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Richard Dawkins vs. David Quinn

DUBLIN, Ireland, OCT. 25, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is Part 2 of a transcription of a debate between Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," and David Quinn, columnist at the Irish Independent, on the existence of God, free will and the effect of religion on the world.

The debate took place Oct. 9 on the "The Tubridy Show," hosted by Ryan Tubridy, and was broadcast on Irish public radio station RTE Radio 1. Part 1 of this debate appeared Tuesday on Catholic Online.

* * *

Tubridy: What evidence do you have, Richard Dawkins, that you're right?

Dawkins: I certainly don't believe a word of that. I do not believe we are controlled wholly by our genes. Let me go back to the really important thing that Mr. Quinn says.

Quinn: How are we independent of our genes by your reckoning? What allows us to be independent of our genes? Where is this coming from?

Dawkins: Environment, for a start.

Quinn: But hang on, but that is also a product of, if you like, matter, OK?

Dawkins: Yes, but it's not genes.

Quinn: OK, what part of us allows us to have free will?

Dawkins: Free will is a very difficult philosophical question, and it is not one that has anything to do with religion, contrary to what Mr. Quinn says.

Quinn: It has an awful lot to do with religion, because if there is no God, there is no free will, because we are completely phenomena.

Dawkins: Who says there is no free will if there is no God? That is a ridiculous thing to say.

Quinn: William Provine for one, whom you quote in your book. I have a quote here from him. Other scientists as well believe the same thing, that everything that goes on in our heads is a product of genes, entity, environment and chemical reactions, that there is no room for free will.

And Richard, if you haven't got to grips with that, you seriously need to, because many of your colleagues have, and they deny outright the existence of free will, and they are hardened materialists like yourself.

Tubridy: OK, Richard Dawkins, your rebuke to that note if you wish.

Dawkins: I am not interested in free will. What I am interested in is the ridiculous suggestion that if science can't say where the origin of matter comes from, theology can.

The origin of matter is a very -- the origin of the whole universe -- is a very, very difficult question. It's one that scientists are working on, it's one that they hope, eventually, to solve.

Just as before Darwin, biology was a mystery, Darwin solved that; now cosmology is a mystery. The origin of the universe is a mystery, it's a mystery to everyone. Physicists are working on it, they have theories, but if science can't answer that question, then it's sure as hell theology can't either.

Quinn: Forgive me if I can come in here. It is a perfectly reasonable proposition to ask yourself, Where does matter come from? And it is perfectly reasonable as well to posit the answer: God created matter.

Dawkins: It is not reasonable.

Quinn: Many reasonable people believe this. It is quite a different category to say, "Look, we will study matter and we will ask how matter organizes itself in its particular forms," and come up with the answer: evolution.

It is quite another question to ask, Where does matter come from to begin with? And if you like, you must go outside of matter to answer that question, and then you're into philosophical and theological categories.

Dawkins: How can you possibly say God did it if you can't say where God came from?

Quinn: Because you must have an uncaused cause for anything at all to exist.

Now I see in your book, you come up with an argument against this that I frankly find to be bogus. You come up with the idea of a mathematical infinite regress.

But this does not apply to arguments about uncaused causes and unmoved movers, because we're not talking about math, we are talking about existence and existentiality. Nothing exists unless you have an uncaused cause, and that uncaused cause, and that unmoved mover, is by definition, God.

Dawkins: You just defined God as that. You just defined the problem out of existence. That's no solution to the problem. You just evaded it.

Quinn: You can't answer the question where matter comes from, you as an atheist.

Dawkins: I can't, but science is working on it. You can't answer it either.

Quinn: It won't come up with an answer. And you invoked a "mystery argument" that you accuse religious believers of doing all of the time. You invoke it for the very first and most fundamental question about reality. You do not know where matter came from.

Dawkins: I don't know, science is working on it. Science is a progressive thing that is working on it. You don't know, but you claim that you do.

Quinn: I claim to know the probable answer.

Tubridy: Can I suggest that the next question, it is quite appropriate, is on the role of religion in wars. When you think of the difficulty that it brings up on the local level, Mr. Dawkins, do you believe the world would be a safer place without religion?

Dawkins: Yes I do. I don't think religion is the only cause of war, very far from it. Neither the Second World War, nor the First World War were caused by religion, but I do think that religion is a major exacerbator, and especially in the world today, as a matter of fact.

Tubridy: OK, explain yourself.

Dawkins: Well, I think it's pretty obvious if you look at the Middle East, if you look at India and Pakistan, if you look at Northern Ireland, there are many, many places where the only basis for hostility that exists between rival factions who kill each other is religion.

Tubridy: Why do you take it upon yourself to preach, if you like, atheism -- and there's an interesting choice of words in some ways. You've been accused of being something like a fundamental atheist, if you like, the high priest of atheism. Why go about your business in such a way that you try to disprove these things? Why don't you just believe in it privately, for example?

Dawkins: Well, fundamentalist is not the right word. A fundamentalist is one who believes in a holy book, and thinks that everything in that holy book is true.

I am passionate about what I believe because I think there is evidence for it. And I think it's very different being passionate about evidence from being passionate about a holy book.

So, I do it because I care passionately about the truth. I really, really believe it's a big question, and it's an important question, whether there is a God at the root of the universe. I think it's a question that matters, and I think that we need to discuss it, and that's what I do.

Quinn: Ryan, if I can say, Richard has just come up with a definition of fundamentalism that suits him. He thinks that a fundamentalist is someone who has to believe in a holy book.

A fundamentalist is someone who firmly believes that they have got the truth, and hold that to an extreme extent, and become intolerant of those who hold to a different truth. Richard Dawkins has just outlined what he thinks the truth to be. It makes him intolerant of those who have religious beliefs.

Now in terms of the effect of religion upon the world, I mean at least Richard has rightly acknowledged that there are many causes of war and strife and ill will in the world, and he mentions World War I and World War II.

In his book he tries to get neatly off the hook of having atheism blamed, for example, for the atrocities carried out by Joseph Stalin, saying that these have nothing particularly to do with atheism.

Stalin, and many communists who were explicitly atheistic, took to view that religion was precisely the sort of malign and evil force that Richard Dawkins thinks it is, and they set out from that premise to, if you like, inflict upon religion, as sort of their own version of a final solution, they set to eradicate it from the earth through violence, and also through education that was explicitly anti-religious.

And under the Soviet Union, and in China, and under Pol Pot in Cambodia, explicit and violent efforts were made to suppress religion underground, religion was a wicked force and we have the truth, and our truth would not admit religion into the picture at all, because we believe religion to be an untruth. So atheism also can lead to fundamentalist violence, and did so in the last century.

Tubridy: Can we let Richard in here?

Dawkins: Stalin was a very, very bad man, and his persecution of religion was a very, very bad thing. End of story. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was an atheist.

We can't just compile lists of bad people who were atheists and lists of bad people who were religious. I am afraid that there were plenty on both sides.

Quinn: Yes, but Richard you are always compiling lists of bad religious people. You do it continually in all your books, and then you devote a paragraph to basically try to dissolve atheism of all blame for any atrocity throughout history. You cannot have it both ways.

Dawkins: I deny that.

Quinn: Of course you do it. Every time you are on a program, talking about religion, you bring up the atrocities committed in the name of religion, and then you try to minimize the atrocities committed by atheists because they were so anti-religious, and because they regarded it as a malign force, in much the same way as you do. You are trying to have it both ways.

Dawkins: Well, I simply deny that. I do think that there is some evil in faith, because faith is belief in something without evidence.

Quinn: But you see, that is not what faith is. You see, that is a caricature and a straw man, and it's so typical. That is not what faith is. You have faith that God does not exist.

Dawkins: What is faith?

Quinn: Wait a second. You have faith that God doesn't exist. You are a man of faith as well.

Dawkins: I do not. I've looked at the evidence.

Quinn: I've looked at the evidence too.

Dawkins: If somebody comes up with evidence that goes the other way, I'll be the first to change my mind.

Quinn: Well, I think the very existence of matter is evidence that God exists.

And by the way, remember, you're the man who has problems believing in free will, which you tried to very conveniently [push] to one side earlier.

Dawkins: I'm just not interested in free will, it's just not a big question for me.

Quinn: It's a vast question because we cannot be considered morally responsible beings unless we have free will. Otherwise we do everything because we are controlled by our genes or our environment. It's a vital question.

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Keywords

God, Delusional, Tubridy, Quinn, Ireland, Dawkins

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