Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think : Reflections by Scientists, Writers, and Philosophers

By Alan Grafen; Mark Ridley | Go to book overview

THE SKEPTIC's CHAPLAIN:
RICHARD DAWKINS AS
A FOUNTAINHEAD
OF SKEPTICISM

Michael Shermer

OVER the weekend of 12 to 14 August 2001, I participated in an event entitled 'Humanity 3000', whose mission it was to bring together 'prominent thinkers from around the world in a multidisciplinary framework to ponder issues that are most likely to have a significant impact on the long-term future of humanity'. Sponsored by the Foundation for the Future—a non-profit think tank in Seattle founded by aerospace engineer and benefactor Walter P. Kistler—long-term is defined as a millennium. We were tasked with the job of prognosticating what the world will be like in the year 3000.

Yeah, sure. As Yogi Berra said, 'It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future'. If such a workshop were held in 1950 would anyone have anticipated the World Wide Web? If we cannot prognosticate fifty years in the future, what chance do we have of saying anything significant about a date twenty times more distant? And please note the date of this conference—needless to say, not one of us realized that we were a month away from the event that would redefine the modern world with a date that will live in infamy. It was a fool's invitation, which I accepted with relish. Who could resist sitting around a room talking about the most interesting questions of our time, and possibly future times, with a bunch of really smart and interesting people. To name but a few with whom I shared beliefs and beer: science writer Ronald Bailey, environmentalist Connie Barlow, twins expert Thomas Bouchard,

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