Biologist Dawkins discusses ‘illusion of design’ at Stephens

Nov 21, 2014

By Gavin Aronsen

The renowned evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins visited Stephens Auditorium Monday night, musing about the wonders of science and reading a passage from his new memoir, “An Appetite for Wonder.”

With the Iowa State University men’s basketball team playing next door at Hilton Coliseum, Dawkins still managed to attract more than 1,100 people to the discussion, most of them university-aged.

Dawkins was joined on stage by ISU Bioethics Program Director Clark Wolf, who guided a 50-minute discussion, focused largely on the scientist’s life experiences in his field, before Dawkins took questions from the audience.

“The beauty of biology, really, is the illusion of design,” Dawkins said.

He chose as an example the eye, recalling an essay from his 1996 book “Climbing Mount Improbable” that explored the organ’s complexities and explaining the “gradual ramp of improvement” of eyes of species evolving independently of one another.

Charles Darwin also pointed to the eye as evidence for evolution, although creationists often quote him out of context to suggest he found the concept impossibly “absurd,” Dawkins noted.

Wolf asked Dawkins about a controversial bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature in 2009 by state Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, that would have allowed for the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in public classrooms.


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source located below and watch the entire Iowa State University talk here.

6 comments on “Biologist Dawkins discusses ‘illusion of design’ at Stephens

  • 1
    aquilacane says:

    A few nights ago I was outside having a smoke in the cold (winter came early this year). As I huddled up in my thin jacket, I noticed that a little wall of maple Samaras (helicopters) had become caught in a crack in the drive. It was evident that one or two had become stuck first, then, as more and more became hung up in the heli-baracade, an almost purposeful wall of them grew across the drive.

    It looked like a tiny village was raising a defensive system to keep out the blowing snow. They were perfectly aligned in a vertical fashion with either the blade or fruit stuck in the crack. Arthur Conan Doyle would probably have blamed ferries.

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  • I’m on an island where ferries get blamed all the time (ho ho), sometimes rationally.

    A complex metaphor for the illusion of design? Getting stuck in cracks would possibly help later germination but also perhaps create strong competition for resources. Your drive might have a linear thicket of Acer in a year or so’s time!

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  • 4
    aquilacane says:

    It never struck me to take a photograph. When you accept that there is a logical explanation for everything you can observe, things like that have less of a sense of wonder about them; at least for me. I don`t accept that an illogical event is even possible. Even a seemingly illogical event can only come about as a consequence of previous, logical events, which would render it logical. A mad man is mad for a reason, so his behaviour is logical in the context of being mad. Nothing can truly be illogical. And ferries suck.

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  • aquilaine :

    And ferries suck.

    Only if you are in a hurry. For your next ferry journey, try to appreciate the skill of the captain, the engineering of the ship, what the tide is doing, what the weather is doing, and if the crossing has enough time, the seascape and the delights of the bar or dining room. Surely the seagulls are worth more than a glance, – the vultures of the coastal areas. I respect them. Like you and me, the products of evolution.

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  • @OP link – Wolf asked Dawkins about a controversial bill introduced in the Iowa Legislature in 2009 by state Rep. Rod Roberts, R-Carroll, that would have allowed for the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in public classrooms.

    “The lingering ghost of the earlier pseudo-nonexplanations hanging around … pains me as an educator, because I feel it gets in the way of young people, of children, learning the elegant beauty of the explanation of why they exist,” Dawkins said.

    Quite! It’s as silly as giving equal time to teaching “Flat Earth” geography and astronomy!

    “It’s an enormous privilege, not something to be thrown away on a silly, petty, phony, trivial, pseudo-explanation, which is what creationism is.”

    The legislation’s call for equal time to both explanations would have created a practical problem, too, Dawkins said, suggesting the Bible contains just one of “hundreds of origins myths” that would have to compete for their time in the classroom as well.

    Indeed it would!
    The mental problem Young Earth Creationists have, is their wilful ignorance, not only of science, but their ignorance of all the other creation myths of the world’s religions which would have just as much (or as little) claim as their own!

    Pages in category “Creation myths”

    The following 108 pages are in this category,

    To give all, or any, of these, equal teaching time, or status, as biological and astronomical science, would be farcical!

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