Evolutionary biologist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins challenged a packed auditorium at Eastern Kentucky University on Thursday night to look past humanity's myths to truth.
The noted British atheist, recognized as one of the world's leading scientific minds, spoke while on a tour promoting his newest book, The Magic of Reality.
"Everybody likes a good story ... I hope you agree the truth ... is more magical than any myth," Dawkins said.
He addressed such past mythological topics as the origin of man and the sun, as well as the possibilities of things such as miracles.
"Don't ever be cowardly enough to say something you don't understand is supernatural," he told the audience of more than 1,800 people, as well as crowds in three rooms to which EKU broadcast the speech.
The crowd started forming at 11 a.m. and filled the auditorium 90 minutes before the speech began.
Dawkins credited his visit to a friendship with Dorothy Sutton, EKU Foundation Professor Emeritus of English. Their friendship began a dozen years ago when Daw kins asked to read one of her poems while being honored. The two met for the first time Thursday night.
"He's one of the most caring, kind and compassionate human beings you could ever hope to meet," Sutton said.
Dawkins is most noted for books including The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, which is considered an atheist manifesto.
Among the audience members was a group of more than 60 Berea College students and their professors, including Dave Porter, who teaches psychology and behavioral science.
"His sense of humor and the image of an affable atheist is a very positive view of the secular perspective," said Porter, who uses Dawkins' writings in his courses. "It was a thrill to see him."
Tyler Sergent, who teaches history and religion, said he often asks questions of his students like those Dawkins discusses in his new book.
"The questions of how do you know something are extremely important," Sergent said.
Dawkins noted his new book was written with 12-year-olds in mind "but is a book for all ages and maybe a book for the ages."
He said the goal was to get kids to "think critically ... rather than just believe what they're told."
The event was part of EKU's Chautauqua lecture series.