Dawkins on His Memoir, Pedophilia, and Twitter | Daily Intelligencer
In his first book, 1976’s The Selfish Gene, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme” for cultural ideas that spread and mutate like genes. Thirty years later he published The God Delusion, a persuasive polemic for atheism that conferred on him the status of public intellectual. By then the term “meme” had itself become a meme, applied to a variety of viral Internet phenomena. More recently, Dawkins has taken up the viral phenomenon known as Twitter. His acerbic tweets about Islam and political correctness have generated a steady stream of outrage — not just from ideological opponents but from atheist confreres embarrassed by, for example, his flip comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampf. (“Not In Our Name,” ran the headline of a column inThe Independent by Owen Jones, who accused him of “dressing up bigotry as non-belief.”) It’s all coming to a head just as Dawkins launches the U.S. tour of his new book. The first volume of a two-part memoir, An Appetite for Wonder takes us from his childhood in Kenya to boarding school (and a touch of pedophilia that’s sparked further outrage), on to Oxford and The Selfish Gene. Dawkins spoke to us, reluctantly, about subjects other than his new book — like the question of whether he’s his own worst enemy.
What made you embark on a two-volume autobiography?
Well, anybody can write an autobiography if a publisher thinks it’s interesting enough, and my publishers did. I’m just over 70 years old. It feels like the right time to do it.
I got halfway through and realized that the publication of my first book was rather a natural watershed — it really did change my life. Plus, I suppose I wanted to have a sense of achievement, so finishing volume one did that.
Did it change the way you think about your life?
I’ve been led to reflect on the element of luck in the pathway. I thought to myself how different my life would have been if something would be different — something as trivial as a sneeze.
You recently wondered in print if Shakespeare might have been “even better” if he’d gone to Oxford or Cambridge. What if you hadn’t gone to Oxford?
Oh, no no no, I didn’t mean to suggest that — I just think it’s remarkable that he didn’t receive any schooling after secondary school. But, yes, I think things would have been completely different [for me]. On the other hand, I also speculate that maybe there’s a magnetic pull that drags you back to the pathway.
What do you wish your parents had done differently, raising you?
Well, I think I probably wouldn’t have gone to boarding school. At least not so young. I was sent at 7.
Written By: Boris Kachkacontinue to source article at nymag.com