One other point that I should emphasize. This talk presented an overview of how we should look at the appearance of design in the universe, for a general public. While I heard some complaints that there was nothing new in it, that’s the way this had to be: it was a synthesis of a position.
Dawkins is often given a rap as one of those ultradarwinians who see every detail of life as the explicit product of carefully honed selection. For me, what was interesting in this talk was how clearly he repudiated that position. In several places, he contrasted what he called a “naive Darwinist” perspective with reality, and showed that the strawman didn’t hold up. A major point was also that features that may very well have evolved with a core that was selected for can have side-effects, and been subverted to non-adaptive purposes, and that these features may represent a significant element of the species’ character. He talked quite a bit about the flexibility of the human brain, a property that was the product of selection, yet that same flexibility means it can be reprogrammed into deleterious byways, such as religion or fanaticism or unthinking patriotism.
It was all stuff that I agreed with, and didn’t surprise me at all. Similarly, The God Delusion didn’t contain anything radical or new. The virtue of these kinds of talks and books is that they pull many commonly held ideas together into a coherent fusion that can be more readily absorbed by a larger number of people who haven’t yet taken in all of the underlying evidence.