May 18, 2009

AWRF 2009: Richard Dawkins

Simon from the Readers Services team at Central Library shares his impressions after seeing "Richard Dawkins on the Big Screen":

Richard Dawkins and his finely honed views on religion and its failings in the light of science came to the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival last night. Despite the fact that he was not here in person, but answering questions via televised satellite, the ASB theatre was at almost full capacity, demonstrating what a healthy following books such as The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion have attained. The MC for the night was Sean Plunket, who did an admirable job of coordinating discussion with the "High Priest of Atheism", as Plunket jokingly referred to him. 

Some of the most interesting points of contention (depending on one's own beliefs of course) that I came away with, the points that Dawkins seemed most concerned in getting across to whoever would listen, were thus:

- religion should not be off limits to criticism, in the same way that no scientific hypothesis should be off limits.

- the imposition of  religious cosmologies on children, particularly those concerned with hell and damnation, were a form of child abuse (albeit mental rather than physical), and the way that suicide bombers are bred.

- tolerant liberals must be careful that tolerance does not give way to over-tolerance, as this paves the way for much evil to be done in the name of one's faith.

- Perhaps most pertinently of all considering Dawkins' role as a popular science writer,  a genre often accused of "dumbing down" scientific ideas: the popular scientist's role is to make his ideas as accessible and simple as possible without distorting that idea.

Dawkins also displayed a great sense of humour. When asked how he "avoided" indoctrination to a particular religion growing up he said he'd gone to an Anglican school. Anglicanism was he said "a mild strain of the virus." To close the night Plunket asked what religion Dawkins would choose if his life depended upon it. "Oh for goodness sake. The Church of the Fly and Spaghetti Monster" was the High Priest's reply.

Leaving the Aotea Centre and walking down Queen Street  I saw a man on the corner preaching aggressively to passers by the need to give yourself up to God. The battle rages on.


Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30


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