Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guess What? I Saw Richard Dawkins Today!

One of the great things about living in New York is that big names swing by quite regularly. This evening I got to see the "world's most popular atheist" himself, Richard Dawkins. The event was hosted by the New York City Atheists and the Secular Coalition for America. It was rather modest: it was a small room with seating for only about 100-150 and unfortunately I missed the earlier lecture he gave about his new book, An Appetite for Wonder. I had to see the second viewing, in which he just took questions on cards we had filled out before the event. I wrote on my card my question for him, "What advice would you give to young atheists/secularists who want to carry the fight against religion and superstitions?" Unfortunately, I didn't get to have my question read in the second event that I attended, but they may have read it aloud to him in the initial event.

The reason why they had two events was because the line was so long they couldn't fit everybody in the venue, and so they had to split us up into two groups so that each group would get to see Dawkins speak for about 1 hour on his new book. At least, that's what I thought was going to happen. Instead, the first group probably got to see him lecture and then take questions, but the second group I was in just got to see him answer audience questions. But hey, the event was free and it wasn't out of my way or anything, so I can't complain much.

So now I've gotten to see three-fourths of the so called "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." I first saw Sam Harris during his book tour for The Moral Landscape, then I saw and met Hitchens at a debate over Islam, (and I also saw Michael Shermer give a lecture for his book, The Believing Brain, and I met Neil deGrasse Tyson too). Now that I've seen Dawkins, the only one left is Daniel Dennett. But to be honest, if I could meet any well known atheist and have a conversation with them, I'd prefer to meet a scientist like Lawrence Krauss or Sean Carroll. The reason why is because there are times when I'm debating a theist and I feel like I need a personal physicist to call on, kind of like a life line, when I need a highly technical question answered.

 Dawkins receiving an honorary New York City Atheists hat.


  1. I read the Selfish Gene in like 1981 or 1982. I feel like that is the first book that I read that really, really stretched my mind, and introduced me to the notion of an intellectual life. You are young, so I imagine you wouldn't remember that Dawkins was for many, many years merely a biologist who popularized a fascinating idea that had many facets, and that his later emergence as an outspoken atheist was a second career that wasn't needed to secure his legacy.

    It would not surprise me (at all) to find out that on a personal level Dawkins is a prick, with a myriad of failings that would repulse me. But I will always be grateful for the intellectual legacy he has crafted, and the fascinating issues he has raised in my mind and countless others. I envy you your chance to share a room with him.

  2. In person, Dawkins seems rather stern, like a proper old English gent. He has a sense of humor but it's very old fashioned. He said he hated how South Park satirized him. Can't say he's a prick though from what I saw, but he did have his public face on.

  3. Don't worry the first session was also a Q&A as Dawkins knew he would have to keep things short as he had even another meeting after the two NYCA sessions demonstrating that in fact he might just be "world's most popular atheist"



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