Last night, Richard Dawkins gave a lecture at UC San Diego and accepted the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest, awarded by Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The ceremony and lecture were free to attend, but no seat reservations were available, so we waited in line for an hour and a half to get seats. It was well worth it, in my opinion. The talk he gave was titled, “The Purpose of Purpose”. I won’t bother summarizing it for you, since The Austringer had a very in-depth post about the same talk, given at Michigan State University last month, even down to the opening jokes. I went to the Official Richard Dawkins website in the hopes of finding the actual PowerPoint presentation available there, to no avail. I’m sorry to say the site is very poorly designed and doesn’t seem to provide a lot of information on his various appearances.

If you scroll to the bottom of the Austringer post, the author has kindly described the Q&A session, with questions “submitted by the audience and selected by Prof. Dyer”. Unfortunately for Dr. Dawkins and all of the attendees, UCSD didn’t have the foresight to select questions beforehand. Rather, they chose to open the floor up to unmoderated questions from the audience. As a result, the Q&A session was among the most painful I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit through. Precisely half of the five questions were atheist-bait from hardline Christians, ranging from the tired “Stalin, Hitler, and other secular humanists killed more people than religion” to “I plan to have as many children as I can (Quiverfull, anyone?) and raise them in the Christian faith”.

To their great credit, each of these questions had clearly been planned and written beforehand, and were edited into concise, one to two sentence treatises in defense of their faith. On the other end of the spectrum, the remaining questions were from Dawkins-fanboys, stammering and stumbling over their words for upwards of five minutes before finally spitting out something resembling a question, often prompting two or more follow-up questions from Dr. Dawkins, attempting to determine what the actual question was. All in all, an unmitigated disaster. I hope UCSD has learned their lesson.

As an added bonus, please watch one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time, Richard Dawkins Reads His Hate Mail.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography Honors Evolutionary Biologist, Richard Dawkins, in Public Ceremony and Lecture

The Austringer » Richard Dawkins and the Purpose of Purpose – The Official Richard Dawkins Website