Eduardo Wilner’s lecture defends atheism
By Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Contributor
Judging by the attendance at Eduardo Wilner’s lecture last Wednesday night at Schaible Auditorium, Richard Dawkins can expect a full house for his lecture in July. Wilner, an associate professor of philosophy at UAF, gave the first of two presentations designed to “promote the public understanding of some of Dawkins’ most influential positions,” said Simon Suchland of the Socratic Society, which is sponsoring Dawkins’ visit.
Wilner’s talk, “Exploring Richard Dawkins’ arguments about the collision between Science and Religion,” examined some of the themes of Dawkins’ latest book, “The God Delusion.” In his book, Dawkins defends atheism and is critical of using theories like intelligent design to explain the natural world. Wilner spoke to a large crowd that appeared to be equally composed of UAF people and the Fairbanks community. Wilner started his lecture with a disappointing revelation.
“I will start with the bad news: I am not Richard Dawkins,” he said, bringing laughter from the crowd.
His opening remarks set the tone for the rest of his presentation: “I wondered whether or not I should wear a Kevlar jacket today… [because] brace yourselves…I’m going to offend people.”
Wilner said his goal was to provide the audience with a working knowledge of evolutionary theory, as well as to explain some of the biological and psychological reasons for why humanity believes in God and in religion. God does not exist, he said, and the arguments for God’s existence are flawed. He described a common reaction he gets whenever he expresses that view. “Whenever I say, ‘God doesn’t exist’,” he looked up at the ceiling and smiled, “people expect a lightning bolt or something.”
Wilner ended his lecture with a discussion of the Bible and morality. He drew the audience’s attention to the Caravaggio painting of the Sacrifice of Isaac, in which God commands Abraham to kill his son as a test of Abraham’s faith. Wilner referred to his own daughter seated in the front row of the auditorium and asked the audience how the community would react to him if he were put to such a test. “I’d hope you’d stop me!” he said.
Wilner’s next lecture will focus on Dawkins’ work in evolutionary biology. That lecture is scheduled for May 5 at 7 p.m. in Schaible Auditorium. The date of Dawkins appearance has not yet been finalized but it will be sometime in the second half of July.