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Dawkins in Wellington

Well, Richard Dawkins was in Wellington last night to do a talk as part of the NZ International Arts Festival.

Jacqui and I had bought tickets as soon as we heard he was coming (months ago!) and were amongst first in line to get to a good seat. our friends Raquel and Cristina were with us.

We settled about half way back, not so close as to be craning our necks; not so far as to be unable to see.

 The view from our seats.  I put the phone away when Richard came on to the stage.

The room was filled almost to capacity.  This, I remind you, is not a rock concert or a famous actor.  This is a talk by a scientist.  And the room is filled to capacity.  I hope this is a sign of the times.  I hope that scientific literacy is improving.  10 years ago, I don't think a science writer could have attracted such a large crowd in a small city like Wellington.  Perhaps we're putting myth, superstition and religion behind us.  Perhaps.

The talk started with a short introduction by a local science teacher (whose name I didn't catch).  The guy did a pretty good job of describing Dawkin's career to date, although I'm sure he could have gotten away with "Well, here's Richard!" since pretty much everyone there knew exactly who he was.

When he got up to do his talk, there was about 5-6 seconds of silence while he adjusted his glasses and what have you. It seemed like 20 minutes...

Anyway, he did eventually start, and what commenced was an excellent talk about various aspects of Evolutionary theory.  I found myself nodding and chuckling throughout, but unfortunately I have the memory of a sieve, so I can't really remember exactly what he spoke about. 

He spoke a bit about the unlikelyness that each individual person exists.  For me to be born, my mother had to meet my father at a very particular time.  They had to ahem, make me.. ahem... at exactly the right time otherwise I'd be someone else.

The same had to be true for all 4 of my grandparents, all 8 great grandparents and all 16 great-great grand parents, right back to all eternity.  But of course, these things are only unlikely when trying to predict before the fact.  After the fact, the probably is exactly 1, since here we are.

His point was that we should never ever say that our lives are boring, pointless or dull. Just a few minutes contemplating the fantastic fact of our existence should be enough to remove any thought of pointless nihilism.

He spoke about the undeniable evidence for evolution, and a bit about Evolution of Gratitude (which he was going to talk further on, but ran out of time).

After the talk some questions from the floor.  I was partially glad (and a little disappointed!) that where no questions from angry creationists.  Perhaps this is testament to the education system in New Zealand!

Then some book signing.  I quickly purchased 2 books - The Ancestor's Tale and A Devil's Chaplain.  I already have copies of both, but back in my mum's house (11548.8 miles away).

I took The Ancestors Tale, and Jacqui brought the other.  He signed them and smiled :)

I don't often suffer from being star struck, but today, just a little :)


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