Richard Dawkins Does Brisbane

Last night (Thursday 4th March 2010) I had the distinct pleasure of being able to sit in on a talk by the one & only Richard Dawkins.  He was in Brisbane promoting his latest book The Greatest Show On Earth.  I would like to give a special thanks to my good friend Brad Ashwood who, without even having to be asked, informed me when tickets became available again so I could get in nice & early.  This event sold out faster than I could dial QPAC’s number so without him the whole experience would have been impossible.

Who is Richard Dawkins?
The fact that I have to include this section in my post makes me a little sad but believe it or not many people actually don’t know who he is.  In a nut shell Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist.  In a science lab he is also a biologist but he just looks cuter when he is in his nut shell.  He is perhaps more famous to most people for his crusade against religion.  He has hosted his own documentaries such as The Genius of Charles Darwin & The Root of All Evil & he spends a large portion of his time today supporting atheism throughout the world.  Here’s a clip.

How The Night Went
In spite of the fact that many people find it odd that a Catholic man would not only want to go & see such an anti-religious icon but be genuinely excited about it, last night I suited up & headed in to QPAC.  Although I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a Richard Dawkins crowd I don’t think I was expecting it to be as young as it was.  There were several older persons there but I’d guess the majority of the crowd was probably younger than me.

I have never been to a book promotion before so I was a little unsure of how the evening would flow.  Rest assured however, I was not disappointed.  They started out with the mandatory boring people waxing poetic about how amazing it was to have someone of Professor Dawkins’ stature at QPAC then made some jokes about praying the plane didn’t crash on the way over.  (They really weren’t boring at all.  I was just there to see someone else.)  Dawkins came out immediately after & talked for about an hour about his book.  It was a little weird sitting listening to him essentially give a sales pitch for a book I had already read.  I found myself thinking “oh yes I remember that part… now explain the next part.  I liked that part.”  Yes that’s right.  Silently in my mind I was telling a former lecturer from Oxford & best-selling author how he should promote his own book.  Define over opinionated.

Dawkins is not the best public speaker I have ever encountered but he is a very long way from the worst.  As anyone who has seen his documentaries & interviews can confirm, he is very direct.  He has the benefit of having positioned himself as someone who almost always speaks from a scientific point of view so for the most part when he is right he is right & there is just no two ways about it which leaves very little need for mincing words.

After his hour-long promotion of his book there was a very brief question time.  Unfortunately there was no real way of qualifying the questions before people spoke so while most of the questions were fine & all of the answers were very interesting a couple of times people tried to lead his answers in the direction of their point of view.  The first “question” wasn’t even a question!  Some guy just criticised Dawkins for being too harsh on religious people.  As a general rule all sentences have to end with a ? before they are considered questions.

The Book Signing
Finally the best part of the night arrived.  The book signing.  I have to take my hat off to Dawkins here.  He stuck around for well over an hour having a chat with everyone & signing their books.  I know a lot of people would criticise him for only signing books he wrote & not things like autograph books or cleavage but if you saw the size of the line I think you would agree they had to limit the numbers somehow.

Finally after about an hour of waiting I got to meet the man himself

Me meeting Richard Dawkins

I'm the guy with the black hair.

& get his John Hancock on my crisp new copy of The Ancestor’s Tale.

My autographed book

One of the more awesome autographs in my collection.

As an autograph collector this rates pretty high in my list of awesome things I own.  Perhaps not as high as my autographed picture of Nat King Cole but certainly higher than some others I have but don’t want to mention because those people were nice enough to sign things for me & don’t deserve to be put down.  As you would expect, I didn’t really get to have a conversation with Dawkins.  He would have been there all night if he’d allowed that but I did tell him what a big fan of his I am & he thanked me & smiled.  To be honest his sincerity was quite amazing after so many autographs.

The Final Question
As I mentioned earlier, some people must find it odd that someone who believes in God as strongly as I do would be so excited about meeting a man who actively goes around trying to quash one of the beliefs I hold dearest in my heart.   Aside from the fact that I most admire Dawkins for his work in the fields of biology & evolution I still have great respect for someone who stands up for what he believes in even though it has won him countless enemies.  In the words of Douglas Adams:

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? – Douglas Adams

Yes, perhaps I do believe in fairies (not exactly but you catch my drift) & Richard Dawkins obviously doesn’t but I think we both agree that the garden is truly beautiful & for me that will always be enough.

What do you think?  Love him?  Hate him?  Leave a comment to let me know.

Unless there is a next time
Goodbye forever.

Luke Venables
Cloud Miner

Edit: Special thanks to Ryan Mayhead for taking the photo of me with Richard Dawkins.  Bonus apology for messing your photo up so badly.  (Seriously, I tried to take a photo of him when he got his new book signed & it looks like it was taken in the middle of an earthquake.)

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6 Responses to “Richard Dawkins Does Brisbane”

  1. Brittney Gregory Says:

    It was very educational, ,interesting and quite humorous Luke. I enjoyed reading ,can’t wait till your next one !

  2. What’s wrong with believing in fairies?
    (And I bet Richard Dawkins has better punctuation in his books than you!)

  3. What do I think? I THINK YOU SHOULD THANK ME FOR THE PHOTOGRAPH.

  4. lequoise Says:

    Ah, that would have been a great experience! I am jealous. I think I’ll go get myself a copy of The Greatest Show on Earth tomorrow, I keep meaning to read it!

  5. Haha! It looks like it was taken in the middle of an earthquake by someone with Parkinson’s!

  6. Great article! It’s awesome to meet someone you appreciate even if their point of view may be different from yours. Your open-minded love of learning is inspiring. I once heard a preacher say whereever there is a point of view there is also a point of blindness. He proved his point by having me look at the floor and describe what I saw. When he asked me to keep my head down and describe the ceiling, I couldn’t. I never forgot that.

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