• Richard Dawkins in Toronto

    by  • 9/29/2009 • atheism, science • 0 Comments

    We’ve only recently returned from the Richard Dawkins on the University of Toronto Campus. Had my phone still had battery charge remaining, I would have likely typed all this up while in the restaurant waiting for our meal afterward. Thanks to CFI Ontario for the last minute tickets to the talk; I now have a signed copy of “The Greatest Show On Earth” and that was worth the price of the family membership. Hopefully I’ll get to see Michael Shermer this friday when he speaks on “Why Do People Believe Weird Things” (thankfully, and not on his economic books, but that’s another story).

    Become a member of CFI; it can be worth the price of admission.

    Professor Dawkins spoke for a while, read some excerpts from his book, and then took questions from the audience. I can’t imagine how anyone could really think him as horrible or evil or imposing after seeing him on stage, and later in the book signing line in the lobby. He’s cordial, has a good sense of humour, and was all smiles. Sure, it’s only the start of the trip, but still.

    The questions from the audience were not all as boring or predictable as I might have imagined. It seems that there was no contingent of creationists on hand, no signs, no yelling of “LIES!” from the audience. Not a bad first stop on the North American book tour (the only one in Canada; sorry Vancouver). Apparently he appeared on CBC’s The Hour, but that’s apparently not online yet. There was only one question from an un-moderated audience microphone that touched on the idea that perhaps god was using evolution as his method… I’m sure that’s a common enough question he has to deal with.

    One questioner pointed out that tomorrow is International Blasphemy Day, and asked if Professor Dawkins had any tips. Dawkins was surprised; he hadn’t heard of it, and he was somewhat speechless at first, but he laughed and said that at least Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

    Dawkins confessed a slight mishearing of another questioner’s point, believing at one point that the questioner was asking if there would be an armed conflict between the religious and the non-believers, rather than the intended point about the growing number of unbelievers in recent days. Dawkins commented (paraphrased) “I suppose it’s of limited consolation that were it ever to come to that, our side would have everyone capable of designing weapons.”

    Asked about the plan of Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron to hand out thousands of copies of “Origin of The Species” on college campuses, Dawkins made sure that everyone in attendance who may have missed the hilarious Banana Video by re-enacting a chunk of it; “You’ll notice how easily it fits in my hand…” and compared the video to Monty Python. This before stating that he couldn’t imagine that most people on university campuses would have trouble seeing through this thinly veiled attempt at spreading their lies. He suggested that many people would be happy to receive a free copy of “Origin” and all they’d need to do would be to rip out those first fifty pages and … put them to better use…

    One older man stood up and asserted that the case for Evolution was so strong, and so beyond doubt, that were we one day to find an intact human skeleton fossilized in a layer of rock where it just shouldn’t be (perhaps squished in a foot print of a dinosaur?), that it would not be data to go against evolution. He said that with the case for evolution so well established, that that would be in fact proof of time travel. Not entirely serious, perhaps, but a good point, which may yet fuel a followup book from Dawkins, if I could judge by his favourable response to the man.


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