Behind the Fringe: Richard Dawkins at the Lib Dem conference #ldconf

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For some fringe events at this year’s conference I have been OK to pitch up with a couple of minutes to spare and still expect to get a seat. However for the ‘Reason under threat – the war on irrationality’ event with Richard ‘God Delusion’ Dawkins, I wisely plumped for getting there about 20 minutes early. Even then I ended up fairly near the back!

I found myself sitting next to an interesting chap called Alex, from Maidenhead, who explained that when he was a kid he was brought up religiously, and was taught rather confusingly that God loves him, but also that God hates him and wants to kill him. I suspect Professor Dawkins would have something to say about that!

The event itself consisted largely of the good Professor reading out excerpts from his new book The Greatest Show on Earth – The Evidence for Evolution along with some commentary. Here are a few highlights:

* He used a good analogy, for those who do not believe in evolution, trying to imagine how an argument from people who refuse to believe in the Roman Empire would pan out – which would mean Latin never existed and all languages with a Latin root had sprung up fully-formed;

* He suggested that those who deny evolution are on a par with holocaust deniers, as he claims the evidence for evolution is at least as compelling as that for the holocaust, even taking into account eye-witnesses. As usual, he is nothing if not controversial!

* He thinks that it would be easy for those who deny evolution to prove it by unearthing an anachronistic fossil – but of all the millions of fossils ever discovered, not one has ever been out of place;

* He mapped out a very amusing scenario, based around the supposed migration after the flood in the Bible, asking why all the animals ended up where they did and why there is no trace of any of them en-route.

After this he took questions, and I am pleased to say I managed to get one in. I asked about his view regarding faith schools, and what we as a party and country should do about it. He explained that he is in favour of religious education but as a subject where you learn about the history of religion and how it has affected our culture. He is passionately against indoctrination of children into religion and finds it bizarre that children can be labelled Catholic children or Muslim children just because of what their parents believe. He pointed out that you would never label a child a Monetarist child or a Keynesian child!

A few more highlights from his answers to the questions:

* He described a fascinating and ongoing experiment by Richard Lenski, an American evolutionary biologist who has simulated the equivalent of millions of years of human evolution by using bacteria in flasks and transferring a small sample to a new flask every day for over 20 years;

* He agreed that a major gap in our knowledge is the origin of life itself and that it needs further research;

* He left us with a rather odd thought. He explained that it is possible we are the only planet in the universe to have life on it. However, he said that if that is the case then it would demonstrate the event that triggered life was so staggeringly unlikely that … He didn’t finish the sentence but we all got the message – some sort of divine intervention. He also made it clear that he does think there is life on other planets!

It was a fascinating discussion and I must admit to being a little bit star-struck. Dawkins is a real hero of mine and it was great to see him in the flesh.

(As a postscript there was a certain fluffy pachyderm sitting not too far away from me at the event who afterwards actually got to sit with Richard Dawkins and get his photo taken!)

* Mark Thompson blogs at Mark Reckons.

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13 Comments

  • Andrew Clark 23rd Sep '09 - 1:27pm

    I can assure you that Professor Dawkins was not suggesting divine intervention – the rest of the article is good though.

  • He didn’t finish the sentence but we all got the message – some sort of divine intervention…. WHAT!!!!
    pax vobiscum.

  • This guy Dawkins is a charlatan, out to plug his book – at a political conference! of all places. Evolution is a pseudo-science that devalues real science.

    The theory of evolution is dead on arrival. It requires some way for chemicals to form living, reproducing creatures that could mutate and evolve into everything else through natural selection. Chemistry denies evolutionists any plausible starting point. Evolution has no chance of winning the race whatsoever because it is a non-starter.

    Many people are unaware that fossil records do not support the theory of evolution. In fact fossiles contain some of the strongest possible evidence against the transformation of one life-form into another, especially when applied to so-called “transitional” fossils which allegedly show the evolutiion of whales, birds, and horses.

    Furthermore, early geologists misinterpreted many rock formations, supposing them to be much older than they actually are. Scientific observation of modern geologic processes, including floods and volcanic eruptions, show that rock formations identical to those that were previously thought to have taken millions of years to form, can be formed in a FEW DAYS.

    Modern discoveries in biology, especially cellular biology, also make it clear why a species cannot evolve into other species. What has really hammered the nail into evolution’s coffin is the new discipline of microbiology. Analysis of DNA and proteins has demolished many of the conjectures evolutionists have made concerning the relationship between various organisms.

    Evolution has a dirty little secret. Racism. This is the ugly secret that evolutionists don’t want to discuss; that Darwin, Huxley and many of the early advocates stated publicly that Asians, Africans, Australian Aborigines and other non-white, non-European groups were evolutionary throwbacks. Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, was a pioneer in the early field of eugenics which was the study of skills by ethnic groups. While Galton’s work was relatively harmless, Hitler’s work — to synthesize natural selection by exterminating a race of people — was not.

  • So, Andy, what is your theory? You fail to offer an alternative to evolution, or if you did, you weren’t very clear.

  • [Don’t feed the trolls]
    [Don’t feed the trolls]
    [Don’t feed the trolls]
    [Don’t feed the trolls]
    [Don’t feed the trolls]
    [Don’t feed the trolls]
    [Don’t feed the trolls]
    [Don’t feed the trolls]

    :-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-)

  • I agree with Andy. If people really had evolved they would be complex creatures with limited powers of reasoning and prone to making errors such as belief in God and intelligent design. Obviously a Devine entity wouldn’t have created anything so flawed. 🙂

    As for peak oil, that’s out the window. Thankfully all than nonsense about it taking years to form is replaced by creating some more in a few days. Phew, problem solved.

    The real problem with evolution is that when you have a gap in the fossil record between A and C, and you find fossil B, you now have two gaps instead of one. The gap between A & B and the gap between B & C. So no matter how many fossils you find, you’ll never plug the gaps.

    I’m not sure if Andy is a troll or sincere. Do trolls evolve into anything ? or did they once start out as little Goblins.

  • Andy doesn’t list any scientific references for his claims. Until he does that his comments lack validity.

    Dawkins’ reading addressed the fossil gaps issue with an interesting anaology about a man who is murdered. A CCTV camera in a house shows his butler with a manevolvent look and a gun about to enter where the man who was murdered (A). Then another camera shows the butler steathily leaving with the gun after the man has been murdered (C). There is not a camera where the man who murdered (B). Therefore, there is a gap between A and B and between B and C. However, it is obvious what has happened.

  • Fossil records do not blend by small changes – given the sheer vast number out there you’d think we’d have found them by now, but we haven’t.

    Fossils beds contain billions of fossils stretching back millions and millions of years. The small transitional links that Dildo Dawkins claims happened do not exist. Period. They are just not there. The entire fossil record is like the Cambrian explosion – new life forms appear fully formed without small transitional links to other life forms. Darwinian evolution did not happen then and is not happening now.

    The thing about Darwinism is that it is all based on speculation and not fact. Call this philosophy or guesswork or whatever you want, but it is not science. If it is correct as many of imagine it is, why can’t you see ANY of the connecting links or intermediate forms of species. Ok ‘scientists’ later revised Darwin’s theory with their “Punctuated Equilibrium” theory, supposedly making evolution invisible in the fossil record. What complete nonsense. This theory is not verifiable in any way. Where are the half-evolved dinosaurs?

    Even if evolution takes millions and millions of years, we should still be able to see some stages of its process. But, we simply don’t observe any partially-evolved fish, frogs, lizards, birds, dogs, cats among us. None whatsover, and you think we would’ve found something by now. Every species of plant and animal is complete and fully-formed. The uncomfortable truth is that that they came into existence fully formed and complete.

  • Dave Besag

    What you are describing is not science. No, to a scientist it it would not be obvious what had happened, since the event you describe is only partially observable. You can’t just fill in the gaps with assumptions and generalizations using non-existent data.

    To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning and by collecting data through observation and experiments, and by formulating and testing of hypotheses.

    Real science constantly develops and improves existing models and methods. This is not what Dawkins does – he merely speculates and tries to generate controversy, so that he may flog a book or two, until his misinterpretation and blunders get debunked by proper scientists.

    Example: when Einstein developed Relativity, he did not in any way refute or discount Newton’s Principia. If you take out the astronomically large, the vanishingly small and the extremely fast from Einstein’s theories — all the phenomena that Newton would not have been able to observe — Newton’s equations still remain valid.

  • I’ll give Andy one point. The word obvious should be replaced by something like extremely probable. However, I’m not willing to discuss anything with someone whose arguments include the phrase ‘Dildo Dawkins’.

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