Letter from Richard- Feb 17th

Feb 17, 2016

Between visits by Physios and Occupational Therapists (good for the limbs, fingers and associated brain areas), I have been listening to Bach (soothing and good for the blood pressure), and to the audio reading of Steven Pinker’s splendid How the Mind Works (good for the mind), a book that should forever banish the bizarrely widespread prejudice against Evolutionary Psychology. I’ve also been watching the DVD of Life Story by David Attenborough. What a hero that man is – and so are his intrepid and almost superhumanly patient cameramen.


It’s hard to withhold the accolade “hero” from the Barnacle Goslings of Greenland who, only three days after hatching, hurl themselves off the towering cliffs on top of which their parents perched their nest: for safety from predators. The cost of that safety is that, if the goslings are to escape starvation, they must – long before they can fly – launch themselves into the void in search of grass, and plummet down the cliff to the scree, where they go on tumbling, head over heels, buffeted almost senseless on every rock they hit on the way down.


The instinct which impels these tiny hatchlings over the edge is what Steve Pinker would call a mind module. It is built into their brains by the nonrandom survival of ancestral genes. Every one of their ancestors, for countless generations back, was among the elite minority who survived the same baptism by precipice. Every gosling who funked the leap starved. Many of those who dared it perished violently. But enough survived to preserve the genes promoting the daring mind module, which is why modern ones make the leap.


Also in the same Attenborough episode were jerboas: rodents who have fascinatingly and independently evolved the kangaroo gait. They hunt by night listening for prey with their gigantic ears – proportionally the largest in the animal kingdom. The unsentimental “Nature red in tooth and claw” “selfish gene” message, about which Steve Pinker is so refreshingly clear, rings forth from every well-turned paragraph of the Attenborough script. For example, the greatest danger to the humpback whale calf is males violently and competitively trying to mate with its mother: why should they care, since it is unlikely that any of them is the father?


I have to stop: typing is really hard  but the therapists have told me I must practise it, however hard. Sorry if this doesn’t read as fluently as it should. Maybe I’ll be better tomorrow. Many many thanks for all the delightful and kind messages of support and encouragement.



17th Feb



220 comments on “Letter from Richard- Feb 17th

  • Hope you keep getting better, Richard!
    As a musician and a skeptic, could I ask you to point me towards any serious scientific work linking (as you say) the listening of Bach (Johann Sebastian, I presume) with health benefits regarding blood pressure?
    Bach left us a vast, varied work. Some of the questions that come to my mind are: Are these claimed positive health effects caused by any work by Bach? Or are they limited to a specific genre or period of his production? Do Bach’s more contrapuntal works have a stronger effect than the works, say, for solo string instruments or is there no correlation whatsoever?
    This is not the first time I hear this kind of claims, but, coming from a person like you, I thought there should be some good evidence to support them.
    Thanks and, again, my best wishes for a quick recovery!

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  • Glad to see an update from you. And happy you are well enough, and have enough will power, to make the necessary effort for recovery. Take it easy on the mental stress — you’ve already changed the world. Hope you can share what you’ve learned from all this at some future appropriate time. 🙂

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  • On your worst day you are still astoundingly good. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. My 17 year old daughter still treasures a picture she took with you at a meeting of the Triangle Free Thought society (North Carolina) about 5 years ago when you were on a book signing tour. Just want to let you know that folks are thinking of you and hope for a speedy recovery (based on the sound use of medical science and the best available data, of course).

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  • My sincere best wishes for a full recovery. It is really great to see that you can still inspire us all with your joyful attitude to the magic of reality. I really enjoy looking in detail at any writing from you as I love the way in which you use the English language and I think there is something I can learn from your writing style.

    There may be a win-win situation here, because if you want to give us some more of these posts we will all enjoy them and you’ll get lot of people coming on and sending good wishes which should help you remain positive, which surely can only be beneficial. I would hope it helps with the blood pressure.
    If it is also recommended as therapy for you well that is another positive point.

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  • That book sounds great. Have ordered it. Am going to switch from humanities – history and literature – to evolutionary psychology next year, largely because of you (and Steven Pinker.) Do try to rest (and exercise in the right amounts.) Let us take on the Twitter loons for a while. Their accusations and misrepresentations are easy to refute with the evidence of pretty much everything you’ve ever said or done in the area of human rights and equality. There are plenty of honest liberal liberals on hand to present it to them. I’m collecting it together to do so more easily. You’re badly missed on Twitter but I’m quite sure its no good for the blood pressure. We want you back, fit and well! Wishing you a speedy recovery. x

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  • I wish For you to have a speedy recovery Sir. You are indeed an inspirational human being.

    Pablo, there was a study in 2008 that found listening to classical music could significantly reduce blood pressure. Which classical music is likely up to personal preference more than anything. The study found some other genres to be good too (generally, if it could be considered soothing, it would be beneficial.)

    As a rule, whatever helps you relax and take it easy (without added tension or excitement) is good for your blood pressure, though.

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  • My very best wishes for you.
    You have no idea how much knowledge you have spread all over the world. ….l come from a place where Darwing walked and searched while sailing on the Beagle…..Chile. …….and now l live in a place where science started as we know it now….Pisa…..
    Again., l wish you a prompt recovery, Sir.

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  • I’ve also been watching the DVD of Life Story by David Attenborough. What a hero that man is – and so are his intrepid and almost superhumanly patient cameramen.

    David Attenborough’s First Life is also a must see. It’s likely you have seen it, but one to add to the watch-again list now you have a bit more time to spare.

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  • You lovely man…what a wonderful opportunity life has given you – quiet time to just “be”. As you convalesce, may I suggest a wonderful documentary I’m sure you’ll enjoy… “The Incredible Human Journey by Dr. Alice Roberts ~

    “The Incredible Human Journey is a five-episode science documentary and accompanying book, written and presented by Alice Roberts. It was first broadcast on BBC television in May and June 2009 in the UK. It explains the evidence for the theory of early human migrations out of Africa and subsequently around the world, supporting the Out of Africa Theory. This theory claims that all modern humans are descended from anatomically modern African Homo sapiens rather than from the more archaic European and Middle Eastern Homo neanderthalensis or the indigenous Chinese Homo pekinensis, and that the modern African Homo sapiens did not interbreed with the other species of genus Homo. Each episode concerns a different continent, and the series features scenes filmed on location in each of the continents featured.” – Bev in Marietta, Ga


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  • All the best to you. You sir, are the Voltaire of our time, you are already secured a prominent place in history as one of the worlds foremost advocates of reason and science. Keep up the good work, and thank you for being an huge inspiration.

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  • Keep it up! The work is a bother, but stick with it and it becomes easier. If you feel too much stress between sittings of Bach just remember the impact you have had on people. At least for me, growing up in the US during the 90’s I never once heard the word ‘evolution’ but thanks to your first three books I have a better (all-be-it layman’s ) understanding of the process and am excited to continue learning. Get well soon.

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  • Dear Mr. Dokins
    I have many of your books, and each of them I’ve read several times. It is the only and major influence on my understanding of life circumstances and also self-knowledge.
    I’m not sure why I’m writing to you I’ve never ever written any comments in this way. I need to share with you that I’m worried and that you need to recover for many of us as our father of reason. (sorry about english).
    Vesna Micovic

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  • Dear Mr. Dokins
    I have many of your books, and each of them I’ve read several times. It is the only and major influence on my understanding of life circumstances and also self-knowledge.
    I’m not sure why I’m writing to you I’ve never ever written any comments in this way. I need to share with you that I’m worried and that you need to recover for many of us as our father of reason. (sorry about english).
    Vesna Micovic

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  • @steven007
    I am trying to get to what Nino said: whatever that makes you relaxed can help with the blood pressure.
    The idea that ‘classical music’ in general is ‘soothing’ or ‘relaxing’ is a popular misconception built on a widespread lack of knowledge of music literature. It is true that there are thousands of works with slow tempi (speeds) and soft dynamic levels (low volume), but they are as numerous as the lively and loud pieces. Now, I would say that the lack of emotional connection of the general public with music considered ‘old’ could be the actual reason why ‘classical music’ (as a whole) is considered relaxing. Many people are not active listeners when it comes to ‘classical music’. I personally find some of Bach’s works so emotionally involving that I doubt they would have a relaxing effect on me, unless I would purposefully try to get detached from the music.
    RD’s wording seemed to imply a direct connection between Bach’s music in general and lower blood pressure levels. Maybe to say: “I am listening to some relaxing music (good for the blood pressure), which happens to be Bach’s” would be clearer, at least to my eyes.
    I know Richard is recovering, but that phrase stood out from the rest of the text.

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  • As a lab technician I was astonished at how efficient ascorbic acid (Vit C) was at resolubilizing the cold precipitated plasma components of blood (fats and proteins).

    Daily Vit C a cheap stroke prevention regimen with none of the side effects of alcohol or ASA.


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  • My daughters introduced me to your books, the first being “The God delusion”. That opened my eyes and has led my quest to discover more for which I am hugely thankful. I am sure that you will be approaching the recent challenge to your health with an interest in the physiological aspects of the condition but none the less wish you a speedy recovery and continued presence of mind to keep us all enthralled by your knowledge and observations. Thank you for helping me to see the light

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  • 48
    rcrothert says:

    Professor Dawkins,

    We met at the 2012 Reason Rally VIP dinner very briefly, I was lucky enough to attend and hear you speak and get a photo with you. I remember being bit star struck and only able to mumble the words “I love your books!” . I wish I could have said more, how much you have taught me about life and our place in this world. You have changed my life for the better and very grateful. Your work is extremely meaningful especially in the US. I wish you a speedy recovery and all the best.

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  • Professor Dawkins,
    Wishing you all the best. Happy to hear that things are improving. You are a great inspiration to me and more importantly the rest of the world.
    Thank you.
    Robert Mohl, M.D. FRCPC

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  • Wishing you a speedy recovery sir. Your work has been an enormous influence in mental maturity and it continues to guide me.
    As many have mentioned, you are an inspiration to many people around the world.
    All the best!

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  • Your letter reads perfectly fluently Richard. I hope you’re soon back to normal. Have you read Peter Medawars account of his stroke in “Memoire of a Thinking Radish” ? It’s remarkable.
    Best Wishes Pete.

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  • Richard,

    From reading your letter, I would have never known that you’d had a stroke (except for the fact that you mention it, obviously). Now you’re making me want to read How the Mind Works, but the bookstore I was near tonight didn’t have it!

    I’m sure you know that the human brain is extremely adaptable, and I have no doubt in my mind that your left arm and hand will be back to normal. Just be persistent, but patient. Meantime, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out how to do certain tasks with your right hand only. As I’ve said, extremely adaptable. I know you will do well.

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  • Dear Professor Dawkins, I’m sorry to hear about your set back; judging from your writing above it will be a short one! Please keep up the hard work. I had the great pleasure of glimpsing you at the talk and book signing recently in Clearwater FL–thanks so much for coming to our area!

    When I think of my deconversion experience it is your wonderful voice reading The God Delusion to me that changed my life and freed my mind. I can never thank you enough for the body of your work. We all owe you such a debt of gratitude! Best wishes on your speedy recovery sir!

    Dan Dollison
    Bradenton FL

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  • Sir, you are an absolute inspiration. I owe a lot to you and sincerely wish you get well and stay well for a long long time… Please take care of yourself and continue posting. And hopefully soon we can see you at conferences as well, especially in Toronto. 🙂
    All the best,
    Elif Erboke

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  • Dear Professor Dawkins,

    You have taught me how to see the beauty of science and reality. You are a role model to me and inspire me to think rationally and critically. I truly appreciate the impact you have had on my life. Hearing you speak and reading your words saved me from a dark and ignorant past. Now, as a 21-year-old, I seek knowledge and understanding of the world around me. For that, I am beyond grateful. I was shocked when I learned what happened, although I am relieved to see you are a true fighter. I wish you all the luck in the world in your recovery.

    Jeremy Rosal

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  • Dear Richard

    I didn’t have any real academic heroes until I heard you give a talk at Loughborough University in the 1980s. Then I realised you were a scientist to follow, an intellect to keep an eye on, and I did. Subsequently, your position on religion made me release that I had made the right decision for sure. As a biological scientist and atheist our paths are linked. But you are far ahead of me Richard and it is unlikely that I will ever catch you. That’s not a bad thing – it means I still have plenty to strive for and so should be the case for any newly emerging scientists.

    So, here’s to the scientific method and you, Richard. Keep those fingers typing and recover soon. We need you out there. The work you do is invaluable.



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  • Dear Dr Dawkins,

    My deepest wishes go out to you. I had a medium-severe haemorrhagic stoke in 2008, which led to my having to retire and move with my wife to the Philippines (her land of origin). Since coming here in 2010 I have come to rely on the shafts of light that your writings and videos have brought to my existence. But I fell into the commonest trap of them all: the assumption that one’s heroes are super-human.

    It will take time for you to adjust, and you will be very tired for a long time, but it does pass. Never entirely, to be sure, but sufficiently for one to be able to adjust to a new lifestyle. I no longer have to feel I am carrying the weight of my employers’ concerns, and I have been able to develop things that have always been within me (composing music principally).

    I have little doubt that you will recover well – but it must be at a slower pace that you have been used to. I sincerely hope that it will be so.

    In the meantime I want to thank you for the inspiration that you are to me – and no doubt to countless others as well.

    With profound respect,

    Phillip Brookes

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  • Loved this letter. It was a sort of Roosevelt fireside chat. Your writing, like that of Hitch, has a distinct voice and we not only see but also hear your words. Wish you’d keep this up once a week even when fully recovered. When healthy, you tend to disappear for for stretches and I think we all miss the contact.

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  • Dear Richard, was bizarre and endearing to hear a hero of mine (yourself) refer to another of my heroes (Sir David) as their hero. I recently stumbled across a recording of the BBC programme ‘The Selfish Green’ with yourself, Sir David and Dr. Jane Goodall – what a wonderful gathering of minds and so much legend all in one room, wish I could have been there! Anyway, my point is that you have infinitely enriched my life with your thought-provoking books (my favourite being The Greatest Show on Earth) and appearances of various guises, particularly the collaborations with Dr. Krauss (another amazing individual) and wanted to say thank you and wish you a very speedy recovery for both selfish and altruistic reasons!

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  • The world would be a desperate place without people like you who have the courage to speak out clearly and calmly against superstition and ignorance. You are paying the price for this courage and I hope you’ll be able to avoid letting silly folk upset you to such an extent in future. Meanwhile we really enjoy hearing about your progress and are wishing you a rapid and full recovery.

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  • Hurry up and stop farting about…get better already. Serioulsy though, take one day at a time, you have plenty of years left to irritate the morons on the planet.

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  • Dear Richard,
    I am glad that you are recovering well.
    Regarding the question on the cause of your minor stroke, I suggest that – in view of the article http://www.salon.com/2016/01/09/new_atheists_must_become_new_vegans_sam_harris_richard_dawkins_and_the_extra_burden_on_moral_leaders/ of Jan. 9, 2016 – you consider to “GO VEGAN” – as my wife (67) and I (78) already did twelve years ago.
    I am a Brazilian citizen and it was a GREAT pleasure to attend your lecture on May, 27, 2015 here in São Paulo.
    Come again this year.
    Best regards

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  • Please get better. Have plenty of rest. I’m sure you’re getting the best medical advice, but, dare I suggest it, have you considered trying ginkgo. I mean well, in case you’ve had enough of these types of suggestions.
    Wishing you lots of happiness and a restful mind.
    Luisa 🙂

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  • As a devoutly religious devotee of God,please note that plenty of religious people love your work and think your doing great stuff and hope you get well soon to challenge my fellow idiots,sorry,BELIEVERS more.
    We aren’t ALL creationists and fanatical loonys,(though most seem to be),it is the quiet ones that are the most reasonable and we agree with science and like your rational incisiveness.For us,there is no conflict.
    Get well soon,

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  • “Every gosling who funked the leap starved.”

    I’m guessing that was meant to be “flunked“, unless you are way hipper and younger than your bio suggests!

    Seriously, under the present circumstances your typing is remarkably error-free. Thanks for the post at once educational and reassuring that your recovery progresses.

    This may sound odd, but you might find Handel’s “Messiah” relaxing. The music is beautiful, and often lulls me to sleep when I listen to it on my commute (by train!). The lyrics do provoke a fair amount of eye-rolling, but this might be considered “physical therapy”!

    Best wishes for continuing and, hopefully, rapid improvement.

    Steve Weeks

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  • My sincerest regards to you Richard from my whole family- my dad had a stroke on Christmas Day (a bit worse than yours by all accounts) but he is, like you, recovering with the support of his cohort of OTs, physiotherapists, an amazing consultant and, above all, my mother. I can’t think of better therapy than Bach and David Attenborough (though your description of the barnacle goslings puts me in mind of my several traumatic cycling incidents. But I can’t come up with an adequate theory for the evolutionary benefits of crashing a bike on a regular basis!) Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery.
    Cheers! (from a rather lovely, warm Dubai)

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  • You have a great mind. Just the fact that you’re cognizant of what you went through is huge. Be patient, you’re very early into your recovery. I have no doubt you’ll be back to normal in no time.

    Best wishes Professor Dawkins.

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  • Thanks for the letter. Perhaps in a few thousand years, special adaptations will reveal themselves after enough gosling dies from their plunges. Perhaps only the ones with extra flexible bones and joints or some with feathers that grew quicker and therefore provided more air resistance and final terminal velocity. Mostly those would survive and in time be the vastly dominant phenotype. Get well!

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  • Great, great, great! I hope you are feeling well. It was quite a shock yesterday when I heard the news. You have so good genes. Let them thrive! You are our hero. We love You and science.

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  • So sorry to hear of your stroke. I owe my life to you for helping to learn the truth about evolution and the bible. I’m 68 and still in the closet but at least my mind and heart have been rescued because of you and Chris and Sam and others too. Please take care and keep posting for now. Wishing you well.

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  • Excellent news, and I wish you a speedy recovery! You are an inspiration to many people like myself who continue to urge people to think using logic and reason!
    All the Best!

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  • Dear Mr Dawkins,
    after hearing about your awful intrcranial bleeding I thought much about the wonderful discussion you had with Daniel Dennett about the meaning of life and death. I come to the conclusion that your insights can mean much more to sensible people than all the afterlife sugar icing religion can provide. Please take care and I wish you a swift and full recovery. I would be immensely pleased if you could make it to your talk in Heidelberg on March 15th, but avoidance of stress and blood pressure undulations is more important right now.
    Best wishes!

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  • 98
    maria melo says:

    Sorry for keeping quoting the previous comment:

    ” I come to the conclusion that your insights can mean much more to sensible people than all the afterlife sugar icing religion can provide.”

    Yes, indeed (although I have made some comment, I didn´t publish it, thinking it might hurt someone).
    Yes, I don´t care if someone´s tomb has three or four degrees directed to north, east… if it is built on an incomplete pyramid etc. etc., I really appreciate more the lucid conclusion that we are aware of our condition that however fragile is of a huge importance, and of course the communicative skills of Prof. Dawkins, for I conclude he has a sincere vocation for the job, and thanks once again for keeping communicative.

    I´ll came later to discuss the topic of OP, I would like to refer to what I searched for after reading it, adoption in non-human primates and the interesting discussion about it as far as it maybe related to the selfish gene (kin selection) or not (true altruism). However, as I´ve said before, I am not even close a scientist.

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  • 100
    maria melo says:

    Could not edit my previous comment in time of correcting some error of my confuse speech:

    I would like to refer that after reading the Latest communication of Prof. Dawkins I´ve googled on the topic “adoption in non-human primates” as far as it maybe related to the OP, and found an interesting discussion about the selfish gene (kin selection) or not (true altruism).

    However, as I´ve said before, I am not even close a scientist, to discuss it I am afraid.

    (better stated I hope than the previous comment I´ve made)

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  • Mr. Dawkins
    I hope you will read this and rejoice. Humanity has found the path to its new evolution. It is based on the writings by Mark Hamill about Neo-tech. Very few people have learn of these books but as more people read and teach others and their ideas evolve. I conclude that one day soon humanity will evolve to what you can see. I know you are awaken because you saw all the ignorant ideas that other adults try to pass as truth but you fought back for knowledge and critical thinking. You are one of the pioneers of this and for that we thank you everyday.

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  • 106
    Michael says:

    Hi Richard!

    Physical Therapists are the best – do whatever they tell you. They’ll get you back to battery.
    Thank you for the interesting letter – I will check out the books you cited. Now, a gift for you: the poem Hummingbird by D.H. Lawrence. I don’t know if you’ve read it but I think you will like it.

    You are clearly a very strong person, physically as well as mentally. Be sure to give yourself credit for all your hard work – for taking that tumble and being one of the gosling that made it!

    We are all with you! Don’t work too hard!

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    Dear Richard,
    We’ve pleased to see you’re making a good recovery and would like to offer a free piano lesson.

    The lesson will be playing by ear without the need to read music. Please email info@robertspianos.com if you’re interested.

    best wishes,
    Marcus Roberts

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  • Dear Dr. Dawkins,
    I hope that your recovery continues to go well, and will have recovered enough to join us at the Reason Rally this coming June. Thank you for the profound influence and inspiration that you have had on people worldwide.
    Best wishes from Belize,
    Richard Rasp

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  • Sir, I have two grandsons aged 9 and 11 who came to me recently and said Grandpa your friend ‘got stroked on the news’.(imagine my bewilderment!) They had seen me read your books and I read a few chapters of The Blind Watchmaker to them, gently explaining as I went along. I mean no disrespect at at all to say I think of you as a friend of humanity, and a person of great integrity. Rest up and get well please, you’re too valuable to science and humanity, a national treasure if anyone is. My best wishes and respects sir.
    Paul Porter

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  • I have long shared your admiration and gratitude for the magnificent presentations of David Attenborough and his courageous crews, and I am thrilled that I can now view them on demand and uninterrupted. They are mesmerizing. They are gorgeous.
    On your recommendation, my next book will be Steven Pinker’s How The Mind Works.
    Peace, brother

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  • I’ve been watching more episodes of David Attenborough’s Life Story.

    I suspect that some of the scenes are not only new to TV but new to science. During a drought, old experienced chimp leads troop on long trek to a remembered river, but when they arrive it is dried up. Undaunted, the old chimp digs in the riverbed down to the water table. And finds water. He has dug a well! Others now imitate him and dig their own wells.

    It’s nice to have an excuse to spend time watching these films and not feel guilty.

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  • Hi Richard,

    As a fellow sufferer I commiserate, the Protestant Work Ethic is a hard habit to break. Perhaps ‘break’ is unfortunate phraseology, it has a lot going for it.

    Look at it this way: Even if you weren’t in the San, education is a jolly good way to spend one’s leisure time. Constructive, instructive … and all that jazz.

    Television gets a bad press (there’s a juxtaposition there somewhere), but it can be an outstanding way to learn. Watch on, I say 🙂

    Top Tip: I’ve been enjoying a BBC4 series of documentaries on the brain by Neuroscientist David Eagleman – still available on iPlayer. Great stuff.


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  • Richard,

    It’s so nice to see you pop in on the website from time to time. Always useful to get some clarification on topics or even if it’s to let the axe drop on someone who’s annoying you. Even if that person should turn out to be me, it’s still ok! 😉

    Stick around.

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  • Dr. Dawkins,

    Keeping in mind the results of “The Great Prayer Experiment” you refer to in The God Delusion, I hope you find comfort knowing that you are most likely not being prayed for. Stay strong and thank you for your communication with your fans. I hope (not pray) for a quick, healthy recovery and no complications.


    Josh Kasen

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  • Professor Dawkins,

    I was shocked when I learned of your stroke. To think that after C. Hitchens passing I would now possibly have to cope with the ‘absence’ of another great hero of mine was terrible. Please do get better and return to Twitter when your health allows it. I cannot wait to see you make another great public appearance on YouTube. Avoid controversy if it helps you any but never stop educating those who are in need of your brilliant voice, witty yet well reasoned but never boring. We need you, ‘specially in these times.

    Best wishes from the Netherlands

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  • Could I wish you a speedy recovery! You were instrumental in helping me turn away from religion after fifty years of being an Anglican. Thank you for opening my eyes and for helping me to think for myself! best wishes!

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  • Still bingeing on science documentaries. Nice one on the annual flooding of he Okavango Delta, Produced by the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol (So why narrated in a strong, but not unpleasant, Irish accent? Who knows? The narrator, it turns out, is not an authority on natural history but an Irish actor, who must have been chosen for his voice). Occasionally the commentary teetered on the brink of the Great Ecological Fallacy (members of the communiyy work for the good of the community rather than for their own good within the community) but mostly avoided falling into the trap. The truth, of course, is that individuals work for the good of their selfish genes. And those individuals that flourish in the conditions provided by the community prosper, thereby creating the illusion that they are working “for” the good of the community. A generalisation of this truth is that the micro-ecology in which each gene flourishes is dominated by other genes in the gene pool – other genes, therefore, with whom it shares a succession of bodies. This is why genes work harmoniously to program bodies that function as units. Sorry I’m so bad at typing today: I’ve expounded this “Cooperative of Selfish Genes” paradox fully in several of my books.

    Anyway, it’s a nice documentary, on iPlayer.` http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0717vkv/earths-greatest-spectacles-3-okavango

    Weirdly, it seems that this was one of two films shown by BBC on exactly the same subject at almost exactly the same time, Feb 2016, and with some of the same footage. This other film was narrated by David Attenborough, with a better script`; http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00j4c6b
    Here’s a tiny illustration of the point I made above. Both films showed (the same) fight between two bull hippos. Afterwards, oxpeckers pecked the loser’s wounds. But whereas Attenborough said “Oxpeckers are a mixed blessing. They keep his wounds clean, but they also keep them open”, the Irish actor’s script implied that oxpeckers were provided as nature’s method of healing.

    I can’t help wondering why the BBC did it twice. Any ideas?`

    Once again, apologies for my lame typing.

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  • Thank goodness for your quick reaction to having the stroke, for the emergency technicians, the medical personnel, your friends and family, for all who have rallied around you in this time of great need.

    And thank goodness for YOU, professor Dawkins. Your work (along with Bach’s music, so keep listening!) has helped me cope with my own (mental) health challenges and has inspired me more than you could imagine.

    Keep up your efforts, keep typing, keep inspiring all off us! If it were not completely useless, I would pray for you!

    Instead, I will simply and whole-heartedly wish you : bon courage, mon ami!

    A long-time fan from Montréal, Québec, Canada.

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  • 129
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Sorry if this doesn’t read as fluently as it should.

    Lack of fluency was the last thing on my mind, reading your recent words. I was actually thinking “how wonderful Richard retains all the expressive skills and clear insights we have come to appreciate over the years”.

    Each time I have the reality of my personal frailty thrust upon me by inexorable time I find a bit of comfort and perspective in “Moonshadow” by Cat Stevens.

    There are many of us who love you even though we have never met you and you don’t even know our names. I would be interested in the evolutionary psychology mechanism for this common human experience 🙂

    All the best to you brother.

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  • Now just finished watching another BBC science documentary, Episode 5 of David Eagleman’s series on The Brain: “Why do I need you?” and it prompts me to enlarge on my previous post. (about the Irish actor). John Maynard Smith wanted science documentaries to have an identifiable authorial voice. He didn’t mind if he disagreed with the author. He just wanted to know who the author was. An actor’s voice reading an anonymous script would not do.

    David Eagleman is a superb example of an authorial voice. My fingers haven’t the energy or dexterity to spell out his thesis. All I can do is recommend his film.
    You may not agree with him but I promise he’ll make you think.


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  • Hi Richard [#130],

    I’m glad to hear you liked David Eagleman’s documentary series The Brain. Episode 5 was the one I had most in mind when I recommended them, so I’m doubly pleased.

    You said:

    My fingers haven’t the energy or dexterity to spell out his thesis

    Please allow me to try.

    David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and one of the areas that interests him is the brain’s social functions or, as Eagleman himself puts it, a neural network in a much larger web of neural networks. In Episode 5 of The Brain, Eagleman links from the discoveries of neuroscientists to sociology – specifically the sociology of in-group and out-group dynamics.

    Eagleman shows us one experiment with babies that appears to demonstrate that at least some of our social functions are instinctive. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on this and to understand why you will need to see the preceding four episodes where he explores just how little of our brains has higher level functions, and how those higher level functions have to compete for control of our actions.

    Eagleman notes that neuroscientists have observed that it takes very little effort (simply adding one-word notes) to make most of us think in a measurably different way about other people, even though we don’t know them – and if that different way is to see them as belonging to another group this leads to a loss of empathy.

    Eagleman shows us that this same loss of empathy is similar to that of a psychopathic personality (the same medial pre-frontal cortex dysfunction visible in neuro-imaging data) and psycopaths’ noted inability to understand the emotional lives of others – they can’t put themselves in another’s place.

    Eagleman then posits his thesis: Genocide is an extension of ‘programmed psychopathy’ (my phrase, not Eagleman’s).

    Eagleman notes that psychopaths are rare in the overall population (i.e. he discounts the possibility that genocides are only perpetrated by psychopaths) because, clearly, many people have to work in unison for a genocide to happen.

    Eagleman, with no additional supporting data that I could see, then appeared to jump to the conclusion that the only way large groups of people could be moved to use their out-group social instincts and loss of empathy for out-groups is through propaganda.

    I found this part of Eagleman’s thesis difficult to swallow. Although he makes the statement that propaganda is a centuries-old discipline that has been honed in the mass-media age – and this does appear, on the face of it, to be true – it isn’t factual; he gives no repeatable, objective, measurable data. He shows no experiments, presents no studies and he doesn’t ask a researcher or practitioner in the area of propaganda to insert a supporting statement.

    Eagleman then rounds out his thesis by concluding that propaganda is used to dehumanize out-groups by misusing our brains’ instinctive use of labels to recognize out-groups and to lose empathy for them in a way that parallels psycopathy. In essence he is saying that propaganda can turn you and me into psychopaths.

    While I appreciate that most of us are far more suggestible than we like to think, I found the idea that I might be manipulated to murder someone – and not intervene while my neighbors murder other neighbors – difficult to square with even the small amount of free thought Eagleman allows me.

    On the other hand, Eagleman is surely right that the main targets of propaganda are young men – and remembering that the brain doesn’t fully mature until the age of 25 – I gave him the benefit of the doubt … up to a point.

    The end of Episode 5 is taken up with Eagleman attempting to say that the above thesis is an example of how human capital is misused and asks us to imagine what the World could be like if we used these neurological insights to more positive ends.

    I claim the right, after putting in the above work, to finish this piece with my own view.

    Eagleman is right about one thing: Neuroscience is at the beginning of a long journey to understand the most complex natural object we have so far discovered: the Human Brain. What we’re discovering has many implications for sociology and human interaction – including our formal social structures; political, judicial, journalism and more stand to lose or gain by a thorough and correct understanding of what we find.

    Is Eagleman, by making such broad conclusions at such an early stage, going off half-cocked? I can’t make up my mind. It is human to seek patterns constantly, and Eagleman’s brain is therefore just being human. Conclusions made now can always be junked later and Eagleman is, essentially, only telling us a cautionary tale of what continued neurology studies may find.

    On the other hand Eagleman tries too hard, from my personal perspective, to find a connection between individual, evolved, brain function and society at large. Evolution teaches us that societies exist because they favor individuals, and if Eagleman is right about his propaganda example, it’s individuals manipulating other individuals en masse that should be getting our attention, not the social structures he appeared to suggest.


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  • Dear Richard,

    Some topical words to support recovery. Read three times a day after the meals with at most a modicum of pathos.


    They write with light
    and hold the torch
    they feed our minds
    and touch our hearts
    they reach for the stars
    to brighten and warm
    the pale blue dot

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  • SoW #132

    There is an amount of evidence and much discussion how oxytocin used in creating in groups may indeed solidify ideas about out groups. It may be unevidenced here (I haven’t watched this) but Eagleman is not entirely out on a limb, I don’t think.

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  • Mr. Dawkins, You Sir, are one of the most influential, intelligent, amazing, and motivational men I have had the pleasure to learn about. My name is Andrew, I was born in the US, I am 29 years old, I was raised in a Jewish family in Honduras although not very religious. I had always had doubt in “God” but it wasn’t until my early 20’s where I started identifying myself as an atheist, or agnostic as you very well put it, “We cannot disprove god completely, but we can’t disprove flying unicorns and fairies”. That quote is brilliant and I can tell you Sir, you have had a huge positive impact on the way I view life. I only wish I could’ve learned about you sooner. I am not much of a reader, although I did buy your book The God Delusion and I see all of your brilliant debates on youtube. Another great influential person in my life was the late and great Christopher Hitchens. It’s a shame I didn’t know about him when he was alive, as it would’ve been a dream of mine to attend one of his debates. Earlier this month I heard about your stroke and was worried that I might not have the pleasure to attend one of your events. I am so glad it was nothing major and you’re doing better. I hope you are feeling better and wish you a full speedy recovery, so that you can go on enjoying life, influencing the world with your knowledge, and perhaps I might get the pleasure of attending one of your events. Wishing you the best all the way from Honduras, your dear fan, Andrew G.strong text

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  • 139
    cinedux says:

    We are so lucky to be able to see the world through David Attenborough’s eyes. Thinking of you,from the bottom of the world.

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  • Now well into (the original, Carl Sagan’s own) Cosmos. What a wonderful poet, and prophet, he was. Reminiscent of Jacob Bronowski, but with better pictures. Just listen to this, after extolling the humbling smallness of our world and our parochial position on the edge of one galaxy among 100 billion: “We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers .”

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  • It’s really good to read your posts and to know you are getting better. So many comments on here and elsewhere mention the word inspiration when they refer to you Richard, for opening our eyes and helping people live happier lives. There is a lot of love for you from all over the world. I am reading Unweaving the Rainbow, slowly, so much to take in, and I am totally gobsmacked as to the complexity of our cells and the area the membranes would cover. Almost the stuff of sci-fi, but it’s not. How thin they must be!
    Keep getting well!

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  • I love you. I was hoping you’d be around another 30 years or so. Please study VLCD (very low calorie diet) and drop 40 pounds so your blood pressure will go down. Humans were meant to be thin and do not require much food. They store and recycle many nutrients as needed. So, please do VLCD and lift weights to build muscle and live a long time. You are my hero. Thanks.

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  • Five years studying biology at university and suddenly it all made much more sense after reading “The Selfish Gene”, the best book I ever read. Get well soon, we still need you!

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  • After reading TK´s post I feel the urge to politely disagree:
    1. If Richard Dawkins was around 30 yo he wouldn´t be the person he is now. We know and love him as he is because of his experiences and decades of studying and thinking about science. Getting old isn´t all desirable, but many people like Mr Dawkins with a lot of expercience have a beautiful mind just because of their age.
    2. Richard Dawkins isn´t overweight, so loosing 20 pounds of weight won´t do him any good. It has been shown, that elderly people with a low BMI have a lower life expectancy, possibly due to lower energy reserves in case of critical illness.
    3. Alongside some other measures certain (not all) groups of blood pressure lowering drugs have been shown with overwhelming evidence to be of prognostic value for preventing cardiovascular events. That doesn´t exclude the fact that a healthy diet and physical activity are at least as important.
    4. As far as I know Richard Dawkins has a daughter who is a medical doctor, so I´m sure she and his GP will give the right advise for adequate treatment given his specific condititon.

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  • Yes, and I’m sure Richard’s doctors are giving him sound medical advice. I’ve heard that lifting weights can be risky for people with high blood pressure, so, yeah, dude, leave the medical advice to Richard’s doctors and his daughter. And if Richard lost 40 pounds, he’d probably be a skeleton.

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  • Few can match the poetry of the Billions and Billions man. You’re in that league, Richard. Your Unweaving the Rainbow was my first introduction to poetry. — Reading about light’s finite speed – of directing a telescope at the Sombrero galaxy, and beholding “a trillion suns as they were when your tailed ancestors peered shyly through the canopy and India collided with Asia to raise the Himalayas.” Your works are filled with these staggering illustrations. I just re-visited my childhood box of poems, and ran across one that contained this verse.

    Huxley philosopher number five,
    And the rainbow unraveled opening lines,
    Words that italicize odds of existence,
    And ponder the outcomes that life assigns.

    You inspired me then, and continue to do so. Continue to persevere – we’re all here to support you!

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  • Of all the extraordinary things in this extraordinary universe, little is more extraordinary than the plasticity of the human brain. Dawkins’ brain: heal thyself!

    Please get well soon Richard. Look around the world: you have much work left to do. Humanity needs this brief candle to burn long.

    But perhaps no longer at both ends simultaneously.

    May you greatly enjoy your guilt-free idleness. “It is [apparently] impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly, unless one has plenty of work to do.”

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  • Hey Richard,

    If you’re interested in more brain candy while you’re recovering, have you ever thought of modern computer programming? I know from your books that back in the day you used to program… You could teach yourself JavaScript, I bet. There’s this website http://www.codecademy.com that helps you get started. And if you REALLY get into it, there’s another website, http://www.codewars.com for a bunch of coding puzzles to solve. Both have really helped me in learning JavaScript and computer programming logic. It’s a fun rabbit hole in which to dive down.

    Just a thought. 🙂

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  • Get well soon, Richard. The world needs you in peak condition! It may sound cheesy but you are a hero to many of us! I used to be terrified of you when I was a Christian, but now I admire you more than any other scientist or author or great mind I can think of. Simpletons may fear and despise you (the hate mail you read was hilarious), but there are many of us who love you and cherish your work. It certainly transformed my life for the better. This March I’ll be doing a crash course and reading (and in some cases re-reading) The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and The Ancestor’s Tale. Looking forward to equipping myself for confronting the leadership at my old church when I return home this summer after two years of being abroad. I left America a Christian and then found reason thanks to men like you and Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Thank you so much and take care.


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  • Please keep writing these updates, notwithstanding that it must be a right royal pain in the arse to do so.

    It is a continuing delight to read your messages, and, if anything, your writing is better today than it has ever been.

    ..a message sent with love from New Zealand.

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  • I was very shocked to hear of your recent health issues but i’m now VERY pleased to be reading your words again and can see that you are still bright as a button. I wish you a very speedy recovery Mr Dawkins and look forward immensely to all of your future exploits.


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  • I feel fortunate that my stroke waited until Yan Wong and I had just finished the (substantial) work on the Second Edition of The Ancestor’s Tale. Also lucky I had finished writing my new Introductions to the anniversary editions of The Selfish Gene (!976 / 2016) and Climbing Mount Improbable (1996 / 2016). 2016 is also an anniversary year for The Blind Watchmaker (1986) and The God Delusion (2006). And you know how publishers love anniversaries. It’s complicated by the fact that I seem to have accumulated over my mis-spent youth such a promiscuous variety of different publishers. Fortunately they are happy to cooperate with each other on anniversary stuff.

    Just had a visit from very nice speech therapist, who wants me to exercise my tongue to improve its dexterity. I have been so very impressed by the National Health Service aftercare for stroke patients, on top of their hospital care. Almost daily home visits by physiotherapists, plus visits by occupational therapists, and now the speech therapist. My strangest symptom is that I am now totally unable to sing. I quaver and croak and can’t hit the note, although I can still whistle and correctly play tunes on an instrument so there’s nothing changed about my ear for music. I think I’ll regard regaining the ability to sing as my litmus indicator of recovery. The speech therapist thinks it’s all a matter of breathing, but I fear there may be more to it.

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  • Had been looking forward to seeing you speak in Perth tonight as part of the Festival, having enjoyed reading Brief Candle in the Dark over Christmas! Great to hear your own account of your recovery from a stroke, and look forward to welcoming you here some other time.

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  • Hello Richard,

    I just wanted to add my diminutive voice to the hoard of well wishers.

    I am so pleased to hear that your recovery is going well and that the NHS are looking after you. I am sure you will be singing again very soon and hopefully then you can indulge us all with your angelic tones, I imagine you are a bit of a crooner.

    Can I say that the prolific work you have done as a scientist, educator and humanist has been remarkable and inspirational. However, I hope I’d speak for all in saying that your health comes first and you should take as much time as you need to recover. I hope you feel no obligation to push yourself as a public speaker, author etc until you are back to your old self again.

    Don’t worry though as there is a veritable army of free thinkers you have inspired and we’ll do our up most to carry the torch of reason during your brief absence.

    Get well soon,


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  • Richard

    I think I’ll regard regaining the ability to sing as my litmus indicator of recovery. The speech therapist thinks it’s all a matter of breathing, but I fear there may be more to it.

    I’ll bet on the side that there is more to it. As one who spent a lifetime quavering and croaking, I view the talent and ability to sing well as an amazing gift that I will never have. It must be so nice to just belt out a tune and see the happy faces of everyone around you. But sadly, for the tone deaf amongst us, we never get to see those happy admiring expressions. Instead, my children when young used to clap their hands over their ears and shriek, “No Mommy! Stop it! Stop doing that!”. Alas, that was the end of the sing-song nursery rhymes that I believed were part and parcel of being a good mom.

    Why can some people sing in perfect tune and I absolutely cannot do that?!

    I have a friend whose husband is a talented guitar player. We have discussed this thing called artistic talent and we agree that across all of the arts there are some things that are common to them. By the arts we have included drawing, painting, sculpting – let’s say, the fine arts, and also writing, music, acting, etc. We agree that in all of the arts, creativity requires development of skills in whatever medium that the artist is drawn to. Classes or instruction of some sort seem to be necessary so that one can acquire mastery over the materials of that specialty. But then, it must be about the creative force that comes from the mind. What exactly is going on in the brain at this point?

    I can’t relate to musical talent but I do have creative abilities in art. When I think about creativity I use drawing and painting to try to understand what is involved. When I feel inspired by something that I observe I use the materials that I have learned to manipulate, from classes and mentoring, to come up with an idea that will attempt to represent this observation or idea that has gripped my mind in that moment. After years of learning to manipulate these paint brushes and the thousands of colors of art paint that is in front of me now, I am not thinking about how to do that. It’s automatic like driving a car. I just think it and it happens. I want to go there – and the car heads over in that direction. I want to have roses that lean out of the vase to the right and then the brush and paint make them appear.

    Is this what good singing is like? You learned your skills, have something about your brain that allows you to produce excellent creative result and now at your command the masterpiece just appears to others as if by magic. What is this difference between your brain and mine that you can sing well and I just can’t.

    I have no doubt that these displays of creative skill and talent must have worked well for the purpose of attracting mates through evolutionary time. Just the reaction of my female friends to any simple painting that I’ve done always takes me by surprise. They seem amazed by the simplest pieces that I consider to be irrelevant. I never want to say it but I can’t help but think to myself, why can’t you do this? It’s easy. Maybe there’s something wrong with your brain. The only way I understand their reaction is by watching someone sing a song in perfect tune or by listening to a guitar masterpiece that I have no hope of ever imitating. Then I think – why can’t I do that? It looks easy. Maybe there’s something wrong with my brain.

    When I watch film footage of young women screaming and throwing themselves at rock stars I think this is the same phenomenon but ramped up in magnitude. If Mick Jagger wasn’t a rock star I’m willing to bet that those same screaming women would look right through him as if he were transparent if they were standing next to each other in a bar.

    So this is why I think that the singing problem is not going to be a matter of breathing. I think that if I suddenly lost my skills to draw and paint I would be shocked and very disappointed. This is something I take very much for granted at this point. Are the skills and ability still there but can’t be accessed for now? I’m glad you can still play music on instruments. This is still a great creative outlet and if singing must be sacrificed then pour all of your creativity into this other aspect of music.

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  • Hi Richard,

    Wonderful to hear you so upbeat [Comment 158]. That’s the spirit, chin up!

    I read the 30th anniversary (if memory serves) edition of The Selfish Gene. I hope I won’t be accused of obsequiousness when I say that it is as lucid and approachable as On the Origin of Species.

    If you promise to say something enlightening and pithy about the current vogue for so-called Group Selection I promise to update my bookshelf, and support the Foundation, as soon as possible.


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  • Hi Richard,

    I hope you’re recovering well and hope to see you back in the public arena soon.

    With regard to your listening to J S Bach; might I recommend two works that could hold your attention cerebrally and allow insight into the inner workings of genius? They would be the Schubler Chorale Preludes BWV 645-670 and the Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530. If you’re not so familiar with these, your convalescence can offer you the time and opportunity to get to know them.

    Just a recommendation!


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  • More David Attenborough documentaries filling my invalid days.

    There are not many reasons to be proud of my country, but the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol stands out as an undeniable one. If the licence fee paid for nothing else – and perhaps it should – it would be well worth it. Sir David himself is a wonderful figurehead, and the cameramen are justly praised for their almost superhuman patience, perseverance, dedication and skill, often under conditions of punishing hardship and danger. Think also of the research that goes into these documentaries in the background. The producers not only get up to speed with the latest scientific research literature on the animals they are filming. Don’t forget the quantity of in-depth background research into the location of filming, whether it’s jungle or deep ocean or high mountain or polar ice. And preparing the ground with local fixers and expert guides, before the cameramen even arrive. All this costs huge amounts of money, and I think it’s worth every penny. I can’t help feeling proud to live in a country where such money is found from taxation rather than from advertising or from direct purchase by end users. The National Health Service, from which I am now also benefiting, is another example and I fear it is not in such a happy state.

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  • @richard-dawkins

    There are not many reasons to be proud of my country, but the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol stands out as an undeniable one.

    Concur. I, my children and grand children devour Attenborough documentaries. His work must have had a positive influence on the planet.

    Compare this with a rival cable equivalent where you can turn on their premier science channel and get “Trick my Truck”. Good’ol boys modifying and painting their 36 wheelers…

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  • I try not to miss anything from David Attenborough.

    We should also be proud of Brian Cox, Robert Winston, Alice Roberts, Bruce Parry (Tribes series), Helen Czerski, Jim Al-Khalili, Liz Bonnin does a pretty good job as well and Kathy Sykes. There are probably a few more that I can’t remember at the moment.

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  • Indeed. And lets not forget radio, specifically Radio 4, particularly suitable for going that extra mile intellectually.

    Jim Al-Khalili’s essential The Life Scientific this morning had that admirable researcher and writer Nick Lane talking variously on his work and interest in abiogenesis. Life Ascending was great on evolution but The Vital Question is a must read for the biochemistry of olivine, water and heat, and the extraordinary evolutionary challenges of complex cells and complex bodies.

    The Life Scientific is surely a galvanising programme for kids considering such a life for themselves? The Life Scientific (I mean the thing lived) is one of the most thrilling of life choices (quite apart from career!). To have such a parade of folk recount their intellectual adventuring is surely seductive?

    Science was very much about lives that could be lived when I was young. I had three hero “Richards” in quick succession. Feynman (his Lectures) at University, Gregory (Eye and Brain) etc. and Himself (TGD) in 1976. An embarrassment of richards as it were.

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  • The National Health Service? What’s wrong with it? In any case, I’m sure it’s better than America’s shitty healthcare system. Did I say healthcare? I meant sick care. My mother had a brain hemorrhage several years ago (and made a full recovery), and a 23andMe DNA test indicated I have a genetic marker consistent with an increased risk of a brain hemorrhage. And I should also mention my great-great grandmother died of a brain hemorrhage. Yes, this is in the same lineage. So all this evidence told me that I should get an MRA scan to make sure everything’s normal. My doctor also thought it was a good idea. Insurance companies won’t cover such preventative screenings. So my doctor had to lie to the insurance companies and say that I’d had a persistent headache for three months. Someone I know who lived in England for a while said that with family history and a DNA test, NHS would cover preventative MRA screenings every few years.

    As for my MRA scan, it came back normal. My mother was 47 when she had her brain hemorrhage, so after I hit 40 or so I’m going to see about getting another one. Obviously there are no guarantees, but such preventative care is important. Alas, to get another scan my current doctor would have to lie to the insurance companies again.

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  • 177
    maria melo says:

    ” (…) and now the speech therapist. My strangest symptom is that I am now totally unable to sing. I quaver and croak and can’t hit the note, although I can still whistle and correctly play tunes on an instrument so there’s nothing changed about my ear for music. I think I’ll regard regaining the ability to sing as my litmus indicator of recovery. The speech therapist thinks it’s all a matter of breathing, but I fear there may be more to it.”

    Last time I was submitted to a cirugical intervention (nothing serious), but I saw signs of suffer in medical report as a normal procedure, so I think that particularly the voice of someone can show reflex of suffer, not because some specific part of the brain is affected (what do I know, I am no medical doctor?).
    An otoringolarinogist observing my vocal cords once told me I needed a speech therapist so that I would not make such a great effort with vocal cords to speak. I just thought at the time see, I begun speaking so early (when I was 11 moths, better than my 3 years old brother my mother always told me, not missing any sound, with complete sentences with verbs …), and know I need speech therapy? -what a shame.
    (I think it was after being near sulfuric acid boiling in a lab – that I got a problem with throat for the first time and I always say it was never the same again, but who knows?)
    So I never even dared to try to find a speech therapist I am afraid.
    Children and adolescests reflect commonly psychological suffer in speech , being speecheless as a matter of fact. I think it must be related to suffer, not because of any other reason, so don´t worry too much I would recomend, time seems necesary after the shock of having suffered a stroke.

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  • It’s good to be reminded of the amazing skill and talent David Attenborough and his team have. His programmes are so beautiful and captivating, it is easy to forget the dedication involved.

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  • 179
    maria melo says:

    It seems I am never enough clear.

    ” but I saw signs of suffer in medical report as a normal procedure” I mean signs of suffer in a patient have been reported (I just thought it must be an ordinary, procedure to report). Yes, it causes great suffering to became unable to speak, but that´s not the case.
    I was never able to repeat a single note my teacher played in a piano at school, I don´t have hear for music at all, I guess, just like or dislike music and as a matter of fact that´s enough.
    (Well I always thought the voice and entonation of Richard Dawkins sooooooo beautiful , better than any instrument I assure you), even remember that I felt a bit “sad” tone when I listen to for the first time -it was in the Doc. “The roots of evil” (but perhaps it was me, not the other person).
    when I sing at home I just make it for fun to be shut up.
    Interestingly enough, I never danced or danced in a so strange way that my sisters made fun of me and I just danced alone after that while I was a teenager.

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  • Hi Richard

    There’s a whole slew of old editions of New Scientist (back to 1956) in Google Books. Many articles (and ads etc..) make for great reading.

    In 1976 The Selfish Gene was reviewed in the 4th November issue, here:


    But the week before, an extract from The Selfish Gene on memes was published.

    And, just to point out that nastiness pre-dates Twitter, a letter-to-the-editor in the 11 November issue reads:


    Sir, I claim the prize for spotting the spoof article for October 1976 (“Memes and the evolution of culture”).

    A. R. Pitcher


    Well, Mr. or Mrs. Pitcher has long ago ingested their works.
    You got over that smart… and many more trials & tribulations since.
    Hoping you’ll be getting over many more soon too!

    Get well soon.

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  • More David Attenborough. All his films are sheer delight. I learn so much and am made to think so much.

    I really have only one complaint to level against these splendid films. He plays fast and loose with the speed. Starfish (or see stars as he sometimes call them in deference to the American market) move slowly. It therefore makes sense to speed up the film on playback. But we need to be told. It may be obvious to some people, but not everybody. And we all need to be told by what factor it speeds up. A little number in the corner of the screen would do the trick. The same goes for slowing down, which he also often does, for example with hummingbirds hovering.

    This is just one minor quibble to set against otherwise unstinting praise for these magnificent offerings from a great man and hero.

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  • The magic of television …. As us video editors would say “What happens in the edit suite, stays in the edit suite.”

    Attenborough documentaries are utterly beautiful and I imagine the director would be unwilling to desecrate the wonderful cinematography with a caption. I’d suggest a speed ramp so we see the animal at high speed and hard cut into it’s native speed, even though this would be quite a stylised edit.

    Anyway I just wanted to show off my expertise in post-production as my brain is like a sieve in terms of scientific knowledge, regardless of how many times I attempt to read the selfish gene only half of it will ever go in. However, I did recently watch the below Christmas Lecture (I’m 32) and I believe I’ve found my intellectual level.


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  • It’s good to be reminded of the skill and talent David Attenborough and his team have. His programmes are so beautiful and informative. I remember watching clamshells swimming during one of his fantastic Life on Earth films. Such an eye opener, up until then I thought shell fish didn’t and couldn’t move that much!

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  • Alan #184
    Feb 24, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    It’s good to be reminded of the skill and talent David Attenborough and his team have. His programmes are so beautiful and informative.

    Even he, with all his patience and composure, eventually expressed frustration with the ignorant woo-addled deniers of America!


    Sitting opposite the kangaroo enclosure at London Zoo, he told The Daily Beast he had lost patience with the “ignorance” of creationists, polluters, and climate change deniers. “To simply say that you must accept unquestioningly what you learned at your mother’s knee is not the act of an intelligent person,” he said.

    Frozen Planet – The US Discovery Channel originally announced that they would air only the first six episodes of the show, but they later added the seventh episode to their schedule.
    In 2012, the US broadcast won four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Nonfiction Series.

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  • Alan #186
    Feb 24, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Maybe if the metric system was introduced…you never know it could bring a modern “feel” to the country quite easily and quickly.

    I think that would require some radical education!

    Even NASA and tech firms got that wrong in 1999 at rather great cost!


    However, on September 23, 1999, communication with the spacecraft was lost as the spacecraft went into orbital insertion, due to ground-based computer software which produced output in non-SI units of pound-seconds (lbf s) instead of the metric units of newton-seconds (N s) specified in the contract between NASA and Lockheed. The spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet, causing it to pass through the upper atmosphere and disintegrate.

    The cost of the mission was $327.6 million total for the orbiter and lander, comprising $193.1 million for spacecraft development, $91.7 million for launching it, and $42.8 million for mission operations.

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  • I wish you a speedy recovery. Relax and don’t tax yourself too much. Regarding the Barnacle Goslings, might there not be a suspicion that they are encouraged by their mothers, or by watching the other young birds, or even just hunger, to jump off the cliff? I think baby cuckoo birds are a better example of mind modules. Their lazy parents deposit their eggs in the nests of other bird species. The baby cuckoos have been programmed to push other eggs out of the nest just minutes after they themselves have hatched and they haven’t even opened their eyes yet! Their “adopted” parents then feed them. I saw documentary footage where two cuckoo birds hatched in the same nest and proceeded to throw out the other eggs and then tried their hardest to push each other out until one succeeded.

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  • @prietenul

    I saw documentary footage where two cuckoo birds hatched in the same nest and proceeded to throw out the other eggs and then tried their hardest to push each other out until one succeeded.

    Maybe this is where Homo Sapiens got this behaviour from.

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  • Dear Professor Dawkins,
    It’s great to read from your own hands and mind! Thank you for this. I must say though, and let me be bold: please take care of yourself first, spend your energy on your own recovery first.

    Because the world needs you so ridiculously much!

    I obviously have great respect for you. In my country The Netherlands, we could use a public figure as clear and reasonable as you are!
    But considering this is One Earth and considering myself as a Terra-citizen, I will kindly “adopt” you as my Leader;-) Get well soon! Warm regards, Mercedes (The Netherlands)

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  • Richard, I’m sure even while you’re still recovering from your stroke you will be able to play the EWI (or as I call it, the Zor Zor Musiktrov, since that is what it was called in a dream that I had) or any instrument for that matter with one hand better than I ever will with two. I played the saxophone in the school band from 5th-8th grade (age 11-14), and it sounded like an elephant passing gas.

    And don’t get me started on what happens if I sing. 😉

    Drawing and writing are my fortes, but music is another universe for me. 🙂

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  • Best wishes Richard. A diet of Attenborough and Bach certainly won’t harm you. Over recent months I have been into Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32, Opus 111. They say Mozart could take you to the top of Mount Olympus to enjoy the view and he did. Beethoven made you walk all the way up and down again ! For all that the journey is wonderful.

    Opus 111

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  • Dear Prof. Dawkins,

    I´m very sorry to hear you are not making it to the German tour in March, but for sure your rehabilitation is more important. Please keep on with letting us take part in your progress and I´m looking forward to welcoming you to Germany maybe later this year!

    Take care,

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  • 202
    maria melo says:


    Even if English is not my native language, I can appreciate the repetition of sounds in the end of sentences/words-Alliteration.

    Well, this is my own aesthetics sense as I said before, I find the human voice more beautiful than instruments,
    I am glad to see in the news about Daniel Dennett´s voice along with music, which I couldn´t hear any bit I am afraid, or Steven Hawking in a Pink Floyd´s song.

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  • Reading your chapter about probability and coincidence, watching some Carl Sagan on You Tube after being reminded of him from these posts, turned on the radio this morning and a piece of music was playing with a repeating phrase about life and the universe spoken by, of all people…Carl Sagan!

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  • For one reason or another, I have not connected to the site in a few weeks. Just learned of your illness, which of course is worrisome, but as things usually go, the worst is certainly over, since in acute neurological problems the first 48 hours are the most critical and dangerous ones. Certainly we are all glad that you made it through those days, and now, it seems full recovery is a matter of time, patience and lots of work in terms of physical and other therapies (speech and foremost mental, with music, reading and other things as I am sure are suggested to you by your health team on a regular and incremental basis).

    You have certainly been an inspiration to me, one of I am sure thousands of persons all over the world that have been mesmerized by your clear thoughts and wonderful writing.

    Go at your own pace but strive every day to be a little bit better than the previous one. We all need you back in stride for the benefit of science, ethics and humankind. Very best regards and best wishes from Guatemala.

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  • Having finished Carl Sagan’s lovely Cosmos series, I’m now embarked on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s remake. Wonderful, so far (1st five episodes). Tyson is a worthy a successor to the great Sagan (Carolyn Porco is the only alternative I would have considered to step into his shoes, and she would have been terrific too). What a charming personality Neil is. And a good actor too: look at the way he does the little asides to the audience, including the almost conspiratorial sidelong glances. But the charm is combined with real scientific authority. I’m learning a lot, as well as being poetically inspired. Strongly recommended.

    I’m now managing to type more fluently with the left hand, and with only a few mistakes. Still can’t sing except in strangulated groans. Walking Tycho the dog with no trouble.

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  • I only just found out about your health episode; please add my well wishes to a full recovery. But not a speedy one: enjoy the downtime. You are such a treasure to all of us, please take a nice long time for yourself!

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  • Great to know you are on the mend Richard. Walking is good exercise but keep it easy for now. I also watched Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Cosmos, last year, and loved it. Couldn’t wait for the next episode and after each one I felt uplifted. Here is another clip of some lovely music for you to relax to…some great images too https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E3wpCuN09A

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  • Keep getting better Richard. Glad to hear of your improvement. I just finished your book, The Greatest Show on Earth. Really enjoyed it. You have a gift for teaching these evolutionary time honored principals in a succinct and interesting way. I’m in the camp (growing in size, I think) of Mormons who notwithstanding their faith in God also appreciate the power of evolution by natural selection. I don’t feel that faith and science are incompatible.

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  • Glad to hear you are getting better! Sounds like a good way to pass the time with walking the dog and of course with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos. By the way, the conversation(s) between him and yourself to be found on youtube, also very entertaining, informative and motivating to dig into the subjects deeper myself. Don’t suppose you watch that as well;-) (I highly recommend it). As for the singing, I’m sure you’ll get there again. Small steps… Wishing you well!

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  • It is great to hear you are feeling much better Dr Dawkins. Rest up and do what the doctor tells you, they are scientists and mostly rational. Best wishes from New Zealand, maybe you can get down here again if you are feeling much better in the future. Kia Kaha Richard (Maori: Be Strong)

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  • Richard,

    I’m glad you’re doing better. I pray for you every day, along with many other Christians who care. I will keep this short, just to say there are many who genuinely care about you & pray for you on a daily basis.
    Romans 12:12 (KJV)
    12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

    God Bless You,

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  • Hi Richard,

    I am unsure whether you still read this thread but I hope you are feeling better still. Upon your recommendation I watched Cosmos and wow it was so well explained, in such a graphic way too, I can not believe it was made so many years ago(In human terms). As a VFX artist I was most pleased with how beautiful and believable the world they created felt. May I recommend Starmaker and First and Last Man as two brilliant books if you have not read them and have some time. They were written by Olaf Stapledon in the 1930s, whilst pure retro fiction he does attempt to plot the next 5 billion years of human evolution which is certainly ambitious.

    I know this is not a forum for questions but I did get to thinking(After Cosmos) are we not very lucky that there has never been a Religion that accidentally predicted scientific accuracies? Creationists for example would revere Darwin as a prophet, possibly above Jesus, had the Bible alluded to evolution, yet it still would have been a fallacy in essence. I’m thinking too much sorry, just wanted to give my recommendations and say keep getting better as you are not only a great man intellectually but equally in general.

    Take care,


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