Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Silicon Valley Loves Richard Dawkins

As promised, the great evolutionary scientist and Oxford professor of zoology Richard Dawkins made his appearance at Kepler's Bookstore last week. It was unlike any previous book signing -- several hundred fans mobbed the store, with standing-room-only out the door. Clark sold out of every Richard Dawkins book, new and old. (The publisher of The God Delusion is sold out, too. Until the next printing, you can read the first chapter here.)

The crowd was highly engaged, alternating between applause and laughter. In case you missed the show, I am pleased to offer you the re-run, as well as my own introductory remarks, the text of which the professor posted here on his new web site. (Disclosure: my comments are not for the faint of mind, nor endorsed by Bessemer Venture Partners!)

AudioReproduction: 54 meg MP3 file--click to stream or right click and Save the 54 meg MP3 file (via Father Dan)

Video Reproduction. Incidentally, if you hear someone heckling me during the intro, that's Bill Atkinson, co-inventor of the Mac, touting the security of Apple computers.

After the event, the professor was kind enough to dine at my home with some local Valley personalities who support the Dawkins cause. Jurvetson was there (he posted photos), as well as Geoff Ralston, Dan Farmer, and 56k modem inventor Brent Townshend (good thing, too, because when I couldn't start my outdoor gas heater, the inventor fixed it by patching it up with duct tape). Pictured to the right are Bill Atkinson (far left) and Jeff Hawkins (right) entertaining the guest of honor. (They were tickled to learn that Dawkins is a big user of both the Mac and the Palm Treo!)

The success of Dawkins' publication coincides with Michael Shermer's rebuke of Intelligent Design and Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation. Together, these books seem to be making a dent, as their message echoes in popular media like The Colbert Report, South Park, Wired, Newsweek, and even TIME, the bastion of Christian pandering.

Related Link: Buy Dawkins' DVD documentary Root of All Evil.

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  1. Anonymous3:59 PM

    Thanks for all the audio files and commentary. Wondered whether I had the link wrong for the video:


    I'd love to see it, if you have alternate URL.

    Wish I had the opportunity to dine with him -- I hear he's absolutely delightful.

  2. Sorry, it's fixed now.

  3. David,

    Recently I had a chat with Ben Casnocha ( all of 18 and an entrepreneur/writer featured by newsweek recently ) who had said he discussed `religion' with you. I wondered why he chose to discuss religion with a VC, who has proved himself very good at evaluating Biz Plans...? Then I found out that you hold some strong views on the subject. Now when I read your piece on Richard Dawkins it became a little clearer, but leaves me with these queries.

    a) If according to atheists God doesn't matter, why take so much pain to disprove...?

    b) For something which is so trivial and non-existent, does that simple 3 letter word warrant so much thought and action...?
    [ It takes t(w)oo long words `Einsteinian Religion' to explain God's opposite by Mr.Dawkins himself !]

    d) Would it not be better to leave the concept of God as it is in its current form ( or lack of it) and do better things in life...?

    e) Try going round a pole gripping it and without. Faith is just that pole and some call it God. Any problems...?


  4. Krish,

    Yes, life is short and so I would agree with you, if only it weren't for 9/11, stem cell research, women's rights, the Iraqi war, and Creationism in public schools.


  5. Anonymous1:55 PM

    LOL - great response David - i am reading his book now thanks to your bookroll.

  6. Anonymous9:58 PM

    I can't believe I missed this. I live in Menlo Park.

    He is my favorite author, and I've seen him talk in Berkeley and in Ted in the last few years, here he is in my back yard and I miss him.

    I am almost done with The God Delusion and it's fantastic.

    Regarding krish's comment. If we want to leave it alone, let's do that, but then lets also please leave it out of all referrals such as "one nation under God"

    Baris Karadogan

  7. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Hi Dave,
    Great introduction of Prof. Dawkins. Was thought provoking and humorous.

  8. Anonymous10:23 AM

    I read your introduction on Dawkins's blog. Certainly provocative. You should fix the link:

    More importantly, I was considering the point of your story. Do you think that viruses can be explained (e.g., how they came into existence in the first place) by evolution? If so, doesn't that mean that religion might just be a natural outcome of a similar evolutionary process rather than the product of an evil social hacker? If not, doesn't the existence of viruses seem to demonstrate the necessity of an intelligent creator?

    I look forward to being enlightened.

  9. Michael,

    Thanks, I fixed the link.

    No, the existence of viruses (of any kind) does NOT demonstrate the necessity of an intelligent designer. Viruses can clearly evolve, be designed, or spring from some combination of design and evolution. Obviously, virtually all computer viruses are intelligently designed (Robert Morris Jr's infamous and accidental worm is an arguable exception), and (hopefully) all organic viruses are the result of evolution. As for zombie viruses (a.k.a. religious memes), there is lots of recent literature on their points of origin, but clearly there are both forces at work. Individuals mostly in Egypt and Mesopotamia "designed" myths, which then evolved into religions, which were further manipulated by key designers (prophets, reformers, rabbis...) along the way. As for the youngest strains of the zombie virus (a.k.a. "cults"), they are, arguably, the intentional work product of a single designer.

  10. What a fantastic introduction David. Great story. I wish I could have been there.

  11. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Your anecdote about your son and the tooth fairy is great.