I’m going to try very hard not to let my emotions take over as I write this entry. I hope that will be possible.
I arrived a half hour early at Lied Center tonight and stood in a very long line while waiting for the doors to open. The gentleman in front of me was waiting for a friend and we made small talk regarding the large crowd. I wondered how many in attendance were supporters of Dawkins.
When the gentleman’s friend arrived, he was thrilled with the large crowd and made the comment “and, it’s sure not for Billy Graham!”. Obviously, these men supported Dawkins. The new arrival mentioned that he didn’t have anything to do while he was waiting for the 7:30 presentation, so he hung out at Baby Dolls. I don’t know how many Baby Dolls there are in Lawrence, but evidently Kristy is quite something to see if that kind of thing flips your switch.
Paul Mirecki, from the KU religion department and staff support for the Soma (Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics) group at KU, was in the line next to me. The two gentlemen in front of me recognized him immediately and had a good laugh over Mirecki’s idea of teaching ID as a myth. The Baby Doll guy actually went over and shook Mirecki’s hand. I’m not sure what he said, but Mirecki said thank you. I also heard a woman say, regarding Dawkins, that now we would hear from a “real theologian“.
Once inside Lied Center, it was obvious that this was going to be a standing room only crowd. Later, it was also clear from the applause and laughter that I was probably one of only a handful of people who did not laud Dawkins as the bearer of truth.
Then there was a very heartfelt introduction by Leonard Krishtalka. Mr. Krishtalka is the Director of the Biodiversity Institute at KU. It has been very clear from Krishtalka’s introductions and questions throughout this series of lectures that he is a staunch supporter of Dawkins, and his introduction certainly displayed that feeling. There was almost a reverence in his tone.
Dawkins entered the stage to great applause.
He stated that natural selection can account for everything in the universe and that those who do not agree with that simply do not understand natural selection. He explained that through natural selection we start with simple beginnings which raise up gradually to complex ends. Though he believes there is a need for better education of this phenomena, he never explained to the audience exactly how natural selection works and accounts for everything we observe in nature. I’m assuming that he must have felt that since everyone was applauding him, they were all quite familiar with the process and how it accounts for the vastly complex universe we live in. Either that, or he has absolutely no idea himself.
He also said that if people understood natural selection, they would undoubtedly accept Darwinian evolution. That is interesting, because I’ve heard and read an incredible amount of information regarding natural selection and I’d have to say that if that is his smoking gun, then he is delusional. There are thousands of scientists and millions of people who understand natural selection and find it lacking in regard to what it can accomplish. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand NS, and even a student in junior high can fully understand the concept.
Many times throughout the night I wondered if he was actually destroying his own case. He talked of the high improbability of descent from that first living cell, the anthropic principle, and mentioned at least a half dozen times that nature gives the appearance of being designed. He said that every human organ is good at what it does, and that this gives a powerful illusion of design. He said that this “illusion of design” is, of course, natural selection.
It was quite clear throughout the presentation that he was in reverent awe of natural selection. In fact, I will go as far as to say that natural selection is his God. Everything he accounts for in his life was a byproduct of natural selection. He holds this belief as one would hold a belief in God. We feel we have enough evidence to support our belief, yet in the end, what we can’t explain we must hold on faith.
He mentioned that though the universe is perfectly suited for life, as the anthropic principle states is support for the improbabilities that our universe evolved by chance rather than design, the argument against that principle is that “We are here”. So evidently, since “we are here“, natural selection must work well enough to account for the astronomical complexity of the universe! This is considered logical? Goodness, and they say that ID is an argument from ignorance. Consciousness seemed to pose a problem for him as well, but that too he felt was somehow due to natural selection.
He spent quite a bit of the lecture poking fun of IDists, Creationists, and people of religious beliefs. He gave a power point presentation and showed slides that brought great laughter from the crowd. One depicted “the stork theory”: to be taught along side pregnancy theory in Kansas schools. “ Another depicted a cartoon with the caption “Avian Flu scare forces”. There were many others along the same line. The idea was that Kansas is anti-science due to the fact that many Kansans do not adhere to the idea that the universe evolved through common descent via the first living organism. I’m still trying to find out how that particular theory is beneficial to science. IDist and creationists, for that matter, view commonality between species and adaptation within species as solid fact supported by empirical evidence. The common descent via that first living organism inclusion is irrelevant to science.
He also mentioned that creationists argue from personal incredulity, which he accounts to being “lazy”. Interesting, though I would reply that he argues against the likelihood of a designer in the same manner. He can’t believe it, so it’s not true. He said as much when he was asked whether you have to be a theologian to speak on matters of whether there is a God or not. He mentioned that he doesn’t need to read a book about fairies to know that they do not exist. So, in other words, he is the one who is lazy because he doesn’t see the point in studying something he doesn’t believe exists. He believes there is no evidence for God, though many theologians will tell you that there is, and they have written numerous books which support that belief.
He told us that religion is indoctrination, and it is a form of mental child abuse to label a child as a Christian, a Muslim or any other religion. Interesting. I wonder if he has children. I have no doubt that he has “indoctrinated” them with his beliefs as well.
During the Q&A, he was asked why people “deny the power of natural selection“. His answer was that it was not due to stupidity, but to ignorance. People don’t understand it because it is not taught correctly. I would argue that natural selection is quite easy to understand, but the reason some people don’t revere it as Dawkins does is because he holds natural selection as sacred just as religious people hold God sacred.
We cannot possibly understand Dawkins' feelings regarding what he believes natural selection is capable of because we know what the evidence shows NC is capable of, and we realize that the rest of what Dawkins ~believes~ is based on faith alone. ~Faith in the God of natural selection~. Likewise, Dawkins cannot understand our faith in God because he is missing a vital element - faith and the spirit of understanding. Dawkins does have a spirit that allows for him to see all that he envisions natural selection is capable of, but that is an opposing spirit to the spirit that those who hold God’s word as truth possess.
He believes that there is no purpose or meaning in life from a scientific perspective, considering how our world evolved, but that we as individuals certainly create our own purpose and desires in life.
I must say that this speaker was the polar opposite of Os Guiness. Os tried to bring those of opposing views closer together and suggested building bridges and trying to work together with those whose views we oppose. He never once made fun of those who do not believe what he does. He didn’t show demeaning cartoons or poke fun of various groups of people who opposed his views. He did mention that Sam Harris and Dawkins were illogical, insulting, and misguided in a few of the Q&A questions. And, I’d have to agree with him. Dawkins is very insulting, and many of his arguments were quite illogical. I would never consider standing up in front of thousands of people and poke fun of his atheist perspective like he did about people who hold various religious viewpoints. I couldn’t live with myself if I did something like that.
He mentioned that evolution probably accounts for the need for religion, and that in some people that need just doesn’t evolve. Well, if natural selection can account for that need, I would hope that it continues to evolve in the future. Dawkins shows very little compassion for those who do not display the “intellect” that he accredits himself for. He feels that more people need to stand up for their beliefs that God does not exist. He believes that will better our future and the future of science.
I have to wonder what would become of us if we were all under the influence that Dawkins seems to be under. He is an extreme bigot, very prejudice, and quite divisive, which surprisingly are all the attributes that he seems to loath and attribute to those who support religious beliefs.
Okay, I made it through without loosing it, and I think for the most part I held my emotions at bay. It may not seem that way to some of you, but believe me when I state that as fact.
Now I will get emotional and say that as I left Lied center and crossed the parking lot to my car, I shed a tear for those who allow people like Dawkins to influence their worldview. That was one of the hardest lectures I’ve ever sat through in my life. For a man to stand there and state all the awful things that people do in the name of religion, and then turn around and commit the same acts that he is supposedly against, was so very sad and disheartening. What was even worse is that he received two standing ovations. That tells me that everyone in attendance very much agreed with his views. I have no problem with him stating that he doesn’t believe in God, but for his shear disregard and disrespect for those who oppose his views. If he wants to make a difference, it seems that he would not make the exact same errors that some over zealous religious factions do. But, evidently he is no better as far as how he is going to treat people, he’s just different in his beliefs as to what or who god is or isn’t.
This is the type of thing that worries me about our secular universities. Many feel it is a necessity to do away with religion, but if we are to replace it with the beliefs that attribute to the attitude of Dawkins, we may find ourselves in a situation that is even worse.
I’m going to go have a good cry now....