Richard Dawkins was in Montreal on Saturday October 21st, and I attended his lecture “Queerer than We Suppose: The Strangeness of Science”. Although he’s on a tour promoting his new book (The God Delusion), this lecture wasn’t a direct promotion. He steered clear of talking about atheism until he was asked about it in the question and answer session at the end. Instead he talked about quantum theory, the mind’s model of the real world, and the idea of “middle world” where we reside, where rocks are solid and falling hurts. Middle world is between micro world and cosmic world, between the world where rocks are mostly empty space and can be passed through with ease, and the world where rocks are insignificant and light years can be travelled with ease.
It was a great lecture. I don’t think I actually learned anything (apart from a few good quotes), but it was more inspirational than educational. Dawkins managed to get a few digs in at things like intelligent design without turning the lecture into an atheistic rant (not that I would’ve minded that).
My favourite line:
Before 1859 [life] would’ve seemed very very odd indeed, now it just seems very odd.
My favourite quote:
Wittgenstein asked a friend “Tell me, why do people always say it was natural for men to assume that the sun went round the earth, rather than that the earth was rotating?” His friend said, “Well, obviously, because it looks as if the sun is going round the earth.” To which the philosopher replied, “Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth was rotating?”
My favourite exchange at the end:
Audience member: Why are the world leaders all insane?
Dawkins: They’re not all insane, are they? Well, ok, looking south of the border…
Audience member: We now have our share of south of the border here.
Dawkins: Oh, I can only convey my sympathy and hope it doesn’t last.