Latest on Dawkins and Oklahoma

March 20, 2009

In my blog entry for March 16, I noted that it was rumored that some Oklahoma legislators were investigating the recent appearance by Richard Dawkins at the University of Oklahoma. That rumor has now been confirmed. Representative Rebecca Hamilton has requested from the university the following items of information (among other things): a listing of any monies paid for or to Dr. Dawkins as a result of the speaking engagement; costs to the university or the state for the speech, including, but not limited to, costs for security, physical plant, advertising, and faculty time spent promoting this event; a copy of correspondence and negotiations between Dr. Dawkins and any parties involved in his appearance at the university.

What’s the point of this inquiry? Well, it is fairly obvious it is designed to intimidate those faculty and students who were involved in bringing Dawkins to speak at the campus. Moreover, it’s also obvious that the legislators have decided to pursue this inquiry solely because Dawkins is an atheist. Universities—even ones in Oklahoma—routinely invite outside speakers to campus, and these speakers hold a variety of different views. One of the roles of a university is to expose students to different viewpoints, and of course, for public universities some incidental expenditure of public funds necessarily takes place. (Dawkins waived any speaking fees, by the way.)

It is shameful that some legislators in Oklahoma appear to have little respect for free speech. One would think that a basic familiarity with our constitutional liberties and values would be a prerequisite for serving as a legislator. Perhaps it is fortunate that these legislators are showing interest in activities at the university. Maybe they’ll be motivated to take a basic course in civics.

For more on the Dawkins investigation,   see the most recent posting by Greg Lukianoff.



#1 gray1 on Friday March 20, 2009 at 3:46pm

The problem is that Dawkins comes across more as being an “anti-god” stormtrooper than as the brilliant and honored scientist he is.  Perhaps if he concentrated on teaching his science the listeners could then be asked to formulate when, where, why and how “God” became necessary except as a vain attempt to explain the as yet unknown origin of our universe(s). 

The lack of any final reasoning for the patterns of existence we witness is increasingly being hemmed in by science with its advances with matter/energy relationships but even physics now alludes to what we might term “the other half” in considering infinity, multiple universes, etc., so that is destined to become a new (old?) frontier of reveling in the unknown.

Oklahoma, like neighboring Kansas, generally tends to lump atheists together with Satanists, child-molesters and the like.

#2 Personal Failure (Guest) on Saturday March 21, 2009 at 4:36am

I’m not blaming the victim here by calling Dawkins shrill. I used to find him so, until I started actually paying attention to how some Christians (some, not all) treat and view atheists.

Now, I say, “Go, Dawkins!” (Which I used to say while watching Eagles’ games, but that’s a whole ‘nother frustration.)

This is insane in the US. Everyone has the right to free speech, no matter how annoying or upsetting someone finds it. Dawkins isn’t slandering anyone, he isn’t inciting riots or treason, he isn’t yelling “Fire!” in the crowded theatre, he’s stating his opinion.

Which he has every right to do.

What was that one of our Founding Fathers said about free speech? “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Somebody needs to give these asshats a history book.

#3 Drew (Guest) on Saturday March 21, 2009 at 8:04am

The problem is that there are Religious people all over the place that are allowed to be crazy pro-god, Tell you you are going to hell if you don’t believe.

It is SO FUNNY that if this was instead some kind of ‘respected’ creationist the legislators would almost definitely not be doing any of this.

I would like a list of how much time and money is getting wasted looking into the resources it took to get Richard Dawkins to Oklahoma.  That is the real waste here.

‘Oklahoma, like neighboring Kansas, generally tends to lump atheists together with Satanists, child-molesters and the like.’
How AWFUL is that?  We must stand against that righteously, not try to skate around it like we might break the glass.  I respect Dawkins for making a stand, and be uncompromising in the face of that kind of WRONG judgement.  Much like MLK or others who were persecuted for standing up for their beliefs, despite threats.

#4 gray1 on Saturday March 21, 2009 at 8:00pm

Many “believers” particularly in the South tend to take being called “delusional” quite personally regarding either their Bible or the U.S. flag.  It has less to do with any exchange of active reasoning and more to do with social upbringing.  There exists an ant-hill defense nature of fundimentalism in either regard.

Too bad about the real science being missed.

#5 Logan (Guest) on Sunday March 22, 2009 at 5:00pm

From what I have heard, the OK legislators seem more concerned about Dawkins as a famous evolutionist than as a famous atheist.

Other bloggers (ERV and Pharyngula on ScienceBlogs) have found out than OSU, another university in the same state, paid Ben Stein $60,000 to speak there, which was basically just his Darwin = Hitler rant, some reminiscing about writing speeches for Nixon, and saying “Bueller” upon request during the Q&A.

Additionally, I know Dembski has spoken at OU twice (once solo and another in debate with Michael Ruse). Strange that they only have a problem with famous evolutionary biologists.

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