Friday, July 16, 2010

The Dawkins experience

I arrived at Davis Concert Hall with my dad a full 15 minutes early, but I already knew it was going to be packed.  Cars were streaming onto campus and lines of people were converging upon the concert hall.  When we arrived at the doors we heard someone announce that the Hall was full and no more people were allowed to enter, however it would be webcast live in Greuning room 208.  We debated for a minute the value of attending a webcast, and decided to go.  The room filled to overflowing within five minutes, a second room across the hallway was opened as well.  For almost half an hour after the lecture started the overflow audience sat in frustration as we could only see the video of the lecture - the audio wasn't working.  As our last hope that the audio would be fixed faded, we left and headed back to Davis Concert Hall.  After deciding it would be too long to wait around until the lecture and Q&A session afterward ended to get Dawkins signature on our book, we left.  Thankfully on our way out we were told the media lab downstairs in the library had working video and audio for the webcast.  Having missed at least the first half hour of the lecture, we greatly enjoyed watching the second half, webcast in full fidelity.  Lots of good content, with some good natured humor intermixed!  When I get the chance, I will have to download and view the first half hour of the lecture I missed.  The Q&A took up the full hour allocated and afterwards I went to the book signing.  The line snaked almost entirely around the perimeter of the large lobby area outside of the Concert Hall.  The attendance and overflow for this lecture was the greatest I have ever personally seen at UAF, and has to have been one of the most successful lectures ever on campus.  Dawkins waived all his fees, including travel, hotel, and meals.  He is a very impressive speaker and critical thinker, and a truly inspirational figure, whether in person or via live webcast.  On the heels of his appearance at the Amazing! Meeting 8, I hope his time here in Fairbanks was an enjoyable experience.  I also hope the showing at his lecture did something to dispel the poor reputation Alaskans have gained in the global community, thanks in no small part to some of the politicians we have elected.  When he signed the copy of The God Delusion I have been reading, I thanked him and asked him to send my regards to PZ, and was given a warm smile of recognition in return. 


aratina cage said...

I'm astounded! I really thought it would be a flop considering some of the other exquisite philosophy lectures and other club activities I remember that were more like small gatherings. I can hardly imagine it being so well attended. The organizers must have done a good job of getting the word out. At least you got to meet Richard Dawkins personally at the book signing after being, unfortunately, too late and having the technical problems with the live streaming audio. Thanks for the report!

Keir said...

I haven't yet found the site where I can download the lecture.

Here's a local article about the event, which well over 1000 people attended (or tried to attend).