Richard Dawkins is a prominent name in the fields of biology, science and religion. His deep reliance on evolution in his study of human behavior and his outspoken lectures have made him one of the best-known atheists in the media. He has spent his life as an educator and author, making the complex scientific principles understandable to the general public.
Dawkins was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1941 while his father was stationed there as an agricultural civil servant. His parents were both interested in the natural sciences, and he picked up their love of biological processes at any early age.
In the early years, Richard Dawkins attended an Anglican school and learned the precepts of the Anglican faith. By his teenage years, however, he traded his religious teachings for a complete adherence to the Darwinian evolution that seemed to offer a better explanation of life’s complexities. Darwin went on to study zoology at Oxford University and graduated in 1962.
Richard Dawkins completed his doctorate under the tutelage of Nobel prize winning ethologist Niko Tinbergen. From 1967 to 1969, Dawkins held the position of Assistant Professor of Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1970, he returned to Oxford as Lecturer in Zoology where he still remains.
Dawkins has been married three times and divorced twice. He had a daughter with his second wife Eve Barham. Dawkins is currently married to Lalla Ward, who is working on the Dr. Who television series and who now illustrates his books.
Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene, published in 1976, brought him to prominence. This work proposes the idea that the gene not the organism is the fundamental basis for evolutionary patterns and that human behavior extends from the need of the genes to preserve and advance themselves. His second book, The Extended Phenotype, describes the process of natural selection and how the replication of genes affects the environment to assist in preserving the phenotype. His book The Blind Watchmaker presents his case
It was Richard Dawkins who coined the word “meme” to describe the propagation of ideas among humans to spread information throughout groups, a behavioral concept that is analogous to how genes replicate and preserve themselves.
In 2006, Dawkins’ book The God Delusion extends his argument against the likelihood of the existence of God, raising the ire of many in the religious community. The outcry against his cogent arguments against the existence of God gave Dawkins many opportunities for media exposure which helped to re-introduce his books and ideas to the public. Dawkins continues to an outspoken proponent of Darwinian evolution and detractor of creationism and the theory of intelligent design.
Richard Dawkins’ work is recognized as an important contribution to the public understanding of the importance of genes in human behavior. His ideas on the development and advancement of religion continue to bring him both praise and criticism.