Mo Willems and Richard Dawkins: The tale of two talks...

Part of the reason for this post is just to say that I've finally been able to put up the Richard Dawkins' talk at the terry.ubc.ca site. This is essentially his "God Delusion" speech, and it happens to be available at a relatively high resolution (two files totalling about 350Mb) - if you have an hour to spare, it's definitely worth checking out.

Anyway, I quite enjoyed his talk (which was held on the 29th of April), although I suppose I would be giving this opinion as someone who more or less agrees wholeheartedly with him. If you watch the video, you'll find that he is quite funny, and that this humour works quite well to showcase some of the logic behind his views. On the other hand, I could see how some might find his delivery a little on the offensive side, but all in all, I think that sentiment would be primarily for those especially sensitive to the issue.

At the end of the talk, he was also gracious at entertaining a variety of questions, although for some reason, a vegetarianism lobby descended upon him on this day. The questions having the following gist: if religion has elevated humankind to this unworthy status, and if we were to instead follow the "we're all cousins" logic from evolutionary science, then why wouldn't other animals be afforded the same rights as humans? Or something like that...

Anyway, overall, he was a great communicator with a strongly (and at times, amusingly) worded message to deliver to boot. I think it would be great to get him back out to UBC in 2009 (during UBC's Darwin's bicentenary - some details of which I'll have more to talk about later).

Anyway, let's switch gears a little...

i-0efd4fc57cbdaab8fba141ab68753730-willems.jpg

Mo Willems in Vancouver - my son and daughter are in this picture somewhere.


Coincidently, that same week (a few days before actually), I was also lucky enough to have a ticket (as well as the rest of my family) to catch Mo Willems give a public presentation. Mr. Willems' fame travels in a completely different arena - aka, if you have a son or a daughter in the 3 to 8 year old set, then there's actually a good chance that Mr. Willems is one of their all time favourite authors. Although he's won a few Emmys for his animation work on Sesame Street, its been during the last few years, where he's really made his mark with children's books.

The classic in this case is "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus." This is such an awesome book, partly because it's really very funny, and partly because it's one of the only children's books we have (and my wife being a Grade One teacher, we have a LOT - over 1000 of them at home!) that my kids will actually yell back at.

At his talk, he was a great - very funny in person as well as a great presence for the hundreds of kids in attendance. I don't think it's an easy proposition to entertain a large number of children and also their parents, but he pulled it off brilliantly.

Anyway the question now, of course, is...

Can we pull together a connection between these two talks? Well,.. maybe - let's try this:

Here,we'll start my favourite Mo Willem's book, "Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct."

i-57f026bf58fa4c497bae370e229a313f-edwina.jpg


I've briefly written about this book before - when I did the scienceblogger's children's book meme a while back - but it essentially tells the story of a dinosaur (Edwina), who is super nice and loved by all. However, there is also this one kid (who has the best name ever - Reginald Von Hoobie Doobie), who has a problem with her, simply because dinosaurs should be extinct. This is not something that can be argued with, because it's just reality. In fact, he goes to great lengths to try and convince everyone that Edwina just shouldn't be possible - in other words, how can we love someone who shouldn't even be real.

(Spoiler alert ahead) Unfortunately for Reginald, nobody pays attention to him, basically because Edwina is just so nice (she bakes the best cookies!), and this gets Reginald all sad. Until that is... Edwina (being so nice), takes the time to sit down with Reginald to hear him out, to basically give a good listen: but in doing so, she then becomes convinced that, indeed yes, she shouldn't exist!

In which comes one of the prettiest endings ever - essentially, after discovering that she shouldn't exist (the picture in the book is classic here), we are told that she "just didn't care." and you are treated to this lovely graphic of her skipping away. Better still, the last page showcases Reginald and Edwina baking cookies together.

In hindsight, I think this ending is actually quite profound - I'm not sure if Mr. Willems was planning on mapping out an allegory on the relationship between science and religion - but if he was, he could be on to something. i.e. the good fight will only get you so far.

I think you'd only need to look at the Dawkins' talk, and the two conflicting camps in attendance who always seem to have plenty to say to each other and rarely (I suspect) change their minds about one thing or another...

More like this

The Science Creative Quarterly is seeking wondrous, thought provoking, and potentially slightly silly science questions. These we hope to present to our esteem Bill Hick, the Science Prick, who in turn will attempt his best to answer them in due course. As well, know that a little meat with…
So one of the things I'd like to accomplish this summer is to really get a move on on this children's book idea. This is an idea, I've had sitting around my head for a long long while. And I've decided that what I really need is someone to egg me on, which logically suggests my seeing if there is…
By way of Pharyngula, I saw something that I simply had to repeat here. Every august, James Kennedy - a thoroughly repulsive ultra-fundy preacher from Coral Ridge Ministries - runs a conference called "Reclaiming America for Christ". At this years conference, he featured a speech by Paul Jehle…
At SteelyKid's softball game today, the Pip provided an ideal cute-kid photo to use as a springboard to some SCIENCE! Or at least, a graph... Anyway, here's the Little Dude showing off how tall he's gotten: The Pip under Kate's coat. OK, really he's hiding under Kate's raincoat (after two…

after discovering that she should exist

I think you meant "shouldn't"

"how can love someone who shouldn't even be real."

how can WE love....

I'm not trying to be a pedantic jerk. It's just that this is one of my favorite books, and clarity is important when describing it.