Richard Dawkins and Jon Stewart Debate Whether Science or Religion Will Destroy Civilization

One of the sad facts of human psychology is that knowledge can be used for evil just as easily as it can be used for good. If the human race had never figured out how to use fire, for example, we wouldn’t have to worry about those pesky arsonists.

If some people are willing to use the fruits of knowledge to hurt people, should we stop acquiring knowledge? It sounds absurd, but that’s a question that is often asked, though it’s invariably couched in different language.

When Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist, made an appearance on The Daily Show last week to promote his new memoir, host Jon Stewart asked: “Do you believe that the end of our civilization will be through religious strife or scientific advancement?”  The answer, Dawkins said, is probably both. “Science provides, in the form of technology, weapons which hitherto have been available only to reasonably responsible governments,” said Dawkins, and those weapons “are likely to become available to nutcases who believe that their god requires them to wreak havoc and destruction.”

The conversation then moves beyond religious fanaticism. “Science is the most powerful way to do whatever it is you want to do,” said Dawkins, “and if you want to do good, it’s the most powerful way of doing good. If you want to do evil, it’s the most powerful way to do something evil.”

Dawkins’s last statement echoes the words of Albert Einstein, who warned that the scientific method is only a means to an end, and that the welfare of humanity depends ultimately on shared goals. You can hear Einstein make his point by visiting our post, “Listen as Albert Einstein Reads ‘The Common Language of Science’ (1941)”.

Related Content:

Growing Up in the Universe: Richard Dawkins Presents Captivating Science Lectures for Kids (1991)

Jon Stewart’s William & Mary Commencement Address: The Entire World is an Elective

Richard Dawkins Explains Why There Was Never a First Human Being



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by | Permalink | Comments (9) |

  • Richard Tisdale

    Anyway of seeing it if I’m in the UK?

  • Reza

    So far many people have died because of science used by non-religious governments.

  • Guest

    People die because of ignorance and the misuse of science or religion. nn”The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which nthere is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, nnot in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in ntheology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting nangry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probablyn find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the nevidence warrants.”nnQuote from An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, by Bertrand Russell

  • Jkop

    People die because of ignorance and a misuse of science and religion.nn”The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic, because in arithmetic there is knowledge, but in theology there is only opinion. So whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants.”nn(quote from An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, by Bertrand Russell)

  • Margaret Rose STRINGER

    Being a mere Australian, I am not permitted to view the video: The Daily Show is beyond my legal reach – why, I have never understood (meaning that it’s not only some American content but also a lot of British I may not view). But I want to say only that Jon Stewart is a refreshing reminder that there ARE some intelligent people sitting behind anchor desks in television. Astounding!

  • http://basissap.com martin_english

    I would never suggest that a fellow resident of Australia abuse the rights and privileges of “the viacom entertainment family” by using the browser extensions available at https://mediahint.com/

  • Margaret Rose STRINGER

    Thank all the gods, Martin! – how appalling it would be if anyone took notice of so piratical a suggestion!nFor myself, I can’t offer you my thanks, as I have, of course, completely ignored your post, the contents of which were hitherto unknown to me and will remain so FOREVER.nHad I not done so, I would fall to the ground and kiss your toes in gratitude u2026

  • Socialmedic

    The “unintended consequence” would be more likely the less science is funded by government and the more science is funded by unregulated private corporations. As we have seen over the last three decades, greed does not take a back seat to public safety. And profit motives do not fund pure science they fund whatever is going to be profitable for the tiny minority of majority stock holders. Science is ever increasingly about money, period, while all of the laws are written to relive corporations and their CEOs of any responsibility or accountability for the damage they cause. Religion has played a major role in granting corporations this kind of power. Negligence, in the name of “unintended consequences” are most likely to wipe us out so long as Religion services Big Business like a prostitute.

  • Andrew Planet

    Religion is historical science

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