As I mentioned earlier, there was a talk by Richard Dawkins in Madison on Tuesday. I've never seen an auditorium packed like that before--1,300 people, and they had to turn a lot away, 100 I heard. Dawkwins was introduced by UW-Madison professor of evolutionary biology Sean Carroll. My friend Nick, biology major who knows a bit more about Carroll than I do, said he wondered what kind of introduction Carroll would give, as Carroll wasn't known for being a hard-core atheist. Carroll's introduction, thankfully, was truly enthusiastic, with no "I have to give this intro, you have to at least listen to this guy" half-assing.
The talk itself was nothing particularly new to me, mostly drawing material from The God Delusion, though it was very well delivered, Dawkins seemed at home with himself. The one memorable part was when he responded to complaints about the tone of his book by reading quotes from restaurant reviews, to show that he had been relatively subdued in his criticisms by comparison. If I weren't so lazy I'd try to look the quotes up online.
Seeing the audience reaction was the best part. It was almost entirely enthusiastic. They did plenty of laughing, though I didn't feel Dawkins had been going out of his way to get laughs--it was more of a "we're all friends here, we can laugh along with this whole thing" feeling. No hostile questions. I was involved with selling t-shirts, working with CFI, and Debbie Goddard was there representing CFI. She said that Dawkins claimed to only get testimonials and such during questions only once every few talks at the very most. She also said there had been another even where there were Christians protesting outside, and she tried to offer them tickets so they could see the event, but they insisted they would not let themselves be exposed to it. Unfortunate, but not really surprising. Anyway, while I guess that means there was a "preaching to the choir" element to it (though I know there were a number of Muslims and Christians there) it was great to see local atheists out in such force.