Re: Dawkins and increase in information

Brian D Harper (
Wed, 30 Sep 1998 18:06:28 -0400

At 07:22 PM 9/28/98 -0500, Glenn wrote:


>~Audio tape of Gillian Brown's interview with Dawkins.
>I played the audio along with the video and the intake of air that Dawkins
>took during the 19 seconds of silence was also on the audio. So, assuming
>no doctoring of the audio tape, Dawkins was stumped.

Hello Glenn. I guess I'm a little confused as to why you
conclude that Dawkins was stumped. Doesn't Dawkins
deal with this question at some length in the transcript
that you quoted? Given that the question was probably a
surprise and that he needed an answer accessible to a
lay person, I thought he gave a reasonable response.
Now, I suppose that some may not have found the answer
convincing. But this seems irrelevant in the present
circumstance since, according to my understanding, the
video gives the impression that Dawkins had no response
to the question.

Now I would like to take a look at two short extracts from
Gillian's response that was forwarded by Allen Roy:

2. "...I was challenged to produce an example of an
evolutionary process which increases the information content of the
genome. It is a question that nobody except a creationist would

GB >> That question actually came at the end of the interview. At the
beginning, Philip Hohnen asked several general questions on the origin
of new information. These questions are recorded on tape and may be
viewed, either on tape or transcripted, by anyone interested in the
exact nature of the questions. Dawkins objected to the questions and
stopped the recording. He claimed that questions on the origin of new
information were invalid, and that nobody ever asked him such
questions. I responded that the question of information was perfectly
valid, and very important to the evolution-creation debate.


GB >> After he asked for the camera to be switched off, Dawkins asked
that his answers to the first few questions would not be used (and they
have not been used). He then agreed to make a statement, but refused
to take more questions from Philip. We resumed recording, then after
he finished his statement I asked for a concrete example in which an
evolutionary process can be seen to have increased information on the
genome. The long pause seen on the video immediately followed my
question, he then asked me to switch off the camera so he could think,
which I did. After some thought he permitted the camera to be switched
on again and his final answer was recorded, the answer which appears in
the video, which, as can be seen, does not answer the question.
Because my question was off-camera and off-mike (though clearly audible
on the tape), it could not be used in the finished production, that is
why the presenter was recorded later, repeating my question as I had
asked it. Your concern is that the pause was fabricated. No, the
pause followed by an irrelevant answer was in response to that exact
question, a question which Dr. Dawkins could not answer and would have
preferred not to even discuss. "Ludicrous" perhaps, but the question
was indeed evaded. If you would care to view the unedited tape you
will be able to confirm my account.

A couple of questions about this, apologies if it has already been

1) Does the material you quoted from the transcript represent
the answers that Dawkins asked not be used?

2) Gillian refers to a statement given by Dawkins: "He then agreed
to make a statement, but refused to take more questions from Philip."
My question regards the nature of this statement. Did it have to
do with his views on how genetic information could be increased
during evolution? Given the context it seems to me quite likely
that it did. If so, why was this statement not given as a response
to the question?

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"It appears to me that this author is asking
much less than what you are refusing to answer"
-- Galileo (as Simplicio in _The Dialogue_)