Professor Richard Dawkins at The Lowry Theatre

Last night we attended a “performance” by Professor Richard Dawkins, as part of a publicity drive for the second volume of his autobiography. I have long been an admirer of his work and while he can be a bit too forthright in his attacks on organised religion (which he freely admitted in the Q&A session last night), his basic thoughts on life and how it should be approached immediately struck a chord with me when I read his book “The God Delusion”. I am not a great reader of philosophical books it has to be said, but by the time I had read a couple of chapters I was hooked. He explained so clearly what I had been trying to put into words for most of my life.

The evening was really an interview conducted by another science writer, Roger Highfield, with Dawkins being asked questions (no doubt carefully rehearsed) and with half a dozen or so readings from the book almost randomly inserted at various times. It reminded me very much of a programme on Radio 4 called “Book Club”, where James Naughtie interviews an author and there is a subsequent discussion about the particular book in question amongst the two of them and some invited guests.

The problem last night was that I didn’t feel like an invited guest. I felt like a gate-crasher. The interviewer was dropping names of other no-doubt eminent scientists and academics, none of whom were familiar to me, as a lay-person. The two of them had known each other for years, evidently, and it was all a bit too cosy. It made me feel like I was hanging around the edge of a clique with no hope of entering the inner circle.

The evening was entertaining enough and there were some good questions from the floor, but there was definitely something lacking, for me at least. I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but what I got wasn’t it – if that makes any sense at all. Maybe with a different format, or different interviewer, I might have got more from the experience, but as it was, we walked back to the car with a “What was the point of that?” question hanging over us.

I will just continue to read and enjoy his books.