The Archbishop of Canterbury and Professor Richard Dawkins discussed the origins of nature in front of a full house at the Sheldonian Theatre on Thursday 23 February 2012.
Professor Dawkins and Dr Rowan Williams took questions from Sir Anthony Kenny on four topics: the nature of individual human beings now; the origin of the human species as a whole; the origin of life on earth; and the origin of the universe. ‘That should be enough to be getting on with,’ Sir Anthony said.
Science formed a central part of the discussion. Dr Williams said: ‘When I want to solve problems of 21st Century science I use the methods of 21st Century science. When I want to understand my place in the universe, I reserve the right to go back to Genesis.’
Professor Dawkins challenged the Archbishop: ‘Why you don't see the extraordinary beauty of the idea that we can explain the world, the universe, life, how it started from nothing? That is such a staggeringly elegant and beautiful thing. Why do you want to clutter up your world view with something so messy as a god?’
Dr Williams replied: ‘I am not thinking of God as something extra that must be shoehorned in.’ Professor Dawkins said: ‘That is exactly how I think of him.’
The dialogue event included some humorous touches, including Professor Dawkins’ admission that he had been singing a hymn in the shower that morning.
The three speakers were introduced by Lord Patten, Chancellor of the University. A full video of the dialogue event is now available on a dedicated website.