Here’s a 54-minute conversation, one on one, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins. The title is “Combatting Anti-Science with Richard Dawkins,” but the conversation goes further than this. There’s no need for me to summarize the discussion between these two well known science writers, so I’ll just highlight a few points.
Tyson first blurbs Richard’s new book, called Books Do Furnish a Life: An Electrifying Celebration of Science Writing (link to Amazon site), a collection of Richard’s book reviews and other miscellaneous pieces. I must read it, and I’m told one of the chapters is a review of my book Why Evolution is True (this is my blurb). Richard also reveals that he has two more books on the way, one about flight called Flights of Fancy; he doesn’t reveal the other one. Tyson, who, curiously, says that he’s read only three of Richard’s 30-odd books (he names them) asks which of them was the best selling volume. I bet you can guess.
They discuss how their writing has changed, and what tips they’d give other sciences writers (Tyson’s revelation is “most people don’t read”, which conditions how he writes). Tyson also tells us why he follows his own social media, despite it often being toxic.
They then change to the topic of reason, with Tyson asking Dawkins about how he persuades people whose views aren’t based on reason. They discuss their differing views about how to deal with religion. Tyson has always been more of an accommodationist, while Richard, who’s an explicit anti-theist, is peeved because he thinks that even if people don’t inflict their religious views on others, they are depriving themselves of missing out on the true wonders of the world, including the Big Bang and evolution.
Other questions that come up:
Can you be religious and a secular humanist at the same time?
Can you base ethics on secular humanism?
Why are people religious?
Is religiosity really decreasing, or is it being replaced by stuff like woo?
Note that at 32:25, Tyson says that there’s evidence that “ducks can be superstitious”. Actually, it’s not ducks but pigeons, and you may know about this “superstitious” behavior involved with pigeon treats and Skinner boxes.
Things slow down a bit after 40 minutes, but at 52 minutes Tyson asks Richard to reprise his epitaph, which is apparently the last section of Books Do Furnish a Life. You won’t be surprised, and I won’t reveal it, but it’s a take on Dawkins’s view about how lucky we are to be alive, which you may have seen in his books.
Voilà: the discussion: