Richard Dawkins on Psychedelics

In a question and answer session as part of the promotion of his most recent book, evolutionary biologist, author and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins was asked if he would take a psychedelic drug. The question was asked by Graham Hancock, who is an author himself of best-selling books covering topics such as shamanism and alternative history.

Hancock framed his query in terms of how ancient cultures believed in a spirit world through their use of psychoactive plants for shamanistic purposes, and whether Dawkins – as a scientist, and critic of religious and mystical views – would be interested in using such substances to give him direct experience of the worldview he so often attacks. “As a scientist,” Hancock asked, “have you ever seriously engaged such techniques to have first-hand experience of what they’re talking about, and perhaps even to challenge your own concept of what is real?” He suggested that Dawkins might want to try the (DMT-containing) shamanic brew from the Amazon, ayahuasca.

To his credit, despite some laughter from the audience as the question was asked, and the usual pressure for a stock answer from a respectable public figure, Dawkins unflinchingly replied that he actually *would* like to try a hallucinogen. “I would be very curious, I must say, to take, perhaps not that drug, but something like LSD or mescaline,” he responded. “I would be prepared to do that under proper medical supervision, if I were absolutely convinced that it would do me no lasting harm. And I would actually like to do it.”

Dawkins, however, left no room for doubt about how he would view the experience. “I think it very unlikely that, whatever happened to me, I would interpret it as indicating anything supernatural,” said Dawkins. “I would on the contrary interpret it as a manifestation of what a wonderful thing the brain is, and how the brain can see and can experience even more things, under the right kinds of chemical stimulation…”

Read the full article and transcript of the Q and A on

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