An Evening with Richard Dawkins

I just returned from an inspirational evening which essentially came about because of a misunderstanding.

A couple of weeks ago, while at a bar, my good friend Bryan asked me if I knew who Richard Dawkins was. He had tickets for an event with him and couldn’t attend because he’d be out of town.

What I heard was, “Do you know who Stephen Hawking is?”

Wide-eyed, I replied, “Yes! The science guy! With the books!” Clearly not a highly defining description.

A week later, I emailed Bryan, asking him if he had been serious about the tickets to see Stephen Hawking. I mean, we had had a couple of drinks, and it was possible that the offer had been made in jest.

His reply, “You’re drunk. The event is for Richard Dawkins.”

In my head, I thought, “The Family Feud guy? No, no, he’s not a science guy. Or, maybe he is.” A quick Wikipedia search revealed the former game show host Richard Dawson, not Richard Dawkins, who would not be speaking, as he’s no longer alive.

Wikipedia, however, did provide me information on who I was looking for – Richard Dawkins. After reading his biography, I was intrigued. I was especially interested in reading one of his recent books, The God Delusion, as someone who considers herself spiritual, yet has struggled with concepts presented by organized religion since a young girl. I made it about half way through the book before tonight’s event, which was enough to give me a good feel for Dawkins’ philosophy.

There weren’t many people at the event. What I noticed, though, was that everyone I met was passionate. One person shared his experiences living in Des Moines and meeting political candidates leading up to the caucus. Another talked about her love of robots and making things. Yet another talked about a campaign to return America’s government  to its secular roots. Another shared about software that taught children to read. And, Dawkins talked about atheism. And the unfairness of tax laws that favor religious organizations. And science. And how to get involved with his foundation.

Misunderstanding notwithstanding, a lovely evening all in all.