I didn’t know much about this video save that it’s an interview of Richard Dawkins at the Oxford Union by an unnamed interlocutor [see below, he’s Mehdi Hasan], and it appeared on YouTube about three weeks ago. Hasan turned out to be a pretty fundamentalist Muslim (he says at 14:35 that Mohamed ascended to heaven on a winged horse), is very aggressive, and asked Richard some tough questions. I don’t remember Dawkins being put on such a hot seat by a journalist! Richard looks taken aback at the beginning, but survived the grilling well and made some good points. It’s a pity that Richard didn’t get to ask the interviewer some questions!
Watch it to see some responses to the toughest questions that you’d ever be asked by believers. It covers a lot of ground and is definitely worth watching, even if you’re already familiar with Richard’s arguments against faith.
At 28:30 or so, Richard deals with the accusation that “science does bad stuff, too” and then addresses the “nonoverlapping magisteria” argument for the complementarity of science and religion. He then goes on to the question of “are things like love immune to empirical study”?
At 32:30, Richard discusses the question of whether there is any evidence that would convince him there’s a God. He once (like I still do) says “yes,” but now seems uncertain, arguing that evidence for God could be a conjuring trick. I say yes, it could be, but if the evidence is very strong one can provisionally accept the existence of a divine being. If you later find that it’s a trick, you can change your mind. That’s how science rolls.
After seeing this, I wrote to Richard asking who the inquisitor was and soliciting his own take on the interview. Richard responded, and I quote him with permission:
On Mehdi Hasan, listen to some of the following.
[JAC: it’s only a few minutes long, but if you can’t take the whole thing, Richard recommends listening to the “lachrymose last part.” It’s fricking amazing: the dude is insane.]
It gets more extreme as it goes along, so skip through it rather than trying to endure the whole thing. He seems to lead a kind of double life, because he is treated in Britain as a serious journalist by, for example, New Statesman, who employed him as their political editor, and Huffington Post employs him now. Presumably when they hired him, New Statesman didn’t know about his other life as as an emotional rabble-rouser. Or – actually this is distressingly plausible – they are so imbued with the culture that says religion excuses everything that they didn’t worry about it.
His interviewing manner with me was, of course, extremely confrontational, although he was friendly before and after. I had been invited to have a civilised conversation with him, which I had hoped to conduct along the lines of, for example, my conversations with the Bishop of Oxford or with Alister McGrath.
Instead, Hasan came armed with lots of notes, which consisted entirely of quotations from me, which he evidently regarded as discreditable, and he proceeded to confront me with them one after another. I was, as you say, taken aback by his tone and only woke up to what he was doing rather late. I had not come with notes of my own, but I finally gave him a little of his own medicine when I asked him whether he believed that Mohammed rode to heaven on a winged horse, and was amazed to discover that he does. This implies that heaven is a definite place, with spatial location, “up there”, such that you get to it using wings. Since he seems knowledgeable and not unintelligent, I can only conclude that this preposterous belief is a direct result of the mind-rotting influence of religion.
For more on Hasan’s lachrymose raving in the video above and his other odious actions, see this post at Harry’s Place.
h/t: video via John Loftus