Sex, Death And The Meaning Of Life Episode 1 Richard Dawkins


Episode One Monday 15 October 2012.
In this thought-provoking series, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explores how life might look without religion. First, he examines issues surrounding sex and the notion of sin.

Video from the post discussed here


Episode 1 – for viewers in the UK – here

For viewers outside of the UK – here

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  1. Another well researched documentary from Richard Dawkins.Excellent as always.
    I particulary enjoyed the facial expressions RD made whilst looking at photos which displayed various levels of disgusting images.Not being a squeamish person myself,would have liked to have seen the censored photos too.
    Was not bothered by the blood and vomit in the sink. 

    Looking forward to seeing  a lengthier interview withRicky Gervais though.I hope he features in the next two programmes alot more than he did in the first one!

  2. TEST.My comments posted successfully! Have been unable to post ANY comments on Disqus for weeks.But it worked tonight!?Hope it continues to work.I usually get ‘error 404’, or something like that.I wonder if this will post too?

  3. Endured the initial adverts, but gave up on the second lot. Shame I sure its an interesting video

  4. This was excellent. I can’t wait for Part 2. Richard, is this the series you mentioned a while back in which you talk about your DNA test???

  5. What a fantastic programme! Those statistics at the end surprised me too. Really outstanding work Richard et al – keep it up!

  6. I don’t understand why you should expect Ricky Gervais to feature in more than one episode. None of my other interviewees does, and we were lucky to get him for one episode – he’s a busy man.

  7. Apologies for this. We are aware of the problems with Disqus, and are busy working on our own alternative.

  8. 11 :40

    RD should have recommended him the book “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality”.

  9. Can’t wait to see this! I’m also a big Ricky Gervais fan so hearing an exchange between him and Professor Dawkins should be good – I wonder if Ricky mentioned Karl Pilkington to Richard! Probably not. Haha.

    Karl’s idea of evolution: “I know it went: germ, fish, mermaid, man. Roughly. If you had to draw it, you could draw it. It’s just a simple way of lookin’ at it, innit?”

  10. Very enjoyable, good job Richard! When will episode 2 come out?

    I find the idea of “otherness” to be a profound concept. In ultra-liberal spiritual paths, New Age, hippy-type beliefs, the concept of “Oneness” and avoidance of “separation” or “otherness” is a dominant view. It is as if we instinctively know that this type of behavior should be avoided.

  11. “This was excellent. I can’t wait for Part 2. Richard, is this the series you mentioned a while back in which you talk about your DNA test???”

    Get out! Is Richard going to be making an appearance on the Jeremy Kyle show in his new series?!
    Does he even own a shell suit?

  12. Where does Richard find the energy to do all these things? There’s only so many hours in the day. He’s writing, researching and promoting books, flying around the world for lectures and debates and making television programmes, such as this, which always remain different, challenging and interesting. 

    You don’t see such a proliferation of works by his adversaries.
    Even those who disagree with the message would have to admit that he really cares about the importance of what he’s doing.

  13. The RDF site has a fair bit of JavaScript.  The problem with this is JavaScript is notorious for working in some browsers but not others. Try other browsers.
    I have on tap: Opera, Firefox, Sea Monkey, Avant, Chrome, Safari, IE

  14. I think the only thing wrong in this whole episode is Richards chess playing around the 8:30 mark. I note this is several games or a game out of order. His opponents capture of the knight on d4 (if it were a sicillian defence is not the correct move either)…

    He has moved the Queen out too early whilst his bishop is sitting on F1 (note the board was upside down)… I don’t think he castled Queen-side, so what is the king doing sitting on c1?

  15. People say if we don’t believe god is watching over us, we abandon morality. Are they right?
    ~ Dr. Richard Dawkins (born: 1941-03-26 age: 71)

    There are two questions hidden in there.
    · Are atheists more or less moral than believers? In my experience Christians and Muslims behave far worse than anyone else. Steven Pinker explains why in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Research has shown that Christianity improves the behaviour of 1/3 of the people it touches and worsens the behaviour of the other 2/3.
    · Does god exist? The assumed loss of morality is an argument for pretending there is a god, not for his actual existence.

  16. I enjoyed it very much. The YouTube version worked for me in the U.S.A. The stats that I did not know were the part about sex behavior being the same for the religious, but their guilt about it being different. It will be interesting to see if Richard gets a complaint like “unweaving the rainbow” about looking scientifically into our moral lives, and sense of purpose.

  17. That sounds a bit harsh. I’m sure “My Shapely Assets” was assuming there was more footage in the can and hoped we’d see a bit more of the interview/chat in later programmes – that’s all.

  18. I’m not sure how Professor Dawkins gets any sleep. 

    I’m genuinely grateful for the skill and dedication he applies to the most important issues we face. 

    This is another valuable contribution.  I think I’ll watch it a few more times just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. 

  19. I hope that Richard won the game; I would have loved to have seen that arrogant “know all”‘s face if he did. The replay worked fine here in SA.
    The content is of the utmost importance. It is nice to be able to think about religion in another context than the primary question of the existence of god for a change.

  20. I enjoyed the program but I don’t know if it achieved what it set out to do.  I think that this was because it simply wasn’t given enough time to make a case for itself, a measly 46 minutes.  A big challenge for such a complex subject. 

    Here’s a link to the program on 4ods Youtube channel.

    A link to the program on the 4od site

  21. This was a great episode. Ik liked the mention of the ‘fakeness’ of the religious life. The religious are forced to obey a lot of ‘arbitrary’ rules, which go against their nature (masturbation f.i.).  This warps their minds so in the end they have guilt, confusion, suffering where there could be joy and contentment. And on top of this some even argue that suffering is a good thing. “Brings you closer to the lord” or similar nonsense.

  22. Interesting, “more and more of us realize there is no God”. Being a free thinker myself, I do not uphold to such extend to believe that there is no God, at least science itself has yet to prove this. The fundamental theories that we live by, are not perfect. 

    Being a consequentialist, there is too much things that we can’t predict the way it’s going to go. To even say that a world without religion is better, is a massive statement. Surely you do not need faith to learn something from any bible from the major religion, that part itself contributes to how our world is structured today.

    Faith and the concept of sin can be manipulated. But religion itself is a history. It’s worth centuries of life experiences and knowledge. Without faith, no self-conscience (sin)… what are humans? It’s part of us, part of everyone, and because of that religion can still survive until this day, and I don’t think it will die.

    It seems to me that this is a battle between white and dark what it could truly perhaps be… grey. Atheist believes the fallacy of absolute faith, and religion believes that without God, there is no sense of direction. What concern me the most is the contrast thinking of these two which might result in great war, perhaps studies like this can bring all of us together one day, I hope.

    Great to have guy like Richard Dawkins for such a monumental “battle” against all this. 

    Well speaking about sex, there’s an interesting studies about singles few years ago, if you are single you might want to check it out:

  23. measly 46 minutes

    Someone is asleep at the switch – should be 47 minutes in duration 😉

    notion of sin

    “I’ll second that emotion” 3:)>

  24. Thank you for all the work put into this excellent program. I’m looking forward to Episode 2.

  25. judy.lawrence.3192

    “more and more of us realize there is no God”.

     Being a free thinker myself, I do not uphold to such extend to believe that there is no God, at least science itself has yet to prove this.

    Science works on the basis of evidence, and there is no evidence of gods.  It really is up to religious believers to prove their own pet deities exist.…    – Onus of proof.
    Can you imagine science  taking on the task  of going down the list of ALL GODS and systematically disproving them (along with leprechauns, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, wizards dragons  and fairies?) – and maybe searching remote jungles for some tribal god that has been missed!

    Suggesting the need to DISPROVE a particular god makes the assumption that this one has some particular validity over the rest! 
    I have not noticed any religious groups feeling the need to disprove all other gods  in order to believe in their own.  Atheists just believe in one less than the rest.

    Atheist believes the fallacy of absolute faith,

     “Faith” is belief without evidence.  – I’m not sure how that can be other than absolute. 
    The fallacies and mistaken concepts which arise from this uncritical thinking are usually only too evident.

    and religion believes that without God, there is no sense of direction.

    There are two problems with this:-

    First there is not a unified viewpoint called “religion”, (although most religions believe they have a monopoly view of “a sense of direction”).
    There are multitudes of religions, denominations and cults all with differing views.

    Second:- Atheism is simply a lack of a belief in gods on the basis of an absence of evidence, so there is no political consensus view among atheists either.

    What concern me the
    most is the contrast thinking of these two which might result in great

    There is no such simple dichotomy,  but there are already wars (as in history) between differing religious groups.

    perhaps studies like this can bring all of us together one day, I

    Social cooperation is one thing, but religions trying to impose dogmas on others will always cause conflicts.  This cannot be fudged.

  26. Enjoyed this greatly.  Tycho was the star of the show.
     ‘Do you like to go to puppy class?  Do you? And do you like to play with Figgy?’
    Prof Dawkins, how un-stridently adorable.

  27. It is interesting how impossible it still seems for some contemporary Western scholars to accept that existence might be multiple, especially given the move in Western politics, philosophy, physics and mathematics, not to mention the social sciences, towards trying to get to grips with this question. I wonder if you have to fight dogma with dogma, or if there is another way?

  28. I liked Pinker’s view of humanism as a radical idea in human history, rather than the banal image usually attached to it. 

  29. Wonderful piece Richard.
    Its great to see you being so explicit about human goodness, and the creation of a positive alternatives to religion.  I value the idea of creating a ‘reality based’ morality, and I hope in future pieces you also look at creating alternatives to other things religions attempt to provide, such as a community of belonging and community development, personal development, as well as regular moral encouragement.

  30. Alan4discussion,
    Thank you, I could not have worded that better. Obviously, the factual response to the question.

  31. Congratulations on the first episode, Richard, and thank you for doing this. What an excellent use of your visibility and reputation!

  32. even if there were life after death, what makes religious people think they have a full grasp of it?  if somehow whatever it is that we are survives what we know as death in some form, science, not religion, is better placed to investigate it and provide information.

  33. A  lovely episode. what´s arrogant about Prof. Richard Dawkins ? who´d guess Prof. Richard Dawkins has such a strong  “disgust” expressions ? ( The pet dog too , seemed  very sensitive to Prof´s expressions).(I am curious to know how “disgust” study will be useful in the study of psychology, I have to watch and hear carefully it  again).I guess if those men, deniers of  masturbatory practises ever dared to compare their own behaviour with other primates for instances, or, they didn´t in fact because it would never occur to them that they are related in the natural world, how  much more arrongant it seems in fact. I rememeber how a Prof of History of mine, when visiting the zoo with students reminded me about this related behaviour of primates when I was a teenager, what a great educator (she was a woman).

  34. My thoughts exactly.  Given how ambitious the project was, a few interviews and stats seemed inadequately small for presenting either case.  As a program went, it was quite good, and I quite liked the parts with the lemurs and the empathy discussion.

    Thanks for that YouTube link, by the way.  I tried the Channel 4 site, and had to sit through seven adverts, and the video kept stopping and starting.  I gave up on the site after 20 minutes.

  35. Is this “meaning of life” meant to be like the “magic of reality” and “selfishness of genes”? In other words, the complete opposite of what we’re actually talking about? There is no magic in reality and genes are not selfish, so, I assume there is no meaning… if we’re being consistent. Does the first half spend time explaining that the title isn’t what they meant?

    I might watch 
    Sex, Death And No Meaning Of Lifebut this feels like a scam. Someone is using trigger language to avoid saying what they really mean. Like the article about opinions and not being entitled to them was actually about being entitled to opinions and not being entitled to something else. Trigger pulled.

  36. I have not noticed any religious groups feeling the need to disprove all other gods  in order to believe in their own.  Atheists just believe in one less than the rest.

    Alan, you have made a very significant observation, there. It brings to my mind a picture of an atheist and a priest sitting on the same side of a table, going through a big stack of deity résumés. At each point, one turns to the other and asks if there is proof for or against the existence of said deity. The answer is always “Can’t prove it doesn’t exit, though there are all these contradictions with what we know is true; it seems silly to me so I don’t believe it does exist.” Until they get to the last page that lists the priest’s own deity, then blank stares follow.

  37. Perhaps we can make use of the philosophical intrinsic notion of human dignity as stated in

    Human Dignity and the UNESCO Declaration on the Human Genome:

    “a) The basic meaning of dignity, which is the primary and stronger expression of this idea,
    refers to the intrinsic worthiness of human beings, irrespective of age, sex, physical or mental
    ability, religion, ethnic or social origin. The word “intrinsic” is used to indicate that such a
    dignity does not rely on a particular feature or capacity of persons but only on their human
    condition. This is why dignity cannot be gained or lost, and it does not admit of any degrees.
    In other words, the idea of dignity refers “to the intrinsic importance of human life”6 and
    requires that “people never be treated in a way that denies the distinct importance of their
    own lives”.7 Again, if we want to give a more precise account of the notion of dignity we can
    turn to Kant for help. According to the German philosopher, this idea means that persons
    should always be treated as an end in themselves and never as a means only.8 Thus, dignity
    is exactly the opposite of “price”, the kind of value for which there can be an equivalent,
    whereas “dignity” makes a person irreplaceable. Therefore, according to the Kantian
    explanation of dignity, this notion can be equated with a requirement of noninstrumentalization
    of persons.”

    Thus, whether god exists and made us so unique and not just random product of evolution shouldn´t either  be a reason upon which human dignity should depend on (as Ratzinger would argue), or, that the goal of life (the meaning of life), isn´t happiness for instance.

  38.  Hello!  Welcome to the discussion.
    You have clearly understood many of the points.

    This was an interesting discussion and, as a few have pointed out, seemed a bit rushed and summarized.

    The next episode in the series is on Monday.

    Anyway, as a Christian I look forward to the day when all of you finally
    unshackle yourselves from all the trappings of religion and see
    yourselves for who we realy are. 

    Like many on this site, I did so many years ago as a teenager.

    Personally, I think some of you will
    realize your need for a God of mercy who will still love you, even
    though he’s always known exactly who and what you are.

    A caring father figure (as small children know) is reassuring, but gods are a property of the human conscious and subconscious imagination, interacting in parts of the brain.  That’s why (given a bit of copying), there are nearly as many individual variations of gods as there are believers.

  39. To emphasize an (already mentioned) important point, I urge everyone to read  “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality”. It details an interesting possible human sexual history. In a nutshell, females were not coy, and males not jealous, and the uncertain heredity of children helped form strong group bonds.

    I doubt Dawkins can say anything that has not been more eloquently put here. And, the best of all, it’s got a section for theists, one for atheists, and one for people who can’t stand this pointless bickering any longer.

  41. I just watched the next episode, where Richard had his genome sequenced!  An up-date video for others soon perhaps?

  42. Oh my…I thought this was very entertaining. One of my favorite lines of ALL TIME:

    “Another time, I saw a young woman in Telegraph Avenue completely naked. That is a very clear memory. It definitely happened.” – Richard DawkinsWhen he talks David Pizarro about disgust, I had to burst! His facial expressions and the narration are priceless!

    “David Pizarro shows me a highly graphic image of  three elderly men engaged in homosexual sex.”

    “Now I’m looking at a degrading sexual act involving vomit.”I don’t want to hear anyone else say the word vomit. I hope Richard starts a second career as a narrator for narrative-feature pornographic films. Just kidding…I know I’m being immature about the serious topic discussed in the documentary series, but I just can’t help myself. I’m pleased by the intellectual conversations, important cultural and moral issues, scientific data from psychologists, the well-paced and exciting feel of the program, and all the little things that make me giggle!

  43. Want to hear something interesting? Recently, I went to a lecture given by Steven Pinker. I asked him about the book Sex At Dawn and the criticisms in it about his points in a TED Talk lecture on the decline of violence in human history. After giving me his answer on the kind of data he used and why he didn’t use other data–the more anecdotal type, he insisted–and mentioning a book called Sex At Dusk, which he said refutes SAD in its entirety, he said, “Sex At Dawn is not a very scientific book and you shouldn’t be reading it.” I was already experiencing anxiety–public speaking can wreck me–so I was a bit surprised.

  44. I’ve had good feedback on this series from my best chum, who stubbornly remains ‘spiritually minded’ despite my best endeavours to enlighten her.  So ‘Well Done’ to all involved.

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