Richard Dawkins: Why Religion and Evolution Don’t Mix Well

Richard Dawkins: Why Religion and Evolution Don’t Mix Well

I’m very often asked, “What is the Darwinian
survival value of religion?” and I usually reply, “That may be the wrong question.” You may have to rephrase the question and
it may turn out to be not the survival value of religion but the survival value of something
else in the brain, which manifests itself as religion under the right circumstances. Now, a good analogy which I’ve used is the
question: Why do moths fly into candle flames? Now, you could describe that behavior as suicidal
behavior in moths, self-immolation behavior in moths, kamikaze behavior in moths. That would be one way of phrasing the question,
but it’s the wrong question. If you actually look at the way moth and insect
eyes generally work, insects use celestial objects like the sun or the moon or the stars
as compasses. It’s important, it’s valuable, there is
survival value for any animal moving in a straight line. If an animal wants to move in a straight line,
a very good way to do it is to keep a celestial object at a fixed angle, and that’s easy
to do in insects because they have compound eyes, very unlike our eyes. Their eye is a whole sort of hemisphere of
little tubes looking outwards, and so you can maintain a fixed angle to something like
a star or the moon by keeping the moon in one ommatidium. If you do that, because rays from the moon
come from optical infinity, they’re parallel, and so if you keep of the moon in one ommatidium
you will fly in a straight line. It might be say 30 degrees; keep the moon
at 30 degrees to your right. And that works, and that’s valuable, and
that’s what many insects do. However, candles are not at optical infinity,
candles are close. The rays of light from a candle are therefore
not parallel, they are radiating out. If you maintain a fixed angle of say 30 degrees
to the rays that are emitted from a candle you will describe a neat logarithmic spiral
into the candle flame and kill yourself. So these moths are not killing themselves,
it’s not suicidal behavior; it’s a misfiring of a natural, normal behavior, which before
the invention of candles would have worked. And it still does work the vast majority of
time because most of the time in the dark a moth is not subjected to artificial light. So ask the right question. The right question is not, ‘What’s the survival
value of a suicidal behavior in moths?’ the right question is, ‘What’s the survival
value of maintaining a fixed angle to a celestial object?’ and then it’s easy to come up with
the right answer. Proximate questions are questions which you
answer with the physiology of the animal, the nervous system of the animal, and the
hormones of the animal—things happen in the animal’s nervous system which cause
it to do something. That’s the proximal answer. The ultimate question is, “What’s the
survival value? What’s the benefit to the animal? What’s the benefit to the animal’s genes,
in particular, to make it do that?” An old teacher of mine at Oxford, J.R. Baker,
used the example of breeding seasons in birds. Why do birds breed at certain times of year? The ultimate answer is: it’s beneficial
to them to have breeding seasons because they produce chicks at the right time of year to
cash in on the optimal food supply. That’s the ultimate answer. The proximate answer is that they breed at
a certain time of year because day length is changing and their hormonal system, their
nervous system is geared to day length and that’s the proximal reason why they breed
at a certain time.

100 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins: Why Religion and Evolution Don’t Mix Well”

  1. Why Atheism and evolution don't mix well. Atheist has some of the worst birth rate as it seems according to the numbers the percentage of atheist compared to the rest of the world is shrinking.

  2. Very interesting stuff, but it didn't answer the question posed at the beginning. I'm guessing an answer was coming, but Big Think edited the video too short.

  3. I posit that Atheists and Christians evolved from different species: Atheists and other critical thinkers evolved from simians – Apes.  Christians evolved from dogs.  That explains the Christians' eagerness to please their master – their imaginary god – the constant barking (apologetics), and their peeing on fire hydrants.

  4. Jesus fuckìng Christ the advert before the video was for the moremong
    church.why and how they found God.. … is this a wind ùp?🤣🤣😣

  5. I feel like he didn't actually wanted to talk about religion this time but Big Think pushed for more edgy content to get views. He actually talked about some interesting facts and long story short you shouldn't be dumb and should always ask the right questions if you want the right answer. Religion is so nonsensical that it's actually not even worth the time for some people to waste trying to refute it. Most people tend to give up explaining to people why and they realise that it's actually better to live and let live. Be optimistic and hope that slowly more and more people get educated

  6. Well nothing like not answering a question. Actually, there should be a moth gene that allowed certain moths to survive the candle. After all candles have been around for years and moths for billions of year. They should have all adopted by now and not do this sort of behavior. Damn, can't use logic.

  7. eeehhhmmm yea
    im so sure your not partaking enough rich
    or are you?

    no but seriously you seemed to have a point
    you made the reach and then…
    pop goes the weasel [see lateral drift for the confused stoner]
    there is no quick fix for religion son
    it is not a trend its roots run deeper than well water
    offer somthing real as an alternate if you can
    i would love to see that work

  8. U could also apply that to gun owners who think they are safe with a killing weapon but end up using it on themselves or one of their own family members.

  9. U could also apply that to pornography. Men are very attracted to the sight healthy young females for reproductive survival but can be drawn to pictures of them instead of reproducing.

  10. So the question he is considering actually is "What is the Darwinian survival value of religion?"

    In fact, religion has obviously promoted survival in certain circumstances. It is not Dawkins who has failed to answer the question here, the title "Why Religion and Evolution Don't Mix Well" does not reflect the question he was posed.

    You can listen to the relevant section of TGD here

    Quoted briefly:
    "Instead, we should ask why they have nervous systems that steer by maintaining a fixed angle to light rays, a tactic that we notice only where it goes wrong. When the question is rephrased, the mystery evaporates. It never was right to call it suicide. It is a misfiring byproduct of a normally useful compass. Now, apply the by-product lesson to religious behaviour in humans. We observe large numbers of people – in many areas it amounts to 100 per cent – who hold beliefs that flatly contradict demonstrable scientific facts as well as rival religions followed by others. People not only hold these beliefs with passionate certitude, but devote time and resources to costly activities that flow from holding them. They die for them, or kill for them. We marvel at this, just as we marvelled at the 'self-immolation behaviour' of the moths. Baffled, we ask why.

    But my point is that we may be asking the wrong question. The religious behaviour may be a misfiring, an unfortunate by-product of an underlying psychological propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful. On this view, the propensity that was naturally selected in our ancestors was not religion per se; it had some other benefit, and it only incidentally manifests itself as religious behaviour. We shall understand religious behaviour only after we have renamed it. If, then, religion is a by-product of something else, what is that something else? What is the counterpart to the moth habit of navigating by celestial light compasses? What is the primitively advantageous trait that sometimes misfires to generate religion?

    I shall offer one suggestion by way of illustration, but I must stress that it is only an example of the kind of thing I mean, and I shall come on to parallel suggestions made by others. I am much more wedded to the general principle that the question should be properly put, and if necessary rewritten, than I am to any particular answer. My specific hypothesis is about children. More than any other species, we survive by the accumulated experience of previous generations, and that experience needs to be passed on to children for their protection and well-being. Theoretically, children might learn from personal experience not to go too near a cliff edge, not to eat untried red berries, not to swim in crocodile-infested waters.But, to say the least, there will be a selective advantage to child brains that possess the rule of thumb: believe, without question, whatever your grown-ups tell you. Obey your parents; obey the tribal elders, especially when they adopt a solemn, minatory tone. Trust your elders without question. This is a generally valuable rule for a child. But, as with the moths, it can go wrong."

  11. Religion came out of our evolution . The damn moth does not know he is killing himself so his biology doesn’t correct for this. Religion is still extreamly useful to humans.

  12. if you take into account that time passes at different speeds for different animals and sizes of human according something i read once who's to say a day to god isn't 0.7 billion years on earth that doesn't prove god exsists or that "he" created the world in 7 days but 4.6 billion years could be the blink of an eye to god if time for god transcends the passing time of the universe which a being outside the dimension "he created" surely could transcend. ive never believed in god or had any interest in religion so idk just thinking how it could be possible if it was the case, could well be nonesense

  13. I think the point Dawkins was trying to make is that humans turn to religion because it fills in a biological need in our brains to understand something we don't. Humans are one of the most curious creatures on the planet. If we have questions that don't have easy answers we need ways to cope. questions like why are we here, how did it all begin, or what is our purpose? For the longest time, religion was the answer. We as a species have reached a point where more and more of us are beginning to understand alternate paths.

  14. But…like…he didn't even get to the point, really. Not even a bit of speculation on the proximate or ultimate cause of religious thinking. It IS super interesting to hear more of the specifics about moths and flames–but that really wasn't the point, right?

  15. Basically Dawkins is saying that evolution produces beliefs for their survival value and not their truth content. But if that's the case then why should you trust that evolutionary theory is true?

  16. Spirituality is just consciousness. Science has clearly demonstrated how poor our senses are to understanding creation as it's very limited and our pattern matching brain senses these patterns and thinks about them with our inner voice…which we then call spirituality. Religion is just tyrants demanding obedience, often enough by coercion, and always through miseducation of the youth.

  17. This answer would apply to every and any belief system. I'm not sure why people are using this in defense of their views, as they'd all be on par biologically.

  18. So Richard, when it coms to religion, what is the right question? Isn't that what you've been building toward this entire video?

  19. Click bait title, doesn't even get into the evolutionary benefit of religion. Gives some spiel about a moth, cool man you know a lot about moths and how they orientate themselves to light.

  20. So… a good and versatile pattern of "right question" would be "in what conditions that behaviour would benefit survival and reproduction?".

  21. Is religion real…

    Or it is just an illusion..??
    Every religion says there's one God n that their God is real…
    But they never explain why others believe in another God… They just say they r on the wrong path…
    But they refuse to believe that they can be on the wrong path….
    So, religion = Fanaticism
    Nothin' more

  22. To all the comments saying he is just randomly talking about moths…
    He's relating the question "Why do moths fly into a flame" to "What is the Darwinian basis for religion?".

    Much like the question about the moth shouldn't focus on the candle, as it actually stems from the moth seeking a source of light, the question about religion shouldn't be asking about religion, it's an incorrect question as religion has stemmed from people's desire for an explanation of the unknown, the benefits of being in a social group (like a church/religion), etc. Dawkins is saying it just happens religion fills all these properties, much like a candle appears like a moon to a moth, when in reality the flame will kill the moth.
    Dawkins is basically saying religion will eventually incinerate our society like a moth in a flame.

  23. Although I get what Dawkins is saying, it was meant to allow people with specific knowledge to look down on those without it. In other words, many atheist would be beneath his attempt at obfuscation. It is not an argument for atheism, but rather is just an analogy, nothing more. Dawkins thinks religion is a misuse of natural impulses. I knew that by his reputation & nothing he said added to my knowledge.

    I might as well have used colossal words to say I believe in God. I can, but it would only be fit for calling those of lesser intellects or education idiots. That is not nice (something he claims children know how to do) even if your being maleficent. The big word does not make the user correct or good, but the context does. Dawkins was very maleficent there. A ten penny word for rancor, hate, & spite.

  24. Why is this asshole still trying to shove his atheism down our throats?

    Fuck off Dawkins, your evangelical fundamentalist proselytizing atheism is just as bad as Protestant fundamentalist evangelicals.

    Two sides to the same shitty coin.

  25. I thought one of the evolutionary values of believing God is that people feel watched 24/7 and it helps them to behave within their social group so they're not rejected.They did a psychological experiment where they told the subjects a ghost haunted a chair and the others there wasn't a ghost at all.The people who didn't get told about the ghost were more likely to cheat and those who were told about the ghost even if they didn't consciously believe it were less likely to cheat.

  26. In this moment, I am euphoric. Not because of any phony god’s blessing. But because, I am enlightened by my intelligence.

  27. Genesis and evolutionary science say the same thing. The same things, created in the same order, written down 3500 years ago from pre-writing campfire stories. As a Christian and a scientist, I've always wondered why people have so much trouble reconciling the two. I've always been amazed at how much they got right back then. The big problem of creation in 7 days is no problem. 3500 years ago they had no words like "cycle" to use to describe one seventh of creation, "day" was the best word they had.

  28. Being raised a Roman Catholic in a Muslim country, I one hundred percent agree with Richard Dawkins. Religious instruction, especially from an adolescent age severely cripples your intellect for life. A new atheist has spend a lifetime trying to undo the harmful effects of religious brainwashing.

  29. All religions are pollution from old nation and civilization to manipulate and use humanity for own it purpose. I'll be stupid to believe A God and be 100 percent sure of truth but I'm one hundred sure of air we breath is unity and access to all called life yet life is giving and been living have eye and ear operate different then others in own zone I also will be stupid to denying the creation it happened by it self. Life is giving to all how you will think and deal with it and what you believe is a choice. Don't fell your test and have a good energy to saved and remember not to destroy any thing like tree etc that not man made and also not to kill any life you not the lord of. Eat fruit vegetables made for food and leave blood alone. We just might don't understand but we all believe death just be aware of your Conscience stay in positive 9.

  30. please before the silly critical comments, try to reapply the analogy proximal and ultimate purpose/value….. fairly obvious ain’t it……. also some high ranked comments did the work for you anyway.

  31. They don't mix AT ALL! Religion is worthless unimportant destructive evil garbage, while evolution is proved fact.

  32. Christian & muslim apologists simply WILL NOT stop taking credit for the actual USEFUL COMPLETELY ATHEISTIC NONRELIGIOUS things people do: grow food, machine tools, etc
    just because that same person ALSO believes FUCKED UP STUPID CHRISTIAN or ISLAMIC BULLSHIT.

  33. Ever thought about how human law, the US Constitution, the military are pretty much nothing but a gamble?
    They do NOTHING useful NOTHING constructive for anybody. All they do is imprison, take away freedoms, destroy. It takes ZERO work ZERO courage ZERO brains to pull a trigger on a gun in battle and kill somebody.
    We ALL die, so we ALL can say we die for a cause.

    Same with the worthless useless human activities of religion and entertainment.
    Comic books, movies, art, music (Mozart) they solve absolutely nothing. They prove no new nor original theorems in mathematics. They accomplish nothing. They discover and prove NO new theories about the physical world.

  34. What ths said below! Perfect!

    "What's the survival value of things?" Nothing, evolution is not an optimal process; rather than 'survival of the fittest', it's merely 'extinction of the unfittest'. In that sense, natural selection is rather dumb
    Also, didn't really answer the original question – and thank God, I had enough of his drivel on undecidable matters, and the moth thing was actually cooler"

  35. I've never understood the conflict between religion and science.

    You want to believe that God works in mysterious ways…check out quantum mechanics.
    You believe that God has a plan for all living things…look no further than evolution.
    You want to understand the human soul…try neurobiology.
    You want to know how to talk to God…study mathematics.
    You want to miraculously heal the sick…become a doctor.

    God never said we couldn't understand his mysteries, know his plans, or speak his language…people did.

  36. Evolution is a hoax and only morons belief in it . you haVE TO SWITCH off your brain to accept the darwinian hoax
    morons like dawkins can keep promoting it but i can assure you no sane person will belief in him
    we don't accept folktales like darwiniasm as facts , even dawkins himself knows blind evolution is impossible ,that is why he confessed to the intelligent design in an interview with ben stein although not in the right manner but in form fake aliens
    which is even more idiotic as you have to find an origin for the aliens themselves
    the fact of the matter is everything is created by an eternal ,self existing ,outside of space and time being
    that is the only rational way you can explain reality

  37. Why do moths fly into candle flames, it's suicidal?

    Where is the problem with creationism? People are attracted by alcohol, extreme sports, gainsay their wife(lol). And that kind of thinks is suicidal but people like to do it because they need adrenaline.

    For the moths, they are attracted by flames because of the beauty of the light.

    Sometimes men'll be kill by alcohol and sometime not.
    Sometimes moths'll be kill by the flames and sometime not.

    Where is the problem?

  38. So two chimpanzees evolved at the same time into human beings. One has to be female and one male, because this aids reproduction in the survival of the most fit, while single celled organisms can reproduce asexually. Why would a species evolve away from what would be the best way to survive? Remember both a female and a male would have to evolve at the same time! Evolution is the biggest farce in recorded history of science!! It is mathematically impossible and the law of entropy will not allow it to happen! He is a misguided fool!

  39. The big question is: why would you not believe in evolution? That is the most unevident thing to doubt about. It's not that we just where here without evolution. Think about it. We have all the science that proves that evolution took place. But even without that, a simple-minded person would easily come to the conclusion that we must have evolved someway. Why would you stick to the idea that some force made us? That's not likely to be so. To be more precise: that would definitely not be the case. And it's not a sign of great intelligence to keep going after the idea that there is a God. To put it simply: if I told you that there are trolls, you would laugh at me. If you say there is a God you want to be taken very, very seriously. Because the whole culture that you know from when you were little tells there is a God. If it would be so that there isn't one, your culture wouldn't be taken seriously. So you keep the illusion that there is a God. And you think of all possible theories to compliment that idea. So much theories, and so complex that a person can not bring anything against it. But the source of it all is not right. It is an illusion. It's sad. And it is not so that you see things that I don't see. No. That you keep saying to yourself. There is no God. But I can't prove that there is not. But I can prove that the evidence of everything around us in the world is telling us that there is maybe 0,5 percent chance that the would be a bigger power that would have created the world as said by those religious people. So much more reason to accept that there is no such thing. Also, the creator of the so called world needed to have a creator too. How do you exlain? Better think like this: you don't know, and it's ok. It's ok to not know how the world was created, but leave it to science to come up with good fundamneted theories. It's better than being so arrogant to say that you do know because you have God on your side. Put the idea of God away, and become pure and honest in your life with all goods, ethics, morals coming from yourself in a good way. 😉

  40. Atheists are like moths!! That's why even though they claim God doesn't exist, they cannot help themselves from going toward the Light (God). And it is a very dangerous think since they mock and make truth claims about the Almighty without fear. And just like moths, lest they repent and turn from their wicked ways, they shall perish.

  41. There are lots of things that don't mix with religion, ..logic, reason, tolerance, science, sex and racial equality ,,,reality in general really.

  42. تبارک الذی بیدہ الملک , و ھو علی کل شئ قدیر الذی خلق سبع سموات طباقا , ما تری فی خلق الرحمن من تفوت , فارجع البصر ھل تری من فتور . ثم ارجع البصر کرتین ینقلب الیک البصر خاسئا و ھو حسیر .

    سورہ الملک
    The Sovereignty
    Allah Challenges Mankind

    Blessed is He in Whose hands is Dominion; and He over all things hath Power;-
    He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving;-
    He Who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?
    Again turn thy vision a second time: (thy) vision will come back to thee dull and discomfited, in a state worn out.
    And we have, (from of old), adorned the lowest heaven with Lamps, and We have made such (Lamps) (as) missiles to drive away the Evil Ones, and have prepared for them the Penalty of the Blazing Fire.
    For those who reject their Lord (and Cherisher) is the Penalty of Hell: and evil is (such), Destination.

    We are asked to observe, study and research the cosmos again and again, and as minutely as our powers will allow. However closely we observe the cosmos
    we shall find no flaw in creation of Almighty Allah.

    The universe is so vast and stretches so far beyond our ken,that our eyes aided with most powerful telescopes will confess themselves defeated in trying to penetrate to the ultimate mystries.

    We shall find no defect in Allah's handiwork: it is our own powers that we shall find fail to go beyond a certain compass.

  43. The question is why do caterpillars chrysalise then become butterflies? Anyone who thinks this process came about by chance is an idiot. God created the Earth and everything 6000 years ago. The Flood period created the world as we see it today bar erosion and tectonic activity since then. Look at any newly formed island or gorge and it looks like it has been there for centuries. Don't believe this Dick Dawkins because you want to believe there is no God. He is evident in every one of the millions of complex species. Wake up and accept the reality of God.

  44. So basically RD, in order for him to explain his point of view, he just went describing how fascinating Allah's creatures are, way to go RD!

  45. Not all religions are in conflict with scientific progress. Hinduism, Buddhism, other Dharmic religions and also paganism are in complete harmony with the theory of evolution and even made many invaluable contributions to modern science. I hate the way atheists assume that all religious people are narrow-minded and that atheism is somehow superior. A lot of famous scientists were devout Christians like Galileo, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur. They saw no conflict between faith and science.

  46. Has evolution been observed? (Dawkins quote)

    ‘Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.’


    ‘Battle over evolution’ Bill Moyers interviews Richard Dawkins, Now, 3 December 2004, PBS network

    Because they are both religious views about the past.

  47. "Religion and Evolution Don't Mix Well" Exactly.
    Human are of many colors, and sizes. Even the color and size among Black people are very different. And the col lour and size among white people is very different. But, all the humans are from one family. From Adam and Eve as the Bible Says. The difference is due to reproduction and spreading all over for different reasons, or different cases.
    And there were few animals kinds created at first. Of course, with each animal kind one or a Male and female only. Then, each kind of animals expanded and created races ( of course many animals are related or must be related due to the reproduction process and the
    spreading all over.

    So, animals relationship( similarity) does not imply evolution, instead that is due to creation and its "multiply" word of God.

    Yes, evolution and religion do not mix because evolution theory is myths or fiction. right?

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