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Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The God Delusion

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The God Delusion

by Richard Dawkins

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins X
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2006, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 464 pages

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Beyond the Book

This article relates to The God Delusion

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Richard Dawkins was born Clinton Richard Dawkins in March 1941 in Nairobi, Kenya. When he was eight his family moved to England where he attended Oundle School, and then Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a second class BA degree in zoology in 1962, followed by MA and DPhil degrees in 1966.

He describes his childhood as "a normal Anglican upbringing", but started to doubt the existence of God when he was about nine years old. He later reconverted persuaded by the argument that a designer had been necessary to create the universe. However in his teens, when he better understood evolution, he came to the conclusion that evolution could account for the complexity of life and that a designer was not necessary.

For two years starting in 1967 he was an assistant professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1970 he was appointed a lecturer at Oxford University, and in 1990 he was made a reader (a rank between senior lecturer and professor) in zoology at the University of Oxford. In 1995, he became Oxford's Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science. The position was endowed by philanthropist Charles Simonyi* (who was the first to refer to Dawkins as Darwin's rottweiller, a term that has been repeated by many others since) with the express intention that Dawkins be its first holder.

Dawkins has been married three times; first to Marian Stamp (1967-1984); then to Eve Barham with whom he had a daughter, Juliet Emma Dawkins. Since 1992 he has been married to actress and artist Lalla Ward**, who he met through their mutual friend, Douglas Adams, at Adams' 40th birthday party where they were the only two guests to turn up on time and thus, the story goes, were obliged to speak to each other. They married the same year and live in Oxford, England.

Dawkins first came to prominence in 1976 with the publication of The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centric view of evolution. He is an outspoken atheist, humanist and skeptic, and a prominent member of the Brights movement. The term Brights was coined by Paul Geisert (an American former biology teacher, professor, writer and entrepreneur) who started the movement in 2003 as a positive-sounding umbrella term to describe people who have a naturalistic worldview (i.e. one without supernatural or mystical beliefs), to counter the more negative terms used to date such as atheist, infidel or non-believer.

In 2006 Dawkins founded The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

*Hugarian born philanthropist Charles Simonyi joined Microsoft in 1981 and oversaw the development of Microsoft Word and Excel. Apparently, he owns the 8th largest private yacht in the USA, is currently dating Martha Stewart and was shot into space last April to enjoy a 10-day trip aboard the International Space Station!

**Lala Ward attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Her acting career includes that of the teenage daughter in The Duchess of Duke Street and most memorably side-kick to Tom Baker in the long running British series Dr Who. She has rarely acted since marrying Dawkins but has recorded several audio books, including The Ancestor's Tale and The God Delusion, which she co-narrates with her husband. She has also illustrated Dawkins's recent books.

Interesting Link: Video clips from The Root of All Evil. Dawkin's 2 part series for Britain's Channel 4.

This "beyond the book article" relates to The God Delusion. It originally ran in January 2007 and has been updated for the January 2008 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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