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Dawkins 'Greatest show at Conference'

September 29, 2009 8:40 AM

Richard DawkinsBHA Vice President Professor Richard Dawkins spoke at the joint British Humanist Association (BHA) and Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats' (HSLD) fringe event at the Liberal Democrat annual conference in Bournemouth.

The meeting was chaired by Arnie Gibbons, chair of the HSLD, and also addressed by Andrew Copson, BHA Director of Education and Public Affairs. The auditorium was packed beyond its 300 person capacity and described by many delegates as the most popular fringe event during the conference.

Professor Dawkins read extracts from his latest bestseller, 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to the audience of delegates, MPs, peers and members of the BHA, HSLD and Dorset Humanists. He emphasised the importance of his new work, which presents the evidence for evolution and its significance in depth and in typically engaging and accessible language. Describing the richness of natural life on earth, and the infinite and awe-inspiring variation which we can observe, he asked rhetorically, 'Why would anyone want to write a book about anything else?'

Professor Dawkins spoke on the issue of creationism and in particular the need for better education in schools and wider in order that creationist claims against evolution can be refuted and exposed for the myths that they are. 'Evolution is a fact', he explained, explaining that the fossil evidence for evolution is 'wonderfully strong'.

In the question and answer session that followed the lecture, Professor Dawkins answered questions on subjects as wide-ranging as requests for advice for how to improve Religious Education (RE) in schools and the origins of life.

In response to questions on RE, Professor Dawkins explained the need for a balanced RE to be taught in all schools, and expressed his support for RE when RE is teaching about religions and not instruction in religion and includes the teaching of Humanism and non-religious philosophies. The alternatives - either ignorance of religion and culture through not teaching RE in schools, or the indoctrination of children in religion - should not be supported.

Speaking on the origins of life, he said, 'We may have grounds to consider the origins of life as implausible' given the 'incredibly improbable' chance of life existing and being sustained but that, through scientific advance and endeavour, we can seek to develop increasingly sophisticated theories that explain how life began on this planet, and probably on others of the billions of planets in the universe.