Q & A: Pell vs Dawkins

On Easter Monday night Q & A will host a two-man debate between Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell and outspoken, British atheist Richard Dawkins.

In Australia to attend a global atheist convention, Dawkins describes himself as an evolutionary biologist, author and militant atheist. He became popular around the world in 1976 with his book The Selfish Gene but is best known for his global best seller The God Delusion.

Last appearing on Q&A in March 2010, Dawkins is uncompromising, provocative and controversial. He contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that religious faith qualifies as a delusion.

Conversely, first time Q&A panellist Cardinal Pell is the most senior Catholic churchman in Australia. Installed as Archbishop of Sydney in 2001, Cardinal Pell is widely quoted on such controversial issues as abortion, stem cell research, climate change and gay marriage and is even seen as a potential Pope.

Named as one of the top 50 most influential people in Australian politics for 2012, Cardinal Pell has also been vocal in his opposition to the Iraq War and Australia’s treatment of refugees.

“This is a remarkable match-up” said Tony Jones “A title fight of belief.”

“Dawkins and Pell are powerful advocates at the height of their powers for two opposing world views: atheism and faith.”

ABC1 will also launch its interactive Q & A Vote tool on Monday.

9:35pm Monday on ABC1.


  1. Well, this ABC Q&A was a very poor show.
    The level of intellectual debate was pretty appalling.
    Only Tony Jones seemed have any grasp of the issues.
    Richard just seemed so dazed I expect that jet-lag had caught up with him. When discussing Darwin he really struggled and could not concisely describe the essence of Darwin’s work. To say evolution is not random is not true, but A/B Pell didn’t know either. Randomness is the essense of evolution. That provides the minute physical and genetic changes that allows natural selection to work. When plants, for example are washed up (randomly!) at different locations (eg islands) then variations in species can result. But Richard really struggled. He could not express the fact that Darwins religious persuasion had absolutely nothing to do with the great science of his achievement. Darwin’s science is unbelievably still questioned by those who refuse to accept great science. The comments by A/B Pell were very often attacks on the person with no semblance of scientific logic. Almost every rule in making an argument was broken by Pell. Oh well…….

  2. Thanks Richard for your comments about the issue of being good enough or not good enough to go to heaven. I hope you will see this comment. The thing is it’s got nothing to do with human goodness at all (which I agree is abundant), but God’s goodness. It’s a totally level playing field, and human goodness is not what gains entry to heaven. Faith in Jesus is what gets us to heaven, and that’s available to all (see John 3:16; in fact the whole gospel of John is a great place to start exploring the bible, that’s what switched me onto God). Compared to God’s perfection no-one’s good enough, which is why God the Father and God the Son (Jesus) agreed that Jesus would come to earth and take the fall for us, to make a way back to connection with God. We do live in an imperfect world, and in it it’s hard to accept the existence of a good God. I am a lover of both science and God, and they sit quite harmoniously in my consciousness. And in both there are questions I can’t answer, but that doesn’t mean in either sphere I “throw out the baby with the bathwater”.
    Wish you well.

  3. Sifter, “a little insensitive”? Seriously, having this sort of debate at Easter is the whole point.

    Why should anyone think that Christians beliefs are so delicate and personal that they cannot be questioned or subjected to rational debate?

    Christianity has survived Roman persecution (including being thrown to the lions), communist oppression in Russia and China as well as many other places over the centuries. It survived schisms and challenges by the likes of Martin Luther, Galileo, Charles Darwin, Joseph Smith and even L. Ron Hubbard! I don’t really think a rational debate on Easter Monday in Australia is going to threaten its adherents sensibilities too much.

    The whole believing in miraculous people and events caper is extremely robust, once they’re committed to it almost nothing can shift most people’s faith in their brand of creator and afterlife. Logic, science, rational examination and argument are often useless in the face of it.

  4. Actually. It comes from the old germanic word . Which meant both dawn and the month in which easter was celebrated. And with english having its origins in german it also used a varient of that word.In fact the only two bibles you will see easter used for this time of year is in German and English bibles. All other languages use their own varients of the word passover. So saying that Christians stole “easter” from the pagans makes you look a little uninformed. As it was something being clelebrated long before they knew anything. The pagans habits.

  5. Secret Squirrel

    @monk – what’s your point? I’m well aware that the name derives from a Germanic goddess whose festival was celebrated around the time of the northern hemisphere vernal equinox. That doesn’t conflict with anything I wrote.

  6. Dawkins is ok but he’ll never be in the same league as the late great Christopher Hitchens,will still tune in for a fable of two before bed though.

  7. Secret Squirrel

    @Sifter – Pell has chosen to take part so take it up with him. I find it insensitive that a pagan fertility festival was misappropriated by the Christian church, although I do like hot cross buns.

  8. @Sifter And yet at Christmas time many members of the clergy seem to speak out against atheist. So I don’t see the problem. If Pell does go down, it’s not a reflection of the Church, it’s a reflection of Pell himself.

  9. Perhaps only me, but isn’t it a little insensitive to have this at easter? If Pell goes down in flames in the debate, then it’s going to be pretty insulting for those who’ve just spent easter at church.

  10. i’m actually interested in this week’s guests, for a change. It’s good seeing Q&A break away once in a while from the politicians.

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