Richard Dawkins: biography and contributions of this British broadcaster

What percentage of genetics explains our behavior? Is evolution entirely based on our genes? How important are relationships with other individuals of the same species?

These questions have arisen since Darwin spoke of evolutionary processes. Many ethologists and biologists have tried to solve these problems.

Among them is Richard Dawkins, an English ethologist and evolutionary biologist who formulated such controversial concepts as the selfish gene, as well as popularized the word “meme”.

    Richard Dawkins biography

    Let’s take a closer look at the life of this great scientist, Awareness work is still active today.

    first years

    Clinton Richard Dawkins was born in Nairobi, present-day Kenya on March 26, 1941. Son of a farmer destined for the soldier in British colonial Africa. Richard Dawkins lived in a well-to-do, middle-class family in which there was always a fascination with science.

    At the age of eight he moved to England with his parents, where they got a farm to live on.

    He embraced the Christian faith until his teenage years, when he came to the conclusion that the theory of evolution offered a better explanation of the complexity of life than creationism, leaving God behind.


    Between 1954 and 1959 Richard Dawkins attended school in Oundle in Northamptonshire, A public school with a preference for Anglican education. While attending this center, Dawkins read books on atheism and agnosticism.

    He then studied zoology at Balliol College, graduating in 1962. He was a student of Nobel Prize-winning medical ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen, in addition to being part of his research group. Then, in 1966, he obtained his doctorate in philosophy.

    Working with Tinbergen was a great opportunity for Dawkins, as the Dutch biologist was one of the pioneers in the study of animal behavior, especially animal learning, decision and instinct.

    professional career

    Between 1967 and 1969 he was assistant professor of zoology at the University of California at Berkeley. During these years, college students opposed the Vietnam War, and Dawkins himself took part in the protests. In 1970 he went to the University of Oxford as a lecturer.

    In 1995, he began to hold the Charles Simonyi Chair of Scientific Dissemination, a position he held until 2008.

    He had the opportunity to give several inaugural lectures, including some the Henry Sidgwick Memorial Lecture (1989), the Erasmus Darwin Memorial Lecture (1990), the Michael Faraday Lecture (1991), the Tinbergen Lecture (2000) and Tanner Lecture ( 2003).

    He was editor-in-chief of four scientific journals and founder of the Episteme Journal in 2002. In addition, he has acted as an advisor for popular publications, such as the Encarta Encyclopedia.

    He chaired the life sciences section of the British Society for Scientific Progress. He was also an editor and columnist for Free Inquiry magazine and also contributed to Skeptic magazine.

    In 2008, he retired from teaching, focusing on writing books to warn young people of the dangers of believing in pseudoscientific ideas. In 2011 he joined as a professor at the New College of the Humanities in London.

    private life

    Richard Dawkins has been married three times. The first did it with Marian Stamp in 1967, Whom he divorced in 1984. He then married Eve Barham, with whom he had a daughter, but also divorced.

    He then married Lalla Ward in 1992, from whom he amicably separated in 2016.

    In 2016, he suffered a stroke at home. Fortunately, he was able to recover the same year.

    Work, reflection and criticism

    Richard Dawkins’ work covers different areas of knowledge. Let’s find out what his contributions are and what criticism he has received from other scientists and broadcasters.

    The biology of evolution

    Among his great contributions to knowledge, Dawkins’ work is known to address the idea that genes are the primary unit of selection in evolution. In his books The Selfish Gene (1976) and The Extended Phenotype (1982), he suggests it.

    In his books, he deals with the idea that genes are not limited to the body of the organism that possesses them. The idea is that the survival of multiple organisms with the same genotype really ensures that the genes can be passed on to the next generation.

    Dawkins is skeptical of nonadaptive evolving processes. He also criticizes the idea that group selection is the basis of altruism in gregarious animals.

    Altruism, that is, helping another individual who is still at risk of endangering himself, is an evolutionary paradox.

    Subsequently, this concept was treated as a way to help beings who have the same genetics and that, in the end, their survival ensures that the genes are passed on to the next generation.

    The main criticism Dawkins receives regarding the selfish gene is that the gene itself does not have the ability to reproduce itself.. It should not be viewed as the unit of natural selection.

    Genes survive through the interaction and survival of several individuals in social animal species.

    Dawkins is considered to offer too much a gene-centric perspective to explain evolutionary processes, and even arrives at biological reductionism.


    The word meme has grown in popularity over the past decade, Especially for the great development that social networks have had. The idea came from Dawkins himself, who featured it in The Selfish Gene.

    Dawkins refers to mem as the behavioral equivalent of the gene. Its most precise definition is that of any cultural entity which, whether it is an idea, a conduct or a style, passes from individual to individual.

    Memes aren’t always exactly copied. They can undergo modifications while spreading across the social group or culture in which they were generated. In turn, these changes generate more memes.

    This concept acquires great importance when it comes to approaching cultural evolution and comparing it to classical biological evolution.

    Needless to say, the word “meme” or “mneme” is not entirely Dawkins’ word. The idea had already been suggested since the time of Darwin, only Richard Dawkins exposed it more in depth in his work of scientific diffusion.

    Religion and creationism

    Dawkins is an agnostic, although many have defined him as an atheist. In his work, he shows a very critical view of religions,

    He has said on several occasions that he finds it difficult to understand how people who hold a lot of power in first world countries and who have received a careful education, especially in science, hold religious beliefs.

    Dawkins believes that the existence of God should be treated like any other scientific hypothesis. He also said that religion is a source of conflict and justification without evidence.

    Since the publication of his most remarkable work on the subject, Le Mirage de Dieu (2006), he has participated in numerous debates on religion, both with believing scientists and influential figures in Christianity, Islam. and Judaism.

    She strongly opposed the indoctrination of a religion in school, especially the pseudo-scientific belief in creation, as has already been done in several states in the United States.

    Although he debated with the believers, he preferred to avoid discussions with those who believe in the creation myth, because he believes that these people, whether they are won in the argument or not, would have the visibility that they wish. .

    One of the arguments he often uses to found creationism is that biological evolution does exist, what happens is that it has been observed as it happened.

    Price and recognitions

    Richard Dawkins’ life has been prolific and deserves various decorations. He holds several honorary doctorates of science from several universities around the world, including the universities of Westminster, Antwerp, Oslo and Valencia. He also holds letters from the Universities of Saint Andrews and the Australian National University.

    He his book The Blind Watchmaker (1986) won the Royal Society of Literature Prize and the Los Angeles Times Literary Prize in 1987.

    Among his many awards are the Zoological Society of London Silver Medal (1989), the Michael Faraday Award (1990) and the Presidential Medal of the President of the Italian Republic (2001). The Committee for Skeptical Research awarded him the Prize for Praise of Reason in 1992. In 2012, he named a genus of Sri Lankan fish after Dawkinsia.


    In 2005, Discover magazine called Richard Dawkins a Darwin’s “rottweiler”. This is a reference to the epithet used to denote another great disciple of Charles Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, nicknamed “Darwin’s bulldog” and, in a playful tone, that of “God’s rottweiler”, an epithet given to Cardinal Ratzinger of the time, later Benedict XVI.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Dawkins, R. (1976). The selfish gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    • Dawkins, Richard (1986). The blind watchmaker. New York: WW Norton & Company. * * * Dawkins, R. (December 1992). “Is God a computer virus?” New statesman. 5 (233): 42-45.
    • Dawkins, R. (June 1993). “Meet my cousin, the chimpanzee.” New scientist. 138 (1876): 36–38.
    • Dawkins, R. (January 2001). “What is science for?” Harvard business review. 79 (1): 159-63, 178.
    • Dawkins, Richard (2006): The God Delusion (p. 406). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
    • Dawkins, R .; Dawkins, R; Noble, D; Yudkin, M (2007). “The genes are always at the center.” New scientist. 196 (2634): 18.
    • Dawkins, R. (2008). “The delirium of the group.” New scientist. 197 (2638): 17.
    • Dawkins, R. (2008). “The evolution of altruism: the important thing is the selection of genes.” New scientist. 197 (2638): 17.
    • Dawkins, R. (2013). An appetite for wonder: the training of a scientist. Bantam Press (US and UK).

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