The God Delusion | Study Guide

Richard Dawkins

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The God Delusion | Key Figure Analysis


Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins was born in what is now Nairobi, Kenya, in 1941 to English parents. He earned bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in zoology, or the study of animals, from Oxford University. He then briefly taught in the United States before returning to Oxford as a professor. He taught there until 2008. Dawkins conducted research and wrote multiple books that made topics such as evolutionary biology easy for readers to understand. He also popularized biology by hosting TV shows and lectures for children. In retirement Dawkins continues to lecture on scientific topics that he believes prove that life and morality do not need a God to exist.

Thomas Aquinas

Aquinas was born around 1224 in Lazio, Italy. Against the wishes of his family, he joined the Dominicans, a religious order of monks founded by Spanish priest St. Dominic (c. 1170–1234). Aquinas was a prolific writer, and one of his greatest contributions to religious doctrine was his five proofs for the existence of God. These proofs argue that a "prime mover" must exist to create the universe.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was born in 1809. As a young man, he traveled for five years on the HMS Beagle to survey and catalog species around the world. During the trip he wrote a 700-page journal and collected thousands of biological specimens. After returning to England in 1835, he continued his research and began putting together what would become the theory of evolution. He published On the Origin of Species in 1859. The book caused much controversy when it was published, but the majority of the British scientific community accepted the theory by the time Darwin died in 1882.

Thomas Huxley

Thomas Huxley was born in 1825 in London, England. He was a trained physician and became interested in biology while working as a doctor on a Royal Navy vessel. He met Darwin through Britain's scientific circles and was one of the few people who knew of Darwin's theory of evolution before On the Origin of Species' publication. Huxley gained fame for his support for evolutionary theory as well as giving the term "agnosticism" its modern definition. Agnostics are skeptical of God's existence but not atheists due to a lack of evidence either way. Huxley died in 1895.

Bertrand Russel

Bertrand Russel was born in 1872 in Wales, United Kingdom. Russel was a brilliant man and made significant contributions to the fields of philosophy, mathematics, and history. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950. Additionally, Russel expanded on the idea of agnosticism that Thomas Huxley first introduced in the mid-19th century. Russel's most famous argument for agnosticism concerns a hypothetical teapot flying through space that no one can see, even with a telescope. Because humans lack the tools to find the teapot, which represents God, agnosticism is a sensible belief system. Russel died in 1970.

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