Just got back to the hotel after having lunch with Richard Dawkins. He came up and introduced himself and he said he recognized my name but couldn’t remember where. I told him that I’d written about him over the years, sometimes taking him to task for various things, but that I was in general a big admirer of his.
He asked what I had taken him to task for and I mentioned the situation where he’d signed a petition in the UK calling for a law to prevent parents from teaching their children their religion. He did remember that and said he was glad to have his name off that petition. We ended up sitting at the same table for lunch, along with Rob Pennock, Carl Bajema and three others.
We had an interesting conversation about many things, from the importance of teaching comparative religion to the problems with science education in this country to the “Dick to the Dawk” video on Youtube (which elicited the comment “I’m afraid I just don’t get American humor” from him) . Rob Pennock told us about some of the latest research they’re doing in the Digital Evolution Lab at MSU, where they’re testing some of Dawkins’ ideas about how altruism is a selectable trait.
We had a very interesting woman at our table who recently left her career as a Navy chaplain because she slowly lost her religious beliefs and could no longer keep up the pretense. That led to an interesting conversation, initiated by Dawkins, about how best to approach people about their religious beliefs, how to talk to them and get them to understand that much of what they believe is false.
Dawkins was, as one would expect, engaging and charming and very interesting to talk to.