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Richard Dawkins Quotes

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins quotes: on finding the truth, parenting style, why death is a blessing, and more.

“We have to find our own purposes in life.”

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point. The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful, as we choose to make it.”

“Sometimes in life it is a good idea to stop, sometimes it is a good idea to go on. The trick is to decide when to stop.”

“Without gradualness, we are back to a miracle.”

“The solution often turns out more beautiful than the puzzle.”

“Our subjective judgment of what seems like a good bet is irrelevant to what is actually a good bet.”

“Bad things, like good things, don’t happen any more often than they ought to by chance. The universe has no mind, no feelings, and no personality, so it doesn’t do things in order to either hurt or please you. Bad things happen because things happen.”

“What matters is not the facts but how you discover and think about them.”

“If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking will change it.”

“Some people find clarity threatening. They like muddle, confusion, obscurity. So when somebody does no more than speak clearly it sounds threatening.”

“There is an attitude in the culture that says that everybody is entitled to their opinion. You got to respect their opinion. No, you damn well haven’t got to respect their opinion.”

“I might respect you as a brilliant intellect, runner, musician or juggler. But respect your beliefs? Only if they’re supported by evidence.”

“Common sense lets us down, because common sense evolved in a world where nothing moves very fast, and nothing is very small or very large; the mundane world of the familiar.”

“By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”

“Myths are fun, as long as you don’t confuse them with the truth.”

“It is a virtue to admit ignorance when you don’t know, but not to wallow in ignorance as an end in itself.”

“The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn’t seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as faith.”

“I do sometimes accuse people of ignorance, but that is not intended to be an insult. I’m ignorant of lots of things. Ignorance is something that can be remedied by education.”

“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish.”

“Teachers who help to open young minds perform a duty which is as near sacred as I will admit.”

“I do think imagination is enormously valuable, and that children should be encouraged in their imagination. That’s very true.”

“Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.”

“The reason we personify things like cars and computers is… we live in a social world.”

“The internet is by far the most important innovation in the media in my lifetime. It’s like having a huge encyclopedia permanently available. There’s a tremendous amount of rubbish on the world wide web, but retrieval of what you want is so rapid that it doesn’t really matter.”

“An internet meme is a hijacking of the original idea. Instead of mutating by random change and spreading by a form of Darwinian selection, internet memes are altered deliberately by human creativity. There is no attempt at accuracy of copying, as with genes—and as with memes in their original version.”

“Science is interesting, and if you don’t agree you can f*ck off.”

“People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘my wife loves me.’ But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling. There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.”

“I would, like any other scientist, willingly change my mind if the evidence led me to do so. So I care about what’s true, I care about evidence, I care about evidence as the reason for knowing what is true. It is true that I come across rather passionate sometimes and that’s because I am passionate about the truth. I do get very impatient with humbug, with cant, with fakery, with charlatans.”

“I am passionate about truth and passionate about clarity, and I don’t regard myself as particularly militant or aggressive. I simply wish to discuss what is true and to listen to evidence and put evidence forward to other people and have a sensible, sane, moderated argument.”

“Every night of our lives, we dream, and our brain concocts visions which are, at least until we wake up, highly convincing. Most of us have had experiences which are verging on hallucination. It shows the power of the brain to knock up illusions.”

“We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”

“I have often said that I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to explaining why we exist.”

“Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs.”

“I’m pretty sure there is some genetic component towards intelligence.”

“I mean I think that when you’ve got a big brain, when you find yourself planted in a world with a brain big enough to understand quite a lot of what you see around you, but not everything, you naturally fall to thinking about the deep mysteries. Where do we come from? Where does the world come from? Where does the universe come from?”

“I didn’t have a very starry school career, I was medium to above average, nothing special. People say I’m shrill and strident. I’ve never been the sort of firebrand that I’ve been made out to be. I’m actually quite a mild person.”

“Publishers like a good buzz, and negative responses sell books just as well as positive ones.”

“I’m easily persuaded that a really good novelist who gets inside somebody else’s head could be serving a valuable purpose.”

“I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine.”

“I love words.”

“I think the written word is probably the best medium of communication because you have time to reflect, you have time to choose your words, to get your sentences exactly right. Whereas when you’re being interviewed, say, you have to talk on the fly, you have to improvise, you can change sentences around, and they’re not exactly right.”

“Beauty arises out of human inspiration.”

“I think the world’s always a better place if people are filled with understanding.”

“The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear.”

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die, because they are never going to be born. The number of people who could be here, in my place, out number the sand grains in the Sahara. If you think about all the different ways in which our genes could be permuted, you and I are quite grotesquely lucky to be here. The number of events that had to happen in order for you to exist, in order for me to exist… we are privileged to be alive and we should make the most of our time on this world.”

“Be thankful that you have a life, and forsake your vain and presumptuous desire for a second one.”

“Make the most of the one life you’ve got. Live it to the full.”

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