Saturday, June 09, 2007

Richard Dawkins Interviews Alister McGrath

Here’s an interesting discussion between Alister McGrath and Richard Dawkins, which was edited out of Dawkins’s video The Root of All Evil? They start talking about the Problem of Evil in the middle of the interview, but the entire program is worth watching.

I find it interesting that Dawkins frequently claims that he’s interested in dialogue with theists and that he just can’t find any. Yet he refuses to debate his views with Christians (click here for one example). It’s as if he’s saying, “I really want to discuss this stuff with Christians, but not really.”

Given Dawkins’s reluctance to engage with knowledgeable theists, I was impressed that he interviewed McGrath. It is clear, however, that when Dawkins says he’s interested in “dialogue,” what he really means is that he wants extended Q & A sessions, with him doing the questioning.


David said...

Hi. Great site. What is your RSS feed?

philip mendola said...

Hey David, it's great to have you back.

This was a very interesting exchange. Dawkins said something that really astounded me for how intellectually bankrupt it is as an argument.

Dawkins: "If you believed in a god who evolved, I'd be much happier. If you said, "Well, somewhere out in Alpha Centauri there's a superior form of life that's so immensely superior to us that we would call it God. And maybe it even seeded life here. Maybe it beams rays here to protect us and forgive our sins and all that sort of thing." I'd be much happier with that, because then I could say, "Ah, well, it actually evolved and we are no longer bereft of an explanation for his existence." But I don't think you do believe that."

I always keep on wondering why Dawkins can't see the obvious problems with his objection. First of all, theoretically, is Dawkins proposing that it is utterly impossible for a timeless God to have made a material universe? Why is that so? Perhaps the answer "God is timeless" doesn't sate Dawkins' intellectual needs, but I don't see why that makes it a problem. Second, I don't see how Dawkins wouldn't be upset that in his little thought experiment the universe's existence goes unexplained, as he shows by referencing the existence of Alpha Centauri. Third, and resulting from the second point, can Dawkins' not see the problem of infinite regress? Whatever possibly explains God would then need an explanation, and so on and so forth.

I just don't see how this has come to be a major component of the polemic of one of the world's leading atheists.

David Wood said...


Suppose, hypothetically, that I don't know what an RSS feed is. How would I go about finding it to answer you?

David Wood said...


I think it's also interesting that Dawkins's main argument in his new book is based on a massive equivocation. His argument goes like this: Theists claim that we infer the existence of God based on the complexity of life. But God is more complex than life. So all the more we would need an explanation for God.

The equivocation is on the word "complex." When a proponent of ID says that a certain structure is complex, he means that it is composed of a number of physical parts that couldn't have ended up in that formation by chance and selection. In other words, the arrangement is consistent with design.

Now when someone like Dawkins says that God is "complex," is this what he means? Does he mean that God is composed of parts that look like they were arranged and therefore seem to require a designer? Certainly not. Apparently, to say that God is "complex" is just to say that God is mind-boggling, or something to that effect. But this isn't what the design proponent is claiming, so Dawkins's reply is simply wrong.

Khebab said...

Re: Now when someone like Dawkins says that God is "complex," is this what he means? Does he mean that God is composed of parts that look like they were arranged and therefore seem to require a designer?

My two cents: I think Dawkins means that complexity is the necessary result of an evolutionary process therefore a complex God must have evolved from something else.

Steve M said...

Hi, I would like to say that Alister McGrath is my new hero. I find the way he speaks this mode of communication eminently listenable. I must say, that I also enjoyed listening to Dawkins. While I am not by any stretch of the imagination a Dawkins fan, it helps , having actually seen and heard him, to better understand how he thinks when he writes. For me, this highlights the importance of face-to-face communication but it also highlights the need for people involved in such communication to be able to maintain a rational and fairly relaxed air.

As a Christian and therefore a follower of Christ and as such someone who would like to emulate Christ the capability of discussing controversial and sometimes threatening issues in a calm and reasoned manner should be my goal. Unfortunately, I do get uptight. However, I do not see this as an outgrowth of my religiosity, rather I see it as an outgrowth of my insecurities. It is for this reason that at this stage I will not be a good polemicist for Christianity.

Thank God for people like Alistair McGrath.

Marc said...

I'm surprised McGrath did not make the point (already made in his book) that Dawkin's demanding an explanation for a complex creator is just the "Who made God?" argument rehashed.

If the tenet is "God is the creator, EVERYTHING else is a creation" then the question "Who made God" is nonsense and implies a lack of comprehension. Its asking, "Who created the uncreated being?".

The questioner (in this case Dawkins) needs assistance in forming a coherent question and not some apologetic answer.

Kerry said...

Thanks so much for making this video available! Wow! Excellent. Anyway one can get this exchange for himself?

Thanks! - KBC

Divinus Mentis said...

Hey great stuff. I've linked to your blog from mine:


jdbartlett said...

I'm about half way through, and it's a nice dialogue so far; thanks for posting. It really is a "dialogue" though, not just Dawkins grilling McGrath in a Q&A; Dawkins reacts to McGrath's responses and "feels" his way through the interview. Why do you feel otherwise?

Reubs said...

Hello Mr Wood. Sorry to bother you.. but i was wondering.. how should one counter the argument presented in ?

*the argument of 1 John 5:7*

Many thanks.

Knuje said...

Pandeism answers the problem of evil....

Jonathan said...

I like this video a lot. The one thing that detrats from Mcgrath is his argument about the one child saved. He does contradict himself when speaking about that. I want to know your opinion as to why?

nusciera said...

hi, name is muayad , and iam eathiest ,i don't belive in god... i was former member of islam, and i was thinking about translating some of ur videos and put them into a blogger that i shall make.. if is it ok with u