Off to London
London Travel Blog› entry 76 of 78 › view all entries
June 6th, 2009 – by: Adrian_Liston
It was my first ride in the Channel Tunnel. In under two hours we zipped from Brussels to London. The tunnel itself was anticlimactic, no big rollercoaster dip as it went down beneath the English Channel. No glass panels to see the fish above us. Just one long smooth ride through darkness to represent a truly ingenious feat in human ingenuity and technology, beyond that of merely flying up to the moon.
I meet Luke and Shyla at the other end and we caught up over breakfast before heading to Conway Hall. The conference organizer got up at the start to ask (in English) those people requiring simultaneous translation into French to come up the front and get headphones. There was a ripple of laughter in the audience until one person then shouted out the same message in French, getting a chorus of ‚Äúah‚ÄĚ in reply.
Polly Toynbee introduced Richard Dawkins, who spent his hour talking about the last paragraph of the Origin of Species:
"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.
It was quite an interesting talk, mostly on the importance of Darwin's insights. He also talked about the intellectual dishonesty of creationist arguments, spending quite a long time on rebutting the Strong Anthropic Principle and supporting the Weak Anthropic Principle. He came across as charming, gentle and intellectual - I enjoyed it, but wouldn't have minded a bit more fire-breathing. In the question time I asked him whether Charles Darwin had any insights that were extraordinary for his time, or whether it was just the period of history where enough natural history had been collected for the idea to be bubbling up.
Following Dawkins, Charles Susanne (from ULB) spoke about the pressures on EU governments to stop the teaching of evolution, with creationist groups running a campaign of trying to insert creationism into school circumulm (with too much success in many cases).
"No, it just doesn't work like that. You then need to do research to see if there is or isn't a natural explanation for that phenomenon. I mean, a PhD student can't just say 'I have no idea what the answer to this research question is, therefore it must be due to intelligent design - may I have my diploma now?' If intelligent design wants to be a science it needs to research the questions before it labels them as unanswerable."
During the question-time this guy got up and started ranting that he believed that evolution fashioned every organ for its own purpose, which is why he was against homosexuality, because it was using an organ for a purpose it wasn't evolved for (his analogy was "you wouldn't try drinking through your nose instead of your mouth"). He ranted for about five minutes while the rest of the audience was softly laughing and trying to see who it was with the microphone, then Polly Toynbee wisely said "well that doesn't deserve an answer, next question?"
Afterwards Luke and I met up with Shyla and Lydia for a pub meal and a beer at Shakespeare's Head, before Shyla and Lydia went off shopping. Another couple of beers at a Dutch pub and the Salisbury and it was time for me to hop on my train and be whisked back to Belgium...
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