Dawkins Inspires Us to Be More Visible in the Community

October 14, 2009

On Monday evening, October 12, I attended a lecture by Richard Dawkins on his new book The Greatest Show on Earth--The Evidence for Evolution which was held on the main campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.   It was a very inspiring experience.   Yes, Dawkins was Dawkins--knowledgeable, articulate, sharp, and to the point.  However, most exciting was the atmosphere in the auditorium with 3200 people--average age leaning toward  the college generation. 

To be among that many people who had come to a serious lecture about an important topic, to hear them clap and laugh at appropriate points with Dawkins, I felt that the scientific viewpoint had arrived, had come out of the shadows.  It reminded me of the feelings I had the first time the Southport High School gymnasium was filled to capacity for a girls basketball tournament.  Yes, Indiana is the land of Hoosiers and it is not uncommon for a fieldhouse to be filled to capacity for a basketball game--a boys' game.  I felt that women had reached a milestone in acceptance and liberation just as I now felt that the acceptance of science had reached a milestone.

Joe Hughto, President of the Secular Alliance of Indiana University , put it this way: 

How about that Richard Dawkins?  Last night we completely filled the IU Auditorium which seats 3,200 people.  We also had to turn away between 500-1,000 more people that were still waiting outside.  To be completely honest, I thought only about 2,000 people would show up so I am overjoyed that we packed that place to capacity.

As expected, Dawkins pulled no punches when he was talking about religion, especially creationism.  Those comments were met with applause and laughter and that made me notice something; a great majority of the people there were supporters of Dawkins and his message.  That means that we locally have thousands of people who have eschewed religion for reasoning and critical thinking.  I'm actually having difficultly finding the words for how this makes me feel.  When I first started becoming aware of my atheism, I felt like I was one of a small minority that finally 'got it.'  Groups like the SAIU and events like these remind me that we are not alone in our love for reason.

This is why I think it is very important for our group to do as much as we can and be visible as much as we can in the community.  I am quite sure that there are people out there who are just like I was; they feel insulated and alone in their reason.  We need to show them that we are here and that we're not just a bunch of lazy, sarcastic elitists who spend all day lambasting the religious.  We need to show them that we have an awesome community full of awesome people (which we do) and that we are actually doing something to improve our position in society.

I hope for a day when a group like this does not need to exist.  I hope for a day when reason is the driving force behind people's reactions and every new piece of information is met with skepticism.  In order to make that happen, we can't just idly sit around and wait.  We need to go out and make these changes.  We need to do things like volunteer, have lectures, and have discussions with other people that may not agree with us.  We also need to start building community.  We need to make that community one that people will see and want to join because it looks like we're having so much damn fun. -Joe

The Indiana Daily Student had this to say  about the event. 

I would like to repeat and emphasize a phrase from Joe's message, " We need to show them that we are here and that we're not just a bunch of lazy, sarcastic elitists who spend all day lambasting the religious.   We need to show them that we have an awesome community full of awesome people (which we do) and that we are actually doing something to improve our position in society."

At Center for Inquiry Indiana we are planning a full day Darwin Day Science Conference in March which will include special Darwin Day activities for children.  The purpose is to educate adults and children about evolution and science in general.  Sunday, October 18 is National Secular Service Day .   The Student Alliance of Indiana University (SAIU) will be doing Pages for Prisoners and CFI Indiana will be collecting items for a care package to send to a friend and his unit in Iraq. 


#1 Steve (Guest) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 at 8:43pm

I was also in attendance at the Dawkins event. In fact, three friends and I made the trip from Louisville just to see the good Doctor speak about evolution. I was astounded, however, during the Q&A session that followed, at the caliber of questions that were asked by college educated (or at least people in the process of becoming so) people. They ranged from a person who suggested we use science to prove the bible accurate and therefore help the case for evolution (I think) to a person who actually used a fake English accent to introduce himself. There was barely even mention made of Ardipithicus Ramadus even though it had been the subject of numerous newscasts, articles and even a two-hour Discovery Channel special just the night before.

It seemed to me that the majority of those in attendance that night came to see Richard Dawkins the Atheist and not one of the leading authorities in the field of evolutionary biology talk about his area of expertise. Too many had come to ask silly questions that, had they read Dr. Dawkins work, they would have known the answers to (I’m looking at the guy who asked if intelligent design were plausible at all) and far too many had come, I think, to see an intelligent man say pithy things about religion.

I was a bit embarrassed that I had come to the auditorium for the wrong reason: to learn something about evolution at an event who’s title included the words “The Evidence for Evolution.”

#2 SmartLX (Guest) on Thursday October 15, 2009 at 5:15am

The fellow asking for any evidence of ID might have simply been setting Dawkins up for one of his good lines: “......No.”

#3 Andy (Guest) on Thursday October 15, 2009 at 11:54am

I was there as well. We drove in from Illinois, and I agree with Steve’s sentiment that the lecture on Evolution became another treatment of silly religious questions. What pertained to evolution was great, and I have to imagine that somebody as educated in evolutionary biology as Dr. Dawkins must grow intellectually frustrated responding to the same tired questions about Intelligent Design.

Despite this, I did enjoy the evening if only to have seen him speak. Although Steve thought there wasn’t enough mention of Ardipithecus ramidus, the question the audience member asked (How will Creationists respond to the discovery of the fossil?) set Dawkins up for an interesting explanation of both the finding and the finer points of archaeological taxonomy.

“If Atheists evolved from Creationists, why are there still Creationists?”

#4 BillF on Friday October 16, 2009 at 5:07pm

I had hoped to make it down to see Prof. Dawkins (from Indy) but was unable to make it.  Rest assured that there were probably several thousand more local atheists who were unable to attend as well.

#5 ryan (Guest) on Monday October 19, 2009 at 4:23am

I listened to his audio book before I attended the lecture and re-listened to the God Delusion.  Dawkins seems to be giving arguing points to Atheists in both books.  Promoting science can’t happen on a large scale without getting past mythology.  As long as people spend their Sunday’s mornings, 10% tithing, volunteer and stewardship to promote religion we shall be at a serious deficit as a society to promote rational thought.  To those who are frustrated by his lack of detail in his speech, try selling a textbook of nothing but scientific facts.  Dawkins knows that the more books he sells, the more power to influence he wields.  He’d be shooting himself in the foot to talk only of the details of the science.  I believe his main purpose is to get confused people off the fence and standing on the side of reason and logic.  Not everyone cares to be a scientist, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be a laymen in support and a fan of Richard Dawkins.

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