Thursday, 3 April 2008
Dawkins in Inverness
Well, it was true - Richard Dawkins really did come to talk to us in Inverness. I can still scarcely believe it. You have to understand that most speakers, musicians, actors, and thinkers never venture this far north. If they do make it to Scotland, they stop at Edinburgh or Glasgow. But, for some reason, Richard agreed to come to see us here. We certainly have a recently, and splendidly, expanded Eden Court theatre, but I think it was down to the persuasive charm of the lady who did the interview - Paula Kirby - so big thanks to her.
Richard kept us spellbound for two hours - well, most of us - there were a few critics in the audience, including the elderly couple next to me who clicked their tongues in mild disapproval at random intervals. In the first hour Richard, responding to questions from Paula, set out his arguments for evolution and against god, and the whole of the second hour was thrown open to questions from the audience. I chickened out of asking a question but there was a steady stream of more intrepid people who asked questions from the full range of belief and non-belief, and Richard answered them all well, though he did become (characteristically?) irritated with a couple of people who asked silly questions. He dealt with the church brigade with great courtesy, I thought, but he must get tired of the same old same old - I don't know how he does it.
What did I get out of the evening? Well, apart from the thrill of hearing the great man (and, yes, getting a book signed by him!), it was great to hear the arguments laid out so clearly. It was learning about evolution that turned me, almost literally overnight, into an atheist, so I knew the basics already, but seeing and hearing Richard himself set it all out so clearly was useful. And I learned some new stuff, like the issue of 'design' flaws like those backward bits in our eye, which adds weight to the argument for evolution of the structure of the eye, step by blind step, rather than design by blueprint - that was very interesting.
He looked tired though, and he had almost lost his voice after a vigorous debate in Edinburgh the previous night, so I hope he will take a break now that his tour is over, and regain his strength. He is such an important figure, not just for atheists, but for all who believe in using their brains and he MUST take care of himself!
Richard's visit had another good effect (apart hopefully from giving some of the local loony brigade a sleepless night or two.) On his website, as the visit got closer, atheists in the area began to talk to each other - to the extent that we agreed to meet after his talk. And so I spent an hour talking to three new friends in the cafe after the lecture, each of us clutching our shiny signed paperbacks. Wonderful to share experiences and stories and we have decided to meet again and perhaps set up a local atheist group, where we can talk, support and maybe even take a bit of action. I think Richard would be pleased.