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Richard Dawkins

Clinton Richard Dawkins (born 1941), better known as Richard Dawkins, is a British zoologist, born in Nairobi, in Kenya. He is currently Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, and is one of the most prominent biologists alive today.

He is probably best known for his popularisation of the "selfish gene" theory (see "Williams Revolution"), described in his book The Selfish Gene. As an ethologist, with a principal interest in animal behaviour and its relation to natural selection, he popularised the idea that the gene is the principal unit of selection in evolution. This gene point of view also provides a basis for understanding kin selection which was originally suggested by J. B. S. Haldane and expanded by W. D. Hamilton.

Dawkins has been one of the major proponents of sociobiological theory and was the originator of the term meme which spawned the theory of memetics. In the controversy over the interpretation of the theory of evolution that is colloquially called The Darwin Wars, one party is often named for Dawkins and the rival party for Stephen Jay Gould. This reflects the pre-eminence of each as a populariser of the contesting view points, rather than because either is the most substantial or extreme champion of these positions. Dawkins acquiesced in this role from the time of his scathing review (published in January 1985) of Not in Our Genes by Rose, Kamin and Lewontin.

He is also an ardent atheist; in his essay "Viruses of the Mind", he interprets religions using the memetics theory.

See also: Richard Dawkins on Wikiquote.

Biographical information

Dawkins comes from an upper-middle class family which can be found in the pages of Burke's Landed Gentry as "Dawkins of Over Norton". His father, John Clinton Dawkins, was a descendant of the Clinton family which held the Earldom of Lincoln. He is married to former actor Lalla Ward.

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