Dawkins and Pell battle it out in one hell of a debate
April 10, 2012
Clashing ideologies … Tony Jones, centre, plays the referee to Richard Dawkins, left, and Cardinal George Pell on Q&A last night. Photo: ABC TV
IT WAS a match-up made in Q&A heaven: two pugilists of opposing convictions going head-to-head in a debate about the existence of God.
Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic and Sydney’s archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, spent an hour with evolutionary biologist and celebrity atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins taking questions covering everything from evolution, resurrection and eternal damnation.
Frustration and something bordering on barely concealed mutual disdain boiled over more than once during the ABC television show.
Charles Darwin was claimed as a theist by the cardinal, because Darwin ”couldn’t believe that the immense cosmos and all the beautiful things in the world came about either by chance or out of necessity” – a claim disputed by Professor Dawkins as ”just not true”.
Cardinal Pell won applause when he shot back: ”It’s on page 92 of his autobiography. Go and have a look.”
The clergyman remained unmoved on gay marriage and climate change, but he said evolution was ”probably” right, and that atheists could ”certainly” get into heaven. Professor Dawkins declared he was ”trying to be charitable” by suggesting there was no way Cardinal Pell meant the body would literally be resurrected.
The clergyman’s view that people would return after death in some kind of physical form earlier had been dismissed by Professor Dawkins. ”The brain is going to rot, that’s all there is to it,” he said.
Cardinal Pell said: ”Mr Dawkins, I don’t say things I don’t mean.
”I believe it because I believe the man who told us that was also the son of God. He said, ‘This is my body, this is my blood’. And I’d much prefer to listen to Him and take his word than yours.”
On the Q&A vote, 76 per cent of the audience decided religion did not make the world a better place.