Jerry Coyne recently got to interview his hero, Richard Dawkins. Recall that Coyne solicited questions from his own readers, yet felt obligated to shield Dawkins from difficult questions. At first glance, this is quite odd. Dawkins is supposed to be one of the smartest men in the world. He is held up as some type of super-genius scientist (although his greatest scientific accomplishment is writing a pop science book). Why the need to protect him from skeptical questions and questions about science? Why not instead give him the chance to show off his Great Mind? Of course, if this public image of Dawkins is largely a carefully crafted media illusion, it would make sense that Coyne would feel the need to shield his leader.
Okay, imagine you got the chance to question the Smartest Man in the World. What do you ask him? Well, let’s have a look at Coyne’s challenging, thought-provoking questions. According to Coyne himself, this is what he asked:
- “Richard: briefs or boxers?”
- “I know you wouldn’t disabuse your grandmother of her faith on her deathbed, but do you think religious belief, although false, can indeed provide comfort for some people? That is, in your discussions of religion you always emphasize its falsity, but why must truth always trump comfort?”
- I asked Richard why wrote an autobiography—a new genre for him….. and why he wrote The God Delusion
- “In your book you note that ‘And insofar as anything was the making of me, Oxford was.’ Could you explain that?”
- “Do you think being a vociferous atheist makes it harder to sell evolution, because you turn off religious people?”
- On The Selfish Gene: “That book has been your best-selling work. But do you see it as your best book?”
- Finally, I asked Richard what he was proudest of in his life.
LOL! Nicely done, Professor Coyne. Those are just the type of softball questions one would ask a Hollywood celebrity who wasn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the room.