To a survival machine, another survival machine (which is not its own child or another close relative) is part of its environment, like a rock or a river or a lump of food. It is something that gets in the way, or something that can be exploited. It differs from a rock or a river in one important respect: it is inclined to hit back. This is because it too is a machine that holds its immortal genes in trust for the future, and it too will stop at nothing to preserve them. Natural selection favours genes that control their survival machines in such a way that they make the best use of their environment. This includes making the best use of other survival machines, both of the same and of different species.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, Oxford, 1976, p. 67
[M]aximization of DNA survival is not a recipe for happiness. So long as DNA is passed on, it does not matter who or what gets hurt in the process. Genes don’t care about suffering, because they don’t care about anything.
Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s Utility Function’, Scientific American, vol. 274, no. 6 (November, 1995), p. 85
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
Richard Dawkins, ‘God’s Utility Function’, Scientific American, vol. 273, no. 5 (November, 1995), p. 85
Thought experiments are not supposed to be realistic. They are supposed to clarify our thinking about reality.
Richard Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene , Oxford, 1982, p. 4
Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something which no other species has ever aspired to.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1989, p. 3
We’d be aghast to be told of a Leninist child or a neo-conservative child or a Hayekian monetarist child. So isn’t it a kind of child abuse to speak of a Catholic child or a Protestant child?
Richard Dawkins, ‘The Future Looks Bright’, The Guardian, June 21, 2003
Intelligent life on a planet comes of age when it first works out the reason for its own existence. If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: ‘Have they discovered evolution yet?’ Living organisms had existed on earth, without ever knowing why, for over three thousand million years before the truth finally dawned on one of them.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1989, p. 1
It is almost as if the human brain were specifically designed to misunderstand Darwinism, and to find it hard to believe.
Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design, London, 1986, p. xv
Curiously, peace-time appeals for individuals to make small sacrifice in the rate at which they increase their standard of living seem to be less effective than war-time appeals for individuals to lay down their lives.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1989, p. 9
Human suffering has been caused because too many of us cannot grasp that words are only tools for our use.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 2nd ed., Oxford, 1989, p. 18