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50 Interviews – Dawkins rendered speechless

Richard Dawkins was uncharacteristically caught off guard on a number of occasions during an interview with Andrew Denton for the highly acclaimed ABC program, Enough Rope, as chosen by Jonathan Wilkinson as part of our '50 interviews' project.

Interviewer:  Andrew Denton

Interview subject: Richard Dawkins

Program:  Enough Rope, ABC TV

Broadcast date:  December 21, 2008

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Watch the rest of the interview here: part two and part three.

Evolutionary biologist and renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins, is rarely rendered speechless; yet in an interview with Andrew Denton on ABC’s Enough Rope, Dawkins is found without words on more than one occasion.

Known for his sharp wit and intellect, Dawkins has intimidated his fair share of interviewers in the past, often shooting down foolish questions and scoffing at ridiculous remarks. However, from the beginning of this interview, it is apparent that Denton is not there to challenge Dawkins’ scientific and religious beliefs.  Instead, he wants an insight into Dawkins the person.

As the interview progresses it becomes clear that Dawkins is much more comfortable engaging in vigorous debate than being asked questions about his personal beliefs. Amongst the predictable questions about Dawkins’ stance on religion and science, Denton steers the interview towards Dawkins’ ideas of wisdom, humour and love, catching him off guard on a number of occasions.

The most poignant moment comes towards the end of the interview, where Dawkins admits he often doubts himself when asked personal questions, saying that he hopes people are interested in his opinions on science and religion, not what he has to say about himself.

Denton’s skills as an interviewer are demonstrated in his professionalism and patience throughout the interview. He’s unfazed when Dawkins struggles to answer a question, allowing silence for a dramatic effect.

The most impressive aspect of Denton’s interviewing technique is his ability to control dialogue without being forceful with Dawkins, something that many interviewers have failed to do with him in the past.

Jonathan Wilkinson is studying a Graduate Diploma of Journalism at La Trobe University and is upstart’s outgoing deputy editor.  You can follow him on Twitter: @JonoWilkinson.

See the rest of upstart’s ’50 great interviews’ here.

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