A Load of Bright
An atheist's views on religion and the supernatural

Dawkins vs. McGrath – The Lost Interview


Regular readers will know my thoughts on Alister McGrath from my previous articles. In an article in the Daily Mail, he had this to say about an alleged recording of Dawkins interviewing him for his documentary The Root of All Evil?, which was left out of the final cut.

We were also filmed having a debate for Dawkins’s recent Channel 4 programme, The Root Of All Evil? Dawkins outlined his main criticisms of God, and I offered answers to what were clearly exaggerations and misunderstandings. It was hardly rocket science.

But when I debated these points with him, Dawkins seemed uncomfortable. I was not surprised to be told that my contribution was to be cut.

The Root Of All Evil? was subsequently panned for its blatant unfairness. Where, the critics asked, was a responsible, informed Christian response to Dawkins? The answer: on the cutting-room floor.

Well, Nullifidian now has the full video of this interview. I watched it all this afternoon. McGrath really flattered himself with his hypothesis on why it was left out. I think it’s more likely that it was left out because, despite dialoguing with Dawkins for over an hour, he managed to say precisely nothing. From one point of view, I suppose that’s sort of an achievement. But, perhaps there was something there and I missed it. Take a look, and, if you find it, let me know.

14 Responses to “Dawkins vs. McGrath – The Lost Interview”

  1. I agree. Watched the interview the other night and felt McGrath blustered on in a very verbose way aimed at covering up the fact that he had no real answers. I don’t think he is a good advocate of his position.
    Given the reasonableness of Dawkins’ approach I think there would have been more value in interviewing a more open Christian. We might then have seen some clear arguments for the Christian position.

  2. I watched about 10-15 minutes of it last week, but couldn’t really follow it, so I gave up and did something else. It was his usual nonsense.

    Perhaps I’m being condescending here. but Hitchens has a great term for Christian babel-speak – White noise. When they start going on and on about what the bible says, quoting chapter and verse, it sounds like static on the radio to me, as intelligible as it is. I really can’t make heads nor tails of what they are saying. It almost sounds like they are obfuscating purposely, so that they sound like they know what they are talking about, but actually aren’t saying anything at all.

    White noise, indeed.

  3. One thing that always bothers me about the “informed Christian response” is that they complain that Dawkins et al. are criticizing straw men because the Christianity that he describes isn’t their own flavor. These informed Christians should either get out more often or get off their high horse and realize that the Christianity that Dawkins criticizes is observable in the wild. People actually believe in an old man in the sky who dictated the Bible word-for-word and sacrificed his son to assuage his own anger at our sins.

    If Dawkins’ purpose is to raise the level of critical thinking about religion, then why not start with the low-hanging fruit? Why not start with the most egregiously muddled thinking?

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels McGraph did a poor job in answering Dawkins’ answers. I like the word Ken Perrott used:
    “too verbose … and not a good advocate of his position”. There are better advocates out there.

    The way he answered the question to the problem of evil/suffering was very confusing.

    I also agree with “Spanish Inquisitor”, and “Jonathan”. Some Christians need to get back to the basics and stop using jargon.

    http://www.rzim.org/radio/

  5. One thing that always bothers me about the “informed Christian response” is that they complain that Dawkins et al. are criticizing straw men because the Christianity that he describes isn’t their own flavor.

    Agreed. So often they like to claim that ‘real’ religion doesn’t act violently, yet all evidence points towards great violence done in religion’s name. Also the god the believe in is usually so abstract by the end of the conversation that it couldn’t serve any purpose other than to merely exist. Despite this they probably do still believe in a personal god who answers prayers, but are are trying to give a respectable polish to something completely irrational.

  6. I often hear this kind of thing from Christians and feel a bit stupid. I get lost and I’m inclined to assume this is my failing.

    The best I can do in these situations is to keep asking questions, which at least gives me a bit if time to catch up.

  7. @ James

    I get lost and I’m inclined to assume this is my failing.

    Not at all – they want you to get lost! That’s their strategy, talk absolute twaddle and hope it sounds sort of plausible when people don’t listen properly. The best response is alway to call them on it, insist that they make themselves clear.

  8. tobe38,
    Sorry to dispute, but Richard Dawkins is the king of setting up the straw man as to Christian beliefs. If you note in his writings, he doesn’t say who it is that holds these beliefs. It is always “I was speaking with a christian” or “a christian scholars says”. He needs to name names.
    Also, he needs to be honest enough to speak to some “real” scholars such as Drs. Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, or JP Moreland. (but he wouldn’t stand a chance as was his failure with McGrath, evidenced by his removal of the interview).

    But to the point of the dishonesty of Dawkins, you provided the evidence with his interview of Allister McGrath. The reason that Dawkins didn’t use the material is that McGrath is not one of the fringe looneys that Dawkins likes to quote. Go back and review the video. I counted 17 times where Dawkins would ask McGrath a question, McGrath would give his reply and then Dawkins would say one of two things; (1) I agree with you or (2) I don’t disagree with you – and then would turn and say “but, as so and so says…” What a bunch of bunk! Why ask a man a question and agree with his reply but then discount it because you have a reply you like better from some anonymous source.

    Let me play this out for you a little – I will ask you what you believe about evolution and the development of man. When you give me your great detailed answer, I will agree with you then discount your reply by saying “well I spoke to someone who told me he was an evolutionist and he believes that man is a direct descendant from monkeys.” I am sure that your follow up would be “that is not what evolutionists believe!”

    But, I can guarantee that I can go to the shopping mall today and find 100 people who will identify themselves as believing in evolution who will tell me that they believe man came from monkeys. Then, I would go on and continually beat you up for believing that man comes from monkeys (even though you have tried several times to correct me). And that my friend is exactly what Dawkins does.

  9. @ Geno

    Let me play this out for you a little – I will ask you what you believe about evolution and the development of man. When you give me your great detailed answer, I will agree with you then discount your reply by saying “well I spoke to someone who told me he was an evolutionist and he believes that man is a direct descendant from monkeys.” I am sure that your follow up would be “that is not what evolutionists believe!”

    But, I can guarantee that I can go to the shopping mall today and find 100 people who will identify themselves as believing in evolution who will tell me that they believe man came from monkeys. Then, I would go on and continually beat you up for believing that man comes from monkeys (even though you have tried several times to correct me). And that my friend is exactly what Dawkins does.

    There is a crucial difference between evolution and religion. Evolution is science, and is based on claims that can actually be tested to see if they are true or false. There may well be people who claim to believe in evolution and also that they are descended from monkeys, but such people are ignorant and utterly wrong. That’s a fact, not just my interpretation. We can show them that they’re wrong, with evidence.

    Religion, on the other hand, is not based on empirical data. One Christian may say that the Genesis stories are literally true, another may say that they are simply metaphors. Now, science can show that the former position is false, but within a theological discussion, there is no method for deciding who’s interpretation of the Bible is correct. It is simply one word against another – there is no test that can be carried out.

    Once again, you are trying to make comparisons between religion and evolution/science/atheism. Square pegs and round holes.

  10. tobe38,
    That is my point. Just because someone says that they are a Christian they don’t have the freedom to come to ANY crazy conclusion (just as you don’t let anyone who says that they are an evolutionist say anything they want unchallenged.) But Dawkins and Hitchens in their dishonest efforts to expose always go to the fringe and not the mainstream. – and that was the point I was making to you. I can go to the evolution fringe also, then tie you to them by ignoring your statements.

    Did you look? did you see how many time Dawkins did this to McGrath? So, that makes a sham of Dawkins video.

    So, since we did not come from monkeys, where did we come from? And as the Spanish Inquisitor challenged me on the other thread, give me the evidence.
    Did humans and monkeys come from a common ancestor as I have been told? If so, who is that common ancestor? (I just need the name and when he lived, you don’t need to go into detail.)

  11. tobe38,
    I missed addressing your comment – “Once again, you are trying to make comparisons between religion and evolution/science/atheism. Square pegs and round holes.”

    I never bring up science. You are the one who is always trying to prove God scientifically. I would never think of doing that. It doesn’t fall into that realm. Everytime you bring up proving god scientifically, I hear “tell me the taste of the color blue.” It’s a category error that you can’t get away from.

  12. @ Geno

    That is my point. Just because someone says that they are a Christian they don’t have the freedom to come to ANY crazy conclusion (just as you don’t let anyone who says that they are an evolutionist say anything they want unchallenged.) But Dawkins and Hitchens in their dishonest efforts to expose always go to the fringe and not the mainstream. – and that was the point I was making to you. I can go to the evolution fringe also, then tie you to them by ignoring your statements.

    Yet again, the difference between the two, is evidence. In evolution, the evidence is at the centre. The ‘fringe’ evolutionists, if there are such a thing, are the ones who are the furthest away from, and have the least evidence.

    The only way you can define the ‘fringe’ Christians, is popularity. The majority represents the centre and the fringe is the minority. Beliefs and evidence have nothing to do with it. Yes, fundamentalists are the minority, the fringe, but they are also the ones who pose the greatest danger, and that’s why we tend to focus on them.

    Did you look? did you see how many time Dawkins did this to McGrath? So, that makes a sham of Dawkins video.

    I didn’t watch it again, if that’s what you mean. I notice you don’t mention the part where McGrath blatantly contradicts himself about whether or not God saved the little girl in the hurricaine, and then doesn’t have the good grace to at least admit it. If Dawkins didn’t respond to anything McGrath said, it’s because McGrath didn’t say anything! He talked, but that’s not the same thing. He said nothing of any substance at all – it was all just waffle.

    So, since we did not come from monkeys, where did we come from? And as the Spanish Inquisitor challenged me on the other thread, give me the evidence.
    Did humans and monkeys come from a common ancestor as I have been told? If so, who is that common ancestor? (I just need the name and when he lived, you don’t need to go into detail.)

    I know how much you love it when I give you links to read, Geno, so here’s another one! Read (as much as you can) and enjoy.

  13. tobe,
    That web page is huge and I am not going to read the whole thing looking for the answer to “who is our common ancestor”. (just as you have told me in the past that you have not read through the whole Bible). The least you can do is post the link within the web site and I will go read that (just make sure that it answers my question.)

  14. Macro-evolution is not science. It is pure conjecture/theory based on your faith. The fossil record doesn’t show macro-evolution happened. There are billions of fossils, but let’s assume there are a trillion. Then there are sextillions of organisms today, in the 3 billion years of life on earth, there would be non-nillions (10^27). The fossil record is missing 999,999,999,999,999,000,000,000,000 “missing links” at MOST. A MODEST ESTIMATE would be 999,999,999,000,000,000,000 “missing links.” Atheists like Dawkins say skepticism is a good thing. Why aren’t u skeptical of the fossil record and every other supposed ‘evidence’ of evolution?

    On a side note, in the whole history of our universe only 43% of the first protein would be formed by natural selection, so any logically thinking person shouldn’t believe in macro-evolution.

    THERE ARE scientists who don’t believe in your fantasy-world where things just form themselves, and they certainly have the scientific degrees/experience required to dissent from it.

    http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/100ScientistsAd.pdf

    By refusing to look at or just scoffing at this link, u concede that you are ignorant, and don’t care to examine scientific evidence in contrast to your theory.

    ^^^ something only a FUNDAMENTAL atheist with BLIND faith would do ^^^


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