SSA plans visit to Caltech for new atheism lecture

On Oct. 20, the Secular Student Alliance is heading to California Institute of Technology to attend a seminar hosted by famous biological evolutionist Richard Dawkins. He is expected to talk about his past books, “The Selfish Gene” and “The God Delusion”, along with his personal memoir of where he grew up. The event is currently sold out, but the SSA has purchased ten tickets that can be bought at $20 each.

Senior president of the club, Mike Frieda, believes Dawkins’ lecture will bring a lot of insight and knowledge to those who go.

“Dawkins helped establish current evolutionary biological literature. It’ll be a scientific and intellectual perspective that will challenge our clubs individual perspective,” Frieda said.

“He came up with the concept of the meme, the idea of how thoughts culturally transmit and evolve. I want to see how he has perceived the meme of atheism to evolve in the past decade or two, since it is now slowly being substituted by atheism plus and interfaith movements which I believe are better and less contentious.”

Senior Wes Tierney, vice president of the SSA, is particularly excited to attend because Dawkins “seems to be a confrontational speaker, but this speaking will be more about his memoir. How he grew up as a scientist and how he loves it, so more personal.”

Following the lecture, there will be a book signing. If given the opportunity to ask Dawkins a question, Tierney said, “I would ask him how he thinks the role of science is played into our society and how it has played out in the past 50 years. Also, where he thinks the new atheist movement is currently headed.”

Frieda believes that Dawkins’ concept, new atheism, is “tolerant of religion, but non encouraging.” He said, “Dawkins is one of the ‘Four Horseman’ for new atheism. It’s a social movement that is advocating atheistic or secular principles for people across the world. The majority of our members are not part of the new atheist movement, but are still excited to hear about it.”

Frieda also acknowledged that everyone isn’t going to necessarily agree with Dawkins’ entire lecture.

“It’ll be a challenge for us as a secular group, going to a secular environment to hear a secular talk, but we are still going to disagree. I think that’s where this talk is most interesting for us,” Frieda said.

For those who have never heard of the SSA or attended a meeting, Frieda explains the mission of the group.

“We try to understand what religions believe and what philosophies people believe, but we do this from the perspective of non religion.”

Tierney encourages anyone who has thought about joining the club to check it out.

“Definitely come by, we have a friendly and open group. There will always be those times where we have certain disagreements, but it never goes further than agreeing to just disagree. Other than that, we always have food and an inviting number of members who are friends with each other. Give it a shot,” Tierney said.

Frieda also said, “We come from the perspective of secularism, but we have a large number of religious students in the club.  It’s about questioning everything; that’s been our motto for years. It’s good for students who are interested in their world and where they lie in it. It’s a great way to relax and explore.”

The SSA meets on Sundays at 8 p.m. in the Grace residence hall lounge.

 

Evan Engel
Staff Writer
Published Oct. 16, 2013