When you run a blog called “Laughing Meme”, even if you don’t particularly have a good reason for choosing the name, you, in my mind, incur a certain obligation, all things being equal, to go see Richard Dawkins when he is in town, even if you aren’t really a fan.

Turns out he is a on a book tour for Ancestor’s Tale, a Canterburian stroll back up the evolutionary tree, pilgrims stopping to tell their stories at each major junction on the path from leaf to root. A bit silly. Pilgrimage point 1 is where we diverge from the chimps, point 2 is the gorillas, and so forth, back to point 39, 4 billion odd years ago, where we’re joined by the bacteria to complete the last leg before reaching the primordial Celestial City.

Other then that “39” number, there wasn’t a lot of interesting data to hold onto. Maybe I just spent too much time hanging out with Aidan, but I’m consistently disappointed in biology lectures. So many leading biologist fail to bring the imagination and excitement. Maybe they’re dumbing down to the public, but if the best you can do for a hook is to wow me with the news that whales are descended from the even-toed ungulates, then we’re in for a long night.

A few points of interest:

  • once he got over trying to wow with the news of sheep sized rodents (aka capybara) he did mention the historical interesting note that the Catholic church classifies capybara as fish, at least on Fridays. Interesting, but more something I expect to learn from Mark Kurlansky, not Richard Dawkins.
  • part of the historical rejection of evolution is tied to an uncanny valley like phenomena. (a term that Polar Express has finally brought to the masses) Apes were felt to be too human to be really cute, and were rather seen as brutish and ugly.
  • he made passing reference to the megafauna die outs in America as being tied to arrival of humans
  • he is on an 8 state book tour. 8 blue states. “presumably where they read books”