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Dawkins warns of human extinction

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GOD does not exist, people who believe the earth is 6000 years old are "loonies and idiots" and teaching children to fear the fires of hell is plain evil.

Just a few of the contentious opinions put forward by outspoken atheist Professor Richard Dawkins to an 850-strong audience in Inverness on Wednesday.

The lecture and discussion, organised by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Millennium Institute, has sparked lively debate.

The world-famous evolutionary biologist and Oxford don spoke on "Science and The God Delusion" at the free talk at Eden Court Theatre.

Beforehand, the UHI was slammed by a leading member of the Free Church, David Robertson, who accused it of bias for giving Professor Dawkins a platform.

However, many members of the public, who packed the theatre, seemed to approve of the Professor Dawkins' views.

Extracts read from his bestselling book "The God Delusion" drew loud applause and afterwards long queues snaked from the table where signed copies were being sold.

A staged discussion with fellow atheist Paula Kirby covered topics ranging from atomic structure, Darwinism, geology, creationism and the dangers of religious fervour.

Professor Dawkins accused religion of causing many past and current conflicts in the world. "People can believe what they want, but I wish they would leave the rest of us alone," he said.

"The current threat of jihad is brought about by religious fundamentalism. Do you think there would be suicide bombing without extremism of this kind?"

He also hit out at "Christian bigoted busybodies" who protested against new science such as stem cell research.

During the following debate hosted by BBC Good Morning Scotland's Gary Robertson, a variety of matters were raised.

In response to questions about population growth, the environment and the future of humanity, Professor Dawkins said the threat of extinction was real and very disturbing.

"Humans may be unique in having the consciousness and ability to look into the future. Ninety nine per cent of species have become extinct. I don't think there has been a mechanism by which a species took steps to halt a headlong rush to extinction."

A member of the audience who talked of his salvation by Jesus was dismissed by the Professor as being deluded.

"The human mind is extremely susceptible to hallucination," he said. "You are no doubt very sincere but I think you're hallucinating."

A protester who gave his name only as Kenny the Christian stood outside as people filed into the lecture.

The 62-year-old said he had travelled from Dornoch to tell people about God's love. "I am here motivated by the love for the people who are attending this meeting," he said.

"Secular fundamentalism is sweeping this nation and people are being deceived by the devil. The devil works through people.

"Mr Dawkins is the devil's speaker and he has expressed this boldly. He believes in evolution, that nothing produces everything. But God produces everything."

A spokeswoman for UHI said they were delighted at the calibre of the event and high standard of debate.

The lecture was the first in a series of three at Eden Court. The Rev Prof Andrew McGowan, principal of Highland Theological College UHI, will give his inaugural lecture on the role of theology in the university on 10th June.

On 27th October Dr John Lennox of Oxford University, author of "God's undertaker: has science buried God?" will respond to Professor Dawkin's lecture.



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