Richard Dawkins, world-renowned evolutionary biologist and atheist, repeatedly urged University of Wisconsin students and community members to think critically about the universe during his lecture at Memorial Union Theater Tuesday night.
Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, and author of international bestseller ?The God Delusion,? spoke to the full-capacity theater about the importance of evidence and logic in seeking truth, which he said faith cannot provide.
?In science, we believe things because we?ve looked at the evidence,? Dawkins said. ?[T]he consolation value of a belief does not have anything to do with truth. It cannot give human comfort.?
Dawkins, who is on a March tour of six universities across the country, feels that students need to think for themselves when it comes to religion and science.
?I really do want to counter the evil of the misinformation about science which has been going about among students,? Dawkins said. ?I care passionately about the truth, and I think that the existence or non-existence of a god or gods is a scientific matter. ? I think universities are the right place to engage in these discussions.?
According to Dawkins, belief in the supernatural is a delusion and only the workings of nature can be considered divine. Dawkins described the idea of the ?Supreme Watchmaker? ? the argument that the intricacy of the universe necessitates a maker just as a watch does ? as ?one of the most superficial, plausible, bad arguments against Darwin.?
Dawkins also attacked religious indoctrination, saying children cannot critically examine religion and forcing them to participate in religious activities is a form of child abuse. He urged audience members to raise communal consciousness about the perceived dangers of religion and protest the inculcation of views on humanity and moral values to children who are too young to form their own beliefs.
Dawkins said religion can be replaced with science, since scientific study can effectively satisfy the same psychological need religion is said to fill.
According to Memorial Union Theater employee John Vanek, the lecture was highly successful with at least one hundred students and community members were left at the door without seats.
Vanek, a UW senior and a self-proclaimed atheist, thought that Dawkins? lecture was effective in conveying the atheist message of logic.
Sophomore Jason Hiquet also felt the lecture was a great way for the community to learn about the logic behind atheism.
?I thought it was a great presentation,? Hiquet said. ?[Dawkins] really represented his ideas articulately and as fairly as he could, having the opinions that he did.?
When asked what one message he wanted students to walk away with after Tuesday?s lecture, Dawkins said it was the importance of evidence and thinking for oneself.
?Think critically for yourself,? Dawkins said. ?Don?t believe what people tell you unless they give you the evidence. What is the evidence? How do you know what you?re being told is true? Is it from faith, revelation or scripture? If it?s any of those things, forget it. Always go for evidence.?