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Richard Dawkins, science star and atheist poster PhD, and Philip Roth on polio


Love him or hate him -- and millions of people do just that -- Richard Dawkins is a brilliant evolutionary biologist and a compelling polemicist for atheism. In this very religious country, where atheist billboards generate protests, Americans tell pollsters that the last candidate they'd ever vote for is an atheist.

Nearly 60% of Americans have told pollsters they believe in creationism -- right along with a few presidential candidates; shouldn't atheism also be part of the discourse? Dawkins argues yes, and then some. He is going to be right here on Thursday's program with his new book about evolution, ''The Greatest Show on Earth.''

I would listen to Richard Dawkins reading the phone book -- is there still a phone book? -- so you won't want to miss this one.

The envelope for the Nobel Prize for Literature gets ripped open Thursday morning; one of the names that's usually high on the list of possibles is Philip Roth, the renowned American novelist> I interviewed him on Wednesday's program about his new novel, ''Nemesis.'' Few Americans now remember when polio was the terror and dread of every parent, and a vaccine was just a phantom hope. Roth crafts a story of a summer outbreak in a New Jersey neighborhood, and how it altered the life and character of one young man.

This is a fine and heart-breaking book, and as I told the author on the air, I turned each page with dread -- the same feeling that American parents must have awakened to on summer mornings when a child's play day could end in crippling disease and death. The book is all the more important in evoking the devastation of diseases that vaccinations can prevent, especially when some parents now refuse to get their children vaccinated.