Richard Dawkins knows the questions — and the answers — by heart.
At every one of his presentations, where he discusses science, religion, reason and his own atheism, Dawkins is pretty sure two particular questions will be asked from the audience right off the bat.
“The leading contender is ‘Have humans stopped evolving?'” he said. “The second is ‘Why are there gay people from the evolutionary point of view?’ I must confess, I get a slight sickly feeling when I hear them because I hear myself repeating myself.”
Dawkins, the noted British scientist and ethologist, might hear those questions once again when he presents “An Evening with Richard Dawkins” Tuesday at Mayo Civic Center. Dawkins will share the stage with Julia Sweeney, the former “Saturday Night Live” performer.
Dawkins has not up to now worked with Sweeney on stage. They do share an affinity, though, for reason and atheism.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “She’s very amusing. I think we’ll have a lively discussion.”
It was Sweeney’s autobiographical show, “Letting Go of God,” that first attracted the attention of Dawkins. Now, Sweeney is on the board of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Science and Reason.
Dawkins, who talked by phone Tuesday while traveling between appearances on the West Coast, lives in the UK, where he is a senior fellow at New College, Oxford. Among his best-known books are “The Selfish Gene,” “The God Delusion” and “The Blind Watchmaker.” It is Dawkins who came up with the concept of the meme.
Speaking from a European perspective, Dawkins said he is often struck by the strong religious beliefs that are widespread in the U.S.
“When you look at advanced, industrialized countries, America is an outlier,” he said. “I think it’s very hard to explain.”
America often seems like a country split in two, Dawkins said. “On the one hand, you have the intellectuals. The U.S. leads the world in science. No question. On the other hand, the other half of America thinks the world was created less than 10,000 years ago.”
Dawkins said he wishes more of those true believers would attend his programs. “I would really like it if the fundamentalists would come and heckle me,” he said. “I wish they would come and ask me the toughest questions.”