Thanks to my good friend Shawn and his lovely wife Jess I got to see Richard Dawkins last night. When he asked me if I wanted to go, I jumped at the chance. After all the man is practically a rock star in his community. I even referred to this commercial for Intel:
I wonder who my own theological equivalent rock star would be. I’m not sure. CS Lewis if he were still alive. Maybe N. T. Wright.
Anyway, the two of us met for a beer with some of the folks from the Skeptical Society (might not be the actual group name) and the Charlotte Atheists and Agnostics. I got to meet some nice gents and pimp Archangel. We talked briefly about religion in general, music, and idle chit chat. Time was short so we didn’t get into much trouble.
The talk itself was good. We got front row seats which was truly awesome. Dawkins mostly used his time as an opportunity to do some readings from The Greatest Show on Earth. Can’t blame him for that and they were good, informative, and relatively free of cringe-worthy moments. Perhaps the biggest problem I had with what he said was the notion that evolution is as factual as the earth being round. To a point I would agree with that. Evolution as a process happens. I don’t think that can be disputed or at least hasn’t been falsified (yet) and he doesn’t think it ever will be (but he does say it could be which is splitting hairs juuuuust a little I think). What I do take issue with is the notion that that process is what took single celled organisms and made them into people. That’s nowhere near as certain as a round earth in my opinion.
He also made a few statements about religion and indoctrination. He spoke of a geologist that he knows. The man is well educated, apparently highly thought of in his field, and yet he remains a Young Earth Creationist (no I didn’t catch the gents name). According to Dawkins the man even said that even if all of the evidence in the universe pointed to an old Earth (apparently he doesn’t think any of it does) he would still remain a YEC because in his opinion that is what the scripture plainly taught. Dawkins said (and I can’t quote him directly) something like that proved how dangerous indoctrination was. I suppose it’s not possible that the man decided for himself, for good reasons, that scripture was true. I don’t know what those reasons are and I don’t agree with Young Earth folks, but I’m not going to wag the indoctrination finger.
There was a Q&A afterward that wasn’t exactly inspiring. There were a few softballs like “Where do you find the patience to deal with believers?” and the couple of adversarial questions he got were fairly weak. I would have liked to see some folks who really disagreed with him and had what they felt were good reasons to step up. That or a debate would have been feistier.
The true high point of the evening was when we went to a pub after it was all over. I sat and talked with a few of the CAA people about morality, the Decalogue, the Fall, and a brief skim around the problem of evil. There was a moment there when my snark kicked in. A guy sat beside me and once he knew I was a Christian he asked me why I believed in Christ. It’s not a question that I could do justice to quickly, but I figured I would give it a shot.
Before I could get so much as a half dozen words out he started trotting out the whole notion that the Gospels weren’t written until much later and everything was filled in so that he could fulfill prophecies after the fact and oh my gosh if you’d just read this book and be rational and reasonable. Well I slapped my hands on the table and said, “All I have to do is read a BOOK? Why didn’t someone tell me?” Perhaps not my proudest moment. It did give me pause to think about all the times atheists/agnostics have probably been treated the same way, “If you’d only read the Bible/CS Lewis/A Case For Christ you’d see the light!” So that helped me some with perspective.
He didn’t stay much longer but the two folks I did finish out the evening talking to were quite lovely and we had an actual conversation. It was cut short by the lateness of the hour, but I do hope that through the magic of the internets we’ll be able to pick it up again. It was nice sharing a table with a group of people I couldn’t disagree with more on religion (one guy said that “it’s all BS” and he realized this at the age of 14 after preaching in a charismatic church for a year) and for it to remain civil (for the most part) and fascinating. I’m eager to repeat the experience. I think it would be ultra-cool if we could get some of the more even tempered folks from the CAA and the more even tempered folks in my Christian circles and do a pub crawl with a Zoom H4 recorder.
We’ll see if we can make that happen.