Richard Dawkins Interviews Alister McGrath

This is a 1 hr 10 minute video David Wood found for us.


Stu Sherwin said...

Fascinating. I discovered this video a couple of days before you posted it here. I've been wanting to hear Dawkins debate McGrath for ages, having got both his anti-Dawkins books. I have to say I was very disappointed. Dawkins completely wipes the floor with him. I expected there to be more of a struggle.

Stu Sherwin said...

Actually thinking about it, it's not so much Richard Dawkins beating McGrath in a debate - there's nothing Dawkins says that any other atheist wouldn't say. McGrath genuinely appears to have no idea what he's talking about. Very sad.

Butch said...

I can’t thank you enough for posting this. I watched it in its entirety last night and found it enlightening. Especially the part where McGrath tries to define faith as rational but in the end admitted that it is not (occurs maybe 10% of the way through).

Antonio Manetti said...

I appreciated the civil tone of the discussion. Although one hour is hardly enough time to explore the issue.

I notice the commenters on Christian web site on which the video is posted come to the opposite conclusion regarding who prevailed in the debate.

To me, a pivotal point in the discussion was McGrath's repeated failure to confront squarely the issue of why humans attribute the survival of someone after a terrible natural disaster to divine intervention while ignoring the fact that God did not see fit to rescue the thousands who perished. After trying repeatedly to get McGrath to see the contradiction, Dawkins gave up.

Anonymous said...

To the three comments above. I agree totally. I just didn't want to tell people what I thought initially. Glad you liked it. I did too. Dawkins isn't as bad as people (on both sides of the fence) have made him out to be from his book, either.

Antonio Manetti said...

There is one issue that annoys me about Dawkins view of the divine. The notion that God must be a part of the universe, and therefore understandable in terms of its laws. This leads him to the assertion that God, if He exits, must be, somehow, more complicated than his creation and therefore must have evolved.

The idea of God posited by many Christians is the Augustinian view that He is outside of the created order and, indeed, sustains its existence. God therefore is not subject to its governing laws.

If one wishes to question belief, one ought to understand and confront the best arguments put forth by believers not some strawman.

Anonymous said...

Yes, antonio, Christian theists argue God is in a different category than the universe. He is “the self-existent, uncaused Cause, who is by definition unmakeable,” and so the answers that the Christian provides for such a God do not apply to the universe. In other words, the "brute fact" of the universe needs some explaining that God, being eternal and uncreated, does not need.

Christians claim the upper hand by definition, but that's all they're doing. They define God in such a way that the definition solves problems that the alternative theory doesn't. But just by defining such a supreme being as one who necessarily exists doesn't mean such a being actually exists. There isn't much by way of evidence that he does. We know this universe exists. Ockham's razor tells us the simplest explanation is the better one. God needs an explanation despite the definition.

Besides, the Christian view of God has a different set of problems, as we're arguing here at DC. Christians say the universe needs an explanation. I say their explanation has insurmountable problems on its own terms. Christians say they have an explanation that needs no further explanation. I say such an explanation doesn't explain such a being as God.

Antonio Manetti said...

The interesting thing about such an explanation is the need to assume a sustaining God. Positing a God who created a self-sustaining universe is a hair's-breadth away from eliminating the need for God altogether.

Steve said...

Hmm.... I think the key problem Christians have with explaining God is their inability to accept that some of their ideas about God may be wrong. Were this a debate with someone from a more open minded background (say wicca, paganism, or polytheism) it would have gone no further than the question, "Does God exist?"

I also think this debate highlights the stalemate between atheists and theists (mono or poly theists) in that it shows that neither side is willing to give up their main dogma. For atheists it is science, and rationalism (which try as one may, one cannot explain everything using it, at least at the current point in time) and for Christians it is undoubtedly faith.

lowendaction said...

Most first and most honest reaction to this video was: "How is this any different than a couple of art critics debating the validity of a particular piece."

But I would like to tag this on to steve's last comment. What will IMO forever seperate a meaningful debate between athesits and Christians, is their opposing approaches to "understanding" God. For the atheist, there is usually a very scientific and scholarly approach, whereas the Christian strives to better "know" God through means of a relationship (via the bible, one would hope). That is not to say that thought and reason are tosseda aside for the Christian (or at least it shouldn't), but there is the "other" less tangeble element that the Christian weighs in, which simply doesn't exsist for the atheist.

This really makes neither right or wrong, just what to do?

Former_Fundy said...


thanks for posting this. McGrath was just starting to become popular among Evangelicals about the time I left the faith. I did read a couple of his early books although I don't remember the titles now.

Here are some observations:

1. IMO, this is the best way to have meaningful discussions about religion. In a debate format, it tends to be to focused on who wins and who loses and the technicalities around the proposition, etc. It also sometimes becomes personal and emotional because no one wants to be seen as the loser.

2. Both of these men are extremely articulate. Perhaps its the British accent which to me always sounds intellectual.

3. I think McGrath admitted that ultimately one believes in Christ for existential reasons. IOW, as he said, man realizes there is something wrong with his nature, he is not as good as he ought to be, and he yearns for something better and something more fulfilling. He finds that in Christ. Now once someone commits himself to Christ, he has to begin to reconcile all the other teachings of Christianity with what he sees in the world. He has to defend with intellectual arguments why belief in Christ is reasonable. This is where apologetics comes in. People like McGrath are not overly concerned that there are unresolved problems with reconciling a belief in Christ with reason, because ultimately it comes down to their own existential experience. So whether McGrath takes Craig's specific view on the witness of the HS as the ultimate proof, they seem to be saying the same thing.

The Doctor said...

I think that irrespective of ones personal theological beliefs Dawkins needs to be challenged and challenged very seriously.

As a Prof. of the “Public Understanding of Science” he not only frequently presents unsound arguments, he is actually misrepresenting science.

By applying the term “scientific” to his arguments, he implies a certain credibility that in actuality is unwarranted.

My own irritation over these matters has led me to devote some time to a new blog:

I will strive to not personally debate too much in this blog, but rather catalog and discuss what I see as serious weaknesses in his arguments on a range of topics.

I have not placed any restriction on who may comment either.

ScienceasGod said...

"Debates" about religion (or anything else visceral) by virtue of their format declare a "winner" and a "loser." This doesn't seem helpful. The conversation is the key to understanding, not the "victory." I would submit that, just as there is no absolute empirical evidence for the existence of God, there is also a great lack of empirical evidence to support a completely undirected universe. The chances of a simple protein chain assembling, by chance, is one one thousandth of a trillionth. At that point one doesn't have life, one just has a protein chain. Chance is quickly being removed from the scientific table, and this begs the question- "If not chance, then what?"

ScienceasGod said...

With topics as visceral as religion, the format of debate seems counterproductive. The venue dictates a "winner" and a "loser." The real benefit isn't the victory, it is the conversation. The fact is this: neither position has "empirical" evidence for a cause of the universe. One can't empirically "prove" that God exists (there are no proofs for God, only alleged witnesses), and one cannot empirically "prove" the origin of an undirected universe scientifically. Scientists today are scrambling to take chance off the scientific table. For example, the chances of a protein chain assembling, by chance, is one one thousandth of a trillionth. At that point, one doesn't have life- one just has a protein chain in a vacuum! Neither position has an empirical proof. This condition in itself denies a "winner" or "Loser", and affirms the need for conversation.

Creitz said...

Loved the video. I think people have generally made up their minds whether or not God exists and for those who are atheists, Dawkins "wipes the floor" with McGrath. But for those who see things differently, Dawkins comes across as completely ignorant of what the Bible teaches. I'm not expecting him to be an expert, but some of the questions he asks makes it seem that he doesn't understand where Christians are coming from.

For example, he keeps wanting science (which is a limited tool that can only explain so much of the universe) to explain God - a God I believe made the universe. Science is like turning on a light in a house and expecting it to shine even outside and at our neighbors house. It's not going to "explain" everything. However, as McGrath quotes Lewis, "I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen. Not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." God gives meaning to our reality because he is outside and is the creator of time and space. That will never be proven by switching on a 60 watt lightbulb and hoping to see things 1,000 miles away.

I've reviewed McGrath's newest book The Passionate Intellect at my blog and I look forward to hearing your thoughts either here or there.

God bless!