In this 100-page special Christmas issue, the evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Richard Dawkins brings together some of the world’s leading scientists, thinkers and writers. Dawkins has contributed an essay, “The tyranny of the discontinuous mind”, written the New Statesman leader column — an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister on faith schools — and travelled to Texas to conduct an exclusive interview with the author and journalist Christopher Hitchens. They discuss religious fundamentalism, US politics, Tony Blair, abortion and Christmas.
Microsoft’s Bill Gates has written a column on the wonders of innovation, the political theorist Alan Ryan has written on Barack Obama, and there are contributions from some of the world’s most respected scientists, including Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, and the space explorer Carolyn Porco. Dawkins has also commissioned essays from the philosopher Daniel Dennett and the neuroscientist Sam Harris — reuniting in the NS the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism — on human loyalty and free will, respectively.
Other contributors to the special issue include the human rights activist Maryam Namazie, the comedian Tim Minchin and the rabbi and broadcaster Jonathan Romain.
Elsewhere in the magazine, the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, speaks to the NS assistant editor Sophie Elmhirst about choosing morals over politics, reading poems at Occupy St Paul’s and her “Christmassy relationship” with God, Philip Pullman defends fairytales and Kate Atkinson offers an exclusive short story, “darktime”.
All this, plus the annual NS Quiz and regular sections including Raphael Behr in the Politics column on the Eurosceptic vision, guest writer Douglas Alexander offers to work with the Lib Dems over Europe, Christmas reviews from Rachel Cooke, Andrew Billen and Will Self in the Critics, and a poem, “Madam”, by the late New Statesman contributor, Christopher Logue.
Richard Dawkins says:
To guest-edit a great magazine with the status of a national treasure is the literary equivalent of being invited to imagine your ideal dinner party – Christmas dinner, in this case – and then of actually being allowed to send out real invitations to your dream companions. Every acceptance is like a present off the Christmas tree, gratefully unwrapped and treasured.
At the same time, I couldn’t help being daunted by the New Statesman’s historic reputation for serious, well-written radical commentary, and by the need in my literary Christmas dinner to temper merriment with gravitas.
We have no reindeer, but four horsemen; no single star of wonder and no astrologers bearing gifts, but a gifted star of astronomy who knows wonder when she sees it; no kings from the east, but the modern equivalent of a king from the west; and wise men – and women – all around the table. Please join us at the feast.