Is that a fact? | CLT Blog

Is that a fact?

Posted on 16 Oct 2009 by Minimum Failure

Dr. Richard Dawkins

Dr. Richard Dawkins speaks at Queens University, Charlotte. Photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

This is the opiniony part:

The thing one must remember about scientists, and this is my opinion, is that they expect to be wrong.  They allow for wrongness. Science gets it wrong, often. It’s a rare occurrence when scientists observe something that agrees with a hypothesis: the wobble of a distant pinprick of light, the recession of a virulent disease, the documentation of a species previously unknowable to any human being. From where I stand, and for all its wrongness, I cannot think of another institution that has positively progressed the human condition than the one with the long list of objective observers, from Copernicus to Galileo, to Darwin, to Curie, and now, to Dawkins.

This is the newsy part:

The famous (or is it infamous?) Dr. Richard Dawkins took to the lectern at Dana Auditorium on the campus of Queens University Tuesday night, and immediately he flipped an infrequently challenged cultural axiom right on its head. “Rottweilers,” he said. “Are really very sweet, gentle dogs.” A collective chuckle reverberated throughout the audience, as Dawkins was commenting on how he is often introduced, and how he was introduced that night, as evolution’s most acerbic, unrepentant advocate, as “Charles Darwin’s Rottweiler.”

He’s on a book tour, so Dawkins spent the first half-hour reading from “The Greatest Show on Earth,” a new tome in which he lays out the evidence to propel evolution from a theory, in the colloquial sense of the word, to the lofty realm of scientific fact. Though he does not equate the ethics and motives of holocaust-naysayers with evolution-refuters, he casts them both into the mold of history-deniers. These “history-deniers,” according to Dawkins, obfuscate truth; they place a wedge between education and facts (supported by evidence). And Dawkins’s arguments are largely appeals for educational reform. Dawkins doesn’t lack clarity, as he writes, “I shall show the irrefragable power of the inference that evolution is a fact.” and also “… all except the woefully uninformed are forced to accept the fact of evolution.”

After his readings, Dawkins took questions from the audience, many of which came from obvious fans of his work.  After all, Dawkins is a celebrity.  His penchant for articulation and enthusiasm for scientific discovery is as infectious as it is palpable.  However, he does have his critics. Many people probed and picked the mind of the former Oxford professor. He showed patience, answering them all, even the less relevant ones. At one point, a young woman stood alone at a microphone and flatly asked Dawkins, the recipient of numerous awards for his prolific writings and scientific advocacy, “What if you’re wrong?”

He answered her, to the effect of his and the audience’s satisfaction, took a few more questions, and then was ushered by the security detail into a lobby where he signed everybody’s book. On to the next city…

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