Good Conversation

Start the Week is always good (well just about always), but I particularly liked last week’s, which I listened to a day or two ago. Richard Dawkins was on, explaining that (contrary to popular opinion) he’s an anti-Darwinian on moral matters. He thinks we should do our best to be different from what our genes would have us be; that, being the only species that’s capable of deciding to over-ride our genetic predispositions, we should damn well do it. Then there was Tim Hitchcock, saying some fascinating things about a change in sexual practices that happened late in the 17th century and caused a sharp rise in population. Dawkins pointed out that what Hitchcock was describing was in fact a classic example of humans acting in a way their genes would not ‘want’ them to – avoiding penetrative sex in favor of other kinds, thus lowering the birth rate. That’s one of the great things about Start the Week: the way things connect up that don’t seem to.

And then there was a fascinating bit where Dawkins asked Anthony Giddings a detailed question about chaos. He wasn’t sure he understood it properly, and he was unabashed about asking questions about it on national radio. Some people would be too vain to do that, I think. I once read something by Dawkins – I think in Unweaving the Rainbow – about a very famous scientist giving a guest lecture when Dawkins was a student. Someone in the audience pointed out that Famous Scientist was wrong about something – and FS, far from getting huffy, thanked the pointer out enthusiastically, and (I think – if I remember correctly) said that’s the great thing about science. Everyone applauded like mad. I really love that story. (I may have told it before, but if I have it was months ago, so just pretend you don’t remember.)

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