My Visit to see Richard Dawkins – Fri 8th Jun 07

Yesterday I had the pleasure of travelling to London to see Richard Dawkins being interviewed by the BBC for the World Book Club. I went with my friend Tobe and his father.

The subject was his first book and international best seller, The Selfish Gene. I’ve not actually read it all the way through but I know enough about evolution and Richard Dawkins that nothing was lost on me.

Professor Dawkins had to leave quickly after the interview so there was no opportunity to meet him properly or take a picture.

Still, it was a brilliant experience. I was sat in the front row of a very small audience, about 6 feet away from Richard Dawkins. He was intelligent, well-spoken, charming, precise, and humorous at times too.

He answered questions from e-mails, recorded messages, a live telephone question from the USA, and the audience. I didn’t ask him a question but I was planning to at the end but didn’t get the chance. My question would’ve been something like: of all the scientific theories ever proposed, some better than others of course, is evolution in your opinion, the best example of a successful scientific theory? It’s probably a matter of opinion and science is replete with fantastic theories, but is anything more powerful, predictive, explanatory, and personal than evolution? It’s hard to think of such a theory.

I was surprised by a couple of questions from the live audience. One person confronted him on his use of the metaphor “selfish” when talking about genes. Despite my personal admiration for Dawkins, I cannot possibly see what the problem is. Genes are selfish, metaphorically, but organisms aren’t. In fact, anyone who’s read even part of The Selfish Gene will understand that selfish genes give rise to altruistic organisms. As Dawkins himself points out, it is only possible to misquote or misunderstand his metaphor when one hasn’t read the entire book. But in that case in my opinion one shouldn’t attempt to comment on it!

He was also curiously challenged over the fact that copying errors in DNA (mistakes), give rise to progress in evolution, as though this were some sort of flaw in the theory of evolution. This actually sounded more a question a creationist would ask! Dawkins quickly set the gentleman straight: they’re errors in that they’re copying mistakes, which produce diversity. But “progress” and “better” are subjective terms in evolution – progress simply means doing better at a particular task. Deep sea creatures cannot move at the speeds of a cheetah, but a cheetah cannot survive incredible water pressure and in zero sunlight, so which is “better”?

There was also a fascinating question asked about homosexuality and how it came about in evolution, despite the apparent fact that it wouldn’t be good for species as a whole, reproductively. I won’t explain his answers here because it would take too long to reproduce all the points that were covered.

To be honest, on some of the questions that were asked of him I had such a profound sense of agreement and understanding with Professor Dawkins I felt like jumping in and saying “I’ll field that question Richard”, or “have you even read the book?!”

As he is one of the world’s great thinkers and intellectuals, a leading scientist, and one of the most prominent atheists on the planet, it was an honour to be part of such a small and select audience so close to Professor Dawkins. It was an honour and a privilege and I would love the opportunity to do it again.

What I took from the interview was just how wonderful a thing it is to understand evolution. You can see the passion and wonder in Dawkins’ voice as he talks about it, and it is contagious. It is something that he has never gotten bored of, and you can understand why. As he himself says: since Darwin, we can actually explain why we are here! Ten of thousands of years of confusion, doubt, superstition, and fairy tales, but now the human race knows where it came from and how it survives. Surely that’s one of the most important discoveries of all time! And yet, at this time even now, there are people actively lying and spreading misinformation about evolution because it clashes with their personal interpretation of a book of myths. It’s ridiculous really. Dawkins observed that the education system has well and truly let a lot of people down. At the point he said this, there was a “here here” from the audience and a round of applause!

He also reiterated his opinion that anyone who doesn’t believe evolution is either ignorant, deluded, stupid, or evil. Deluded need not be an insult. Stupid and evil doubtless are. What about ignorant? No. If someone is ignorant of evolution that’s not necessarily their fault. If only people would be willing to learn about it and see all the evidence – most doubters would evaporate, and with them, all the silly mythical stories of creationism that go along with a rejection of evolution.

The sad truth though is that because of the religious evil in the world, a simple beautiful truth such as evolution is being subverted and lied about by people who see it as a threat to their beliefs and power. The fact that $25million of taxpayers’ money in America can be spent to build a (tax-exempt) Creation Museum just proves what a sad delusional state some parts of the world are in. One might as well build a museum about Father Christmas.

Fortunately, if people like Richard Dawkins and the people he inspires, keep talking, writing, propagating the beauty of science, and warning about the evils of faith, the world might slowly become a more enlightened place. As Professor Dawkins said last night: “in the end I believe education will win out.”

Here here.

Advertisements

6 Responses to “My Visit to see Richard Dawkins – Fri 8th Jun 07”

  1. storbakken Says:

    It was interesting reading this post. Well, at least the first half. I was looking forward to an elaboration to this statement that you wrote: “As he himself says: since Darwin, we can actually explain why we are here!”

    Instead of explaining why we are here you went on a name-calling, anti-religion rampage. So, please, tell me why we are here. Evolution will never be able to tell us why we are here. At best, it can explain how we got here.

    Also, you say that evolution is a theory. This is not correct from an academic perspective. Evolution is considered a theorem by the scientific community. There are theories pertaining to evolution, but evolution, like gravity, is accepted as a fact.

    So, why are we here?

  2. evanescent Says:

    Storbakken said:
    “It was interesting reading this post. Well, at least the first half.”

    Thank you. At least partly anyway.

    Storbakken said:
    “I was looking forward to an elaboration to this statement that you wrote: “As he himself says: since Darwin, we can actually explain why we are here!”

    Instead of explaining why we are here you went on a name-calling, anti-religion rampage. So, please, tell me why we are here. Evolution will never be able to tell us why we are here. At best, it can explain how we got here.”

    If you think this is me on an anti-religion rampage, you should read some of my other articles. Religion has got a lot to answer for when it encourages ignorance and falsehoods. Unfortunately, all religion is guilty of this and creationism is just another example, so if I was indeed having an attack on religion, I think it is justified.

    I’ll come to your question of why later.

    Storbakken said:
    “Also, you say that evolution is a theory. This is not correct from an academic perspective. Evolution is considered a theorem by the scientific community. There are theories pertaining to evolution, but evolution, like gravity, is accepted as a fact.”

    You misunderstand. Evolution is a scientific fact. How we understand it and explain it is a theory. So, just like gravity, the word evolution can refer to a fact, and a theory.

    Example: two objects will exert an attractive force on each other directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. FACT.

    How do we explain that? The THEORY of gravity. Our current theory of gravity will probably be thrown out when we complete a quantum theory of gravity.

    Example 2: all species on the planet have a common ancestor. FACT.

    How do we explain that? The THEORY of evolution. The theory of evolution is our best working explanation of the fact of evolution, and is incredibly powerful and predictive.

    Read here for more in depth essay: http://ebonmusings.org/evolution/evotheory.html

    Storbakken said:
    “So, why are we here?”

    How/why – tomato/tomarto in the scientific sense:

    Why are we here? Strictly speaking? Because self-replicating nucleic acid strings survive and propagate themselves towards better adaptation to their surroundings through the laws of natural selection. If DNA didn’t replicate and genes did not compete, we wouldn’t exist, so strictly speaking we are here because we live in a world like the one we do.

    Evolution explains how this takes place.

    If you’re talking about the metaphysics of existence and a meaning for life, my opinion is that evolution has a little something we can learn on this too, which is that life has no purpose. There is no design, no purpose. In other words, there is NO REASON WHY humans exist, we simply do. It’s a brute fact, which means that purpose and meaning is something we have to give to our own lives.

    As for name-calling, if you think something I said in the article was unfair, please quote it.

  3. Ivo da C.Souza Says:

    Evolution is a scientific theory. It is a model for explaining natural phenomena. It cannot be called a “fact”. Evolution does not contradict the theological concept of “creation”. We cannot accept “creationism”, namely that creation is a scientific theory. Bible does not teach science. It speaks to us about God and his love towards humanity. We can discuss all these scientific issues. Science does not contradict Bible. Let us discuss openly about all these issues.
    Dr.Ivo da Conceiçao Souza (Goa, India)

  4. evanescent Says:

    Ivo, evolution is a scientific theory. You are correct when you say “it is a model for explaining natural phenomena” – this is indeed what the Theory does. But what natural phenomena does it seek to explain? The FACT that all life is of common descent and creatures evolve from each other. The latter is a FACT, called evolution. How we explain this fact is the Theory of Evolution.*

    “Science does not contradict Bible.”

    Yes it does. Mysticism has no sharing with fact. The earth is not 6000 years old, we were not created by god, “god” does not exist, Jesus (if he even lived) was not born of a virgin, animals don’t talk, etc. The bible is a collection of works written by superstitious primitive humans who had no understanding of how the natural world works and convoluted the supernatural to explain what they couldn’t understand.

    *If indeed you are a doctor, and if your speciality is in the physical/natural sciences, you should already know this.

  5. icsouza Says:

    Dear “Evanescent”,
    The theory of evolution tries to explain how the world evolved, not how it began. The moment of “singularity” of Big bang theory cannot be explained by the theory of evolution. What is beyond the phenomenal reality? Why is there something and not nothing? This is the concept of biblical creation. Bible does not teach Science, which is empirical and is limited to the phenomenal world. Bible teaches about God and his plan for us: Why are we here? What is our destiny? What is the meaning of human existence? This cannot be revealed by Science.
    I am a physician and a theologian. I can understand not only the chemical body, but also consciousness, soul, God’s life in the light of the Bible.
    Dr.Ivo da C.Souza

  6. evanescent Says:

    “The theory of evolution tries to explain how the world evolved, not how it began”

    Very true.

    “The moment of “singularity” of Big bang theory cannot be explained by the theory of evolution.”

    Agreed.

    “What is beyond the phenomenal reality? Why is there something and not nothing?”

    There is nothing beyond reality. Anything external to “real” is “unreal” and therefore non-existent.

    There is something because existence exists. Nothingness is unreal; it is a concept that we use to refer to the lack of something.

    “Bible does not teach Science, which is empirical and is limited to the phenomenal world.”

    I defintiely agree that the bible doesn’t teach science. The bible teaches many things, mostly aimed at the primitive population who wrote and would be reading it. For example, the Jews on how and when to circumcise, or that they would be unclean during menstrual cycles, or that God punishes the innocent for the crimes of the guilty, and so on.

    “Bible teaches about God and his plan for us: Why are we here? What is our destiny? What is the meaning of human existence? This cannot be revealed by Science.
    I am a physician and a theologian. I can understand not only the chemical body, but also consciousness, soul, God’s life in the light of the Bible.”

    I could quote Ayn Rand: “You see, I am an atheist and I have only one religion: the sublime in human nature.”

    In the strict sense of the physical sciences, I agree that these don’t hold the answers to man’s questions. Even science is based on philosophy, and it is this objective philosophy that man needs. This isn’t to be found in the anti-conceptual sacrificial irrational morality that religion offers, but in the facts of reality and how man interacts with it, and what is good or bad for his existence. Man’s reason can identify this for himself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: