Richard Dawkins is Coming to My Campus (And I Need Your Help)!

This Friday, October 11th, the great evolutionary biologist and pope of the Atheists Richard Dawkins will be stopping by my campus as part of his An Appetite for Wonder book tour. I first heard of this only a week ago in that Atheism class that I kind of sort of mentioned in that one post. If you’re familiar with what I tend to post on this blog, you know I don’t really gush about popular figures. While I admire plenty of people, I don’t tend to have specific idols. (Oscar Wilde may be the closest to an exception, but I’m not very foppish and don’t believe in the mighty sovereignty of aestheticism). However, I must say that I became inordinately excited that Dawkins was coming to campus (and that the event is freaking FREE for students).

Richard Dawkins - Appetite for Wonder US Book Tour

I need your help. 

I first heard about Dawkins in relation to his ideas on religion, undoubtedly through YouTube. It was shortly afterwards that I looked into his books. I have The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype, gifted to me by a good friend of mine and fellow Dawkins admirer of sorts. The only books of his that I have read so far are The Blind Watchmaker (fantastic read to get a better grip on the basics of evolution) and The God Delusion (an entertaining and often insightful look at the arguments against the belief in God). While I don’t agree with every single idea that comes out of his mouth, I do agree with many of his points, his passion for science, and his all-around humor.

What I need your help with is coming up with a question for Dawkins during the Q&A portion of the event. A mic will be given to the audience, so that people can ask him questions. I’d love to ask him a question, but I do not yet know what I want to ask him exactly. I have an idea of what I want to get at, but I don’t know how to phrase it.

This is where your help comes in.

One of my thoughts concerns Dawkins’ continual rejection of the assertion that Dawkins is himself a fundamentalist – just a fundamentalist of science rather than a Christian fundamentalist. I’ve read and heard his replies and I do not want to ask him this question that he has head perhaps hundreds of times.

What I want to get at is whether or not he acknowledges the merits of religion – not a specific religion, but the concept of religion in general. Religion is wildly popular – that’s a gross, gross understatement. It is a worldwide phenomenon and it seems so… natural. Religion appeals to our humanity in a way that science does not quite do. It’s true that science has the capacity to be wondrous, awe-inspiring, and beautiful – poetic, even – but it doesn’t have the emotional oomph that religion seems to have. Humans are magical thinkers. We can not help but to initially attribute phenomena to supernatural forces with workings beyond our human grasp.

Science lacks the spiritual element (figuratively speaking). Sure, scientists hold conferences and schmooze with each other here and there, but it doesn’t provide that connectedness that religion generally seems to have. Of course, unfortunately, pretty much all the major religions are salvationist and guilt-based, teaching people that they are not good enough as they are and that they need to work toward some better transcendental life or some such nonsense. That is no good obviously, but that does not mean that religion in itself is bad, does it?

According to people like Dawkins, science and rationality is enough to amaze us, to keep us enthralled with life, the world, and everything. But where does irrationality fit into all of this? Surely, he isn’t supporting a Vulcan-like existence, where everyone must always be logical at every point of life…

Can you help me formulate a question around this? Or even come up with other questions? What do you want me to ask Dawkins (if I do in fact get a chance to ask him anything)? You have until Friday, October 11th 7PM (PST) to get in on the action, so please, please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!

Speed Dating: Campus Clubs Version

Spread across the lovely Park Blocks in the heart of campus, white tents line the mossy walkways. The rain and the monocloud have decided to skip this part of town (for the time being), leaving us with a glorious day to mingle amongst our fellow academic compadres. The enthusiasm is electric. And it helps to having a rocking live band in the middle of it all.

“Come row with the dragonboat team!”

“Spin the campus housing wheel for some swag!”

“Here, have a frisbee.”

And the two words that college students love more than “bongs” and “beer”: “FREE FOOD!”

I love the Party in the Park that happens during the first week of the fall term each year. While I already have a fairly full-ish plate with classes and a new job, I can’t help checking out what the campus has to offer in terms of stuff that doesn’t include being holed up in the library for three hours. You know, social stuff. It’s all so exciting. All these different groups of people with the common interest of wanting to get together and have a good time. Students flit from table to table, where current club members tell us all about how great and wonderful and fun their club is and why you should join and before you know it, you feel like there was a connection and you give them your name…

What inevitably happens, though, is I sign up for twenty different and equally tantalizing clubs and then maybe show up to two meetings – maybe three. Same thing every year and I know it’s going to happen just like that, and yet, the pattern continues. Why?

Could it be from a deep, inner longing to be a part of something – to belong? All these people in all these groups, these mini-tribes- can I be a part of it, too? Will you be my friend? Or will you reject me, like I absolutely positively irrationally know you will…

Ahem, excuse me, my fingers must have slipped on the keyboard.

What I’m getting at is that… Well, I don’t have a single, solid point. So let’s bullet point this bitch:

  • Everyone should join some sort of club, especially if you’re new to the school – spending your whole day studying won’t help you reach fulfillment, Poindexter
  • Or at the very least, have a friend – or if that’s overreaching, just an acquaintance – to small talk with once in a while [Even a small talk curmudgeon like me enjoys some light conversation with someone once in a while]
  • I miss being a part of student government [Sometimes. And then I remember why it’s ultimately unhealthy for me, but that’s a topic for a separate post]
  • Macadamia nut cookies are the bomb
  • No matter how antisocial a person like me seems, I still love people [Really, I honest-to-goodness do, but don’t tell anyone]

All in all, the world is beautiful, people are awesome, school is… school, and the meaning of life is still 42.

What clubs are you in or have you been in? Any interesting experiences? What is the importance of clubs and other social gatherings to you? 

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