you he's more likely to get what he wants and he gets praised. He also enjoys saying his prayers before he goes to bed, in fact he asks to say his prayers. Why is it wicked then to label him a child of faith (something he chooses to do) and not a polite child (something he doesn't understand but does because of material reward)?

I ask because I genuinely don't understand Mr Dawkins position on the arbitrary wickedness of labelling.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:50:00 UTC | #55183

fides_et_ratio's Avatar Comment 28 by fides_et_ratio

In addition. Is my son inherently polite or even actually polite, or does he act in this way becaus ehis parents tell him to? In which case is it not wicked to label my son because of the beliefs of his parents on manners? Why is my friend able to assume that my son shares my belief on manners?

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:53:00 UTC | #55185

John Yates's Avatar Comment 29 by John Yates


Your child is a polite child. His actions confirm this. You are obviously a good parent, and I wish there were more like you. It is perfectly reasonable to call your child a polite child. He might also be a boisterous child, a charming child, a happy child, a fair child or a troublesome child. These are all observations from watching your child and commenting upon his behaviour. However, we cannot label children as belonging to a religion, because children, and especially four year old children, are not old enough to examine the available evidence and decide for themselves what their chosen faith might be. Ascertaining whether we're boisterous, or troublesome, or polite, does not require internal pondering and reflection. Deciding whether we accept the tenets of a chosen religious faith, does.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:56:00 UTC | #55186

martyb's Avatar Comment 30 by martyb

Now a comment on the content.

What I got out of the interview is that Dawkins would be happy with the major religions if they were considered with the same validity as the other thousands of other beliefs out there.

Is this what others heard?

Because I am new to his work, though not his beliefs, can someone point me in the right direction to find out more.

Tue, 24 Jul 2007 15:58:00 UTC | #55187