When, within seconds of meeting someone for the first time, they illuminate you on your own family history, you are dazed by a wash of unintentional emotions.
Firstly there is interest, a sincere desire to know more. Next, there is guilt, that you do not know more. Finally and indefinitely there is awe, an excruciating feeling of displacement and inadequacy. This is how i felt, the first time I met Richard Dawkins.
Of course I remained stoic and politely interested. I understand now since reading his new autobiography An Appetite for Wonder, Dawkins just cant help it. He genuinely has an appetite for knowledge and discovery and this is what makes him such an appealing author and lecturer, this inability to rest on his laurels and pretend to know it all. Even when he is described as an ‘outspoken atheist’, there is simply a miscommunication, for he does not pretend to know whether god exists or not, he would never be so presumptuous. Dawkins seems too inspired by the reality of life to need to turn to its unreality, just on the supposed majesty of faith. However, this is a discussion best left for the launch of his next biography, hopefully called What Dawkins Did Next.
‘The problem with this autobiography, is that it is all about the author’. This newspaper review was quoted by Dawkins at the beginning of his discussion with the Professor of Theoretical Physics Jim Khalili at the Guildhall on Friday night. Toppings and Co was the host and this independent bookshop gets better with each event it organises. Attracting over 500 people to the tall, crystal lit hall, overlooked by wigged mentors of Bath Mayors past. Dawkins elaborated and deconstructed his earlier years that led him on his path, to the publication of the Selfish Gene (1976) and beyond. Although having reviewed, reminisced and recollected these scenes of his life over and over again to, no doubt, the point of self hatred, there is a calm fondness and considered voice that is clearly still deliberating, not the facts, but what it could have meant.
This slight aura of curiosity and uncertainty gives the precise oxford dialect humanity. It lends personality and humour to words that otherwise could seem disconnected and contrived. However, Dawkins’ voice is passionate, Zoology seems to be his calling, although this was not his first choice, and makes the details of adaptation and genetic selection relevant and accessible. But, all this you knew already, what can I say about the man who I have only seen previously on my youtube screen, becoming red in the face at the stubbornness of dogma?
Written By: Henry Heffer
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