Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

How Richard Dawkins will win you over to his side

Author, speaker, and public intellectual Richard Dawkins is a first-class debater on subjects as grand and reaching as the very existence (or lack thereof) of a master creator. But he's got a simple yet highly effective technique to win people over to see his point of view. Find out what it is right here.

Richard Dawkins: Sometimes you’re not trying to persuade the person that people think you’re trying to persuade. What you’re actually doing is trying to persuade lots of other people at the same time. 

I’ve spent my whole life as an educator, as a scientific educator at Oxford and at Oxford we have a rather unique system: a tutorial system where every student gets a one hour one-on-one tutorial each week with a tutor. 

And I had this as an undergraduate, which I absolutely loved, and then throughout my career I was a tutor. So I would have student after student after student coming into my room, spending an hour with me; they would produce an essay, we will talk about it, and I would be trying to, we would have a conversation. 

So I got very practiced in the art of persuading people of scientific things. And I think this may show itself in my writing the discipline of putting yourself in the shoes of the reader, of the other person, asking yourself all the time: “What could be misunderstood here? In what way might my words be misconstrued? How could I... this person is not really getting it, I can see it from their face that they’re puzzled, maybe an analogy would help, maybe a metaphor would help.” 

So I suppose the only general thing I can think is put yourself in the position of your audience, try to see where they’re coming from sympathetically and, um, argue your case in a way that should resonate with them. 

There is a difference between persuading a single individual, which is what I was talking about in the case of an Oxford tutorial, and persuading a whole audience who are, say, reading a book or listening to perhaps a radio program where sometimes—I’ve done quite frequently in America—I’ve done shows where there’s a phone in and people phone in and ask me questions or have an argument with me.

And there I have sometimes given up, I have to confess this I have sometimes given up on the quest to persuade the person who is arguing with me I might regard them as a lost cause, but I’m conscious of the fact that thousands of other people are listening in, and the way I handle my argument with the one person who—maybe say a Young Earth creationist—who is beyond redemption and clearly they aren’t going to believe anything I say. 

Nevertheless the method that I argue with them maybe a total failure as far as persuading them is concerned, but nevertheless may persuade thousands of other people who are listening in.

Many people would like to have a one-on-one argument with renowned professor, author, and all-around big thinker Richard Dawkins. He's most one of the world's most prominent public intellectuals and has written over a dozen books on matters as wide-ranging as atheism and science. Because he attacks such deeply held beliefs, many people disagree with him. But how is he so effective at what he does? Simple. He imagines his argument from the other side's perspective. That way, Richard Dawkins posits, there's a much higher chance that he can land his point. Richard Dawkins' new book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.


LIVE ON MONDAY | "Lights, camera, activism!" with Judith Light

Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Space travel could create language unintelligible to people on Earth

A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.

Credit: NASA Ames Research Center.
Surprising Science
  • A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
  • Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
  • This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Keep reading Show less

Your emotions are the new hot commodity — and there’s an app for that

Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Personal Growth

Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.

Keep reading Show less

Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
Keep reading Show less

Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast