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15 March 2013

Dawkins visits campus

Richard Dawkins lead a lecture on "The Science of Beauty and the Beauty of Science" Thursday night in the BankUnited Center. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and former professor at the University of Oxford. The "Scarlet Letter" pin on Dawkins' jacket stands for Atheist and is a symbol of the OUT campaign, an effort to encourage  Atheists to "come out." Monica Herndon // Assistant Photo Editor

Richard Dawkins lead a lecture on “The Science of Beauty and the Beauty of Science” Thursday night in the BankUnited Center. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and former professor at the University of Oxford. The “Scarlet Letter” pin on Dawkins’ jacket stands for Atheist and is a symbol of the OUT campaign, an effort to encourage Atheists to “come out.” Monica Herndon // Assistant Photo Editor

Last Thursday, the BankUnited Center had an approximately 2,300-member audience to hear world-renowned scientist and foremost figure on evolutionary biology, Richard Dawkins.

The lecture, which was called “The Science of Beauty and the Beauty of Science” makes Dawkins’ second trip to the University. He last came to UM in 2011.

The lecture was free to the public and was part of “The Year of the Humanities and the Arts at the University of Miami,” which is an initiative at UM aimed at celebrating fields such as history, philosophy, religious studies, languages, music and theater.

Dawkins’ lecture focused on the scientific understanding of the concept of beauty and how understanding those concepts is beautiful in and of itself.

He compared Bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea to artists in having the same aptitude and liking towards beauty.

“Some animals that don’t look particularly beautiful manufacture beauty much like artist, decorating bowers with features and pebbles to attract the opposite sex,” Dawkins said.

Natural art is sometime of a drug, that can give a person and an animal alike an aesthetic experience, something that is learnt, practiced and perfected much like the singing of a nightingale, Dawkins said in his lecture.

Though his lecture was specifically science-oriented, Dawkins did not miss the opportunity to flaunt his philosophical point of view by sporting a large red A on his coat lapel, meant to stand for Athiest.

The pin is part of the OutCampaign lead by Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Elisabeth Cornwell.

The OutCampaign follows the civil rights and gay rights movement in that if you know someone who is gay, you are much more likely to be tolerant of the gay. It tries to do the same for the atheist community said Cornwell.

“The scarlet A is the symbol. If you come out as an atheist, and you are able to without fear, then others know who you are get familiar with you so it grows from there” Cornwell said.

Dawkins also did a week visiting professorship while at UM thanks to the Appigani Foundation.

The professorship consisted of a tour of the Everglades with the Biology department and several other seminar and Q&A sessions with the psychology, biology and philosophy departments students and faculty, along with office hours.