Richard Dawkins: An Argument for Atheism, York Theatre Royal

RICHARD DAWKINS' new book, Outgrowing God, is aimed at teenagers, so it was fitting that the near sell-out crowd was well represented by high school pupils.

Dawkins, now aged 78, is one of Britain's most celebrated scientists, who made his name with his breakthrough 1976 text, The Selfish Gene. Alongside his work in evolutionary biology, Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and was in York as part of tour to promote his new work.

Looking dapper in a pale blue suit and shirt and tie, he shared the stage with professor Lewis Dartnell, an expert in astrobiology, who was the question master for the evening. Lewis guided the discussion for 45 minutes, before inviting the audience to put Professor Dawkins on the spot.

Dawkins was entertaining – and topical – as he tackled some of the big questions of our time. On ethics, he dismissed the notion that we needed to believe in God in order to be good. He argued that our changing morality had an evolutionary trajectory, pointing out how slavery and the the refusal of suffrage for women were now in the past, while our views on racism and sexism had changed too in recent decades.

However he did acknowledge that our moral progress appeared to be stumbling at present, stating that trolling on social media was a regression. "I think anonymity on social media has a lot to answer for," he said, adding: "it has to be sorted out, as at present, it is causing a high level of nastiness."

Dawkins was dismissive of counter views put forward from audience members on the existence of God, re-emphasising – not surprisingly – his core belief that science has the answers.

Applause levels suggested that the crowd were with him on this and he was very much preaching to the converted.

Maxine Gordon