Richard Dawkins visits my home
Needless to say, yesterday was surreal. It was certainly the most memorable day that our "Squad" has had since we started this little project several months ago. Of course a weekend with Richard Carrier and a conversation with Luigi Cascioli must be near the top of the list as well, but having Richard Dawkins in our studio was simply the pinnacle of experiences we've had here so far. I suppose it was too much to ask of Thor (or insert whichever fake god we'll attribute the bad day to here) for the day to go off without a hitch.
The day started of course with a lecture at the Free Library of Philadelphia in which, like all of the events Dr. Dawkins has done on his book tour, audience members had to be refused a seat. Dawkins spoke to a packed crowd in this small auditorium, in which the use and occupancy license quoted a maximum capacity of 376 people on the wall (I wouldn't be surprised if 377 were in the crowd). The Richard Dawkins foundation utilized me as a camera guy and I managed to record the entire hour lecture on my tape, I wish I could say the same about our evening session. Dawkins was brilliant at the lecture. He read select passages from his book for quite a while, and I must say the book is much more humorous when read with his inflection. Of course he read page 31 which starts off with the most descriptive sentence about Yahweh I've ever heard, in which he received a thunderous applause accompanied by intense laughter. For those who don't have the book, GET IT, but while you wait, here is the sentence, "The God of the Bible is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
After reading for about 30 minutes from the book, Dawkins fielded questions from the audience. He was even more quick on his feet than I'd imagined he'd be, it's no wonder he was voted Britains #1 intellectual. He had only one person identifying themselves as a theist ask a question, and it elicited his most poignant response of the day. The question was typical of those asked by theists, it encompassed a strawman and additional fallacies, too numerous to mention. I don't remember the exact wording (hopefully we'll get to see it when I can get the video processed) but it had something to do with us not being able to use logic, and the irony of course is that one must use logic in order to even make such a claim. Dawkins was faster than I could ever dream to be in his response and received a strong applause for his answer again. Look out for the video that I suppose will be posted at: www.RichardDawkins.net and google video. As with all of the stops on the God Delusion book tour, Dr. Dawkins stayed to sign books however since we were about to host him in our studio we passed on the 400 person long line.
When we were finished at the Library we skirted off with some friends to find lunch, after gallivanting around a bit, they settled on a sandwich shop and we split off in favor of a place where my partners could get an accompanying beer with their meal (Bridgids), afterall today was a day of celebration. We arrived back to our "studio" (my house for you noobs), at about 3:30 in preparation of a 5pm arrival from God himself. When we arrived to the door I was greeted by my girlfriend who told me that Margaret Downey (President of Atheist Alliance International, www.fsgp.org, and Richards escort for the day) called and said they'd be arriving in a few minutes. Razor turned to me and said, "Ok, now the butterflies are really kicking in." We instantly kicked into high focus hectic mode, scrambling to get the touches that we assumed we'd have an hour to complete, in less than 10 minutes. First order of business is to get onto our website and load the webcam portal onto the homepage. Upon visiting the homepage I find the most jumbled and ugly source code imaginable. All sorts of errors, and it wasn't just our site, it was all of the sites in The No God Network. To me it looked like the type of thing a hacker would do, it was obviously a huge day for us, and likely the biggest day for traffic on our site. This event was promoted rather heavily at the Dawkins foundation as a webcam show worth viewing. My sincerest apologies to those of you who logged into our homepage and were unable to find the webcam as the site was broken. Well I roll with the punches, I called my server admin, left a message and moved on. There really wasn't much I could do, I went to disseminate the information as fast as I could to several of the communities we're well known in and sent a bulletin on myspace. As I sent the bulletin on myspace I realized they censor the word "stickam." WTF is that about? You can't post your webcam on myspace in any form anymore? Now of course at this point I've got 25 emails and 10 im windows alerting me to the problems on our site, which I am grateful for, but it was yet another cog in my production. I wanted to say thank you but every instance of doing so would cost me 15 precious seconds. To those who wrote, thank you very much, please do so in the future, and please accept my apologies that I wasn't able to thank you for the heads up. It was at about this point I hear from upstairs "He's HERRRREEE!!"
I meet Dawkins and his escort Downey at the front door, seeing him walk up to my house may have been the most surreal experience of my life (short of my son being born). After he arrived we started to discuss where we wanted to go with the interview. I expressed to him an interest in doing something a little different with him, as he himself has stated that book tour events can seem very repetitive as he's being asked the same questions over and over. I told him we wanted to play word association with him for a few minutes and he thought it wouldn't be entertaining as he also posited that he's "very straight." I suppose that meant, he likes to remain intellectual, although I think he could have done that with word association, for example if we say "God" and he says "capricious" I can just see the hordes of people scurrying to their dictionary of choice to find out what he meant. Nevertheless in an effort to make him feel extremely comfortable we moved on. I said, "well we've got another idea, we were hoping to ask some questions about you personally that we know our audience would be interested in hearing, for example what your favorite hobby might be." He proceeded to tell me about an author from 1900 (my co hosts and I forget the authors name) who once posited that his favorite hobby was "FUCKING." It seemed from that point that this wasn't the direction that Dawkins wanted to go either however we were all left with the question afterwards "Is Dr. Dawkins' favorite hobby, fucking?" Wasn't he just talking about being "straight" presumably meaning straight edge and not his sexual preference?
Richard had some suggestions of his own about where we could go with the interview in the interest of doing something different. He gave us two ideas, the first was that we "have a discussion about the tactics in which we should pursue to help educate people about science and religion, and I'll just sit back for the most part and watch you guys talk" (lol) and his second suggestion was "how about I just ask you guys questions about what you do." Ok, now this was getting more surreal by the moment. Are you kidding me? The worlds most well known science writer wanted to interview us? HA! We found some common ground in blending elements of all three approaches (we certainly had questions for him in the area of "tactics" prepared). We committed on asking him questions, with elements of a round table style, and the addition of him posing some questions of us. I think there is a great lesson to be learned here, one that I feel I was already familiar with but a small portion of our audience might not heed on a daily basis. We were in the presence of one of the greatest minds of our time, in any setting people look to him for words of wisdom, however one can't learn if they're always teaching others. He would have been completely content simply learning from us, whether we offered him new wisdom or not wasn't what was important, what was important was hearing our perspective, hearing whether it coincided with his. He's a brilliant man, and I can see why, he's not above asking others their point of view, if you ever reach a level like that (and thankfully I don't know many who claim to have reached that level) you have thwarted honest inquiry and the ability to progress your thoughts. Dawkins was very thankful for the large donation we made with the help of our listeners including our large donation we were able to raise $1,620. Thanks so much to everyone who donated. If you still see a donate link lying around I will personally continue to match 20% of your donations to the end of the year.
There were other small hitches in the show production, for example a microphone wasn't turned on, we forgot to record an ID with Richard ("this is Richard Dawkins and you're listening to the RRS"), the video tape ran out 10 minutes before the show was complete, and personally I felt as if I made a weak point or two that upon contemplation I could've made stronger. These problems are to be expected with any of our productions and we simply accept them as collateral damage. In the interest of time I wont go into much detail about these and other small hitches. I will however explain what happened with the site, keep in mind that server administration and programming aren't my specialty. I have a volunteer expert who maintains Doubledoh.com to assist us in those areas, thanks so much Zero/Doubledoh for all your help.
I was informed by Zero that the problems on our entire network were good problems to have (well, in a way). We were not attacked (YAH!), our cache log crashed due to excess usage of our site. Again, forgive me if that's not the proper terminology. In his own words, here are some quotes from his diagnosis, "the problem was actually because your site gets so much traffic, the cache table grew bigger than it can handle" and "so it's sort of a "rich person's problem, it's like not having enough inventory on a popular selling item." Additionally he has turned off the cache for now to avoid the problem and says the website may run a little slower than normal as a result. Again, our apologies if you visited us for the first time to see Dawkins and couldn't find our webcam. We'll make it up to you with a free download of the Dawkins show and links (via google video and youtube) to most of the video we recorded of the in studio show. To receive the highest quality version of the video downloadable to your computer you will need to be either a monthly subscriber ($10 per month) or simply purchase show package 30-40 from the right hand side of our screen. Sorry but our bandwidth just wont allow us to offer the video downloadable for free.
Could this two day stretch be any more perfect?
- Ted Haggard the Evangelical leader who speaks out against same sex marriages and drug addiction and the entire gamut of fundy nutjob attacks the religious right makes on society steps down from his position amid allegations that he snorts meth and has had a gay trist with a prostitute every month for three years now! CNN reported that Haggard has "admitted some guilt!" Can you believe the fucking hypocrisy at the highest levels of the Evangelical movement? As Carlin would say, "HOLLLLYYYY SHIT!" Pastor Ted was featured in Jesus Camp as well as Dawkins movie, "The Root of all Evil?" We heard the story at the same time as Dawkins when he checked his message board for a few minutes before we recorded the show. I tell ya, this couldn't happen to a nicer bigot.
- KENT HOVIND GOING TO JAIL!!!!!! DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD!!! Wow, how great is this? Kent Hovind evaded some $800,000 worth of taxes and faces a maximum of up to 288 years in prison. To some degree I feel bad for him, I really do, but I gotta admit it's hard. This guy is one of the most dishonest bullshiters Christians can dredge up when they doubt evolution. Oh well, buh bye now... buh bye... a buh and a bye... buh bye.
- Ann Coulter might be indicted in a not so immoral voting scandal, but I wont quabble over the reasons to attack this bitch. An investigation is now underway to determine if she knowingly voted in the wrong precinct a felony that could land her in jail for up to 5 years. C'mon can't we take her down for libel or something instead? As CNN reminds us, Ann authored a book that said some September 11 widows were "enjoying their husbands' deaths."
Now I suppose I'm just waiting on word that Bush has been arrested by a multinational commission for crimes against humanity. I can't wait to get that email.