Richard Dawkins talks atheism, proof and science

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The evolutionary biologist and former Oxford University professor spoke for the Philomathean Society’s Annual Oration


Penn students, Philadelphia residents and even one brave soul who flew in from Atlanta, Ga. crowded into Irvine Auditorium last night to hear a polarizing figure speak. 

Richard Dawkins — evolutionary biologist and former Oxford University professor — addressed a crowd of about 1,500 with a lecture titled “Proof, Science and Skepticism” for the Philomathean Society’s Annual Oration, in celebration of the group’s 200th anniversary.

In honor of Dawkins’ contributions to his field, he was awarded the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Wilton Krogman Award. He is the fourth recipient of this award, joining the ranks of such distinguished researchers as Donald Johanson, who discovered the 3.2 million year-old hominid fossil “Lucy.”

Dawkins’ oration, however, focused primarily on a chapter of his new book, “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True,” titled “Why Bad Things Happen.” Dawkins, a pioneer of the gene-centric view of evolution and the originator of the popular internet term “meme,” discussed the nature of misfortunes both biological and physical, emphasizing the differences between the two.

“The universe isn’t out to get you,” Dawkins said. “It doesn’t know or care about your existence.”

Written By: Allison Herzig
continue to source article at thedp.com

7 COMMENTS

  1. I would have liked to ask what the rational basis was for non-kin altruistic behaviour and whether teaching values about fairness, a concept which was clearly debunked in the beginning of the talk, and cooperation in schools was misleading children and ill preparing them for UK/US society in which a small portion of the population has a large majority of the wealth.

    • Enjoyed that! Especially this bit:

      “My fish has to be your fish has to be everyone’s fish…If you go back far enough, everyone is either the ancestor of all modern humans or the ancestor of none of them. There is no intermediate.”

      It’s such an excellent demonstration of just how powerful logic can be if the assumptions you start with are rational and based in science.

      In reply to #5 by AndyLS:

      I would have liked to ask what the rational basis was for non-kin altruistic behaviour and whether teaching values about fairness, a concept which was clearly debunked in the beginning of the talk, and cooperation in schools was misleading children and ill preparing them for UK/US society in which a small portion of the population has a large majority of the wealth.

      If you need a rationale to behave altruistically then it’s not altruism. Kin Selection and reciprocal altruism explain why altruistic behaviour evolved but these are not reasons why we ought to behave altruistically. We do not need to teach children about the values of fairness and cooperation, most already appreciate them from a very young age.

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