Showdown in Oz: Dawkins vs. Cardinal George Pell

Here, courtesy of alert reader Stan, is yesterday’s Q&A debate in Australia between Richard Dawkins and George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney.  The debate takes the form of both men answering questions posed in advance by readers. I haven’t yet watched the hour-long debate, but am putting it up so readers can see it in a timely fashion.

What is notable here, at least as reported by The Australian, is that Pell admits that Adam and Eve are complete fictions:

AUSTRALIA’S Cardinal George Pell has described the biblical story of Adam and Eve as a sophisticated myth used to explain evil and suffering rather than a scientific truth.

Cardinal Pell last night appeared on the ABC’s Q&A program, where he was debating British evolutionary biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins.

Cardinal Pell said humans “probably” evolved from Neanderthals but it was impossible to say exactly when there was a first human. “But we have to say if there are humans, there must have been a first one,” he said.

According to Genesis, God created Adam and Eve as the first man and woman.

Asked by journalist Tony Jones if he believed in the existence of an actual Garden of Eden with an Adam and Eve, Cardinal Pell said it was not a matter of science but rather a beautiful mythological account.

“It’s a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and the suffering in the world,” he said.

“It’s certainly not a scientific truth. And it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”

This is curious because it violates the Catholic Church’s official attitude toward the Primal Couple.  The Catholic Catechism, for example, states:

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.265

. . . 397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of.278 All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.279

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.280 They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.281

. . . 402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”290

403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the “death of the soul”.291 Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.292

I wonder if the good Cardinal will now be excommunicated? Don’t count on it—the Vatican tends to turn a blind eye toward these local violations of dogma.

The Cardinal went on to blame atheism for Hitler and Stalin:

Cardinal Pell argued that the “great atheist movements” of Hitler and Stalin were the personification of social Darwinism.

“It’s the struggle for survival, the strong take what they can, and the weak give what they must and there’s nothing to restrain them.” he said. “And we’ve seen that in the two great atheist movements of the last century.”

172 Comments

  1. Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Interesting that Cardinal Pell argued that the “great atheist movements” of Hitler and Stalin were the personification of social Darwinism. What was that about Pop Pious the X11 doing a private deal with Hitler which the catholic church have now apologised for.
    Another Cardinal rule in tatters.

    • Sunny
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Of course there was that little pact with Mussolini that gave Mr. Pope his humble home: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateran_Treaty

      S.

    • Frank
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      And let’s never forget that Hitler and Stalin were the personification of the two great mustache movements of the twentieth century, ergo …

    • Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      *sigh* Hitler was more than likely a Catholic and Stalin was a statist.

      When will people realize that the “doctrine” of Atheism is just one point? There is no God.

      Theists need to stop with the strawmanning, it’s getting old.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        Don’t hold your breath for that to happen. As long as there’s one theist apologist left, you will still get to hear it, again and again.

        • Robster
          Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

          They have no other response. Nothing, it’s a steaming pile of childish nonsense. That explains why Pell was unable to offer one satisfactory answer.

      • Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        For purposes of making themselves look important, the Catholic Church counts 1000 million people as members.

        Either they are not very fussy about who is a Catholic, or they are exaggerating really badly.

        Using the rules the Catholic Church uses to decide who is a Catholic, who gets to be one of the 1000 million Catholics they claim exist, then Hitler was a Catholic.

        • NMcC
          Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:47 am | Permalink

          Yes, but it doesn’t even matter now how many members the Catholic Church has, because, as well as telling us that there was no Adam and Eve and, therefore, no need for Jesus’s suicide pact with himself over the non-existent original sin, but old George also informed us that even an atheist can go to heaven. So no need for belief in Jesus either. Crikey! Is there any hope for the Christian religion when one of its most prominent exponents admits that its 2 major planks are no longer in place.

      • Matt G
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:14 am | Permalink

        Ah yes, the old Hitler ploy (apologies to Inspector Clouseau): (1) Hitler was an atheist (probably not), and (2) Hitler was a mass murderer, therefore Hitler was a mass murderer because he was an atheist.

      • Howard
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

        Right on. I forget which british academic it was when asked during an important lecture if he was an practicing atheist, said “I think being a practicing atheist is like being a passionate non stamp collector”. Its an absurd description.
        The onus of proof is not on the atheist because he doesn’t believe in the devine.

  2. Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I was a little disappointed, actually. I’m no fan of Pell & it seemed to me he got more ‘air time’, & Dawkins was suffering from jetlag. But at least a poll of the wider audience voted Pell down. He showed remarkable ignorance here & there. But I kinda wish Dawkins – though I don’t always like his almost ‘evangelical’ push for non-godism – had been a little more on his game.
    Neither of them mentioned cats, which of course, blew any arguments for or against godism to the kind of dust cats are very good at disappearing into with their spiritual canniness.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure Richard is run down from constant travelling. He’s been on the go for a while and there’s no end in sight. I wish he’d rest up for a while.

      • Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        yes. He ought to. His not doing himself any good which is far more important than maintaining his follower base, but that will suffer as well. And btw, other people seemed to enjoy the ‘debate’ more than I did.

    • Marella
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Yeah the jet-lag was very evident, mostly in his losing his equanimity on a couple of occasions, though that could simply have been because Pell is a nasty piece of work.

  3. Kevin Meredith
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    One could argue that the belief systems of Hitler nor Stalin were atheistic, as both bore many of the trappings of traditional religion. Both espoused social and governmental systems that lacked rigorous scientific vetting but could not be questioned (Communism, Aryan superiority, historic inevitability etc.), both had their unquestionable prophets and extensive dogmas, and both, like the cardinal’s religion and many others, killed and persecuted non-believers. The real errors of Fascism and Communism were/are the same as most religions, just with their own gods, scriptures and enemies. The real problem is the age-old one, that humans evolved to believe without seeing, since seeing was until the advent of science and literacy so difficult.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Looks like there’s a neither missing in your first line.

      And also re. Hitler, there are his religious references/justifications in Mein Kampf, and the Nazi commandeering of the Freethinkers Halls.

      • Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Oh good, someone posted this again! I lost the link and always go searching for it every time I see someone equate “Hitler” with atheism.

        +1

        • Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:47 am | Permalink

          Thanks. I’m trying to save as many useful links (and quotations) as I can on my Tumblr blog, but I’m somewhat inconsistent about doing so…

          /@

    • SLC
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      As Martin Gardner argued, one might consider dialectical materialism a religion as it is based on revelation, not evidence.

  4. eric
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Both were what I’d consider pseudo-religious, in that they sought to supplant background religions with religious-like reverence for the authority of the state.

    Sort of like de Botton’s suggestions, they sought to co-opt the trappings and rituals of religion for a different purpose. Unlike his suggestions, however, they didn’t do it to foster community charity, organization, and empathy. They did it to foster support for an authoritarian state. Still, I can’t help thinking that we have two prime historical examples as to why atheists should not adopt the trappings of religion. Even if there are benefits, the possibility and costs of corruption outweigh them.

  5. David Leech
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    “It’s the struggle for survival, the strong take what they can, and the weak give what they must and there’s nothing to restrain them.” he said

    Yes, just ask a lot of altar boys.

    • MadScientist
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      At one point Pell says something like “we were preparing a lot of children” and the audience cracks up. I was a bit surprised that Dawkins didn’t ask what they thought was so funny about the church “preparing” children, but perhaps at that stage he was tired of asking the audience why they laugh at everything.

      • roy
        Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        MadScientist
        Dawkins was gut laughiing himself at the
        heckling
        at that time of the night he knew very well what was making the audience snigger

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:15 am | Permalink

        I thought not commenting was Richard’s best strategy at that moment. Everybody knew why the audience was laughing, Pell was losing the point all by himself, any comment from Richard would have distracted (and seemed overly nasty), I think.

  6. Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Pell is a loathesome creature and always has been.

    • Marella
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • steve oberski
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      I recently watched the “Without God we are nothing”: Dan Barker Vs Cardinal George Pell debate of July 2010 and Pell used all the same arguments he trotted out in the Dawkins debate, which Barker refuted.

      Barker did point out, that as a father, unlike Pell, he had actually participated in a real act of creation. Which some might consider a low blow, but given that Pell belongs to a group of feral old men who are telling the world that children are born deformed by sin, gays are unnatural, women should not have control over their bodies, condoms do nothing to prevent HIV/AIDS and that pointing out that their organization aids and abets sexual predators is discrimination, seemed to me to be just deserts.

  7. Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    “a sophisticated myth”?

    /@

    • Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      ‘A sophisticated myth’?

      I think that means there is a talking animal in it.

      And women have painful childbirths because they sinned.

      Is that sophisticated enough for you?

    • Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Even if this is not a standard interpretation, it is clear from a non-dual perspective that the myth of the fruit of knowledge of what is good and evil is about the dual perspective we are born with. Oriental traditions put more emphasis on that because that dual perspective is at the root of many misunderstandings when it comes to our self and our relation with the rest of the world. That is why you’ll find in the East techniques to overcome what christianity calls the original sin. Even mystic Islam addresses the matter of our non-abolute dual perspective and how to get rid of it.
      But in the oriental tradition, it is not a sin, just a default state that isn’t absolute and that leads us to think in some ways that misguides us when it comes to matters our dual intellect can’t address because the answers are non-dual by essence and what what is non-dual cannot be seen from a dual perspective.

      • Posted April 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        I think you’re right. In the Buddhist tradition all things composite are empty of existence from their own side – and there is the magnificent “form is emptiness and emptiness is form” from the Heart Sutra. There is, of course, a Christian mystic tradition exemplified by Meister Eckhardt and more recently, Thomas Merton.

    • cesiumfrog
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      I wish Dawkins wouldn’t keep spending so much of his time arguing evolution to be incompatible with a first human. This kind of gradualism is not required by evolutionary theory, and he tends not to cite any evidence from hominid fossils to support his position. For example, any mutation associated with grammatical language had to happen at a discrete time, and one individual might plausibly have had a couple children who were the unambiguous first to synthesise language and hence have minds more like ours than like their ancestors.

      But considering the cardinal said that animals also have souls, the issue was moot, and I would have liked to ask whether other vertebrates are also born into sin and whether various parasites will also be bodily resurrected into heaven.

      It was also unfortunate but Dawkins responded poorly to the audience’s humour.

      • Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        This kind of gradualism is not required by evolutionary theory, and he tends not to cite any evidence from hominid fossils to support his position.

        Is there fossil evidence that shows otherwise? I’d say it’s much better to remain on the side of caution when discussing extinct species or long dead individuals.

        • cesiumfrog
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          That’s exactly my point. It turns out that the cardinal accepts the science of human evolution, and holds no claims of any substance about Adam & Eve. Therefore this was just not an important topic for Dawkins to waste any time on, much less to venture out on a limb and use his full authority to assert without qualification (and take length to expound on like I recall he also did with the Archb.Canterbury) a view that departs beyond what the evidence actually supports. Lack of caution opens a scientist to looking porly in the final analysis, kind of like getting himself caught out repeating Krauss’ equivocation. I’d much rather if Dawkins had instead turned the focus to some of the firmer arguments for atheism.

          In my opinion the cardinal was also bitten unfairly for the very minor failures of not knowing the particular species names used for our ancestors or for not knowing the fraction of our Neanderthal ancestry accurately. Again Dawkins seemed to be at least as guilty (in spite of his responsibility of expertise) by so forcefully implying (“cousins!”) as if the fraction were zero.

  8. DutchA
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Apparently Pell prepared some clever one-liners, but at 30 minutes he lost it big time. The referee hould have given him a standing eight count.

    Men originated from Neanderthals, indeed. “Who else?, said Pell.

    Some of the comments are quite funny: “Soul begin in the 70s.”

    • Joseph C Chetcuti
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      Who said Neanderthals were extinct? There was one with a dog collar on the program.

      • Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:42 am | Permalink

        Ad homo-neanderthalis-inem!

        /@

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:54 am | Permalink

          +1

  9. FastLane
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    “I wonder if the good Cardinal will now be excommunicated? Don’t count on it—the Vatican tends to turn a blind eye toward these local violations of dogma.”

    Unless of course, he came out in support of a woman’s right to choose abortion, or women’s rights in general. Then it would be a fast track to excommunication.

    • Cordelia
      Posted June 4, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Just wanted to offer a different perspective on a woman’s “right to choose abortion”: http://180movie.com/

  10. Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    ‘And it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”’

    So why were religious people unable to get the knowledge that Adam and Eve never existed, and had to be told that by science?

    Could it be that religion is a really poor way of getting knowledge?

  11. Nige
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Although a physicalist and atheist, and a great admirer of Dawkins, I do wish he would not leave himself wide open to attack by going along with Krauss and equivocating over the meaning of the term `nothing`. It is quite true that in his account of the origin of the physical universe Krauss does not start off with the philosophers nothing, but with a vacuum endowed with energy and obeying the laws of quantum mechanics. Dawkins would do much better to first of all admit to our current lack of certainty in this area, then suggest that the big bang was a natural phenomenon occurring
    in the context of a much wider reality, as many physicsts believe. He could then emphasise the need for further work in the field, with a view to eventually finding an answer to the question `why existence`, without having to unconvincingly defend the notion of an apparently miraculous singular origin.

    • eric
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      It is quite true that in his account of the origin of the physical universe Krauss does not start off with the philosophers nothing, but with a vacuum endowed with energy and obeying the laws of quantum mechanics

      So what? The ‘philosopher’s nothing’ also has rules and boundary conditions, they are just implicit rather than explicit.

      For example, to believe ‘something came from nothing’ is a problem, your definition of nothing has to have the property of not naturally and spontaneously giving rise to something. But if it has that property, its not nothing, eh?

      So, it seems to me that we are faced with two choices. Either the ‘philosopher’s nothing’ is a nonsequitur, a paradox like the liar’s paradox in that it is self-referentially impossible. Or, it contains properties and conditions, in which case a quantum nothing is just as reasonable as a philosopher’s nothing. More reasonable, in fact, given that the existence of a quantum nothing is based on observational evidence while the existence of a philosopher’s nothing is based on rectal extraction.

      • Nige
        Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        When philosophers (and indeed `regular` people)
        speak of nothing, they really mean nothing at all, ie possessing absolutely no existential properties at all, or the negation of existence. Now if you respond that this conception of nothing still requires `nothing` to have a property ( ie the absence of any existential property ), then you are just playing a game with words, because on this conception `nothing` is not a thing at all, and `lacking any existential property` is not actually itself an existential property, but an absence of them.

        Krauss on the other hand starts off with a spacetime continuum full of vacuum energy and obeying the laws of quantum mechanics, and this is manifestly not what anyone at all would recognise as nothing. It is most definitely something, indeed quite a lot.

        The point I wish to make is that as soon as Dawkins starts talking about how physics now understand how a universe can come from nothing, there will probably (quite correctly)
        be an inquisition about what exactly he means, upon which people will smell a rat and Dawkins will lose credibility.

        The plain fact is that, lacking a usable quantum theory of gravity, we do not have a proper theoretical understanding of the big bang, and that is fine to admit. But also, many physicists do place the big bang in a wider framework ( eg in ekpyrotic models )which removes the need for a singular origin altogether. I think it would be very helpful to Dawkins if he undercut the need for a mysterious origin by discussing these ideas.

      • Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        The “nothing that is something so it isn’t nothing” is a good example of the dual perspective we are born with since we and our ancestors were intoxicated by the fruit of knowledge of what is good (something) and (evil (nothing. A myth of course.
        In a non-dual perspective, you don’t grasp the world through opposites like a dual mode requires. But because this is the only mode we know, the answer to the “nothing that is something so it isn’t nothing” will remain hidden because the paradox can be clearly understood only from a non-dual perspective…

    • SLC
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      The effects of physical particles interacting with the quantum vacuum can be observed, e.g. the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron.

    • Ray
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      The questioner had physical nothing in his hand, not philosopher’s nothing. So Dawkins was in fact addressing the question at hand.

      The bad assumptions made by the questioner were:

      1)That universe creation events were supposed to be common. (I’m pretty sure most cosmologists expect such events to be very rare, but not quite so rare as the spontaneous creation of a brain from the vacuum — see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boltzmann_brain )

      2)That speaking magic words was likely to make the physicist’s nothing turn into something faster than would happen otherwise. (This is a REALLY stupid assumption. Speaking stuff into existence only works in the Bible.)

      3)That universe creation events are even visible from the outside (the kind where an infinitessimal bit of space-time pinches off and violently expands to becomes its own universe would not be visible from the parent universe, at least not easily.)

  12. MadScientist
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Pell is a bozo and his ignorance was really on display there. He keeps saying utter nonsense like “most evolutionary biologists believe *insert random bizarre crackpot claim here*”. Dawkins had barely come off the plane on a very long flight and you can see that Pell’s ignorance just shocked him. Among other things, apparently the genus Homo (with the exception of Homo Sapiens) are not human and Homo Neanderthalis is the evolutionary ancestor of Homo Sapiens. The archbishop couldn’t even understand that evolution of distinct species occurs gradually in a population and over many generations and we cannot take any 2 successive generations and say “the older one is species X and the younger one is species Y.” The priest couldn’t understand how something can be non-random and yet not have an intelligent designer. In fact the priest demonstrated no knowledge whatsoever.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Ah, so what was going on there. I was thinking that Pell had substituted “from monkeys” with “from Neanderthals”.

      Yes, Modern man derives from Neanderthals, Denisovans and what not, but mostly from Archaic man…

  13. Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    WW II was fought by Christians who believed God was on their side. The Cardinal should know that we have not evolved from Neanderthals.

  14. Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Should’ve had Stephen Fry instead http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIgnw-b2Oro

  15. Deepthought
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    The mainstream Christian view ( supported by the RCC )is that all adult, competent humans who hear the Gospel but do not respond to the it ( by appropriating the saving death of Christ ) will spend eternity in Hell. It is as simple as that. Does this joker of a priest know his own superstitions dogma about this? Completely disingenuous ( at best ).

    • Gagenschein
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and the reason why we all need to be saved by Christ`s sacrificial death is that we are all vile sinners, even the best of us. What a despicable psychopathic belief system; original sin, forgiveness through appropriating vicarious punishment/sacrifice, eternal Hell for all who do not recognise the theological truth of Christ`s atoning death.

    • Dietrich
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      At the 48:50 mark, Pell seems quite happy with the notion of Hitler in hell. Less than a minute later, he says “I hope nobody’s in hell”. Pell seems pretty lenient about who avoids eternal damnation; surely he realizes his church teaches that god is pretty much a monster in that regard.

      I’m not surprised Dawkins was jet lagged; I saw him speak here in San Diego Friday night.

      • Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        I noticed that too. When he said, “I hope nobody’s in hell”, I added except Hitler based on how much Pell wanted him there.

        But what a crappy reason to believe in hell in the story about the young boy. Because it makes us feel better that someone like Hitler will suffer? Nutty.

        Dawkins was up and down the East Coast, I saw him in NC a week ago Saturday. He’s been a long way since. I do hope he gets a break.

        • MadScientist
          Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

          You can see the archbishop alluding to “eschatological justice” – that crazy belief that we should be happy with injustice because god will punish the evil people in hell after they’ve died. I also marvel at the priest’s claim that throughout history it is the christians who have suffered the most persecution and deaths for their religious beliefs. I get the impression that all of Pell’s beliefs are delusional.

  16. Keith
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Hard to watch someone who wants to argue topics they openly admit they are ignorant of. Pell gives me a headache, ugh….

  17. Nige
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Although an atheist and great admirer of Dawkins, I do wish he would not leave himself wide open to attack by quoting the work of Krauss on the supposed origin of the universe from nothing. Krauss` `nothing` is in fact a vacuum state full of energy and obeying the laws of quantum mechanics, which is hardly the philosophers`nothing ( ie the complete absence of being ). He would do much better to argue that the big bang was probably a natural phenomenon occurring within a much larger framework ( as many physicists actually believe) , so circumventing the problem of a singular origin completely. Then, to the question `Why( causally ) any existence at all?`, he could say we just do not know right now, but that through hard work science may well one day find out. However, claiming that a disembodied and spaceless intelligence brought everything into existence through an act of volition – Pow!- is no solution to the riddle, just an embarrassing exercise in magical thinking.

    • Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      I think he’d do better, having said “I am not a physisist” to say “I leave that kind of problem to the physicists. We don’t know the answers yet, but they’re working on it. The church does something similar when it says ‘that’s one of the great Mysteries’ but the difference is that the church uses ‘mystery’ to say ‘so don’t try to make any sense of it’ but science sees these things as unsolved problems, which it is working on, and solving.”

      • Nige
        Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Actually, yes, you are correct, that would be a much better response.

        • Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          “However, claiming that a disembodied and spaceless intelligence brought everything into existence through an act of volition – Pow!- is no solution to the riddle, just an embarrassing exercise in magical thinking.”

          It doesn’t have to be magical, it can be natural, like the Big Bang and evolution are natural process.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:22 am | Permalink

        +1

        Actually, that was one point where Richard got bogged down – it’s a hard concept to understand, even if it is ‘simple’ as Richard claimed. I think he would have done better to cut it short rather than try and explain off the cuff to a studio audience.

  18. Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Pell: “Well I think it’s a bit funny to be trying to define nothing.”

    I love how the people with the very sophisticated concepts of God (who seems to be more and more like the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain) can ride roughshod over subjects on which they know, um, nothing.

    Since at the other end of the scale we have different levels of infinity, countable and uncountabla and the like, I have no problem with the idea that the “nothing” “before” the Big Bang was of a different nature from the “nothing” we are familair with, as in “how many in zero”.

    So much of this discussion is the argument from ignorance – I can’t understand it, therefore God.

  19. SLC
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Neanderthals and humans evolved from a common ancestor, namely Homo Erectus.

    • Matt G
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      The common ancestor is thought to be Homo heidelbergensis.

      • SLC
        Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        But Homo heidelbergensis evolved from Home erectus, so it would be more accurate to say, as we sit here today, that the last common ancestor of Homo Neanderthalis and Home sapiens was Homo heidelbergensis.

  20. Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard this Original Sin nonsense since I was knee high to a pew. As it was explained to me, “dogs give birth to dogs, kangaroos give birth to kangaroos, and sinners give birth to sinners.” If there was never an Adam and Eve, and we can’t even prove this Original Sin event ever happened between a god and “The first Man,” how is this not the final nail in the coffin for Abrahamic beliefs? Is this not THE cornerstone upon which judeo-christian AND islamic beliefs are based? There’s more nails than coffin by now. Why can’t we just bury this?

    • Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      They just move the idea of original sin back to the origin of life, or perhaps even the universe, don’t they.

      • Gramophone
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Original Sin is only central to Christianity–Judaism sees the Adam and Eve story as simply relating the eternal and immutable human condition rather than a problem that can be “fixed”, so it’s much more peripheral and a allegorical reading isn’t problematic in the same way. Islam is similar to Judaism, but runs into trouble for a different reason as it asserts the absolute infallibility of every part of Scripture.

  21. John H
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    At least he is not using the argument advanced in a recent conference on education in Ireland, that atheists are not quite human.

  22. Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Tweet at 33:25 “Only one way to solve this: Pell v Dawkins jelly-wrestle”.

    That certainly must be what it seems like to RD.

  23. Egbert
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    It’s funny how Hitler and Stalin were both dictators, as if dictatorship was an atheistic system of government. But the religious love to use the last century as a justification for their non-atheist kinds of authoritarian rule.

  24. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    There is a fine piece of black unintentional humor at 48:04.

  25. Marella
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    I thought RD did pretty well, and that the archbish made himself look ridiculous. I was astonished when Pell said that Adam and Eve were mythical and even more astonished when he said animals had souls. By his definition of soul even plants should have them! I think he’s going to have the Inquisition (these days known as The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) after him if he’s not careful.

    I loved the bit when RD said about explaining evolution, “Of course I can, it’s my life’s work!” ROFL. The archbish had his minions comb Richard’s online statements to find things he could use, but didn’t know what he actually has been doing in science for his entire academic life. So embarrassing.

    As a long time loather of George Pell I was glad to see him taken down a peg.

    • Erp
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Actually Catholic doctrine does say that animals have souls but not the same type as humans.

  26. Scote
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    I love his argument to a child that there must be a hell because it would be unfair and unjust if Hitler got off scot-free, except he failed to mention that by the teachings of his own religion Hitler would not only go scot-free but live an eternity in luxury and bliss if he repented *at any time*, no matter how many people he had killed or tortured. So the argument from judicial wish fulfillment doesn’t really work in Pell’s favor… :-p

    • SLC
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      Not true. Frankenberger committed suicide, the worst sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

  27. Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Pell repeated the theist moan about how major bad guys such as Hitler would be able to “get away with it” if there was no judgment/Hell.

    Of course, this is an argument with no foundation – somethig isn’t true just because you want it to be true. It also raises the question of why do believers support any concept of a justice system in the “real world” if they are convinced God will serve up ultimate justice in the end?

  28. Nige
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    But he reckons that atheists ( who can hardly have appropriated the atoning death of Jesus or repented unto the lord! ) might well go to heaven! This guy must know his own sects dogma, so what is going on here? Is he just being disingenuous/lying to present himself and his church in a good light? I wish Dawkins had picked him up on all this!

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:17 am | Permalink

      It really throws a spanner in Pascal’s wager, doesn’t it? (and John 3:16) Why not just go on doing what we were doing, being good for goodness sake?

  29. exrelayman
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Very disappointed that at the very end when time was running out Pell got in, without time for rebuttal, the unsupported LIE about vast numbers of Christians being killed in the last century only because they were Christians.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 3:38 am | Permalink

      While ignoring 6 million Jews killed by Hitler (not an atheist).

  30. Greg
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    George Pell is not the intellectual equal of Richard Dawkins.

    • MadScientist
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

      Pell is the intellectual peer to a stone.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 4:02 am | Permalink

      I presume cardinal is the next level below pope – and this is the best they can do! He was frankly appalling. And he didn’t have the excuse of being jet-lagged.

  31. Pray Hard
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Yep, it’s a myth, but not so sophisticated. Furthermore, their interpretation of the myth is so f*cking childish. The original was probably not about right/wrong/punishment/ disobedience. Not pointing any fingers, but that was probably the take of some guilt-ridden, control-freak group that revised it to suit their needs for self-flagellation. The original probably had to do with an action of the male and female bringing the world into existence. Just as “false”, but not so thorny. But, that’s not really news either.

  32. Peter Maley
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    There is no god. Dawkins is just stating the obvious. Religion is a sickness and Pell is badly infected.

    There is no real debate. Science and logical thinking is truely liberating. (Hitler was a catholic by the way as was most of the third riech).

    To expose a child to any form of religion should be classified as child abuse.

    Good on you Richard Dawkins! Australia is behind you.

    cheers
    Peter

  33. Dire Lobo
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    “And we’ve seen that in the two great atheist movements of the last century.”

    Fucking lying scum! I haven’t watched the video yet, but the quote from Pell just makes we want to SCREAM! The asshole is referring to NAZI Fascism and Soviet Totalitarianism (I won’t even call it communism, because it wasn’t) – I will never understand how they can lie like that, over and over. Sigh. Ok, I’m alright now. Sorry. I should know better by now (almost 50 years old) not to get upset when they do what they do… “Men of God” my ass.

  34. Chris
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Pell’s remarks do not contradict the catechism. The story of the garden is symbolic and mythological, sure, but it points to a real and historical “primeval event,” namely our first parents’ turning away from God. That’s how I would read it.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      But as RD pointed out, we have no “first parents”. Every child is (substantially) the same species as its parents (just as there is no point across the rainbow where you can unequivocally say that green turns into yellow, even though you can unequivocally say that one point is violet and another is red). Our first parents were monocellular, and in no position to do anything about any god/dess/es.

      Nor of course is there any evidence that any of our real and historical parents first “turned away from god”. In fact the evidence is growing that monotheism is much more recent than believers like to think, and Trinitarians haven’t got it yet.

  35. Joseph Carmel Chetcuti
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Pell is no scholar or theologian and it showed. While I am an agnostic and a former member of a religious order, I was stunned to watch what can only be described as a poor and intellectually lazy performance by Pell. Imagine what Augustine, Boethius, Anselm and Abelard would made of his comical contributions. No serious discussion of the relationship between faith and reason. The inference that Jesus was a peasant living among peasants in a not-too bright environment said it all. I can think of scores of ordinary priests who would have done much better. But these priests are left to rot in parishes instead of being given the red hat. That only goes to people who do what the Vatican says. Pell only confirmed my agnosticism.

  36. Joseph Carmel Chetcuti
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    If Pell wanted to blame anyone for Nazism he should have blamed that weak-kneed Pius XII who ordered the German bishops not to interfere in politics. But then I suspect that Hitler had something on him – whether personally or relating to some of the members of the Catholic hierarchy. Of course, there is always the Roman Catholic Hitler to blame for Nazism and the persecution of Jews and homosexuals! Were not Jews then considered God-killers?

  37. Peter
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    What about those morons in the crowd who clapped and cheered in support everytime Pell said something! The more obsurd a comment by Pell the loader the clap. Typical religious faith based brainwashing….

    Dawkin’s correct view of the world is growing day by day as with humanity’s understanding!

    Dawkins to me demonstrates real hope for humanity…..

  38. Mark Joseph
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Martin Pribble writes a very nice atheist/science blog which I much enjoy reading. He is an Australian, so of course he had a bit to say about the debate. If you’re interested, it is at:
    http://martinspribble.com/archives/2310

    I was particularly struck by the last three paragraphs of his post:

    “It struck me last night that the god question is pointless. Either god exists, or god does not exist. If there is a god, what kind of god there is is also a boring question, as it’s all speculation. It’s like asking what colour a unicorn’s favourite pyjamas are. This argument can only go around in circles with the believers claiming belief and the non believers claiming the opposite.

    I would much rather the topics be in Dr Dawkins’ field of expertise, biology and science, than the topic of theology. Rather than Dawkins being forced to discredit Pell’s arguments about his belief system, it would have been much more interesting to see Pell being forced to address his own cognitive dissonance about the nature of the universe at the hands of scientific inquiry. Pell should have been subjected to questions about the harm that religion can do to people, rather than speculations about the nature of his own personal Jesus.

    The god question/hypothesis is a dead-end, and since they had one of the world’s top popular scientists on the program they could have made it much more interesting. Personally I was bored by the whole exchange. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’m bored of the arguments launched at atheists again and again. Maybe the frustration at the brick wall of ignorance thrown up by believers has become too much for my tolerance levels. In any case I see it as a wasted opportunity where much more interesting topics could have been discussed.

  39. MadScientist
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I just had to look up p.92 of Darwin’s autobiography (because I never trust Pell, or any priest for that matter, to tell the truth) – and so you folks can have a look for yourself and make up your own minds about Pell’s claim that Darwin was a theist:

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?viewtype=text&itemID=F1497&pageseq=87

    • Peter
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      I just read page 92 and a few pages either side…Pell is such a liar! I wish he could be so exposed publicly! Good work with finding the reference.

      cheers
      Peter

  40. Andy
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Great video! I liked the moderator too – he had some great lines.

    I’ve got to leave my first comment here on this topic as Pell made a mistake I’ve heard so many times by trying to pretend that Hitler was an atheist. In reality, Hitler claimed to be a catholic. After it came up in an argument, I went away and looked that up, and it seemed to me that what he believed was somewhere between Catholicism and creationism. In a very simplistic summary: This was a central part of his argument for trying to exterminate many of the people that he killed; they were watering down the pure race that was created, in a perfect form, by God. In other words, his religion was a direct cause of the holocaust (not incidental like the evils of, say, communism). He clearly did not believe in “evolution” in any Darwinian sense, and the examples I could find of him using that word seemed to be as synonyms for “progress”.

    There’s been a huge effort dedicated to trying to rewrite this bit of history. You can find (and search) English translations of Mein Kampf online if you want to form your own opinions (which is what I base the above claim on). They reminded me a lot of present-day right-wing versions of creationism.

    Thanks also to Ant for posting the link with a bit more evidence on this point.

  41. Bruce of Berowra
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins is famous for saying that he would not debate any churchgoer unless that person was a cardinal or bishop, and this makes the debate with Pill interesting.

    Except for the fact that it was a lousy debate. The format didn’t lend itself to interchange; both parties could too easily fall back on “faith/science” as an answer, without being chastised by the moderator; Dawkins was tired, Pill was the archetype boring churchman.

    Pill got away unscathed about the Vatican’s role in the holocaust, and the Catholic Church’s role in nazi germany.

    But most importantly, that TV show illustrates the pointlessness of it all – two individuals saying “yes it is/no it isn’t” is just repetitive and boring.

    Hitchens had some fun with that sort of argument, but Dawkins is no Hitchens. And Pill is not a good spokesperson for religion.

  42. KP
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Man, 13:30 in and Pell has driven me nuts with his repetition of OLD canards and constant shifting of goalposts. Have to turn it off.

  43. Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on luvsiesous and commented:
    Dawkins contradicted himself at least for the first fifteen minutes.

    But, I came away with an interesting and better understanding of Dawkins.

    Dawkins made a terrible funny statement, and then he chastised the audience for laughing.

    I wonder if this was because he was jet-lagged. Or, if it was because he was genuinely confused? He went back and forth on his being an ‘atheist,’ an ‘agnostic,’ or just non ‘theist.’

    I realized he was genuinely struggling with how to describe what he believes.

    Ironically, I will have to re-evaluate what I consider as Dawkins’ beliefs.

    Wayne

    • Joseph C Chetcuti
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      I thought he explained himself thoroughly without any apparent confusion. An atheist says there is no god, an agnostic does not know. Dawkins appeared to be saying there is no proof that God exists. The laughs were coming from the pro-Pell group and reflect the not unusual Roman Catholic strategy of trying to ridicule your opponent by trivialising what they are saying.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:06 am | Permalink

        That was my impression too. Dr Dawkins was asked why he had sometimes said agnostic, sometimes non-theist, sometimes atheist – which he explained perfectly clearly. Wayne is just being patronising, I don’t think Dr Dawkins needs to worry unduly about Wayne’s wilful incomprehension.

      • Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        The laughs were at Dawkins’ use of the stimuli ‘surprise.’ Surprising your audience produces laughter.

        A speaker should know that.
        ;)

        I guess he was just tired.

        Wayne

  44. Guy
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    I have always despised Pell. I’m most upset that they gave him a chance to peddle his anti AGW rubbish in this forum. He is so ignorant of the facts. The biggest problem is that some people actually listen to him and believe he is an “authority” on the subject. Recently he printed this crap in his newspaper column. To that end, he is not only ignorant but dangerous.

  45. Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I too was disappointed in this so-called debate. I don’t want to put all the blame on my jet lag (I had spent the whole night on the plane from Los Angeles and, incidentally, missed the whole of Easter Day crossing the Date Line). The two things that really threw me were, first, the astonishing bias of the audience and, second, the interfering chairman.

    Right from the start when we were introduced, it was clear that the studio audience was dominated by a Catholic cheer squad. The cheered whenever the Cardinal said anything, however stupid and ignorant. To be fair to the ABC, I am confident that they were not responsible for stacking the audience. I believe it was genuinely first-come-first-served, and I can only think that the Catholics must have got off the mark very swiftly and rallied the troops. Our side just isn’t very good at doing that: perhaps it is one of our more endearing qualities. It was encouraging that the vote of viewers at large came down heavily on our side, to the evident surprise and discomfort of the studio audience.

    Such an extreme audience bias was a little off-putting, but it wouldn’t have mattered so much if the chairman had allowed us to have a proper debate instead of continually racing ahead to get in another dopey question. There were times when the Cardinal had doled out more than enough rope to hang himself but then, in the nick of time, the chairman blundered in and rescued him with yet another samey question from the audience. The only time the chairman did a good job was when he pressed the Cardinal on what seemed perilously close to anti-Semitism.

    More and more, I am thinking that discussions of this kind are positively ruined by an interfering chairman. That was also true of my encounter with the Archbishop of Canterbury, which could have developed into an interesting conversation but for the meddling chairman who, to make matters worse, was a ‘philosopher’ with special training in obscurantism.

    Cardinal Pell had evidently been well prepped, formally briefed (for example with his alleged fact that Darwin called himself a theist on page 92 of his autobiography). I knew it wasn’t true that Darwin was a theist and said so, but I obviously couldn’t counter the “Page 92″, which duly got a cheer from the touchline. I’ve since had a chance to look it up and, as expected, it refers to the way Darwin felt earlier in his life, not his maturity when he said he preferred to call himself ‘agnostic’ because the people “are not yet ripe for atheism”.

    Another missed opportunity on my part was when the Cardinal nastily insinuated that I had not read to the end of Lawrence Krauss’s book having written the Foreword. Actually I didn’t write the Foreword, I wrote the Afterword, which suggests that the Cardinal hadn’t read the book. Indeed, the content of what he said suggests that he (or whoever briefed him) had read only the infamous review in the New York Times, again by a philosopher not a scientist.

    Altogether an unsatisfactory evening. Much better was the radio interview the following morning, after I had had a night’s sleep and had my wits more properly about me:
    http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2012/04/bst_20120410_0815.mp3

    Richard

    • Bruce of Berowra
      Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

      A graceful response, Mr Dawkins. I am impressed.

      I wonder if George will grace us with his comments?

      • Marella
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

        It’s Doctor or Professor, not Mr. He worked hard for those handles.

        • Bruce of Berowra
          Posted April 10, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

          Apologies to R. Dawkins.

          I knew someone would correct me on using “Mr” instead of something else, but finally decided that someone who signs himself as “Richard” would not be fussed.

          Wikipedia didn’t help me in determining which honorific to use.

          Having said that, I wish I could remove or edit my comment.

          • Yi
            Posted April 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think Richard would be bothered by being called Mr. Dawkins. Professor or Doctor is just a title, far less meaningful than, say, the books Richard’s produced. In general, scientists should care less about what they are called than about the quality of their works.

    • BillyJoe
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:13 am | Permalink

      Richard,

      I think you were a little unfair to the chairman.

      Tony Jones is actually quite good at his job. The purpose of this program is to allow the audience to ask questions of the guests, not to allow an all out between the guests. The chairman continually interrupted the guests so that the audience could ask their questions which is what is this program is all about.

      Also Tony Jones gave no quarter to George Pell. It was just too embarrassing to let him go on once he’s dug himself to the bottom of the hole he was digging himself into. When the whole audience is obviously embarrassed by his inane blathering, it is surely time to move to the next question.

      • Scho
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

        I disagree with you, BillyJoe. Count the number of questions put to Pell by Jones and you’ll see they far outnumber the audience questions. (Here is the transcript: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3469101.htm)
        And I don’t understand why you say he gave ‘no quarter’ to Pell. He obviously didn’t agree with Pell, but he gave Pell much more of a chance to speak than Dawkins, which was a real shame.

      • Marella
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

        I think it’s the fault of the format, I don’t usually watch Q&A because a bunch of inane questions from the ignorant is not often a good way of elucidating the issue, any issue.

    • JBlilie
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:24 am | Permalink

      Well done Dr. Dawkins. I think you held up the side extremely well (never knew about the jet lag!)

      Pell annoyed the hell out of me, trotting out the old canards, slithering away from all tough questions.

      I guess he’ll never be able to pull “page 92″ again without knowing he’ll get called out on it.

      Typical of all right-wingers I’ve ever known: The truth is nothing, “winning” the “debate” — by any means necessary, including lying, fabricating, and using physical and psychological distractions — is everything. Which tells one a great deal about them.

      • Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        Excuse-me … what does this have to do with right-wingers? It is about a god-representative painting himself in to a corner. What does political persuasion have to do with it? (Oh yes I forgot left-wingers never lie… just ask Julia Gillard and the ALP).

        • Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

          You’re right, left-wingers do lie and somehow it’s made to stick to them. Right-wingers manage to get away with their lies by calling them “non-core” promises…

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      Actually (and just to be fully fair), David Albert (the author of the NYT review of Professor Krauss’ AUFN) has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from The Rockefeller University, and he has done, published, and still does, actual physics at Columbia University.

      That said, however, David Albert is the beneficiary of a nearly $1 million Templeton grant for “Investigations in the philosophy of cosmology” (at Rutgers), which surely is PHILOSOPHY and not empirical science; he does wax decidedly conciliatory towards religion (which of course is what attracts Templeton intere$t in him).

      And the crucial point that the Cardinal’s nasty insinuation that you did not read AUFN to the end of the book does itself indeed suggest that he himself did not read the book, but only the NYT review of the book (if he himself even did that) remains intact and noteworthy.

      You did “win” the debate, jet lag, stacked audience and all! Prevailing gracefully is the best revenge.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      I’ve since had a chance to look it up and, as expected, it refers to the way Darwin felt earlier in his life, not his maturity when he said he preferred to call himself ‘agnostic’ because the people “are not yet ripe for atheism”.

      This is the perfect example to use the next time someone tries to pull the “so even you can’t be TOTALLY sure!” front on the well-worn atheist/agnostic tack. Yes, the point is that that many “agnostics” choose that term out of not only accuracy in admitting the limits of verifiability, but also (and more importantly) they refrain from choosing the term “atheist” because of the pressure and stigma imposed by the world of believers. Kinda says it all.

      Thank you, Prof Dawkins for a great job in the “debate.” It was fun watching Pell squirm on the topic of the lack of intellectualism of Jews. Foot-meet-mouth.

    • Michael
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      First of all, you did fine. However, WADR, after having just watched the debate I find that the applause coming from the audience was fairly equal when you and Cardinal Pell made “points”. You can blame your perceived underperformance on jetlag but not the audience.

    • Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

      Richard,

      The more theists in the audience the better. The more exposure your views get to such an audience the better – even if the immediate audience feedback is negative there’s no bad publicity. What would be the point of a fully atheist, or even a balanced audience.

      Personally I thought your responses were clear enough to at least make any thinking theist at least pause for more thought than they usually give to atheist views.

    • Posted April 12, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Richard, you are gracious in even responding to comments on this trivial debate, on this website. And indeed you might not even read this comment.

      Nevertheless, I too sat there watching this program, for what seemed like hours (because I was cringing from many of the trivial questions that should have been filtered, and simultaneously lamenting those potentially very important questions and responses that should have been included, but were not). But in all fairness the moderator, Tony Jones, actually did a reasonable job under the circumstances. I confess a great admiration for Tony’s capabilities, and perhaps he might have tried a little too hard to focus this particular debate on equality of opportunity, when the “opposition” had completely no focus, or agenda, or indeed any empirical evidence whatsoever – about anything – that made this debate intellectually not particularly engaging. It was so one-sided that all you really had to do was deliver your point and let your protagonist continually shoot himself in the foot.

      But you should be aware (if you had a one of those marketing minders who supposedly monitors and mediates the popular voice, eg the rampant Twitter happening in the background), that from minute ONE, your protagonist was incapable of rising to or even capable of adequately responding to the intellectual challenges you presented – and frankly his metaphorical foot was in complete tatters from that point on. In my humble opinion, you wasted a few hours of your life debating with that bufoon, but I gratefully appreciate that you bothered doing it.

      I hope to experience your talk in Brisbane. Cheers, JH

    • nikkablogger
      Posted April 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      Hi Richard,
      This is Nikki, the little girl you met after the QandA debate. First I want to say sorry on behalf of Australia for that disrespectful audience. QandA is NOT usually like that!

      Please know that amongst that group of Christians in the front were me and my sister and we were clapping for you all the way!

      THANKYOU so much for signing my book and having a photo with me. Please read my blog where you can see the photo :)

      http://nikkablogger.designnerd.net/meeting-richard-dawkins-on-qanda/

      • Posted April 12, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

        Bravo, Nikki! Nice post.

        /@

    • Rara192
      Posted April 13, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry, it’s obvious from the small snippets I’ve heard in the radio interview that the Catholic cheer squad is present, with every Pell proposition being interjected by “CLAP, CLAP”. I expected this to happen to you, remembering what happened when Pell debated Dan Barker at my university (Macquarie) with the MQ Catholics and other Christian unions biasing the audience; I don’t even think we have any student groups to represent secularism or rationalism. Random fits of clapping, cheers, “We love you Pell!”, “You’re father to us all, Pell!” makes ya wanna hurl! I’m pretty disgraced by the level of pseudo-academia permeating the campus, putting on indoctrination events. I left comments on the debate video posted by MQ’s YouTube channel, stating my disappointment that a proponent of superstition could receive more applause than a proponent of reason in an academic institute, but of course, those comments were “moderated” out by the University. Can’t wait to see yourself and Lawrence in a few days. Cheers

    • Rara192
      Posted April 13, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry, it’s obvious from even the small snippets I’ve heard in the radio interview that the Catholic cheer squad is present, with every Pell proposition being interjected by “CLAP, CLAP”. I expected this to happen to you, remembering what happened when Pell debated Dan Barker at my university (Macquarie) with the MQ Catholics and other Christian unions biasing the audience; I don’t even think we have any student groups to represent secularism or rationalism. Random fits of clapping, cheers, “We love you Pell!”, “You’re father to us all, Pell!” makes ya wanna hurl! I’m pretty disgraced by the level of pseudo-academia permeating the campus, putting on indoctrination events. I left comments on the debate video posted by MQ’s YouTube channel, stating my disappointment that a proponent of superstition could receive more applause than a proponent of reason in an academic institute, but of course, those comments were “moderated” out by the University. Can’t wait to see yourself and Lawrence in a few days.

      Cheers!

      PS: I love how he describes the adventures of dirt man and rib woman as a beautiful, SOPHISTICATED story.

    • Posted April 16, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Thanks for posting your comment Richard. The Internet really is a wonderful medium when we can read an honest and analytical debrief from the actual participant on Q&A (qanda).

      Remember the closing song in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” before you deem the event “Altogether an unsatisfactory evening”:
      (1) The Q&A vote was on the question “Does religious belief make the world a better place?”. With more than 20,000 votes: 76% voted “No”, religious belief does not make the world a better place.
      (2) 863,000 people watched the episode which is Q&A’s biggest audience in 2 years. Amazing result considering it was Easter Monday. The average Aussie Q&A viewer, based on my sample size of 1, would have squeezed the last bit of fun from a 4 day Easter holiday and collapsed in bed, before the show aired.
      (3) Q&A posts Twitter tweets at the bottom of screen during the episode. Like the vote, the Internet audience appeared to tweet on your side. My favourite tweet was at approximately 18m45s by Local_warming “Did a man who believes in a magic sky fairy just accuse another man of hallucinating?”
      (4) Most important, the event has provided an opportunity for thousands of people to, once again, question/confirm their supernatural beliefs.

      Next, don’t be too thrown by Tony Jones, the “interfering chairman”:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Jones_(news_journalist)
      The TV show is titled Q&A and it always constitutes a panel of people answering questions from the immediate and wider (external) audience. Tony has to appear impartial and keep the questions coming from the audience. Examining the evidence, I strongly suspect that Tony bats for your team:
      (1) Tony repeatedly questioned Cardinal George Pell about the implantation of the Soul.
      (2) Watch yourself and Tony on a previous episode of ABC TV – Q&A 8 March 2010

      You asked Senator Steven Fielding (Family First Party) “Do you believe the world is less than 10 000 years old?”. The Senator bobbed, ducked, weaved and did not answer the question directly. Tony was right there with you, continually pressing for an honest answer.
      (3) Tony introduced (the late) Christopher Hitchens at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas

      As for “debating” Cardinal George Pell, not sure if you noticed Comment 6 and the reply by steve oberski (above): “I recently watched the “Without God we are nothing”: Dan Barker Vs Cardinal George Pell debate of July 2010 and Pell used all the same arguments he trotted out in the Dawkins debate, which Barker refuted.

      If you can find a spare hour Richard, watch this YouTube video to find out what it would have been like to really debate Cardinal George Pell.

      Finally, I have to mention your iPad app “The Magic of Reality”. Along with, Al Gore’s “Our Choice”, the two apps are my favourite interactive books. The content and cutting edge interface are an exciting glimpse into the future of book reading.

  46. Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    On the question of the stacking of the audience by Catholics, the following interesting comment by **mitchgarside** is reproduced from Pharyngula:

    >I can shed a little light on the audience, I’m a politically involved uni student in Aus and I heard about this from a few contacts:
    First some context, the show Q&A is on the ABC, a publicly funded channel, and is principally a political show that attempts to find real balance by having the best of all sides involved (not like the faux balance of many news programs, especially in the US). Hence the audiences are vetted by political leaning to attempt to produce a balanced crowd of right and left leaning, the way they do this is by asking which party you support/vote for when you apply to be in the audience.

    >This week the Catholic groups on campus discussed plans to stack out Dawkins appearance by applying as both Coalition voters (which would be true, they are our conservatives, yet still closer to the Democrats really, heh) and also as Green party voters (the most left wing party that has seats in Australian Parliament). So they managed to stack out both sides of the audience.

    >Bearing false witness being a sin doesn’t seem to have come across in this plan.

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:29 am | Permalink

      So, perhaps ABC was at fault for not realising that they should’ve used different vetting criteria for balance in this instance!

      /@

    • BillyJoe
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:17 am | Permalink

      It doesn’t even matter.
      You won hands down.

  47. Posted April 9, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi guys,
    Also not jew myself. I was kind of abbated by the reflection of Pell on the Jewish people.
    Jews = not clever people (before and during Jesus time)
    I understant what he was saying (also i think it’s debatable) but history, if i recall correctly is full of Christans that persecuted the jews. (Hitler and it’s minions for once) I wonder if a view that narrowed is “inherited” in the catholic church through the “sacred” texts? If that is, no wonder that jewish people had to deal with racism for so long…
    As for myself, as far as i know, if Jews did not build “a great civilisation”, they helped many to become one. And that alone is telling something that Mister Pell seems to be denying them.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:56 am | Permalink

      I think what he set out to say was that during Biblical times, other civilisations were far more advanced and powerful than the Jews.

      But he managed to paint himself into a corner.

      • JBlilie
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

        Yeah, but if the shoe fits … And if that’s what you are in the habit of saying …

  48. Atticus_of_Amber
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    Three lessons from this:

    (1) 70+ year old men should avoid going on television with jetlag from a London to Sydney flight.

    (2) Dawkins is amazing. Most *60* year olds would have been babbling after that flight. I’m 39 and that flight (in the other direction) has rendered me speechless and near homicidally grumpy in the past. Dawkins slight slow-wittedness, tongue-tiredness and irritability was amazingly good udner the circumstances.

    (3) George Pell must be the overrated public figure in Australia – what a maroon!

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:57 am | Permalink

      Psst! (1) It was LAX to Sydney – see #42.

      /@

      • Justicar
        Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:55 am | Permalink

        Ant, I think ‘see #42′ is perhaps the best comment ever left anywhere on the internet. In particular given how close of a friend Dawkins was with Adams.

    • jonathan
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Holy shit, Dawkins is 71? WTF

      • Posted April 10, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        His secret is that he married a Time Lord.

        /@

        • MadScientist
          Posted April 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

          You mean a Time Lord’s sidekick?

          • Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            No. I do mean a Time Lord.

            /@

            • stevelockstep
              Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

              For chrisake you got the wrong woman! You know as much about Dr Who as Pell knows about science, or Dawkins knows about debating.

              • Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                No, I have the right woman. And it’s Doctor Who.

                /@

              • stevelockstep
                Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

                Humble apoligies for impugning Ant’s knowledge of Dr Who. But my world is falling apart! All these years I thought Dawkins had married Leela, not Romana! I feel like a paleontologist finding an ape fossil in donosaur strata. I think I’m gonna need to lie down.

              • Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

                Accepted. Leela … Lalla … I suppose you might’ve conflated the names all those years ago. (But it’s still Doctor Who! ;-) )

                /@

  49. religionenslaves
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Disclosure: I could only endure about 15 mins of the “debate”.
    The problem is not Dawkins being jet-lagged or somehow ineffectual. The underlying reason why these “debates” are so disappointing is that by debating a rationality-denier one automatically lowers the level of discourse to such a point that the debate becomes pointless.
    Can anyone point to an “atheism vs religion” debate that enriched in any way the atheist side (I do not regard the accumulation of evidence to the ridiculousness of religion as enriching)?

    • gbjames
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

      You are correct in that the atheist side is never enriched. But that’s not the purpose of debating the idiocy. Bad religious “thinking” is only exposed for what it is by public confrontation.

  50. Glenn Richardson
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    As an experienced doctor working daily in the region of dementia I consider George Pell to be clearly cognitively impaired. After a lifetime enmeshed in Catholic doctrine and rising to the top of the Australian Catholic tree, I was amazed at his fumbling , mumbling and hand waving inability to put the Catholic Christian message across clearly. Any bets on when the call came from Rome after the program – perhaps a tap on the shoulder to retire even. Mind you it is hard to argue theology when you largely agree with science and evolution. Clearly the religion game is up and will continue to crumble over the next few generations.

    • Marella
      Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      So he’s not likely to make it to Popehood then? Something for Catholics to be grateful for.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 4:28 am | Permalink

      Not a medical man, but I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there with your “diagnosis”.

  51. Fred Keeley
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I think it’s time we put the “Hitler was/wasn’t a catholic’’ issue to bed (along with the inevitable Pol Pot/Stalin/Mao arguments)with a change of tack.

    The Hitler-was-a-catholic argument, rightly or wrongly, comes across as special pleading. Arguments attempting to distance Mao/Stalin etc. from an atheistic motivation have a similar weakness.

    If we argue that morality is a human (as opposed to Christian) invention it follows that atheists (being human) are quite capable of morality. It also follows that atheists and Christians (also being human) are both capable of immoral acts. The argument is that Christians are no more moral than atheists.

    Since Christians claim special ownership of morality they must show that they are (and always have been) more moral than everyone else. ’Everyone else’ includes atheists along with all other religions/philosophies. Since the sins of Christians are legion, this would appear to be a difficult case to prosecute.

    The associated sound byte is:
    “Humans invented morality. Christianity just stole the patent”

    • Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      & I’m so stealing that!

      /@

  52. Liz Naples
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I watched the whole debate, and I totally agree with Dr. Dawkins. I myself was very annoyed by the inappropriately-timed snickering and laughing of an obviously immature and ignorant audience. What was up with that?!

    No matter… it was clear to me that Dr. Dawkins won the bout with both hands tied behind his back.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      One can easily imagine Hitchens’s response to “snickering and laughing.”

    • Posted April 12, 2012 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      That’s one angle I think Richard got wrong, the irritation at the sniggering, possibly due to jet lag, but I’ve seen him respond similarly before.

      It appeared to me that at least on some points the laughter was from Richard’s supporters, laughing at the the fact that some people would believe the position he was criticising.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 12, 2012 at 2:06 am | Permalink

        I had that impression too. I think Dr Dawkins did very well most of the time, but it’s a pity he allowed his irritation at the laughter to show. (Okay, I know, easy to criticise, hard to do).

      • Filippo
        Posted April 12, 2012 at 4:04 am | Permalink

        ” . . . the irritation at the sniggering . . . .”

        Just how forbearing and “accommodating” must Professor Dawkins be? To what behavioral standard ought the “sniggering class” be held?

        Professor Dawkins’s experience reminds me of that of a teacher in an Amuricun middle school, dealing on a daily basis with those who “don’t know that they don’t know.” Per Darwin, “We bear the stamp of our lowly origin.”

        There’s an old American pop song, “Blame It on My Youth.” Perhaps it should be retitled, “Blame It on My Willfull Ignorance.”

  53. Jim Jones
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    “Humans invented morality. Christianity just stole the patent”

    Not so much IMO. Religion pretends to morality – it fakes it.

    Religion, including Christianity, is at one end of the spectrum. Morality is at the other.

    Religion is doing what you are told regardless of what is right.

    Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told.

  54. stevelockstep
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins, you’re a hero of mine. The Selfish Gene changed my life at age 20, wonderfully broadening my perspective from physics to a comprehensive understanding of evolution. I saw that teleology was dead; it rounded out my atheism.

    I was sorely disappointed all round by the Q&A performance. I would have put it down to a bad night — as you should have yourself. But I’m aghast to find you making lame excuses, even blaming the umpire.

    FFS Dawkins, it wasn’t Tony Jones’ fault! You let Pell off the hook time and time again. In a most egregious debating snafu, you had a Catholic Cardinal concede that we’re descended from other primates but instead of taking Pell back through time where we should have all seen his god shrink to nothingness, you jumped absurdly and grandiosely on his trivial misunderstanding of the status of the Neanderthals. That soooo was not the point!

    [You may not have noticed but your pedantic detour has this morning energised one of the worst loonies of the Australian right, Andrew Bolt, who has dug up some tidbits about hominid inter-breeding with Neanderthals implying we might be descended from "cousins" after all.]

    Jet lag notwithstanding it looks to many us atheists like your indignation with religion has got the better of you. As we say in Australian football mate, you have to play the ball and not the man.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Everybody rides the bucking horse better than the guy riding it.

      • stevelockstep
        Posted April 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Dawkins was never really on the horse in the first place.

    • SLC
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Interbreeding /= descended from. In order to interbreed, both subspecies (humans and neanderthals are sub species of Homo sapiens) had to exist previously.

      • stevelockstep
        Posted April 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Yes yes. But …
        My point was that Dawkins had a Cardinal on the run for chrissake. Dawkins got Pell to concede that humans are descended from non-humans, but instead of pressing his advantage, he went screaming off into a pedantic sideline. He lost the moment. He got lost in the noise. If Dawkins could just keep his cool, we would have seen headlines in the morning like “Cardinal Pell admits Genesis a myth; humans really descended from fish”.

        • silkworm
          Posted April 14, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

          That’s exactly what we did see. Yahoo7 had Pell’s blunder on Adam and Eve being a myth as one of its headlines. So did the SMH.

  55. Derek Morr
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Where did they find this Cardinal? He had nothing interesting, or even coherent, to say. It was useless babble all the way.

  56. Anna
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    I rejected religion at 13 after reading the Bible (I don’t recommend it, very boring), but could not at such a young age come up with something better, so I discovered the word agnostic. Then I read The God Delusion when I was 17 and became enlightened. So, thank you Richard Dawkins for that. Really, thank you. (Don’t worry, I don’t take it as dogma, I have my own opinions too!)

    I thoroughly agree with religionenslaves, you cannot carry out a debate if one side doesn’t play by the rules. In this case, there is one rule – logic.

    Also, every time Pell opened his mouth (or gesticulated, prevaricated or otherwise sidestepped a question), he revealed just how little of the literature he had read, and of that, how little of it he (or his data monk-eys) understood.

    Not the best debate. I come out feeling annoyed at the ABC, which makes me sad, disgusted by members of society who regard Pell as an intellectual and so respect his opinions, but mostly in the mood for Doctor Who. Although that could be because of Ant and Stevelockstep…

  57. simple or not
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    quite astounding how many “scientists” in here will debate till their last breath on the subject of defining nothing

    nothing equals nothing – pretty simple really, or are we really that bored?

    • SLC
      Posted April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Not true. The “nothing” of the quantum vacuum is not the same as the classically defined nothing of empty space.

  58. Jolo
    Posted April 11, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I found this article which carefully explains how Dawkins was demolished by Pell:
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/pells-performance-was-a-revelation/story-e6frg76f-1226324252055

    The final reflection is that we should realise what a remarkable, and internationally important, figure Pell is.

    Uhm, yeah…

  59. l4manga
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Just watched this. Towards the end of the Q&A the Bish just begins to babble inanely to avoid, I believe, answering the tough questions.

    I wish Dawkins had pressed him on to what extent he believes some of the Bible to be literally true, and which bits he considers to be metaphor.

  60. Paul
    Posted March 15, 2013 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    It’s interesting that he claims Darwin is a Theist – and quotes “Page 92″ of his Autobiography.

    Which is an out and out lie.


7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Showdown in Oz: Dawkins vs. Cardinal George Pell [...]

  2. [...] Showdown in Oz: Dawkins vs. Cardinal George Pell « Why Evolution Is True [...]

  3. [...] Dr Dawkins actually comments about the QandA episode below this article at “Why Evolution Is True“. VN:F [1.9.14_1148]please wait…Rating: 7.9/10 (10 votes cast)VN:F [1.9.14_1148]Rating: +5 [...]

  4. [...] Showdown in Oz: Dawkins vs. Cardinal George Pell (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com) [...]

  5. [...] Source: Why Evolution is True [...]

  6. [...] Showdown in Oz: Dawkins vs. Cardinal George Pell (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com) [...]

  7. [...] other or with other people who are either welcoming or or antagonistic. Snippets of Dawkins’ debate with Archbishop George Pell of Sydney, Australia certainly show how loathsome Pell is. You also get [...]

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