Dawkins memes out at festival

For many a creationist or devout religious believer, it is a scene straight from a nightmare

June 24, 2013

Following a relatively sober address on evolutionary theory, Richard Dawkins’ Hawaiian-shirt-clad torso dissolves slowly to leave a floating head, repeating the phrase “mutation in the mind” to an increasing electro beat.

Yet instead this bizarre scene was merely part of the launch of the annual Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, this year wrapped around the theme of the power of the internet and its influence on contemporary culture.

At the event on 20 June, entitled “Just for Hits”, the emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, entered the stage to talk from behind a podium on the subject of memes – a word he coined in the 1976 bestseller The Selfish Gene.

Akin to genes propagating through nature by natural selection, memes are concepts that spread through human culture by being good at getting themselves copied “from brain to brain or blog to blog”, Professor Dawkins explained. Internet memes hijack this idea by being deliberated altered rather than randomly mutating, he said.

After almost five minutes, Professor Dawkins’ speech transmuted abruptly into an auto-tuned song with the performance continuing on a giant triptych of screens as the evolutionary biologist walked off stage.

Designed to illustrate Professor Dawkins’ theory of memes and the internet, the rest of the extravaganza included psychedelic images set to an electronic backing track, as well as flying hotdogs, cats and brains, interspersed with Professor Dawkins’ words, sometimes emanating from a disconnected head.

The scene ends following a reprieve for Professor Dawkins, coming back on stage, in the halo of a spotlight, playing an “electronic wind instrument”.

Writing on Twitter, Professor Dawkins said: “My psychedelic Meme vid and e-trumpet-playing getting a mixed reception, to say the least.”

As a “visual and oral extravaganza featuring a very unexpected guest”, the event was billed as an attempt to trump the spectacle of last year’s launch - “Meet Your Creator” - which featured 16 flying robots.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

PhD Position in Archaeology and Cultural History

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Energy and Process Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

PhD position in Electric Power Engineering

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Research Assistant in Business

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes