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

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Retired academics calculating moves while playing bowls

Lincoln Allison, Eric Thomas and Richard Larschan reflect on the ‘next phase’ of the scholarly life