Posts Tagged ‘dawkins’

Richard Dawkins

Multiple heads, not a good evolutionary choice.

Multiple heads, not a good evolutionary choice.

Richard Dawkins spoke at University of Washington today as part of the book tour for his new book. I went to hear him speak because he is Richard Dawkins, I tend to agree with what he says (funny how that sometimes makes events more appealing) and the event was free. Free was a big part of it.

The format was about half an hour of selected readings from his book followed by questions and answers. The excerpts were good, nothing really compelling enough for me to buy the book; I still have not finished The God Delusion. The best part was the question and answer session. Instead of the normal line up to ask a question or write them in and submit them, all of the questions were texted in and selected from a pool of texts.

The best question of the evening was essentially “What is your proof of evolution elevator speech?”. I thought this is a really good question since I have been in situations where I need easy, fast and concrete proof of evolution. He would use either the geographic distribution of species or genetic relationship.s

Geographic distribution is how species are located around the world. All the marsupials in the Australia area, penguins in the antarctic but not arctic and alpacas are only in South America. If Noah’s arc was true then the distribution should be peaked in the middle east with little to no diversity on the edges. Not to mention the tough swim some animals would face.

Genetic relationships are bit tougher to explain quickly, it is the tracing of particular genes among species. From that tracing a family tree of life can be made, no matter which gene is traced the tree comes out the same every time. It might be more convincing (well it is) however it is a harder concept to grasp compared to penguins and kangaroos.

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An Evil Pope?

An Evil Pope?

Until recently I was not sure that I was an atheist. I always thought to myself that I was agnostic, I did not believe in one god over another. Zeus was as plausible as Amon Ra, in my particular view they all hold they same probability. If one existed then they all should.

For Christmas I received a copy of The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. When I started to read it I realized that the probability for any god was effectively zero so this and my previous assumption logically led to there being no gods. I was finally able to admit to myself that I am an atheist.

One point raised in the first part of the book was how it is hard for people to tell others that they are atheist. I read this before going to Christmas dinner with my family (small dinner only about twelve relatives) and most are Catholic or were raised Catholic (okay all but myself were raised Catholic). I thought about how hard it would be to tell them I am an atheist and especially how to bring it up. I don’t know if I ever will unless directly asked. 

However at school with friends it is quite easy to say I an atheist, I know that at least several of my friends are as well. Oddly the two philosophy majors I know well are both atheist, they tend to be quite vocal about it. Dawkins writes that being atheist in the current culture of America is like being Gay in the 50’s. I saw a very little bit of this with my family (they would be fine with it) but I do live in a fairly liberal area and go to school in one (the San Francisco Bay Area and UC Santa Barbara). I bet it will be harder if I go to graduate school in Montana, Wisconsin and maybe New Hampshire (though I don’t much about New Hampshire). 

I know it is commonly said that one should not discuss religion or politics but where is the fun in that?

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