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Charles Simonyi Professorship in the Public Understanding of Science - Comments

theantitheist's Avatar Comment 1 by theantitheist

This is going to an interesting appointment. Any one have a 'bookies favourate' or someone they'd like to nominate?

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 01:51:00 UTC | #118912

MPhil's Avatar Comment 2 by MPhil

So, Prof. Dr. Dawkins is going to retreat from academia. This might be seen as a sad moment, for surely the academic world is going to lose one of its most prominent and productive members.
I doubt, however, that Prof. Dr. Dawkins will henceforth be entirely absent - and this thought makes me content.

His contributions will stand, and he can retire in the knowledge that the world is a better, more enlightened world that has had its consciousness raised - for his contributions.

For that, we should thank Prof. Dr. Dawkins - and I want to do this now myself: Thank you for over 30 years of wonderful books, lectures, debates and documentaries. Thank you for raising the collective consciousness of the world about the religious delusion. Thank you for giving us the 'selfish gene' interpretation. Thank you for giving us the 'extended phenotype' interpretation. Thank you for the wonderful prose poetry of "The Ancestor's Tale" and "Unweaving the Rainbow". Thank you for all your other wonderful books, papers and articles. Thank you also for the contribution you made to the thinking of the deeply missed Douglas Adams. Thank you for everything!

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 01:57:00 UTC | #118915

Eamonn Shute's Avatar Comment 3 by Eamonn Shute

I would nominate Professor Steve Jones:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jones_(biologist)

I have read several of his books and they are very well writtten. He is another biologist, but I don't think that matters.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 01:58:00 UTC | #118917

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 4 by Richard Dawkins

Thank you for over 30 years of wonderful books, lectures, debates and documentaries. Thank you for raising the collective consciousness of the world about the religious delusion.

Don't worry, you are not getting rid of me that easily! Retirement from the Oxford Chair will free me up to be even more strident, shrill etc etc etc. I expect to be busier than ever, with two Foundations to run (the British and American branches of RDFRS), books to write (I have already started the next one) and who knows what else?
Richard

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:02:00 UTC | #118918

stephenray's Avatar Comment 5 by stephenray

Adam Hart-Davis might do well.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:04:00 UTC | #118919

Quetzalcoatl's Avatar Comment 6 by Quetzalcoatl

books to write (I have already started the next one)


Can I ask what the next book will be about?

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:07:00 UTC | #118920

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 7 by rod-the-farmer

Sir, I hope your exit was either your own choice, or due to a time limit imposed on incumbents. I would hate to think your more recent books and public visibility caused Oxford to ease you out in favour of someone less passionate. Also, from your writings and speeches, I doubt very much you will stop promoting the Public Understanding of Science. That would seem to be bred into you. For that, and all your other accomplishments, I salute you.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:11:00 UTC | #118922

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 8 by Richard Dawkins

Sir, I hope your exit was either your own choice, or due to a time limit imposed on incumbents. I would hate to think your more recent books and public visibility caused Oxford to ease you out in favour of someone less passionate.


Nothing of the kind, I assure you. I have simply reached the mandatory retirement age.
Richard

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:21:00 UTC | #118925

LorienRyan's Avatar Comment 9 by LorienRyan

Big shoes to fill. Thank you Richard Dawkins. Your work in occupying this chair has been one of the reasons for my 'coming out' from the darkness that is religion, and have demonstrated the wonder of truth through science so effectively. All the best.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:24:00 UTC | #118928

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 10 by Steve Zara

Nothing of the kind, I assure you. I have simply reached the mandatory retirement age.
Richard


This is why the suggestion of the excellent Steve Jones (made in comment 3) would probably not be appropriate. Being only 4 years younger than Richard Dawkins, he would not be in the position long.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:27:00 UTC | #118930

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 11 by Styrer-

Don't worry, you are not getting rid of me that easily! Retirement from the Oxford Chair will free me up to be even more strident, shrill etc etc etc. I expect to be busier than ever, with two Foundations to run (the British and American branches of RDFRS), books to write (I have already started the next one) and who knows what else?
Richard


Excellent! The shriller and more strident, the better.

A whole new generation needs your attention, and it seems to me you've never been more in your stride. You certainly opened my eyes, and I hope you continue to perform the same service for many others.

Thanks for everything so far, and Happy Busy Retirement!

Best,
Styrer

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:29:00 UTC | #118931

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 12 by Matt H.

Happy retirement Professor, though as you say you'll be keeping busy. I'm glad to hear you say you've started your next book. Pray tell us, is it the children's book on free thought you were hinting at last year?

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:31:00 UTC | #118932

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 13 by Steve Zara

Excellent! The shriller and more strident, the better.


It does make me wonder how the opponents of reason will cope in terms of language. Have already described Richard Dawkins as "extreme" and "fundamentalist"... surely words will fail them.

I would wish "Happy Retirement", but it sounds like a quiet life is the last thing on Richard's mind (fortunately for us).

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:33:00 UTC | #118934

NewSkeptic's Avatar Comment 14 by NewSkeptic

Professor Dawkins,

I just want to endorse the comments already made by Styrer and others, wish you a Happy 'Retirement' and say that I very much look forward to your next contribution to the raising of the public's consciousness of the wonder and clarity of science.

Best Wishes, James.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:38:00 UTC | #118936

Styrer-'s Avatar Comment 15 by Styrer-

...surely words will fail them.


Wouldn't count on it. They'll bang on as is their wont, and at least keep the Hitch happy with fun-filled hours of disputation.

As for Richard, his temperate language (however much the faithheads wish to continuously remind us of their ignorance by terming it 'shrill' etc.) is more required in the public arena than ever. I'm looking forward to his taking his 'stridency' to a whole new level!

Best,
Styrer

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:41:00 UTC | #118938

DerrickB's Avatar Comment 16 by DerrickB

An incredible challenge for anyone trying to follow in Richard's footsteps! Reasonable Humanity owes a very large debt to Professor Dawkins.

However, I do have a suggestion, and though he is not a scientist Simonyi's description seems to fit him perfectly:

"In order to accomplish the above goals, the appointees to the chair must have a pedagogical range that goes beyond the traditional university setting. They should be able to communicate effectively with audiences of all kinds and in different media. Above all, they must approach the public with the utmost candour. Naturally, they will interact with political, religious, and other societal forces, but they must not, under any circumstances, let these forces affect the scientific validity of what they say. Conversely, they should be also candid about the limits of scientific knowledge at any given time, and communicate the uncertainties, frustrations, scientifically perplexing phenomena, and even the failures in their area of expertise."

Anyone who has read his books - especially "A Short History of Nearly Everything" will know that this describes Bill Bryson perfectly.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:42:00 UTC | #118939

CJ22's Avatar Comment 17 by CJ22

Heck, Bill Bryson gets my vote. His work on the English language and on what-we-don't-know-about-Shakespeare were interesting too, but not sciencey enough I'm sure.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:49:00 UTC | #118940

christianjb's Avatar Comment 18 by christianjb

I nominate either of the following theoretical physicists/philosophers of science:

Max Tegmark of MIT
Christopher Isham of Imperial College
Huw Price of University of Sydney

The above have devoted their careers to answering the big questions: The nature of time and space, identity, the limits of logic and mathematics and the structure of science itself.

They are all inspiring visionaries who have not been afraid to think deeply about philosophy, science, mathematics, truth and beauty.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:51:00 UTC | #118941

Artful_Dodger's Avatar Comment 19 by Artful_Dodger

Is it a case of: "materialists only need apply"? If not, I'm sure that many non-materialist candidates would be more than eligible in every other respect. However I suspect that the di is cast in that respect.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:51:00 UTC | #118942

Peacebeuponme's Avatar Comment 20 by Peacebeuponme

Is it a case of: "materialists only need apply"? If not, I'm sure that many non-materialist candidates would be more than eligible in every other respect.
Rowan Williams perhaps?

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:56:00 UTC | #118945

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 21 by Steve Zara

My suggestion would be Baroness Susan Greenfield - a charismatic broadcaster, writer and respected brain researcher. Like Richard, she has presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. In 2000 she received the CBE for her contributions to the public understanding of science.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 02:57:00 UTC | #118948

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 22 by Matt H.

What is the UK convention for a Professor's title after retirement? Do we still say "Prof. Dawkins" or will it become "Professor Emeritus Dawkins"?


Professor Emeritus is merely the Latin form for a full/chaired Professor who has retired in good standing. I think its pretty certain the University of Oxford will let him keep his title after his retirement. So he'll still be known as Professor (unless Richard himself comes on here to say otherwise). Nevertheless, there will still be people addressing him as 'Dr. Dawkins'....

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:00:00 UTC | #118949

AllanW's Avatar Comment 23 by AllanW

I'd like to echo the praise for your work so far and express my delight that this retirement from your post will leave you freer to accomplish many more years of progress in the foundations you have established.

For me, the suggestions of Adam Hart-Davis and Bill Bryson fall within one section of the perceptive article we are posting about; they are popularizers not world-renowned experts. No criticism attaches to that only that it's clear they are not the sort of people Simonyi intended for the role.

I also agree that the excellent Steve Jones would not be too long in the role before facing a similar deadline. I was impressed by Dr Hugh Montgomery's presentation of the Christmas lectures this last year so maybe he is heading down this particular path.

I'm sure the committee have a number of excellent candidates in mind and will choose well.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:02:00 UTC | #118950

the way's Avatar Comment 24 by the way

"In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is King"...You have opened the eyes of so many, long may you continue to so and let's hope that one day all people everywhere will see what their "Kings" are really wearing.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:04:00 UTC | #118951

mmurray's Avatar Comment 25 by mmurray

I don't think Bill Bryson would satisfy the selection criteria

The starting point is likely to be a specific field of science, which may, as well as the natural, medical and mathematical sciences, include the history of science and the philosophy of science. He or she will be an accomplished scholar who has made original contributions in his or her field, and who is able to address the subject, where necessary, at the highest levels of abstraction,


Follow the link at the top of the page for the job ad.

Pity Sam Harris didn't have a bit more track record.

Michael

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:10:00 UTC | #118953

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 27 by Richard Dawkins

Do we still say "Prof. Dawkins" or will it become "Professor Emeritus Dawkins"?


I'd much rather be "Richard" to you lot.

Thank you for the kind words, but the thread is not really supposed to be about me but about suggestions for my successor and especially about Charles Simonyi's wonderful manifesto.

Richard

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:12:00 UTC | #118955

mmurray's Avatar Comment 26 by mmurray


Nevertheless, there will still be people addressing him as 'Dr. Dawkins'....


Unless of course the Queen decides to touch him on the shoulders with her sword ... :-)

Michael

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:12:00 UTC | #118954

mmurray's Avatar Comment 28 by mmurray


non-materialist candidates


Good idea they should allow ghosts to apply. In which case I would go for Darwin.

Michael

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:16:00 UTC | #118957

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 29 by irate_atheist

As one chapter in life closes, another opens.

I hope you enjoy your time and freedom, even more so than you have done so far.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:18:00 UTC | #118960

Matt H.'s Avatar Comment 30 by Matt H.


Unless of course the Queen decides to touch him on the shoulders with her sword ... :-)

Michael


That would be wonderful, although of course it is the government's decision, not Her Majesty's. But such an appointment would be long overdue! I can't speak for the general public at large, but he's certainly boosted my own understanding of science.

Back to the topic at hand, I think Bill Bryson is a fine public intellectual but is he really suited for the post? I doubt it. I wish I could nominate someone who is, but my knowledge of prominent, unchaired scientists is rather limited.

Mon, 11 Feb 2008 03:19:00 UTC | #118962