By Jason Edwards

On Thursday, Eastern will host Richard Dawkins, the next lecturer in the continuing Chautauqua series.

Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, atheist and author, who canceled four of his recently scheduled college lectures, will speak about his latest book, The Magic of Reality.

Chautauqua Coordinator Minh Nguyen said the amount of interest to hear Dawkins has been “unprecedented.” He said he has received emails showing interest in the lecture from all over Kentucky and other states such as Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Georgia.

“We have people describing this event as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that they’re more psyched than they’ve ever been for a campus event before, and there have been some great ones,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen said he has only received one letter expressing disapproval of having Dawkins speak at the college.

“Concerning the email expressing disapproval, I’d like to say that having Dr. Dawkins here on our campus does not reflect an endorsement by the university or the Chautauqua of anything he might say,” Nguyen said.  “As a matter of fact, if we truly plan to develop critical thinking skills in our students, it is important that we expose them to a variety of perspectives, invite them to assess these perspectives and make decisions for themselves.”

Nguyen said last year, Chautauqua invited Robert George who is a professor of jurisprudence and a conservative Christian, to speak and asked Dawkins to speak this year to help students “sharpen their critical thinking skills.”

T.J. Caudill, 23, history major from Whitesburg, said he is interested in hearing Dawkins speak after reading one of his books.

“I read his book ‘The God Delusion’ and I grew up in a small town. I grew up with faith and in church,” Caudill said. “Then when I got into my teenage years, I switched over and became an atheist. He (Dawkins) intrigued me. He brought up really good points in his book about how you are a product of your environment.”

Caudill said we are viewed as a Christian nation and it was “nice to hear” other people’s opinions and views at Eastern.

Dustin Griffin, 25, psychology major from London, said it would be interesting to hear Dawkins speak about atheism.

“I find it interesting to listen to anyone who challenges what is generally considered the most predominate [religious] viewpoints in this area,” Griffin said.

Griffin said he didn’t feel Dawkins lecture was “necessarily” important to Eastern, except for the possible community impact.

Brian Goard, professor of philosophy, said having a lecturer like Dawkins helps promote critical thinking among students.

“We have a number of paradigms we typically think of the world in and through, and part of learning is to have those challenged and to have additional questions raised,” Goard said. “We may not come to the same conclusions that Dawkins has come to, but at least engaging in a dialogue with him. By pushing these questions, it keeps thinking going. It keeps philosophical thought going. Which I think is part of what being what a flourishing human being is.”

The lecture is scheduled to take place in the Coates Administration building in Brock Auditorium. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the lecture beginning at 7:30 p.m..

“We’re very lucky to have Dr. Dawkins here on our campus,” Nguyen said.