Stuck in the middle ground between earning a degree and starting a PhD means I am often easily confused. I, therefore, ask lots of questions. Actually, scratch that. I would like to ask lots of questions. I don’t, which is probably linked to my initial comment about being easily confused. I don’t often know what’s a sensible question, which, when asked, announces to my peers that I am an intellectual, or what’s an insensible question, which, when asked, exposes me as the fraud I am.
What stops me asking questions? Many things, though mostly it’s my interior monologue second-guessing myself. Is my question relevant? Has it already been covered? Am I wasting time by asking it? Should I already know the answer? How can I put my question into words? How do I put it into words AND sound smart?!
This cloud of confusion suddenly lifted in spectacular form last night. I, along with 1500 of Brisbane’s atheists, evolutionists, and critical thinkers, enjoyed a public lecture by Prof. Richard Dawkins about his current book ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. Richard went through each chapter of his book and summarised the most important parts for us/those that hadn’t read the book. It was when he covered Chapter 11: History written all over us, that my ears piqued. Richard said:
Look at whales, they have land animal written all over them. Even look at humans, they have aquatic animal written all over them.
Aquatic..?! He didn’t mean....?! No....
From this point on I had it. I was going to ask Richard Dawkins a question!! My interior monologue started playing up but I fought hard to quash it. I spent the rest of the Richard’s lecture thinking about how to ask my question and how to look suitably intelligent in the process (half of the psychology school was there after all :P ) The lecture finished and the audience was called up to microphones located at the front of the auditorium to ask questions. After a moment of deliberation I shot up and squirmed through the stalls to get to the microphone. Knee-caps shaking with anxiety, but with a calm and collected face on, I waited for my turn.
In the end I didn’t get to ask the question. Richard could obviously tell I was going to say something amazingly profound to stump him, or that I was going say something profoundly stupid and look like an idiot. Either way he called the question-asking short, just before I could ask mine. For those of you that care I’ve written it in full below.
Relating this back to asking questions, I actually learnt during my undergraduate degree that asking questions in lectures is a really efficient way of clearing up areas of uncertainty. Somewhere between graduating and floating around the psych halls I forgot that. Maybe it’s my (falsely-held?) belief that once you have a degree you’re actually supposed to know something and I felt I didn’t. I’m not so sure. Regardless, students should ask lots and lots of questions and I will endeavor to do the same.
“Richard. When you were talking about the huge history within us you mentioned that whales have land animal written all over them and that we even have aquatic animal written all over us. I trust you didn’t mean aquatic in the sense of Elaine Morgan’s aquatic ape theory (theory in second sense)? I understand this has been rigorously challenged and perhaps debunked. Do you think that interpretations of evolution, such as Elaine’s, hinder or help the communication of evolution to the lay-person?”