Butterfly Effect , Good, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(1674)

Jan 29, 2013

Dear Professor Dawkins,

I am a 50 yo Emergency Medicine physician who was fortunate to grow up in a secular home. Although I have no harrowing conversion story to tell, your ideas have allowed me to help others in an interesting, albeit perhaps predictable way. I was born with a congenital condition with which you may be familiar. The pleasure center of my brain apparently has an unusually low firing threshold when my brain processes any scientific information. As far back as I can remember I have enjoyed all things scientific and my favorite subject it turns out is evolutionary biology. You may find it amusing to hear that the intellectual aspect of choosing medicine as a career was based on the presumption that it was impractical to believe that I could make a living on evolution 🙂 Naturally I never stopped learning science, even when “study” was no longer necessary. As a result, and somewhat comically under the present circumstance, everyone I know considers me the expert in all things scientific.

My doctorate I suppose also adds to my credibility resulting in a particular unsolicited responsibility. Whenever the discussion turns to science I end up giving a lesson of sorts to family and friends. As you are aware, you have a unique ability to create mental skyhooks and capture the essence of an idea or argument in just the right way to open other minds. It is why I and no doubt others enjoy reading (and re-reading) your work. I have taken the liberty of using your ideas on occasions too numerous to count to introduce the uninitiated to the wonderful truths that explain the dazzling complexity of life around them. I find that, sadly, everyone I talk to who believes they “know” evolution have only been taught the most superficial facts. I delight in sharing detailed stories, many of which I learned from you, that help flesh out and explore the full richness of the story. And sometimes I also have the pleasure of introducing evolution to a person who was brainwashed from birth to believe it an evil myth. It requires a totally different approach as you know, and I enjoy the challenge.

In a way it’s really an honor to be in a position of trust and respect to the extent that you are given the privilege of opening up a virgin mind to these gloriously wonderful ideas. You have given me the tools to present this knowledge in such a way as to make this information available to those who might otherwise have missed it. At work I have the pleasure of spending time with a team of relatively well educated persons each of whom look up to me, I suppose because of my position. This affords me an excellent opportunity to spread your ideas and unique insight. I take the responsibility seriously and am well prepared. I’m always waiting for the opportune moment, when work is slow and the conversation turns to something scientific. It’s no doubt amusing for you to imagine that to me medicine is easy and saving lives routine, what really gets me excited is the challenge of teaching a little evolution or discussing the true nature of morality. It’s strange but after a short discourse on science it seems the conversation invariably turns to religion and morality. I believe that once you establish your credibility with something as obviously true as science, people always want to ask your opinion on what they consider to be the “big” questions.

I do my best to spread the idea that morality is a function of empathy and compassion; religion is superfluous, wasteful, misleading, and dangerous. Although I discovered the essence of these ideas long ago as a natural extention of an understanding of the natural world, I do not believe I would have the courage to voice my opinion with such passion and confidence if it were not for you. I thank you for that. I know you take many hits (slings and arrows, etc…) on behalf of those of us who treasure reason, and I just wanted to be sure that you know how much your work means to us. I also wanted to be sure, just in case it ever ebbs from your consciousness, that you remember that for everyone like me who your mind has touched, there are countless others who are also enlightened by way of this butterfly-effect. It is my wish that in your, hopefully few, darkest hours you find solace in the knowledge that for everyone you have ever heard such praise from there are many others like myself whose lives have been profoundly touched by your ideas and your prodigious efforts to share them. It must surely be true that the path to a more enlightened humanity is traversed one mind at a time, and it is persons like yourself that set us off in the right direction. Your legacy will be a heroic one. All my admiration and respect sir. I will take my leave of you now as I hear those fig-wasps calling to me again….I never get tired of reading those chapters 🙂

Very respectfully yours,
Dallas Smith, M.D.

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