Voices of science

On his last visit to the US, Richard Dawkins was having little conversations with various people — people like Steven Weinberg, Lawrence Krauss, and David Buss — and recording them. Now you can get them on DVD. It’s a clever and understated idea; instead of having these guys lecture at a crowd, capture them in some quiet one-on-one conversation.

Yeah, I’m in there, too. Unfortunately, I just can’t watch myself. The others are very good, though!


  1. says

    You were fantastic elucidating the evolvability concerns and giving a minor lashing to the post-modernist troglobytes.

  2. Fatcook says

    Now available on YouTube

    Demonstrating a octopus type ability to blend into an armchair.

  3. craig says

    Is this ability to click to the next “chapters” of a video a new enhancement to youtube?

  4. craig says

    Hmm this feature I mention doesn’t seem to be there on the youtube site… it only shows up when you view the video on Dawkins’ site. Interesting.

  5. Aaron says

    Love how all the ‘stills’ show someone with their hands doing the talking.

    I’ll definitely have to watch these.

  6. says

    I, too, thought PZ was very good. Indeed, I think this conversation will stand as the type specimen of exactly what we are trying to achieve in this series. Not an argument, not a debate, not a lecture, not an interview, but a MUTUAL TUTORIAL. Each party to the discussion has something to learn from the other. And as we work at understanding each other, we hope that others, listening to our conversation, may gain some understanding too. The Steven Weinberg conversation was asymmetrical, because I obviously had more to learn from him than the other way around. PZ and I were equally matched, and I think it works extremely well. We were able to explore topics in evolutionary biology together, and I suspect that we both learned something. I hope that the spectacle of us learning from each other will be found illuminating by others.

    Thank you PZ. And thank you, Josh, for doing such an excellent job with the filming, and producing the film.


  7. Dutch Delight says

    No, thank you Richard!

    Great stuff, I hope you and your foundation make a difference.

  8. Steve P. says

    Ah yes, I remember, Dr. Dawkins came to Austin while I was out of town at a conference. Unbelievable timing, that.

  9. SC says

    I’m sure it’s good. I’ll have to watch it later. Frankly, I’m a little maled out this morning.

  10. says

    Your segment was very good, PZ! I don’t want to spoil myself though, so I’ll wait to watch the rest until I buy the DVD.

    The one thing that always amazes me when it comes to any sort of media involving either of you two, is that both of you are so soft spoken. It makes so obvious this side of your personalities that you can’t pick up from just writing alone.

    But you’re right, you are like a big teddy bear!

  11. says

    I thought your segment was extremely good. I really enjoyed your talk about group selection, but I kind of felt like you had a little more to say on the topic. Perhaps, you could expound on what you and professor Dawkins were talking about in a future post.

  12. says

    OT, but I think worth it. Remember XVIVO and the dispute over Expelled allegedly violating their copyright?

    DALLAS, Jul 24, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Premise Media and XVIVO, LLC, have reached an agreement regarding their legal dispute surrounding EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. XVIVO has agreed that the Premise Media documentary does not infringe on any of XVIVO’s intellectual property rights.

    The legal dispute arose over a short animated video clip that Premise Media commissioned demonstrating the inner workings of a cell. In response to threats made by XVIVO that Premise had violated their copyright, Premise sued XVIVO in Federal Court asking it to rule that there was no infringement and that the animated clip was an original work of authorship.

    XVIVO did not defend the lawsuit, but instead agreed that Premise Media had not infringed any of its intellectual property rights. XVIVO also agreed to withdraw its threats.
    In exchange, Premise Media agreed only to dismiss the lawsuit with each party paying its own costs and attorneys fees. The parties reduced this agreement to writing, and it was filed in Federal Court this week with the dismissal motion.

    John Sullivan, Executive Producer of EXPELLED, said, “EXPELLED is an important movie with an important message. Even before the movie was released, various parties were trying to silence us. They will continue to be unsuccessful. This walk away agreement is another indication that we have done nothing wrong. Our message will carry on both in theaters throughout the summer and with our DVD roll out this October.”

    To speak with an Executive Producer of EXPELLED please contact Megan Erhardt (x136) or Mary Beth Hutchins (x105) at 703-683-5004 or merhardt@crcpublicrelations.com, mhutchins@crcpublicrelations.com.
    SOURCE: Premise Media


    I haven’t seen the movie, and in the limited images I was able to view, I couldn’t see any obvious violations.

    So I’ll just have to assume that this is a reasonable conclusion to the matter.

    Glen Davidson

  13. says

    This is gonna be a couple of hours well spent, I’ve seen the discussion with Weinberg already which was very interesting.
    But on another note.. PZ, you actually joined the Facebook group “Fire Paul Zachary Myers”! That made me giggle!

  14. Greg Peterson says

    Maybe I’m just a big goofball, because my favorite “action” movies are “My Dinner With Andre” and “Mindwalk,” but I find films of brilliant people exchanging interesting ideas just thrilling. So hell ya, the Dawkins/P.Zed. conversation completely rocked.

    And yes, I know “Mindwalk” had some silly woo in it. But it’s the thing that got me hooked on Pablo Neruda, so I love it just for that.

  15. says

    Glad to see they’re putting together a “Dawkins Greatest Hits” CD. It’ll be great for those of us who can’t make the live shows.

    I dunno. I’ve already got all of his albums on vinyl (except for that weird prog-rock one he did under the pseudonym “Meme” Simmons called Polymerazy Nights), so do you think I should go for it or wait until they release the remastered box set?

  16. says

    Dawkins: P-Zed I’d like to start by saying how gentle and wonderful we are.

    Dawkins needs a new camera guy.

    PZ… In this video you are like the Wizard of Oz after the curtain had been pulled back… not as cool. Fortunately (and unfortunately) for you… you have a long way to fall.

  17. Bob Vogel says

    @26 Yeah, its amazing when you realize PZ is really a gentle, softspoken guy who has a spectacular gift of intelligence and insight into reality.

  18. pradeep says

    PZ is very much a teddy bear. He is as much a nice person as he is a lucid thinker and writer.

  19. Bob Vogel says

    @26 again… so you’re the guy who made that excellent vid “Beware the Believers” awhile back? … what… you’re jealous of Josh because somehow you got ensnared with that crappy movie Expelled?

    Maybe not.

    Hey, loved that vid, tho. Whoever did it has a huge amount of talent.

  20. SplendidMonkey says

    PZ inspires me to wish I was back in college pursuing a degree in science. When I was a young atheist I dreamed of being “a scientist”. Many years later sidetracked by some years of superstitious beliefs I wonder at what a wise child I was. All children are wise I think, their minds are open to see what is real and what is worthwhile. Children are also vulnerable to tales of make-believe and need help and encouragement strengthening their powers of discernment. “Thank you” to those of you who pursue the vocation of being a teacher. Encouraging young minds to be curious and critical thinkers is a very noble profession.

  21. Cracker Jack says

    The Big Bang theory that the universe originated in an extremely dense and hot space and expanded was developed by a Belgian priest. It’s interesting to note that those people, the first scientists, were all monks, they were all clerics!

    People today aren’t even aware of this fact!

    Here are some examples of scientists who were Catholic clergy:

    1. Mendel, a monk, first established the laws of heredity, which gave the final blow to the theory of natural selection.
    2. Copernicus, a priest, expounded the Copernican system.
    3. Steensen, a Bishop, was the father of geology.
    4. Regiomontanus, a Bishop and Papal astronomer; was the father of modern astronomy.
    5. Theodoric, a Bishop, discovered anesthesia in the 13th century.
    6. Kircher, a priest, made the first definite statement of the germ theory of disease.
    7. Cassiodorus, a priest, invented the watch.
    8. Picard, a priest, was the first to measure accurately a degree of the meridian.

    The conflict between evolutionary science and creationism in the United States comes from the Protestant tradition, not the Catholic one, he said.

    American Catholicism is in a Protestant culture,” he said. “We borrow a lot of our attitudes, along with a lot of our hymns, and not always the best of either.

    Unfortunate, but true.

    List of Catholic Scientists

    Algue, a priest, invented the barocyclonometer, to detect approach of cyclones.

    Ampere was founder of the science of electrodynamics, and investigator of the laws of electro-magnetism.

    Becquerel, Antoine Cesar, was the founder of electro-chemistry.

    Becquerel, Antoine Henri, was the discoverer of radio-activity.

    Binet, mathematician and astronomer, set forth the principle, “Binet’s Theorem.”

    Braille invented the Braille system for the blind.

    Buffon wrote the first work on natural history.

    Carrell, Nobel prize winner in medicine and physiology, is renowned for his work in surgical technique.

    Caesalpinus, a Papal physician, was the first to construct a system of botany.

    Cassiodorus, a priest, invented the watch.

    Columbo discovered the pulmonary circulation of the blood.

    Copernicus, a priest, expounded the Copernican system.

    Coulomb established the fundamental laws of static electricity.

    De Chauliac, a Papal physician, was the father of modern surgery and hospitals.

    De Vico, a priest, discovered six comets. Descartes founded analytical geometry.

    Dumas invented a method of ascertaining vapor densities.

    Endlicher, botanist and historian, established a new system of classifying plants.

    Eustachius, for whom the Eustachian tube was named, was one of the founders of modern anatomy.

    Fabricius discovered the valvular system of the veins.

    Fallopius, for whom the Fallopian tube was named, was an eminent physiologist.

    Fizeau was the first to determine experimentally the velocity of light.

    Foucault invented the first practical electric arc lamp; he refuted the corpuscular theory of light; he invented the gyroscope.

    Fraunhofer was initiator of spectrum analysis; he established laws of diffraction.

    Fresnel contributed more to the science of optics than any other man.

    Galilei, a great astronomer, is the father of experimental science.

    Galvani, one of the pioneers of electricity, was also an anatomist and physiologist.

    Gioja, father of scientific navigation, invented the mariner’s compass.

    Gramme invented the Gramme dynamo.

    Guttenberg invented printing.

    Herzog discovered a cure for infantile paralysis.

    Holland invented the first practical sub marine.

    Kircher, a priest, made the first definite statement of the germ theory of disease.

    Laennec invented the stethoscope.

    Lancist, a Papal physician, was the father of clinical medicine.

    Latreille was pioneer in entomology.

    Lavoisier is called Father of Modern Chemistry.

    Leverrier discovered the planet Neptune.

    Lully is said to have been the first to employ chemical symbols.

    Malpighi, a Papal physician, was a botanist, and the father of comparative physiology.

    Marconi’s place in radio is unsurpassed. Mariotte discovered Mariotte’s law of gases.

    Mendel, a monk, first established the laws of heredity, which gave the final blow to the theory of natural selection.

    Morgagni, founder of modern pathology; made important studies in aneurisms.

    Muller was the greatest biologist of the 19th century, founder of modern physiology.

    Pashcal demonstrated practically that a column of air has weight.

    Pasteur, called the “Father of Bacteriology,” and inventor of bio-therapeutics, was the leading scientist of the 19th century.

    Picard, a priest, was the first to measure accurately a degree of the meridian.

    Regiomontanus, a Bishop and Papal astronomer; was the father of modern astronomy.

    Scheiner, a priest, invented the pantograph, and made a telescope that permitted the first systematic investigation of sun spots.

    Secchi invented the meteorograph. Steensen, a Bishop, was the father of geology.

    Theodoric, a Bishop, discovered anesthesia in the 13th century.

    Torricelli invented the barometer.

    Vesalius was the founder of modern anatomical science.

    Volta invented the first; complete galvanic battery; the “volt” is named after him.

    Other scientists: Agricola, Albertus Magnus, Bacon, Bartholomeus, Bayma, Beccaria, Behalm, Bernard, Biondo, Biot, Bolzano, Borrus, Boscovitch, Bosio, Bourgeois, Branly, Caldani, Cambou, Camel, Cardan, Carnoy, Cassini, Cauchy, Cavaliere, Caxton, Champollion, Chevreul, Clavius, De Rossi, Divisch, Dulong, Dwight, Eckhel, Epee, Fabre, Fabri, Faye, Ferrari, Gassendi, Gay-Lussac, Gordon, Grimaldi, Hauy, Heis, Helmont, Hengler, Heude, Hilgard, Jussieu, Kelly, Lamarck, Laplace, Linacre, Malus, Mersenne, Monge, Muller, Murphy, Murray, Nelston, Nieuwland, Nobili, Nollet, Ortelius, Ozaman, Pelouze, Piazzi, Pitra, Plumier, Pouget, Provancher, Regnault, Riccioli, Sahagun, Santorini, Schwann, Schwarz, Secchi, Semmelweis, Spallanzani, Takamine, Tieffentaller, Toscanelli, Tulasne, Valentine, Vernier, Vieta, Da Vinci, Waldseemuller, Wincklemann, Windle, and a host of others, too many to mention.

  22. black wolf says

    why is it that the only people I see posting the same cut/paste stuff repeatedly, discounting accidental double posts, are all from one ‘side’ of the opinion spectrum? Is it you utter incapability to comprehend when you’re off topic? Is it the disturbing lack of intelligence forcing you to remain oblivious to the fact this specific post of yours has already been addressed and put into context by someone who is not as willfully ignorant as you are? Can you not understand that imitating a preacher by repeating the same nonsense over and over does not have the same effect on someone who actually uses their brain as on the glossy-eyed, thinning herd of ignorant sheep you usually spend your time with?
    Are you a moron?
    You are doing exactly the same thing muslim apologists do when they copy/paste scientific miracles of Islam over and over again. Do you seriously identify with cave-dwelling goatherders who don’t even understand the language their holy book is written in?
    Is there some secret society competing on who gets banned from Pharyngula after the least number of posts without saying anything?

  23. Jason Dick says

    I’d like to make a (somewhat lengthy) comment on the contents of this excellent discussion.

    One of the more interesting topics Myers and Dawkins went into, I thought, was the discussion about group selection. What I took away from that discussion is that the they described in quite a lot of detail precisely how it could work, but didn’t explicitly say that it would.

    What I mean is this: group selection, as a mechanism that can work counter to individual selection, is clearly nonsense. And I fully agree with PZ and Richard on this point. But they mentioned a mechanism by which group selection can be exceedingly important: if we have separated groups that evolve more or less independently from one another, and they each go down different evolutionary paths, then the one that is better at evolving is the one that will survive in the long run. Clearly this is a mechanism for group selection, though they mentioned it only in the context of widely separated clades.

    I don’t see why this has to operate only on widely-separated clades. It could easily operate at the species level, with one closely-related species dramatically outcompeting another, or even between populations within a single species. All that is necessary for this competition to operate is the following:
    1. The two groups must be separated enough that gene flow, or flow of whatever drives the particular inheritance mechanisms of the trait we’re talking about, is limited, such that the two populations can explore at least slightly different regions of the evolutionary parameter space. Thus this kind of evolution could be a precursor to speciation, but doesn’t itself require speciation.
    2. The two groups either remain in competition, or be brought back into competition so that the different ways in which they have both explored the evolutionary parameter space compete against one another.

    In this way, the two (or many) different groups can directly compete against one another in a purely Darwinian sense. That is, the particular parts of parameter space that each group explores are constrained by individual selection, but studies of evolutionary contingency indicate that the available region of parameter space can be dramatically different for different groups. Thus we expect it to be relatively common for separated groups to evolve differently, and therefore any time there is competition between groups, they will compete in a rather Darwinian sense.

    So, I’m going to argue against PZ Myers’ claim that the “evolution of evolvability” might be a side effect of evolution towards conservative reproduction. I think he’d have an excellent point if it could be shown that this sort of evolution, an evolution towards adding on lots and lots of extra redundancy was the only mechanism for pursuing conservative reproduction. I’m not so sure this is the case. Clearly it’s one way of preserving redundancy, but I think if evolution has shown us anything, it’s shown us that for most problems, there are in reality many very different ways of solving them. Thus I would expect that it might very well be the case that different organisms evolved in response to this pressure for conservative reproduction in very different ways, and those ways that enhanced later evolvability turned out to be the ways that dominated in the long term (at least among some organisms).

    P.S. Oh, and I thought it was absolutely fantastic how PZ and Dawkins talked about getting kicked out of the theater before it actually happened. That was absolutely priceless!

  24. James F says


    John Sullivan, Executive Producer of EXPELLED, said, “EXPELLED is an important movie with an important message. Even before the movie was released, various parties were trying to silence us. They will continue to be unsuccessful. This walk away agreement is another indication that we have done nothing wrong. Our message will carry on both in theaters throughout the summer and with our DVD roll out this October.”

    Yeah, great messages there, I’m not sure which is the most ridiculous:
    1) Darwin was necessary for the Holocaust
    2) The global “Big Science” conspiracy suppresses cdesign proponentsists
    3) Intelligent Design is a valid scientific theory

  25. says

    1. Mendel, a monk, first established the laws of heredity, which gave the final blow to the theory of natural selection.

    Wrong. Genetics supports the theory of natural selection.

    The fact that the very first item on your list displays such a brazen ignorance of scientific fact nicely foreshadows the shallowness of the rest. Next time, read a few biographies before asserting that mystics, alchemists and astrologers are exemplars of modern science.

  26. Radwaste says

    The “important message” Sullivan is conveying is that fundamentalist Christians lie, lie big, and lie constantly in order to simply have their way. In a way, I hope to meet him some day so I can tell him that face-to-face.

    Sadly, I know people personally who do the same thing Sullivan does.

  27. Holbach says

    Cracker Jack @ 32 Are you delirious? You are showing us all those persons who were clerics, priest, catholics, morons, or deviates and a litany of humans who believed in a god. So that is like saying I believe in the Tooth Fairy, so it must exist! Of course being a demented religionist, you are not aware or lucid enough to what nonsense you are propounding. So being a religionist automatically confers upon these morons the unquestioned and definite that there must be a god? Let’s see your god.

  28. Sara M. says

    Still watching the interview on Youtube. I’m really enjoying it so far, but I just wanted to comment on something in part 4/10. Dawkins asks PZ about the possibility of teaching comparative religion in American high schools and PZ, although fond of the idea, largely dismisses the possibility because of the separation of church and state.

    I went to high school in Mobile, Alabama. It’s hard to get more Bible Belt than that! But in my senior year (that’d be fall of 2004) they had just introduced comparative religions as a new elective course. I was afraid that it would just be used as an excuse to teach Christianity, but on the contrary, the teacher did an absolutely fabulous job of introducing all kinds of ideas to a crowd of students who gobbled them up eagerly. We visited a local synagogue and cathedral, created our own Hindu mandalas, invented our own religions and gave reports on them… all kinds of fun stuff.

    The lesson that stuck with me most was the time we were given a handout with a bunch of scriptural quotes. We were told to label whether they were from the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran. Most of us just guessed and tried to make it an even three-way split. It was a real eye-opener for all of us who had little familiarity with Islam when we were told that every single quote on the handout was from the Koran.

    I laughed out loud around 3:55 of this segment of the video though. My then-boyfriend who was then Baptist came out of that class quitting church and adopting Buddhist principles. Haha!

    Last I heard though, the class is still going strong and there haven’t been any major complaints. Maybe there would be if it became a required course (which I personally think it should be), but if they can do it here, they can do it anywhere.

  29. Herman Mogus (HRMN) says

    Just finished the second DVD in the set last night.

    Excellent listen, engaging and thought provoking.

    That was my first intro to PZ and a teddy he most certainly is.