tv After Words Richard Dawkins CSPAN October 27, 2013 11:00am-12:01pm EDT
at authors, books and publishing news. you can watch all of the programs from the past 15 years online at booktv.org. >> up next on booktv, afterwards, i guess those this week is sally quinn. she is the cocreator of the "washington post" blog "on faith." she ended his richard dawkins about his latest book, "an appetite for wonder." this program is about one hour. >> host: so richard, i can't help but notice and admire your time. which has penguins on it. is the significance to that, and biological significance tragedy these are chinstrap england but it's hand-painted by my wife, as
all my ties are. this is a one off time. there's nothing else like it in the world. >> host: is fabulous. >> guest: we would to an article last christmas on a cruise. coal we spent christmas on the boat in an article. this was my christmas present. >> host: do have a particular interest in penguins tragic i love penguins to they are astonishing animals way they fly underwater. they look so clumsy on land like clumsy little humans waddling along. syndicate in the water and their phenomenally fast. you wouldn't believe how quickly they can swim through the water. the streamlining is beautiful. and select opens their astonishingly fast and they do that all living on the water. they jump out of the water and back in again. >> host: your first big success was "the selfish gene," and then you wrote "the god
delusion," which may get a rather controversial figure. but also along with christopher hitchens and sam harris and daniel dennis, really made the word atheist acceptable. and i think for the people were ashamed to say they were an atheist, embarrassed. as you pointed out before, you can't run for office in this country if you're an atheist. or you say you're not a believer. but i know that your autobiography, which this is part one of two parts, "an appetite for wonder" come you hardly mention religion in that. why is that? >> guest: i have given it a fairly good money for its money in "the god delusion." i have written books in between and all of them are about science, but the science they are about is pretty much implied
in them. this book is about my early life, childhood, schooldays, university life and early research career. so i suppose i just wanted to tell the story of my life in case anybody is interested. there is a story of how i lost religious faith in their but it doesn't make the book nor should. >> host: i know wherever you go, there are crowds and q&a and people always want to ask you questions about religion and the universe and why we are here and the meaning of life. are you tired of that treachery these questions are so important. something you said just now about sort of making atheism respectable. not quite sure that we do that exactly but what i think we did do and people tell me in the book signings which i'm very gratified, they tell me "the god
delusion" gave us the courage to come out and in some cases it can prevent that in rather more cases they already were atheists and give them the courage to come out which suggests to me that there are a hell of a lot more atheists in this country than anybody realizes but i think there may be certain the fact that nobody actor speaks out and says that they are an atheist and yet if enough of them did so that they would all get kind of a tipping point affect. >> host: your document members of congress and how, out of all of the 535 members of congress, there's only one person who claims to not be a believer. do you believe that? >> guest: statistically it can't be true. there's got to be a least 100, probably 200 members of congress are not religious believers. if you just look statistically at them, the rest of the population, especially the educated population which many of them are, so there ha have gt
to be many, many congresspeople who are atheist but they just we don't want to talk about it because they think it will is them vote. once again i wonder whether the emperor's new clothing effect can get some of them tried it they might be quite surprised they wouldn't lose those. they might even gain votes. >> host: you on capital yesterday with steven pinker and you met with a number of senate staffers and house staffers, who came to listen to you talk about secularism. why did they, and what was that about? >> guest: i didn't ask them why they came but they did come in quite substantial numbers. they asked very interesting question and they seemed very enthusiastic. we both talked, one after the other. it was a very good meeting. it had a few of, a good atmosphere, a good enthusiastic
atmosphere. >> host: with these the kind of question genomic it on your tour or with a more pointed? with the political? do you think of trying to figure out can we really do this? >> guest: i wish they were. i didn't get the feeling they were exactly doing that, i think they're interested in the issue that was raised. for example, the question of creationism in this country. it's a shocking fact that more than 40% -- a look at the polls, 40% of the people in this country believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old, which is not just wrong, it's prodigiously wrong. it's 4.6 billion years. 10,000 is a tiny, tiny fraction. as i said before if it wasn't to blame that the width of north america's $8. yet 40% of the american people believe it, and textbooks in texas are tailored to cope with
this extraordinarily -- extraordinary opinion of april people. >> host: you know, at the press club where you were speaking, i sort of felt as though i were in the presence of the dalai lama or the pope of atheism. you have this incredible following. people were getting up and almost weeping and sync them you saved my life and i was going to become a nun and don't i read your book, "the god delusion." thank you i was both moved and slightly embarrassed. i love that actually but anymore, two of them in quick succession to do. anymore it was a likability ran meeting where people come forward. >> host: it was reminiscent because i've seen so many religious leaders where people get up and say you saved my life
and weeping and kissing your penguin tide. >> guest: i don't want to fuss and nevertheless it is moving and is the reaction i get. a little bit more subdued than that but the reaction i get, well, a majority of the people in my book signing queues say something similar to that, which is really very gratifying. >> host: you can imagine, does it go to your head? >> guest: no, it doesn't. >> host: you said there was very little when you're talking about religion in your book, but can you tell me -- i think you said you actually were quite religious when you are about 13. you became confirmed and she got into religion in a big way and then when you about 17 or 18, he became militantly anti-religion. tell me about that. wasn't the science that did it for you? >> guest: it's not in use for
a child to be religious. my parents actually worked, but nevertheless my schools were and i was confirmed and everybody at the school was confirmed. there was one boy it was from a roman catholic family, and he wasn't a perhaps he was confirmed and a roman catholic but al all of the residents wern confirmed into the anglican church. so wasn't a big decision on my part but i just kind of went with the flow, and then was pretty religious into the age of about 15, then gave it to. when i found the darwinian alternative which really works as an explanation for the apparent design of living things, i was a biologist. i was impressed with the apparent design of living things. the penguins looked beautiful designed for swimming very fast through water. they are not designed -- to take me until i was about 16 to really understand that probably
come and then i gave up all the symbols of religion. >> host: talking about being the dalai lama, the pope of atheism, i get the sense when i see around other people that they're coming to you hoping to find the answers, and, of course, you have talked about how one of the things that guided you most was the existence of humans, why are we here, what is the meaning of life? do you ever feel somehow inadequate that you can't provide answers they are looking for because it does have -- there's a certain messianic feeling about it, you know, people go to the dalai lama. i went to the dalai lama and i didn't understand a word he said, but people were weeping and getting down on their knees. and so i don't mean to make it
sound like that, but do you ever feel that somehow you should have the answers and you don't have the answers? >> guest: these are not my answers. heaven forbid that i should be treated in this way. these are not my answer to these are the answers of science. i can try to express the answers, but the question were talking about, these are the deeper questions, why are we here, when did life start, although sorts of questions. they are not my int answers but these are the answers of standard science. i have done my bit to try to explain them in with all my books. and so i tried to do that, but i'm not a messianic leader or anything like that. >> host: one of my favorite bumper stickers i once saw was i don't know and you don't either. i thought in a way, you know, i
guess you call yourself an atheist. what does it mean to you? >> guest: i don't and a kind you don't either. i thoroughly approve of that. because the great fallacy is to say science doesn't know, therefore religion must be right and that, of course, is a total logical fallacy. there are many things we don't know. i think science doesn't know but if science doesn't know something, there's no reason to think that religion does know it. we must avoid the trap of thinking religious default which we default to when science can provide the answer. science is working on the answer. science in some cases may never get the answer, but there's also be no reason to think that therefore we default to the religious answer. survey not. >> host: you talk about -- certainly not. labels that they are agnostic, and this. how do you define the difference
in those and what works for you? >> guest: well, deism is as you know the belief that no particular personal god because of some kind of great intelligence which set the universe going and then retired and did nothing more. doesn't forgive sins, thousand know what you think and has no interest in human affairs. just started the laws of physics. that's deism. theism is believe in some kind of personal god such as the christian god or the muslim god, the gods of valhalla. pantheism i characterize as a type of atheism but it's sort of kind of what einstein believed. einstein did not believe in any kind of personal god but yet he can reference for that which we don't yet understand. some pantheists feel as a kind of i don't know.
it's hard to quite characterize exactly what pantheists believe. agnostics are people who don't know. that word was coined by thomas henry huxley, darwin's friend and continue to some people confuse that with this kind of a 50/50 tossup, whether there is a god or not. there's really no reason to trump up 50/50. in essence where all agnostic because we can never actually disprove it we can't disprove leprechauns and pixies. we have to be a mistake about them but for all practical purposes we are a leprechauns and a pixies. and in the same way we can the atheist while technically admitting that we cannot actually disprove the existence of any particular god. >> host: why then don't you call yourself an agnostic than? >> guest: i do sometimes come as an agnostic but i'm a bit weary of it because people
sometimes think that means a total noncommitment. i would rather say that i'm an atheist in the same sense as i'm a tooth fairy. >> host: has to be changed of religion since you wrote "the god delusion"? >> guest: no. >> host: you seem at least when the book came out it seemed to me that you were much more militantly atheist then you are now. i mean, you seem to have pulled back a little bit. >> guest: actually you might come if you reread "the god delusion" you might be quite surprised. i think it's a bit of a lift. it's been criticized as an instant book and is been called -- i think if you read it again you might think, -- people have
said that to me that they thought was going to be an instant book because they read the critics of the and in one woman told me that she got should eventually getting around to read it because shirt it was such a militant, aggressive against complete it was absolutely quite a gentle book. my next book, "an appetite for wonder," is a gentle book, too. 's i don't think -- this is not about religion. >> host: this is an extremely gentle book i found them anyway, very cozy. >> guest: not to cozy. >> host: know, but it was very thoughtful and it sort of belies the impression that some people have that your this sort of radical fundamentalist. >> guest: i don't shout. >> host: there's no shouting in here at all.
when you talk about pantheism, deism, all of them, you have to look at science and you say, okay, we can trace it back to the big bang, the creation or whatever it is, and then we don't know what happens after that. before that i mean. and then you talk about nothing -- nothingism. what does that mean? how can you put your mind around that? don't you lie awake at night? because you say you don't like not understanding things, and your whole life is about trying to understand things. does it make you crazy sometimes but you don't understand that? >> guest: yes. i mean, i'm not a sin assist. -- physicist. i'm a biologist. so i know that the human brain
was never evolved to understand the mysteries of quantum theory, for example. the human brain evolved to understand how to hunt antelope on the african plains and how to find waterholes and how to find a shoe in for the night and how to find a mate. these are all practical problems and the human brain evolved to solve them. very surprisingly and wonderfully, the human brain turns out to be capable of doing all sorts of other things, like poetry and music and logic and mathematics. and quantum theory. not all of us. very few of us can do it, but they are physicists who can cope with these profundities, these difficulties of modern physics. it isn't easily compatible with common sense. house of representatives how do
you mean? >> guest: the big bang and the statement critics have made, time and space began as a big bang. there is no meaning to the word before. i can cover in the. i don't think you can. but -- cosmic i'm not the number one thing in the world. you are. >> guest: no reason, that's no reason to retreat from. because if you could be physics by common sense it would need to physicists. i mean, there are difficulties in which common sense can't cope with and some physicists say they are there when they're trying to understand it, was that on objective -- they can either. they can do the mathematics and it works. lawrence krauss, my colleague, we did a film together called the unbelievers, and he has written a book called the universe from nothing. he produces physical theory, mathematical worked out, to show
that you can get something from nothing, that nothing and nothing in some strange way cancels itself out to produce something. quantum theory allows that to happen. well, i'm home enough to say i don't understand it and i'm not arrogant enough to say because i don't understand, therefore it can't be right, as i said before. if we could be physics by common sense we wouldn't be physicist. >> host: so what's hard to understand is, if there is this creation and there was a creator, or something that was created -- that created it, then who created -- what created the creator and what they're saying is nothing. there was nothing. that's just too hard to understand. >> guest: it's too hard to understand at -- as ordinary
commonsense human being. but the physical theory is there. not all this is a step they have a different theory, but i think we have to admit that we are not all capable of grasping everything that the human mind has managed, and i'm excited to be in the company of this assisted to understand. it was always clear to me that the -- all things had to be very simple because it's a hell of a lot easier to get something, to get complexity from something simply by an evolutionist and that what evolution does. you can start with simplicity. i wasn't quite prepared to start with absolute nothing, but i imagined that things started with a great simplicity. well, now i'm told by physicist it's started with absolute nothing. mind you it's exactly what you mean by nothing is up for dispute. >> host: now i really can't
deal with it. >> guest: i can't either. >> host: you obviously, you live and work in an atmosphere of academia, and so you know a lot of very smart people. some of them are religious. >> guest: and not many. >> host: most scientists are not. i don't know what percentage. maybe 10% or 5%. >> guest: depends on how you measure it. if you take all scientists working in the united states, said just about 40% are religious but if you take the easy scientist of the united states who are members of the national academy of science, they've been elected a distinct sides, then it's about 10% religious. a scientist claims to religious and you asked them what they really believe, it's quite likely to turn out to be some sort of anti-islam. probably, in some cases it
rarely is a personal god. but quite often it is actually a pantheist i'm staying in religion which is not really what i would call god to believe at all. >> host: i know you done a number of debates, and when you're in a debate with somebody who is a believer who believes in god or even believes that jesus is the son of god, how do you -- can you expect someone who believes that? do you think they're stupid traffic i don't -- i always try to respect individual people whether or not respect the police. in the case of the bishops and people who are christian but that sensible views of science, then i can even respect their belief. i can't respect the police of the creations but i had regard them as either ignorant or stupid. but i hope i treat them with
politeness. johann hari, a british journalist said i respect you as a person, too much to respect your ridiculous beliefs. [laughter] >> host: that was rather nicely because your book is called "an appetite for wonder," and also wonder often is what people who are religious believers talk about, the transcendent, the wonders of the universe, the wonder of god, all of that. can you separate those out trendy of course, yes. i think any good scientist is filled with wonder. einstein said great scientists are always filled with wonder. they rely on their imagination to einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. so wonder, yes. and i think that scientist have probably have a better handle on wonder than theologians. we are aware of the sheer wonder
of the fact that the universe is gigantic. that time is gigantic, that life was produced by explicable phenomena working over a very, very long time. working on very simple beginnings, just north of kimchi, molecules interacting with each other, and by this astonishing process called evolution a darwinian selection produced ever increasing complexity of living creatures, including ourselves, including our brains in which are so complex and so large that they finally become capable of understanding the very process that gave rise to them. that is a wonderful thought. and who in, who among
theologians could possibly match that for a wonderful, considering thought lex. >> host: let's talk about this needs. >> guest: right. >> host: so you say that if hitler's father had sneezed at a certain time, hitler may not of been conceived. would you explain what you mean? >> guest: yes. i wanted to make the point that our existence, every one of our existence as, hangs by a thread of quite astonishing luck. and so i chose hitler because if hitler hadn't lived in the whole history of the 20th century would've been different. hitler's father, his name wasn't hitler. if his father had not -- i couldn't know when he would sneak up what i'm saying is a sneezed twinges before hitler was born would have been enough to changed circumstances knock
on effects such as -- >> host: why? why disney's? >> guest: ever came into existence because of a particular sperm hit a particular ache at a particular time. all of huxley expressed that rather eloquently in his poem, which went a million million spermatozoa, all of them alive but one day hope to survive. of that billion minus one might a chance to shake there, another nietzsche, but the one was me. better for all of us if you quietly died. well -- >> host: explained what the sneeze has to do with it. >> guest: nevermind the sneezed. just the moment of conception of any one of us.
a million million spermatozoa. the exact timing of the active population which gave rise to each one of us would have totally changed with 1 million millions firms hit the jackpot on that particular occasion. now, the sneezed immediately before conception concluded have that effect. aand what some would change the timing. a sneezed 20 years earlier would change the timing of when hitler's father happened to get on a bus to berlin or he can't this rather than that but. there's a whole not going to of effects, which by a rude we can't possibly reconstruct would nevertheless have determined, have changed which have many spurns happened to work, not just in hitler's own generation. of course, in every generation that you can think of, you and me and our parents and
grandparents and our great grandparents. none of us had any right right e any entitlement to be alive, yet we are. with hindsight summit had to be alive and it happened to be as. i expressed this in the opening sentences of another of my books, "unweaving the rainbow." 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. we are astonishing lucky to have been born. i sa said in another way in anor part of the book, the second dinosaur to the left of the third tree hadn't happened the sneezed, he would have caught the little shoe like anil at his feet which was destined to give rise to all the mammals. if all of the mammals are descended from one creature that lived, i did not, let's say in the jurassic era, and that one creature that we're all dissented from every single is descended from this one
creature, could easily been in my dinosaur before it reproduc reproduced. and i'm speculating. i'm conjecturing that something as trivial as a sneezed my dinosaur saved the life of that one mammal and, therefore, saved the life, made possible the life of every mammal, including ourselves. >> host: you have used the word luck several times in the last few minutes. and the luck sounds a little bit like fate. it doesn't sound very scientif scientific. >> guest: well, the mistake is to use lock in the sort of predictive way to say something like certain people are lucky. you say someone is a very lucky person. if argument is that a lot of luck, that's fine, but if you mean that they are prone to luck, if you mean you can predict. a great example of this i talked about is in a cricket match,
probably the same as baseball matches and welcome who bets first is determined by the thoughts of a coin. some people actually believe, the two captains to toss a coin, one calls heads or tails. some people actually believe that some individuals are more lucky at getting the call of a toss and others, and i can even choose a player as captain because they think he is more likely to win the toss. that is total nonsense. so that's the sense in which it's unscientific to talk about luck. but it's not unscientific to say someone is very lucky because he had a whole series of good things happen by chance. nor is it wrong to say that we are al-awlaki to be alive because a sneezed at any time in the past would probably have meant that we would not be a life.
>> host: it still sounds like a lot to me. i mean, is there a lucky gene? >> guest: no. i'm talking with hindsight. you can talk about luck with hindsight. what you mustn't do is talk about luck with foresight, or say i feel like this with me tonight. i feel lucky tonight. i'm going to go and play roulette in las vegas because i feel lucky tonight, or i have a lucky number. or the roulette spin has come up with red five times in a row, so the luck suggest that it ought, you get sick is likely to go on, it's about time it changed to black. because it is blacks can. >> host: you are a incredibly lucky person to get a want of childhood. agreed education, a fantastic career. you know, you've had an amazing
life. and then we look at some of the people have just been gassed in syria or people starving in africa or the people are being stoned for adultery somewhere, or whatever natural catastrophe. how do we explain that? this is from an atheist point of view. obviously, it's one of the most obvious questions to ask a religious person, how do you find something if there is a loving god? but from an atheist point of view, how do you explain that you could have such a fabulous wife and someone else is not lucky to have been born. >> guest: essential have been talking about luck with hindsight, and some you can say that if somebody tosses coins and it comes up heads, or if somebody is lucky i really had, that luck is hindsight. has nothing to do with any
ability, pure hindsight. hindsight. when you see somebody has had a very fortunate life, that's not just with hindsight. leave me out of it, but people who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, people who have good genes, get a good job because of their abilities and they go and and make a very big success of the life. i wouldn't use the word luck for the. i would say that this is there is things they within, their genes, their upbringing, their parents. are brought up in a home lined with books like this studio. you don't want to achieve -- after that to chance, to luck. that's a threat of circumstances. they were well endowed and all sorts of senses. that's not mysterious.
>> host: i find it mysterious. i mean, i find that if you look at the division between rich and poor and the people who suffer and the people who don't, it's mysterious whiny. why do i did have a good life and someone else loses all their children in a massacre. >> guest: this is because you sort of see some kind of natural justice. you feel somehow wrong that somebody should have all the good fortune and others not. if there were natural justice it wouldn't happen. certain societies do their best to, as it were, redistribute the good fortune. countries like the scandinavian countries that have high tax rates and take a lot from the rich and give to the poor. i mean, things like obamacare is trying to do it in a very, very small way. this is trying to achieve a
certain amount of justice, we distributed justice. you are protesting when you say some people have a charmed good life and other people end up being cast in syria, that's of course table. some people are poor. some are rich, some are poor. your sense of justice rebels against that, you feel somehow it's wrong but it's the way things happen. you can do something about it. you can say let's reform a society in such a way that we do we does she get the good fortune a bit but there's no natural justice. the universe doesn't go poor people the same living as rich people. that's just the way things happen to turn out. when people say something like, if somebody gets a terrible disease are terrible cancer, painful cancer, why me? why did happen to me? i'm a good person. why me? is a total fallacy did figure
because you're a good person, therefore i think should happen to you, or you're a bad person and you have perfect health. again, no natural justice. there isn't any natural justice. that's one of the points. >> host: you mentioned earlier that if you have good genes, so what does it mean to have good genes? >> guest: your genes affect all sorts of things like your health, your building to do things, or mental or physical ability. that's what natural selection is all about, the choice of good genes to survive, genes that help you to survive. in the wild, all animals are subject to natural selection, which means that the genes that make them good at surviving because good i say, good beers, good cause, good teeth, good wings to fly with. those all represent good genes but it's the good genes that survive to the next generation and then the next and then the next. so genes are very important of
any individual to not just to survive but to also to other things. some people undoubtedly will be endowed with better chance than others. people may die because they have genetic diseases. people have been endowed with genes that make them lived a long, healthy life. >> host: one of the things you said in the book, which fascinated me, was the fact that people, essentially we all come from the same gene, that we are all related on some level, starting at what point, and then, but then you say that if you go three or four generations along, the person in the last generation probably won't have very much genetics. >> hostgenetics. >> guest: that's right. if you're going to ask the question, how long ago did we
share a common ancestor, the answer is probably not very far. we've got them each one of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandkids, 16 and someone. that expenditure increase in ancestry can't go on because if they did, if you actually calculate how many people they would have had to have been, say, in this light the flame to conquer attempted to fix. just in my ancestors, it would be more than the popular to the world at the time, and we do the same for yours and the same for everybody else. so obviously we all share ancestors. if you look at it the other way around, you don't have to go back very far into you reach the point where just a mathematical grounds, if you imagine that we're all living on an island, reproducing and randy. we don't divide into separate groups at all.
it's living together. you would only have to go back a few thousand years for everybody in the world to be descended from the same common ancestor. >> host: so we are related? >> guest: of course we are. you and i are very close to each other the republic only have to go back a few hundred years. >> host: have you had your dna tested translate i have actually. >> host: what did you find? >> guest: it's a bit of a game so far because not a hell of a lot in the about what most of the genes are, arguing. the most interesting genes to look at are probably the mitochondrial genes, because they are the ones that go down the female line only. all males have been getting from our mother. so the mitochondrial dna, little things in the southern mitochondrial have the own dna, so i got it from my mother, from her mother, my maternal
grandmother, my maternal maternal great-grandmother and so on. so this is a narrow trickle of genes down one side of the family tree but there are all of the possible ways in which you could have gotten genes. so this makes mitochondrial in a very easy to trace because it's not constantly being swapped by sexual reproduction but it doesn't be combined with other genes. so we know when our most recent common ancestor in the female line, and she lived in africa may be a couple hundred thousand years ago. she is called mitochondrial ees, a journalistic name being given to her. but people of european dissent can trace their ancestry back to a much more recent female female common ancestor. i remember that the female female female one is only one way of doing it. there are all sorts of other ways in which you can trace your ancestry.
there are millions of other ways in which you can trace ancestry but if you get that way you and i will turn out to be -- you and i will turn out to have a common ancestor much, much more recently than mitochondrial eve. we are all cousins. about a little further and where all cousins of chimpanzees and kangaroos and whatnot, and jellyfish. >> host: have you ever done ancestry.com? have you ever checked your ancestry transit i don't think i have but you can do that. using either y. chromosome which is the male equivalent, go down the melancholy females don't have that but you can get by giving your father or your brother. so either y. chromosome dna or mitochondrial dna might have found where mitochondrial and your y-chromosome comes from. it doesn't tell you where the rest of your genes come from. there was a television program
on british television which rather foolishly i think the people and trace their mitochondrial. they took actually descendents of slaves from jamaica, and they had one woman who traced her mitochondria back to particular tribe in west africa, which was nice. they then took her to the tribe in west africa. she said my people, my people. nonsense. the rest of come from absolutely anywhere. probably came from russia and all sorts of places. >> host: so doesn't make you weep. >> guest: it's kind of interesting. but perhaps we are all cousins and fairly those cousins. we are closely related to each other and. >> host: you've invented the
word -- which is not very much a part of the language and i think you said some 30 books have been written with the word meme in it. >> guest: i think it's true. >> host: what does meme mean and how did you come to conceive of that word? >> guest: it's the unit of cultural heritage. i think of it as the cultural equivalent of the gene. the reason i wanted to coined the word was that it came at the end of my first book, "the selfish gene," and the rest of the book is all about dna being the unit of natural selection but as i said a moment ago, genes are successful of the ones that survive through gene pools. so effort of putting the selfish gene was to emphasize the gene as the unit of selection, that which benefits from an animal's behavior, for example, a survivor of the gene is the animal beef is all about.
ideally should've rhymed with g. >> but it's sort of imitation? >> imitation is the key. dna could be said to be imitated when i saw for the case. if i sing you a tune and you get to turn your head, it's a catchy tune, you catch it and then you've gone into the street and you find yourself whistling it. he changed the medium from voice whistling. somebody else hears you whistling that and they pick it up in anything it to somebody else. it can spread like an epidemic. it creates at school, a particular toy, a particular game spread through the school like a meatloaf epidemic. it has much the same at the genealogical. it rises endives away. it may jump to another school because somebody knows a brother
or sister or somebody at another school. it's like a virus. it's like the mind virus. >> host: so people started wearing penguin ties. >> guest: if people stop by penguin pie of these and, >> host: you could get rich. >> guest: yeah, you would call it a mean if it spreads by imitation. as long as it record to be inherited from the secrets of generations. postcode you've got two more years to go to finish part 2 of your memoirs. why did you decide -- you are 72. why did you decide suddenly to write your memoir at this point? why not another scientific book?
>> guest: well, the publishers very keen to it and i just miss my father died just before he started, so i wasn't able to consult him about it. i was able to consult my mother. very useful to me. >> guest: that the two volumes. i got halfway through and i have a good of the need for a sense of achievement. it is a natural brake point. the publication of my first book was a sort of watershed event in my life because i liked it rather change after that and i got more books and things like television and radio journalism.
>> host: so when you finish your next book, obviously that is going to occupy your time the next couple of years. and then the endless book to her. do you have a bucket list quick >> guest: well, there parts of the world i haven't yet. and the parts i have seen over the sea again. >> host: like one of? >> guest: about to go go back there. i've seen very little of south america. i have in china at all. if the answer to go. i haven't seen the arctic. i wouldn't mind doing that. i have another book i'd like to quite right as well. >> host: any novels quite >> guest: i don't know. i never quite know how to do that. >> host: you just make things up. very different from what you do.
>> guest: is it that easy? >> host: i've written a couple of novels. i talk a lot. so -- i don't find it that hard. >> guest: i do quite fancy da da -- i'm rather like satirical novels, a kind of close observation of the way people talk in the way people are. for some reason whenever i'm in airport listening to people around me, i certainly feel i should write a novel and hearing the way people talk. >> host: do you read them? >> guest: i like modern satirical novels. i like michael frame, that kind of -- that sort of witty look at contemporary life. i like nonfiction, too.
>> host: one of the things i looked in your book as he said when you're much younger one of your favorite books was gone with the wind and you read it a number of times. >> guest: it's racist. i didn't realize that when i was young. >> host: what was it about gone with the wind? i must've read it 10 times. >> guest: i'm not sure they get now. i like it if a child. it carries you along. >> host: well, if taking lsd may be on your -- you did mention in your book that someone had recently offered to take you on a trip in your turn them down. why did you turn them down? >> guest: there's a chapter in my memoir about my time in berkeley, which is the late 60s. i would've tried it then, but no one offered it to me. >> host: did you ever do marijuana? >> guest: no, never. >> host: never any drugs at all? >> guest: never hallucinogen
like lsd or macklin. recently a friend offered to mentor me. lsd trip and she said she would take a half dose so she was empathizing and still capable of making sure it didn't jump out of the window thinking i could fire some name like that. i couldn't decide whether to do it. i have a cousin, my father's first cousin who's mentioned in the book is an expert on such drugs, as a pharmacologist, as a psychiatrist. he influenced to do his famous experiment. taking mescaline. so i asked him whether he would advise it and he gave a very biased opinion. he sat on the whole not. because of the dangers of a bad trip. but you know, i don't know. maybe you can guard against
that. maybe take a lower dose of something. >> host: but it did intrigue you? >> guest: it definitely intrigues me because i'm reading descriptions. descriptions of the perception cleansed, which is a quote from something else. yes, i would be very curious to try. >> host: had ever been to a psychiatrist? >> guest: now, i haven't. >> host: how do you feel about psychiatry or therapy? >> guest: i'm sure it's a very important thing for some people. i feel perhaps very fortunate that i don't need it. maybe i'm wrong. >> host: i'm interested in the confluence between psychiatry that so many people -- well,
psychiatrists often plays the role that the previous play. we've talked before about the idea of good and evil and good genes and evil genes and what makes a person good and what make them immoral person. i think sometimes when you see a psychiatrist or you talk to a priest or whatever, you're trying to bring out the best of yourself. >> host: there's a lovely part they are in crocodile dundee words told. -- i didn't remember that. >> guest: there is some similarity they are. i think most people if you ask them what they think they want
to be good and moral. as i said, we talked about this before. how do you define morality? and do you think that often people will say you can't really be moral if you are not religious? you don't believe in a god. where did you get morality? do we have a moral gene? >> guest: there are people who think you can't define what you mean by morality. i think we do define it. it's clearly true that if a particular society for example. in the 21st century, had the very first to think a 21st century morality, which we will share whether religious or not. it's a kind of consensus that we accept and somewhat based on the golden rule and treat others to
treat you. >> guest: we all took greater or lesser extent described as a sort of feeling that we kind of together try to decide what kind we want to live in a sort of society where people don't still , don't commit bodily harm. they pay taxes. we take care of the poor, the sick, the elderly. we live in a society, which cares for each other, which cares for other human beings in deep. i'm a conservative work out for yourself the kind of society in which we wish to live. i without any religious belief would not wish to live in the kind of society where people cheat, where they don't pay their taxes, with a steal and kill and you could say it's a
redirected selfishness because you don't want that to happen to you. you want to live in a well ordered society by which you are protected. what actually counts as a good society, varies from century to century. in the night came century, british was highly sexist. you couldn't vote -- women couldn't vote in america until the 1920s nor in western europe. so we moved on as a whole and never send collect goods to move on. we've abandoned that kind of sexism, which women are not capable of voting because they can't think. charles darwin, abraham lincoln. these men were on lightman for their time, that they would be
regarded as extremely backward. which clearly has nothing to do but it moves on. >> host: do you think at some point in a less will not be religious society? it may take a while. it is not exceeded 20%. it's quite a large percentage. as a percentage that hasn't been recognized politically, but it's there. it's much higher. >> host: during your book is that guide solution. thank you. >> guest: thank you very much.
historian h.w. brands and author and "washington post" columnist, dan boehm. you can see complete schedule of today's event online apple tv.work or you can find us on twitter at the tv or on facebook, facebook.com/tv for several updates. the first live event for today is a panel with mark binelli, author of "detroit city is the place to be" and jeffrey stuart kerr, author of "seat of empire: the embattled birth of austin, texas." this begins in just a minute. you are watching live from austin on c-span 2. [inaudible conversations] >> i think the mackerel s