Dawkins began by saying that "this is the largest audience I have ever addressed." Originally ASU just asked people to submit a form on a web page to indicate desire to attend, but they had such great response that they had to issue tickets through Ticketmaster. There were more people who didn't get tickets who also showed up, and some of them were able to be seated in empty seats which were held for ticket holders who didn't show up by 7:15 p.m. (the lecture started at 7:30 p.m.). The auditorium was very nearly full to its capacity of 3,017 seats.
I still haven't yet read Dawkins' The God Delusion, but I believe most of his lecture was drawn from the book's content, accompanied by a slide presentation. At the end, he showed some twenty books that have been published in response to the "new atheists," most of which were directed at his book. For good measure, he included a picture of the cover of a book titled The Dog Allusion.
He also responded to those atheists who have criticized him for intemperate and inflammatory language directed at religion, pointing out that far more inflammatory language may be found in London restaurant reviews (with several hilarious examples). He disagreed with the idea that religion deserves special treatment to be exempt from criticism, and quoted a passage from his book describing the God of the Bible which could be considered intemperate and inflammatory (e.g., God is "a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully"), but which he characterized as less inflammatory than the restaurant reviews. I think it was quite similar in character to the restaurant reviews he quoted, only less hyperbolic and more accurate.
He ended with some "consciousness-raising," showing a photograph of three four-year-olds taken at a Christmas pageant play published in a British newspaper, along with its caption, which described them as "Muslim," "Sikh," and "Christian." Dawkins asked us to imagine instead that they were labeled "conservative," "liberal," and "socialist," or "atheist," "agnostic," and "secular humanist," observing that these are all equally absurd. While it would be accurate to describe them as children of parents who are Muslim, Sikh, and Christian, a four-year-old is not old enough to have considered opinions on cosmology or anything approaching a critical world view. (My thought was that this is somewhat agist, and there are many adults haven't given their religious views much more thought than most four-year-olds. But I think his basic point is sound.) During the Q&A, he was asked if he thought four-year-olds could be atheists, and he said he thought the same point applied--it's not accurate to describe a four-year-old as an atheist, either.
In another question, someone asked whether Dawkins had a background in theology, to which he referred the audience to P.Z. Myers' "The Courtier's Reply" at Pharyngula, which he recommended that everyone Google and read as he didn't think his paraphrase did it full justice.
One individual asking a question said that he is an atheist with a friend who is a very intelligent Mormon who he frequently converses with and believes he has helped lead to some mutual understanding and perhaps even some change in his views. He questioned Dawkins' approach. Dawkins responded that "seduction" is not his style, but commended the questioner and stated his approval for different styles of atheism, comparing it to a "good cop, bad cop" methodology.
I found little to disagree with in Dawkins' presentation (and little of which I've described above, due to lack of note-taking). There were perhaps a few points where he presented metaphysics as science, but I agree with his point that science and religion are not "non-overlapping magisteria" (as Stephen Jay Gould put it) and that religions do make empirical claims and are criticizable when they contain false, ridiculous, unsupportable, and immoral statements.
UPDATE (March 7, 2008): John Wilkins has posted some critical comments about Dawkins' lecture, which may be a topic of discussion when I meet him on Saturday for beer and conversation with John Lynch.
John Wilkins writes that:
In particular I was annoyed that those of us who do not condemn someone for holding religious beliefs were caricatured as "feeling good that someone has religion somewhere". Bullshit. That is not why we dislike the Us'n'Themism of TGD. We dislike it because no matter what other beliefs an intelligent person may hold, so long as they accept the importance of science and the need for a secular society, we simply do not care if they also like the taste of ear wax, having sex with trees, or believing in a deity or two. Way to go, Richard. Good bit of framing and parodying the opposition. Real rational.While I agree with Dr. Wilkins that the particular beliefs he lists are not objectionable, I very much do care if people hold beliefs which cause them to engage in political actions such as denial of rights to homosexuals, female genital mutilation, honor killings, issuing of fatwas, suppression of factual information and dissemination of misinformation about evolution, and so forth, which I believe is the primary concern of Dawkins, as well. The mere belief in God is not a problem (as Thomas Jefferson famously wrote, "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg"), it's all the additional baggage that religion typically brings along that causes the problems. (Likewise, mere lack of belief in God is not a problem, but it also seems to frequently be accompanied by political baggage.)
Wilkins writes as though the majority of religious believers in the world fall under 100-200 on the scale in this video for calculating your "God Delusion Index," while I suspect Dawkins' (and I know that my) concerns are primarily with those who score much higher than 100. (My own score was not zero--it was 45.)
A few other blog posts reacting to Dawkins' lecture:
Labyrinth: A Maze of Ramblings
Lone Locust Productions
A post at the Motley Fool atheist forum
I also should mention that Dawkins used one of my favorite arguments for the falsity and social transmission of religion, which is that people tend to believe the religions of their parents (and this is still the case despite the fact that in the U.S. a large minority of people tend to change religious sects within a religious tradition). Dawkins showed a map of the world displaying large geographic areas as represented by adherents of particular religions, and commented on how odd that fact is, if religion is supposed to be true. For contrast, he showed the same map, with the names of religions replaced with various scientific theses, and observed that that doesn't happen. (In actuality, it does happen from time to time in science--some scientific disputes have divided upon regional lines, though typically evidence on the dispute builds and the regional division goes away, replaced by consensus.)
John Wilkins is unhappy about Dawkins' advocacy of truth as something that we care about from science, stating that we only care about good enough (pragmatism), not truth. I disagree--I don't think that even "good enough" can be talked about without reference to true predictions, at the very least, and I think Dawkins is quite right to care about truth. Certainly it can be hard to establish what is true (it's often easier to establish what isn't true), and it's a mistake to become wedded to a particular theory as true if that causes you to ignore anomalies and contrary evidence, but I likewise think it's a mistake to say that science doesn't care about getting true explanations.
I'd also like to add a comment about one of the exchanges in the Q&A that came from a religious believer (of whom there were many in the audience--I was coincidentally seated a few seats away from a gentleman who is in my parents' Bible study class, who had with him a worn and heavily annotated copy of Dawkins' book as well as a copy of one of the critiques published, The Dawkins Delusion). That person suggested that Dawkins was mistaken to assert (which he didn't, at least not at the lecture) that religion was the primary cause of war without providing empirical evidence. He stated that this is certainly something that can be empirically studied, and that he doubts that it is true. He also stated that studies have shown that religious believers tend to be happier, are more likely to give to charitable causes, even non-religious charitable causes, than the secular, and so forth. (I've previously blogged about studies which show that religious believers are more generous than the secular, and conservatives more generous than liberals.) Dawkins' response was that he didn't say what the questioner thought he did, and also observed that the two largest wars in the world's history (WWI and WWII) were not about religion, and that the studies referred to by the questioner may be correct, but that they miss the point. For Dawkins, having better social consequences is not a reason to believe in religion if the religion is not true--it's truth that is the closest thing to sacred for Dawkins.
UPDATE: P.Z. Myers takes issue with John Wilkins' criticisms of Dawkins.
A poor quality video of the lecture (via cell phone?) is on Google Video.
UPDATE (March 13, 2008): Chris Hallquist reports on Dawkins' appearance in Madison, Wisconsin.
UPDATE (March 24, 2008): Near the end of Dawkins' talk, he showed this YouTube video of a Marcus Brigstocke rant about religion. (Thanks for the link, Tim K.)