Penn students, Philadelphia residents and even one brave soul who flew in from Atlanta, Ga. crowded into Irvine Auditorium last night to hear a polarizing figure speak.
Richard Dawkins — evolutionary biologist and former Oxford University professor — addressed a crowd of about 1,500 with a lecture titled “Proof, Science and Skepticism” for the Philomathean Society’s Annual Oration, in celebration of the group’s 200th anniversary.
In honor of Dawkins’ contributions to his field, he was awarded the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Wilton Krogman Award. He is the fourth recipient of this award, joining the ranks of such distinguished researchers as Donald Johanson, who discovered the 3.2 million year-old hominid fossil “Lucy.”
Dawkins’ oration, however, focused primarily on a chapter of his new book, “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True,” titled “Why Bad Things Happen.” Dawkins, a pioneer of the gene-centric view of evolution and the originator of the popular internet term “meme,” discussed the nature of misfortunes both biological and physical, emphasizing the differences between the two.
“The universe isn’t out to get you,” Dawkins said. “It doesn’t know or care about your existence.”