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Stephen Colbert Interviews Richard Dawkins - Comments

Hylo's Avatar Comment 1 by Hylo

I love it! I've never seen Stephen Colbert before but he is very funny and Richard dealt extremely well with his question. It was great to see a different side of RD.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 03:08:00 UTC | #5958

Kevin Ronayne's Avatar Comment 2 by Kevin Ronayne

Good interview! I've never seen Stephen Colbert before either. I guess he was just playing "Devils Advocate" in a light-hearted way. Richard obviously knew what the tenor of the show would be like. It would have been nice to have had a longer interview - say, 10 to 15 minutes - which is what you would have gotten on the same sort of show in Ireland or Great Britain.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 03:24:00 UTC | #5963

One Eyed Jack's Avatar Comment 3 by One Eyed Jack

Nicely done. Stephen Colbert can be a tricky interview if you don't understand that the show is a humorous spoof of conservative news programs. I've seen several guests come off badly because they didn't understand the premise of the show. Mr. Dawkins did a fine job as always.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 03:47:00 UTC | #5966

siener's Avatar Comment 4 by siener

I thoroughly enjoyed this.

If there are people who still don't get it: the Colbert Report is satire. Go look at some Colbert videos in youtube - most of them are hilarious.

What makes this interview so unique is that Stephen didn't seem to know what to say most of the time - definitely a first.

I don't think he's ever been exposed to such clear and careful arguments. The Ali G analogy above is fitting - they both try to provoke their guests into saying something careless or something that can be taken out of context ... and then they pounce. Prof. Dawkins simply never gave him ammunition to work with.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 05:14:00 UTC | #5973

LWS's Avatar Comment 5 by LWS

If the stat that 95% of Americans believe in imaginary friends is true then this is positively terrifying. It illustrates why and how the Bush NEOcons have successfully duped the people. It's as if the US is a failed nation of Stepford Wives. Shame on the USA and it's people for be so willing to remain in a state of emotional immaturity.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 05:39:00 UTC | #5974

Laurence Boyce's Avatar Comment 6 by Laurence Boyce

Nice one Richard - relaxed and assured. All the best for the US tour.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 05:39:00 UTC | #5975

Jamie's Avatar Comment 7 by Jamie

With regard to the booing heard from the audience…

When a group of people attend a right-wing talk show, they’re there to see the host tear up the poor fool being “interviewed.” The crowd is a lynch mob. They love the blood.

This exact same crowd will attend and enjoy Colbert’s show for the exact same reasons. It’s the blood-letting that gets their attention. The political or religious beliefs of the knife-wielding interviewer are secondary to the main event, the evisceration of his opponent, er…, guest.

Whether the lions eat the Christians or the Christians poke the lions, it’s good entertainment. And, when it’s done right, it’s damned funny, too!

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 05:43:00 UTC | #5976

flippyshark's Avatar Comment 8 by flippyshark

This American viewer sadly feels that the booing was genuine. Even among progressive-minded people here, there remains an entrenched idea that it is very rude to challenge religious beliefs so directly. Also, in other cases where I remember Colbert's audience booing, it was in response to guests with right-wing points of view. So, sadly, I think the audience here are letting their true feeling be known.

Still, I think the segment went well, and reached a wide audience. I imagine it will spur quite a lot of people in the reachable middle-ground to pick up the book out of curiosity.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 05:58:00 UTC | #5977

Karen Owens's Avatar Comment 9 by Karen Owens

To clarify matters, I attend the same church & teach at the same Sunday School as Stephen Colbert. It must be true because it says so in my bio on Philosopedia.
Karen Owens, trustee
RDFRS

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 06:20:00 UTC | #5978

Zaphod's Avatar Comment 10 by Zaphod

Well this wasn't as bad as I was expecting. I have seen some Colbert interviews and he is usually much more of a jackass. He is supposed to act like your typical dumbass right wing republican and when he says his mind hurts and its easier just to believe in god. WOW. I wish natural selection and cut out republicans from the gene pool.

I feel Richard got his point across though and didn't get as badgered as I had feared. :-D

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 06:50:00 UTC | #5982

Cristian's Avatar Comment 11 by Cristian

Yes, Colbert is Catholic, but obviously of the liberal persuasion. The Pope and the Church are frequent targets of his comments on the show and they frequently include words like "nazi." He's an equal opportunity offender.

Someone mentioned the boos that came from the audience at one time. As a frequent viewer of the show, I suspect that, like some guests, some in the crowd also buy into it and take it serious sometimes, at least to some degree. Colbert frequently tells them "you're an awesome mob" and other things of that sort.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:06:00 UTC | #5984

Youssef51's Avatar Comment 12 by Youssef51

Excellent, Prof. Dawkins!

Dr. Dawkins was absolutely first rate. He did a marvelous job of getting his viewpoint across given the severe constraints of the Colbert format.

Those of you worried about any booing can take heart. Dr. Dawkins charmed the hell out of the studio audience and sold a huge pile of The God Delusion in the process.

You can all be certain that many, many thousands of Americans who had never heard of Richard Dawkins have ordered the book and are going to read it and be changed by reading it because of that brief, distracted sound-bite.

We speak the languages we are given and do the best we can. Dawkins is a true hero.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:07:00 UTC | #5985

DrBrianRobinson's Avatar Comment 13 by DrBrianRobinson

test only

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:09:00 UTC | #5987

Alan's Avatar Comment 14 by Alan

As others have stated, as an American citizen, I often feel like a tiny island of rational thought surrounded by an ocean of insanity. I am so thankful for this website, and the many posters here that have reaffirmed my fading hope that there are others in this country who still have a functioning brain.

And, of course, I salute Prof. Dawkins (and the sadly missed Carl Sagan), as well as all the other brilliant men of science who are trying to help us all to understand humanities' apparent desire for self-destruction. To quote Sagan himself, "Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable."

As for the Colbert interview, as enjoyable a parody as it was, its brief, soundbyte nature is entirely reflective of our whole culture. The average American has the attention span of a three year old, which is why the Right Wing's penchant for expressing "beliefs" and political and moral positions in three and four word catch phrases is successful.

The easiest way to confuse a conservative? Speak in articulate literate sentences. For proof, just find any video of Bush.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:10:00 UTC | #5988

Cristian's Avatar Comment 15 by Cristian

It's also worthy of mention that Colbert used to host the segment on The Daily Show called "This Week in God." It could be described as at least irreverent towards religion of all kinds, including Colbert's own, Catholicism. Colbert may not an atheist, but he's always attacked unreason. Which is what he still does with his parody of right-wingers.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:16:00 UTC | #5989

Yorker's Avatar Comment 16 by Yorker

Richard did well on the Colbert show but I don't go for that whiz-bang style much. I can see why it was a short interview, a longer one would have seen Dawkins silence the guy.

I don't believe 95% of Americans think God exists. I'm British, but lived and worked for ten years in the USA, most of my colleagues were atheists so I think it's likely that 95% of Americans *say* they believe in God because they have to for many reasons. Admittedly, I worked in an environment (software) where a fair degree of intelligence is a prerequisite but even so, it can't be that only 5% of Americans have a brain!

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:40:00 UTC | #5990

Stephen's Avatar Comment 17 by Stephen

At least one comment from an actual American who regularly watches the show and is in on the joke:

The job of everyone that is interviewed by Colbert is to be the straight-man to Colbert's antics. If he were actually attacking Rchard Dawkins you'd know it because he can be quite scathing (e.g. the White House Correspondents Dinner and most interviews with politicians). Otherwise, he plays the ridiculous right-wing nut with clear ad hominem attacks where he creates his own fictional logic landscape. If you play along as the straight-man, the joke flows perfectly. If you attack him back you just look like an idiot for attacking a fictional character in a contrived universe.

As such, Professor Dawkins played perfectly.

And just because Stephen teaches Sunday School and is a practicing Catholic does not place him near the same league as the religious nuts this site is attempting to address. I suspect if all religious people believed as Stephen this site would be nearly useless. He's progressive, open, and understanding. In fact, I suspect some atheists could learn something from his acceptance of others beliefs.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:44:00 UTC | #5991

Cristian's Avatar Comment 18 by Cristian

For a little insight into Colbert's actual nature, here's a couple videos that allow a peek at the real Colbert.

Him on 60 minutes, this will also clarify matters as to the nature of the show:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-495888344925269806&q=colbert+minutes&hl=en

Him involuntarily breaking out of character while still working at The Daily Show. He rarely breaks out of character and here he really loses it. Funny as hell too.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M6VTB0_5-8

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 07:45:00 UTC | #5992

Brian's Avatar Comment 19 by Brian

From a loyal reader of Dawkins and a faithful viewer of The Colbert Report, I thought it was a great interview. As people have already mentioned, it's difficult to have a reasonable discussion on American shows without reverting to the two second soundbite culture; apparently we just don't have the attention span for a 15 minute conversation, commerical free.

I truly wish I could have been a fly on the wall if Richard and Stephen (the man, not the character) went out for a drink after the show and continued where they left off the show. At any rate, it's always refreshing to see and hear a voice like Dawkin's, especially in the Gawd-soaked United States.

Keep up the great work, Richard!

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 08:31:00 UTC | #5993

Kelly's Avatar Comment 20 by Kelly

Excellent interview! My favorite lines were:

Colbert: "We're all just monkeys and we should fornicate through our feces."
Dawkins: "That's up to you."

"And who just did God then?"

Colbert's audience is smart and educated, and many of them will buy your book because of this interview. I've actually bought books because the authors appeared on his show! (I'm an American.) This was a great way to reach people.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 08:43:00 UTC | #5994

Bakari's Avatar Comment 21 by Bakari

I've only seen Colbert on a couple of occasions--one being the roast he did on Bush. I generally think he's funny and he make some very saterical remarks that make sense. However, I just wish Dawkins were given more time to make his point. One of the reasons I don't watch much t.v. is that discussions and debates like these simply do not get fair play. They either result in back and forth shouting matches or they get undermined by too many wisecraks such as you see in thi segment.

I've heard Dawkins interviewed on the Infindel Guy's Show, and it was great just to hear two inelligent people having a discussion and providing much needed insight to a very important and critical topic.

It's sad that Dawkins has to waste his time on shows like this.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 09:17:00 UTC | #5995

Russ's Avatar Comment 22 by Russ

Dr Brian Robinson said "To be honest, that made me glad I don't live in America, though more seriously I wondered how they still manage to produce some of the world's best intellectuals."

I'm an American and, sadly, I have to admit that, at times, I've considered packing up my family and leaving the US for a place, like the UK or Canada, where informed reason, as opposed to uninformed religious faith, dominates as the socially preferred decision-making model. My hope, however, is to be on the leading edge of a wave of rationality propagating through American society as more and more people recognize that religion is a wasteful enterprise at best. As mindless religion gains a better foothold in US politics, I increasingly view this country as the greatest potential danger to the human community: fundamentalist Christians with the resources of the US military at its disposal could cause such devastation as to make the World Wars, the Crusades, and the vast plagues of smallpox, influenza, and malaria insignificant by comparison. So, here, I make a stand for reason, buttressed by intellectual compatriots like Professor Dawkins and Sam Harris, because I truly think humanity hangs in the balance.

The quandary of how the US produces some of the world's best intellectuals can be resolved using the same single-word answer as how the US became so irrationally religious: MONEY.

Religion thrives here due to money alone. In addition to some clergy personally raking in millions of dollars each year from church donations and product sales, churches also spend billions each year on advertising and political lobbying, billions more on promoting their specific sects through missionary work. More and more, as the profit-taking and political directives predominate, they spend less and less on humanitarian causes.

On the intellectual front, it must be understood that colleges and universities abound here - the US has more than 4100. In my own state of Michigan - slightly larger than England in area, and population of around 9 million - there are over 100. [Ironically, much of the hypocrisy exhibited by religionists is exemplified by their demonstrated understanding that in the absence of the specific information afforded by education, their god is completely powerless. So, while claiming faith in god, they demonstrate their inability to rely on god by attending universities.] Among a small fraction of the population - maybe one to two percent in recent decades, there has been a strong rational tradition providing the drive to seek the upper echelons of intellectual achievement. That small fraction of the population still constitutes several million people highly motivated to make an intellectual mark. Combine that pool of eager people and the accessibility of advanced educational opportunities with the financial resources we throw at the top 100 universities - many of them have annual budgets of over a billion dollars a year - and it's not unexpected that some Americans will reach elite status in academic or intellectual circles.

Americans won four of the Nobel Prizes this year. Unfortunately, these accolades will justify a couple of years of resting on our laurels while the attacks on science, reason and rationality continue unabated. Here, I make my stand for reason.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 09:22:00 UTC | #5996

Siamang's Avatar Comment 23 by Siamang

I wouldn't worry so much about the booing. Big deal.

I thought Dr. Dawkins did very well. I'm glad he got in front of a nationwide audience and made the points he did. Very good to get those ideas out there.

To Justin's question, where did matter come from? Here's a good answer: we don't know.

But at least we know matter exists. We can touch it, feel it, smell it, measure it... etc. We can suppose some invisible magical process by which it came into being. But then we have to imagine a magical process that caused that process. And one that caused the cause of the cause of that process.

Have you wondered if matter itself is God, and therefore always existed? Not top down, but bottom up? Not a creating top-down intelligence, but a developing, bottom up intelligence -- just as we see in biology?

But that's philosophy, as far as science goes it's more parsimonious to say "we don't know" than to invent a word that really means "it's a mystery" and that word is "God", and act like that explains the whole thing.

Neither you nor I really know by which process the first hydrogen atom came about. You don't know any more than I do. I'm just honest about it.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 09:24:00 UTC | #5997

Janus's Avatar Comment 24 by Janus

Phenomenal job, Richard! As many have said, you did as well as anyone (and better than most) who's been on the Colbert Report.

As I've said on a few forums, I was a bit worried that this interview would go very badly, since it's obviously impossible to make well-supported, clearly-explained arguments in such a setting. I also expected you to be so stunned by the sheer inanity of Colbert's questions that it would look as though you were stumped for a few seconds.

But it turns out I needn't have worried in the slightest! _Colbert_ (or rather, his nutty persona) was the one who looked stumped. You had a quick, condensed answer to his every question, and that's the best you or anyone can possibly do under those circumstances.
You've also managed to make a few very important points, such as the fact that natural selection is anything BUT random. That alone must have shocked quite a few Christians.

Most importantly, (and I think you understood this) the Colbert interview was about improving your image in America. As you no doubt know, many if not most Americans who know your name think of you as 'that arrogant, bitter fundamentalist atheist'. I think it's safe to say that almost anyone who's watched the Colbert Show has had that preconception shaken to its core. Very well done.


_Justin Shannon says:_
_Richard says "well where did God come from?" And like most people, Colbert was stumped, and thus took the "easy way" out. However, look at the other side of the debate with the same argument. Well where did that original matter come from to create our universe? Matter cannot be created or destroyed, correct?_

Prof. Dawkins' argument was about complexity, not matter. Some kind of fundamental building blocks of some kind _had_ to pop into existence (or else they've 'always' existed), or else not only the universe but even a hypothetical deity couldn't exist. What needs explaining is organized complexity, such as bacteria, trees, and intelligent forms of life such as us, and this hypothetical deity. Saying that the first human just popped into existence wouldn't satisfy anyone, since the human body's organized complexity is simply too improbably to assemble itself in one single, giant step, and the exact same goes for God. If there IS a God, it must have been 'formed' by a gradual, step-by-step process such as evolution. But then, most people wouldn't call such an entity God. 'Extra-universal alien' might be a better word.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 10:03:00 UTC | #5998

siener's Avatar Comment 25 by siener

Justin Shannon:
If Christians are correct, your ETERNITY depends on it.

That is just a variation of Pascal's wager. If you can't figure out by yourself why that is a very bad argument, read the God Delusion and be enlightened

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 10:10:00 UTC | #5999

Jonathan's Avatar Comment 26 by Jonathan

Well done, of course - as well as anyone could do in 7 minutes with Stephen Colbert. An infectious smile and the meme of science as an intellectual tool (not a religious one). I wish you many successful tour dates.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 10:26:00 UTC | #6000

siener's Avatar Comment 27 by siener

Bob P.:
Where does this "95% of Americans believe in God " come from? That's a totally exaggerated figure. I'll bent it's closer to 50% than 95%!

If you were speaking of any country in Europe you might have been right. Unfortunately things are different in the U.S. Recently secularly minded people celebrated when the first poll showed that more that 10% of Americans don't believe in God. The highest figure I've heard is 17%

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 11:03:00 UTC | #6002

Siamang's Avatar Comment 28 by Siamang

Bob P.

Where does your "50% of Americans believe in God" figure come from?

That's just as unsupported as the other one. If you're going to complain about someone else's figure, properly attribute your number.


According to Adherents.com, 13.2% of Americans describe themselves as non-religious.


http://www.adherents.com/adh_dem.html


You got a better number?

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 11:09:00 UTC | #6004

mintcheerios's Avatar Comment 29 by mintcheerios

I think Dawkins came off much better than Harris on the Colbert Report. Dawkins understood the show before he went on (as noted in his journal) which prepared him to be cut off and showered with satirical irrational comments. Sam Harris on the other hand was too serious and tried to explain too much in the time allotted. Also Sam has often appeared on right-wing shows that just look for people with unpopular opinions to destroy which I hope Dawkins doesn't do.

It is exciting though that these people are making American national television shows.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 13:03:00 UTC | #6006

John P's Avatar Comment 30 by John P

Rae said:
>>>Has anyone else noticed the jump in sales of The God Delusion? Last night, before The Colbert Report, it was at #11. Now it's at #4.

I just checked. It's at #3, now, behind the Woodward book, and John Grisham. And way ahead of Bill O'Reilly.

Wed, 18 Oct 2006 14:03:00 UTC | #6008