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Is Richard Dawkins a scientist?

 
 
Tuna
 
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 06:53 pm
I've come across conflicting opinions. Some say he is a science journalist whose views conflict with the prevailing outlook of evolutionary biologists. What's the scoop?
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Type: Question • Score: 6 • Views: 12,967 • Replies: 458

 
View best answer, chosen by Tuna
engineer
 
  4  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 07:45 pm
@Tuna,
He's a biologist whose views are completely in line with the prevailing outlook of evolutionary biologists. He's one of their foremost spokesmen. You can Google him directly and get all the information you need. A quote from Wikipedia:

Quote:
Dawkins first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. In 1982, he introduced into evolutionary biology the influential concept that the phenotypic effects of a gene are not necessarily limited to an organism's body, but can stretch far into the environment, including the bodies of other organisms. This concept is presented in his book The Extended Phenotype.[8]
Tuna
 
  -2  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 07:55 pm
@engineer,
I did google him... particularly after his recent conflict with E.O. Wilson.
layman
 
  0  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 08:02 pm
@engineer,
Quote:
He's a biologist whose views are completely in line with the prevailing outlook of evolutionary biologists.


Apparently not every one agrees with you about the "prevailing outlook:"

Quote:
I believe that most biologists still think of individual organisms as the primary unit of selection (evolution). Most of them have not adopted the gene-centric view of evolution expressed by Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.

Neither have I. I do not think The Selfish Gene is a "seminal work." To me it's a collection of just-so stories....


http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-problems-with-selfish-gene.html
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 08:04 pm
@Tuna,
Then you would know that he is a scientist. Isn't that what you were asking. He is clearly not a "science journalist".
Tuna
 
  -3  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 08:08 pm
@engineer,
Wilson stated that he is a journalist and not a scientist. I discovered via google that this opinion is not unique. And.. you're on my ignore list now.
engineer
 
  4  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 08:13 pm
@Tuna,
I'm on ignore for trying to answer your question? Good luck with that. You can find lots of articles about Wilson and Dawkins and Wilson's attempt to slam Dawkins and Dawkins's response, etc. Google is your friend.
maxdancona
 
  2  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 08:16 pm
@engineer,
Don't feel bad Engineer. They put anyone with any science education on ignore so that they are free to talk about their understanding of "science" without any actual facts about actual science getting in the way.
0 Replies
 
layman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 08:20 pm
@Tuna,
Quote:
Some say he is a science journalist..


It appears that he has an advanced degree in a scientific field (zoology) but that more recently he was employed as some kind of public relations man for Oxford.

Quote:
Dawkins was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.
0 Replies
 
puzzledperson
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 09:44 pm
@Tuna,
The answer to the question depends on how one defines "scientist". Presumably a scientist should possess an earned degree in a scientific discipline.

Is that enough? If I have a bachelor's degree in physics from Podunk University but I haven't published any peer reviewed papers and I work at Burger King, am I a scientist?

Then there is the issue of whether being a scientist permits one to make authoritative pronouncements on subjects outside one's area of specialty. A chemist is a type of scientist but may not be the ideal source for information about global climatology, for example.

Only close scrutiny of Dawkins' curriculum vitae and professional experience, along with a comparison to the subjects he regularly writes about, could answer the question satisfactorily. Dawkins has a number of honorary degrees but they don't count for present purposes.

It looks like from 1962-66 he was a research assistant at Oxford, which is parenthetically marked "D. Phil. 1966" . Then an Assistant Professor of Zoology at University of California, Berkeley. Three years later Senior Research Officer at the Department of Zoology, Oxford, which lasted two or three years. Then 20 years as a lecturer in Zoology at Oxford. In 1989 he apparently earned a "D. Sc." degree at Oxford but his CV gives no details and the date is rather late in his career.

maxdancona
 
  4  
Reply Sun 1 Nov, 2015 10:04 pm
@puzzledperson,
He earned his PhD from Oxford. Have you heard of Oxford University (it is not exactly Podunk)?

Geesh. I am not a great fan of Dr. Dawkins.... but the guy does have a PhD from Oxford University. That means something to me.

0 Replies
 
djjd62
 
  2  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 06:35 am
Is Richard Dawkins a scientist?

i loved him in Hogan's Heroes

not so much on Family Feud
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 06:51 am
@djjd62,
Don't get too subtle with your humor, Deej. For some people, Dawkins is a subject to go to war over.

The problem with Family Feud is that it was in his heavy drinking phase.
0 Replies
 
Tuna
 
  -1  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 08:04 am
@puzzledperson,
"The answer to the question depends on how one defines "scientist""

It hadn't occurred to me that the answer to the question might be subjective. I think the criticism that's been made is that he isn't a part of the scientific community at this time.
puzzledperson
 
  2  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 09:00 am
@Tuna,
Ok, I found an interview of Wilson, who has evidently had a running feud with Dawkins for some years now, headlined "Why Richard Dawkins is no scientist":

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/why-richard-dawkins-is-no-scientist-the-survival-of-the-least-selfish-and-what-ants-can-tell-us-9849956.html

This article brings out two points:

(1) Wilson says Dawkins isn't a scientist because Dawkins isn't a research scientist who has "shown things".

(2) The feud seems to have started when Wilson published a book offering an old theory that Hawkins supposedly debunked in The Selfish Gene. In response to Wilson, 140 evolutionary biologists wrote a public letter denouncing Wilson's "revisionist thinking".

This doesn't support your contention that it is Dawkins who is out of step. That said, you might have evidence to the contrary. The article notes that Wilson had a bucket of water dumped over his head for promoting ideas which a group of "Marxist students" characterized as "fascist" (which might mean anything these days). So it's at least theoretically possible that the 140 participant letter was politically orchestrated and didn't represent the consensus professional opinion. On the other hand I see no evidence of that, so let's say that the ball is in your court now. For me this is an abstract problem and I'm not driven to do one-sided research, so if you have something to offer now would be a good time.

(Disclosure: I don't like Dawkins or Wilson.)
engineer
 
  3  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 09:24 am
@puzzledperson,
It sounds like Wilson's whole rebuttal to Dawkins is just an ad-hominem attack. I noticed that Dawkins didn't stoop to that level at all. It all sounds like a PhD pissing contest to me. At any rate, Dawkins clearly meets what I think most people would consider a scientist. If Wilson has a problem with Dawkins's critique, he should address it on the merits.
Walter Hinteler
 
  2  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 09:26 am
@Tuna,
Perhaps it would be better to ask Dawkins himself? At least, he'd been the Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford University. Wink (But since he retired from that chair and is 'only' an emeritus fellow of New College - perhaps that can be considered of not being a part of the scientific community.
0 Replies
 
Tuna
 
  0  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 09:53 am
@puzzledperson,
"This doesn't support your contention that it is Dawkins who is out of step"

I don't contend that he's out of step. I was reading an article about science journalism. It was mainly about what the author saw as a trend toward quick pop-science which may leave the public less informed. Dawkins was mentioned in the article with reference to the Wilson debate. The author of this article said that Dawkins' views (particularly about the concept of fitness) are contrary to the prevailing views of contemporary evolutionary scientists, which is that there is no meaningful criteria for fitness.

This captured my attention because the issue came up in a book I read by Chris Stringer. Stringer said evolutionary biologists warn against assuming that every feature of an organism is there because it supports survival.

The issue was of passing interest to me until I saw a commentator on CNN refer to Dawkins as 'one of the world's preeminent evolutionary biologists.'

I suppose there is no lazy way to find the answer to my question. My interests lay elsewhere right now, so I'll put it to the side for the time being.
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  2  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 03:13 pm
@Tuna,
You're absolutely horrible at Goodling stuff.
Quote:
Clinton Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist,[4] and writer. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford,[5] and was the University of Oxford's Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008.[6]


Quote:
Dawkins was awarded a Doctor of Science degree by the University of Oxford in 1989. He holds honorary doctorates in science from the University of Huddersfield, University of Westminster, Durham University,[139] the University of Hull, the University of Antwerp, and the University of Oslo,[140] and honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen,[141] Open University, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel,[13] and the University of Valencia.[142] He also holds honorary doctorates of letters from the University of St Andrews and the Australian National University (HonLittD, 1996), and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997 and a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2001.[3][13] He is one of the patrons of the Oxford University Scientific Society.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins



Quote:
In 1959 Dawkins entered Balliol College, University of Oxford, where he received a bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1962. He remained at Oxford, earning his master’s and doctorate degrees in zoology in 1966 under famed ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen. Dawkins assisted Tinbergen before becoming an assistant professor of zoology (1967–69) at the University of California, Berkeley. He returned to Oxford to lecture in zoology in 1970.


Quote:
Dawkins was named the first Charles Simonyi professor of public understanding of science at Oxford (1995–2008).

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Richard-Dawkins


Quote:
The American Humanist Association honored Dawkins as the 1996 Humanist of the Year. Humanism is a philosophy that believes humanity is responsible for its own destiny and is not created by a supernatural God. Dawkins also won the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society, 1989; Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society, 1990; and the Nakayama Prize for Human Sciences, 1994. In 2001, he became a fellow of the Royal Society, the leading scientific organization in England.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/dictionary/famous-scientists/biologists/richard-dawkins-info.htm
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Mon 2 Nov, 2015 03:31 pm
@tsarstepan,
i'm really good at goodling

i found this

 

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