Wednesday, October 18, 2006


One God Further

Richard Dawkins' ferocious defense of evolution has earned him the appellation "Darwin's rottweiler." Stephen Jay Gould famously called Dawkins a Darwinian fundamentalist. Michael Ruse has accused him of double dealing. Andrew Brown calls him a dogmatist.

Even so, here in Kansas, where not long ago it was said evolution was outlawed and the monkeys were in charge, a crowd of nearly 2,000 at the Lied Center in Lawrence (more than twice as many as attended intelligent design activist William Dembski's talk a few months ago) gave him a warm welcome and rewarded his lecture, "The God Delusion," with two standing ovations.

Early on in his talk, Dawkins cited British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle as saying that the probability of producing life from evolutionary processes was about same as finding that a fully operational Boeing 747 jumbo jet had been assembled by a tornado passing through a junkyard.

Turning that argument back on itself, Dawkins observed that any designer must be at least as complex as the objects designed.

"God," Dawkins said to loud applause, "is the ultimate 747."

He then proceeded to dismantle the probability arguments creationists use to convince the credulous that evolution is impossible.

Dawkins pointed to a number of gods -- Zeus, Thor, Ra -- who people once worshiped, sacrificed for, and prayed to. These gods are no longer in fashion. No one believes in them anymore.

The only difference between atheists and believers in the Abrahamic religions -- who are skeptics when it comes to these discarded gods -- says Dawkins, is that "Some of us just go one god further."

Dawkins urged what he called "the enormous numbers of atheists and humanists to stand up and be counted." The resulting critical mass, he asserted, would develop into a flood.

Dawkins sees a shifting of the tectonic plates when it comes to the public acceptance of non-belief. And Monday night, at the Lied Center, you could almost believe it was happening around you.


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