The critically acclaimed scientist and author visited Portland State on Friday while promoting his new autobiography, An Appetite for Wonder. Hundreds of people were attracted to his talk on why the closest thing to a religion, for him, is science. “What you believe is not important,” Dawkins said to the audience as he eased into an hour– long appearance on stage. “It’s about what the evidence shows.” The notoriety of Dawkins’ lifelong campaign to in his words, “cure” the world of religion has brought him a mixture of both gracious support and venement criticism.
While some praise him for liberation from their own religious lifestyles, others see his work as an offensive attack on their faith. In response, Dawkins poses the question, “Why shouldn’t you offend people?” Dawkins was accompanied on stage by Peter Boghossian, a PSU philosophy professor and author of A Manual for Creating Atheists. Boghossian gave voice to a series of questions that touched upon mysticism, reason and the multitude of theories for why the universe exists. “What would it take for you to believe in God?” Boghossian asked Dawkins. After pondering the question for a moment, Dawkins was met with laughter when he answered, saying, “I used to say [it would take] the second coming of Jesus, or this great, booming voice saying, ‘I am God!’” With reddened cheeks, he added, “But the more probable explanation is that it’s a hallucination—or a trick by David Copperfield.”
Dawkins went on to explain that despite his responsibility as a scientist to remain unbiased, he admits there is likely nothing that could prove to him the existence of God. “Trouble is,” he said, “I can’t think what that evidence would look like.” Following the conclusion of Dawkins’ and Boghossian’s public discussion, the microphone was turned over to audience members with questions they wished to ask for themselves. In one of the few questions that time allowed, one woman asked Dawkins what his hope for the future was. “I hope for a world in which everyone is rational and believes things only when there is evidence in favor of them,” Dawkins responded. “And does not believe things because of tradition, authority, scripture, revelation… but only because of evidence.”