Posts Tagged ‘richard dawkins’

My Life in Science

Sunday, September 27th, 2015 | Distractions, Science


Recently Richard Dawkins spoke at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. He is flogging his new book, My Life in Science, which is a second book of memoirs. It was ably chaired by my friend Chris Hassall, who made a natural choice as a biology lecturer at the University of Leeds.

The format was a 20-30 minute conversation in which Dawkins told a few anecdotes and read a few things out. Some of them very funny, though Elina felt the obscurity of the subject made them less enjoyable. The second half was Q&A which eventually drifted off religion but was mostly a bit dull.

Overall, the event was enjoyable though it could have been a lot better. Some of it was a bit boring and Dawkins actually taking about something interesting rather than re-hashing anecdotes and answering unimaginative questions would have been a lot better.

Caught in the Pulpit

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 | Books

Not only does the audiobook of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind feature Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola reading their work, but it also includes a foreword by Richard Dawkins, also read by the man himself. I was hard before it had even finished downloading.

The book itself is about a study by Dennett and LaScola on ministers who have stopped believing. Most of them are trapped in this difficult situation – their family, friends, and livelihoods are tied up in church ministry, so admitting their non-belief is typically not an option.

Yet it is apparently widespread. Many of the people they interviewed share a common desire to help people, but think that the stories contained within their holy texts are nonsense.


In the eyes of the innocent

Sunday, March 7th, 2010 | Thoughts

I love Richard Dawkins. But sometimes I think he is a bit too nieve. Take for example the recent goings on on the Forum. A few weeks ago they announced that the forum was going to be replaced by a new system. A system which was “similar to a forum” but had some differences, most notably threads would be tagged instead of categorised and that all threads would be moderated.

They announced they would be leaving the forum operational for 30 days and then replacing it with the new system. However two days later the forum was locked down with a message from Richard saying the following…

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this…

You can find the entire thread here. Needless the say the letter that was written wasn’t in any way offensive – it was very pleasant and upbeat. But never the less it attracted widespread abuse from forum users. Here is why I think the reaction was nieve though…

Firstly, Richard’s first assumption is wrong. “What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that?” The answer actually is write a letter. Post a YouTube video. Visit /b. Basically anything on the internet attracts that kind of abuse, it saddens me that, that is the case but unfortunately that is how the internet is. Every time I post a YouTube video someone makes a stupid, inane and abusive comment, that’s life unfortunately.

Secondly I think it’s also a mistake to assume these comments are coming from people sympathetic to your cause. I suspect they didn’t. One possibility is they came from religious people just looking for any way to get to him but I suspect such comments actually came from general internet trolls who don’t really care about science, reason, debate or maybe even Dawkins, generally get off on the idea of annoying religious and non-religious people and just wanted to cause trouble. Basically imagine an even younger, more irriguous version of my friend Will.

I also suspect that it may be a nieve thought to think you can control and moderate the internet. I suspect a lot of the user base will be lost because people don’t like moderation because of the pressure it puts you under. However I could be wrong about this, only time will tell. At very least though you can see why this would annoy people.

Everybody loves Dawkins

Sunday, February 14th, 2010 | Humanism

On Tuesday we held our annual debate at Atheist Society as to whether Professor Dawkins had been a positive or negative influence on the whole atheism discussion.

To my surprise almost everyone came out in a huge sea of support for Dawkins and rightfully so too!

Dawkins fans unite

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 | Humanism

Monday saw a meetup organised on in Leeds. Of course, the last thing Leeds actually needs is yet another splinter group for the whole free thinking movement but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

The turnout was quite good, 15-20 people for just a pub meetup and the first time it had been done too. Myself and Rich basically just spent the entire night name dropping having recently attended the AHS press launch.

It also turns out that the Scarborough Hotel is quite a nice pub. You learn something new every day.

Richard Dawkins meetup Rich posing Rich posing

AHS press launch

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009 | Events, Humanism, Life

Wednesday saw us head down to London for the launch of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, better known as the AHS. We managed to get ten of us down there from Leeds – a number unmatched by any other society with the closest competitors only achieving five (not that I’m bragging of course 😀 ).

The day itself went quite well, we eventually managed to get the technical sorted and all of the speeches were very good. We got some good pictures too which will do very nicely for publicity not to mention the endless angles we got video from.

I met Richard Dawkins, I said “what kind of microphone would you like?” and he said “a lecturn will be fine.” That is my Richard Dawkins story 😀 .

The hotel was alright, we had quite a big room for the amount we paid. I think I managed to spend as much money on taxis getting to and from the train station I did as my train tickets which I found quite amusing but the important thing is, I actually made my train (unlike certain other people who had to go via Manchester at 4am to get down there).

All in all if the AHS can continue like this, we’re going to do very well. Congratulations all on a victory well deserved.

Chris at Giraffe Norm delivers his speech Leeds A-Soc members pose with Richard Dawkins

The Dawkins debate

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 | Humanism

Atheist Society last night composed of a meeting regarding whether Richard Dawkins had been a positive or negative influence. There were some excellent speeches and obviously we concluded that he was but it was a very worthwhile debate to have none the less.

The real debate point though is why so few committee members made it to the social. Norm, Nicola, Charlie (which makes up all of the exec) along with Sophie and Liz were all missing, it’s a damn fine job we have dedicated members like Rosie to come and get things going even if she was only there for a few drinks.

Kate spent her usual evening flirting with the DJ and I spent most of the evening bragging about London to those who didn’t come. We also had a few new faces at the meeting which was great, indeed, Johnny joined up there and then. He’s clearly a man who knows where the party’s at.