The Dawkins Transcript

Thanks to Duane –dangerously depressed after tonight’s Angels’ loss– here is the transcript of today’s interview with Richard Dawkins: HH: Special hour of the Hugh Hewitt Show with Richard Dawkins, a fellow of New College, Oxford, where he taught for many, many years, the author of many bestselling books. He’s also a member of the Royal Society of Literature, a fellow of both of those, and of course, well known to the world at large as the author first of The Selfish Gene, and most recently, his brand new book, The Greatest Show On Earth. Professor Dawkins, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show. RD: Thank you very much. HH: Thirty years ago, I took Stephen J. Gould’s course in natural selection as an undergraduate, and we had to read The Selfish Gene back right after it had come out. And The Greatest Show On Earth, your new book, kind of produced déjà vu in me. How much has changed in the case for evolution in the past thirty years? RD: Well first of all, I’m gratified and surprised that Stephen J. Gould made you read The Selfish Gene. I thought he’d have been very hostile to it. HH: No, it was really quite a remarkable book. But this is, you know, thirty-two years ago. RD: Yes, well, I haven’t changed my views on how evolution works. But there’s not a lot of The Selfish Gene in The Greatest Show On Earth, because The Selfish Gene was about a different way of looking at natural selection, and The Greatest Show On Earth is about the evidence that evolution is a fact, the evidence that it’s true. So The Selfish Gene rather assumed that evolution was a fact, whereas The Greatest Show On Earth shows the evidence that it is. HH: And in the past, in the thirty-odd years that have separated the publication of The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show On Earth, what has science shown that was not known thirty-odd years ago when you wrote The Selfish Gene? RD: Lots of new molecular data, molecular genetics. It was, of course, going in 1976, but an awful lot more is now known, lots of species, not just the human species, but lots of other species have now had their genomes completely sequenced. And so it’s now possible to see coming together a whole detailed tree of life, which is much more detailed than we ever had before. So we know the history of life much more thoroughly than we ever did before. HH: I thought you would say the molecular, and of course, the Lenski experiments are all new since that time as well. RD: Just wonderful stuff, yes. I mean, a beautiful illustration of how you can speed up evolution, because bacteria have a generation time of about half an hour. HH: But in terms of the fossil record, has there been anything that is the central discovery of the last three decades that you think fill in… RD: There’ve been lots of nice, new fossils have been discovered. We don’t need fossils in order to demonstrate that evolution is a fact. We, I mean, it would be an obviously true fact even if not a single fossil had ever been formed. HH: I know, that’s a central argument of The Greatest Show On Earth, but I was just asking in terms of the last thirty years, what would be the most important fossil record discovery? RD: Well, Lucy and other human fossils, including Ardipithecus Ramidus, which was published only, I think, a week ago, was discovered a bit earlier than that. There have been some nice, new fossils in Wales, nice, new fossils of, what else have we got, some early lemur-like creatures, early primates, some, oh, well, lots of new stuff on the Burgess Shale, and similar Cambrian invertebrate fauna, especially from China. So yes, lots of exciting fossils. HH: Okay, of course, you have changed a lot in over thirty years. You were not a celebrity then. You are a celebrity now, and you were known primarily for your scientific views then. Now, you’re known for not only your scientific views, but for your anti-faith views. Fair characterization? RD: Yes, it’s probably true. I mean, my anti-faith stance was very clear in The Selfish Gene. I made no secret of it. But I guess it is better known now, yes. HH: Are you familiar with David Berlinski? RD: I have come across him, yes. HH: He’s very much in agreement with you on the evidence for evolution, but very much opposed to your conclusions regarding what that means for the concept of God. RD: I’m surprised to hear that he’s in agreement about the evidence for evolution. I thought he was an anti-evolutionist. HH: No, The Devil’s Delusion makes it clear that he believes very much there is evidence there, but he… RD: Okay, well, he’s changed his tune then. HH: He goes on to write that your arguments, “Go from what God is, He is unlikely, to whether He exists, it would appear not, inferences of the sort that are typically not deductive. They do not impart certainty to their conclusions.” How do you respond to that, Professor Dawkins? RD: I’m not sure that I really understood that. I mean, he accepts evolution, but then, tell me again what he said after that? HH: That your argument runs from what God is, that God is unlikely, to whether He exists, it would appear not. Inferences of this sort are typically not deductive. They do not impart certainty to their conclusions. RD: Well, that’s of course true. I mean, you can never be absolutely certain that anything doesn’t exist. But you can show that it’s unlikely. That’s a pretty good, not exactly a final conclusion, but it’s certainly worth saying. HH: Isn’t the universe itself unlikely, though? RD: Well, but it’s there, isn’t it? And we’re in it, so we can see what we see. We find ourselves in a universe. So however unlikely, it clearly did happen. HH: And so that’s what his argument is, is that you can’t say yes, we have to accept the universe as unlikely, but we can accept that God is unlikely, just because the one unlikely is event is visible to us, and the other unlikely event isn’t. RD: I think there is a difference there. I mean, for the universe to come into existence, physicists are working on understanding that. And the beginning of the universe, as physicists would now understand, it would be a supremely simple event. And admittedly, it’s still something that requires a lot of understanding. It’s a very difficult thing to understand. But for God to exist, a God capable of developing the laws of physics, a God capable of answering prayers and forgiving sings, and reading our thoughts, and all that kind of thing, that requires, that’s an immensely complicated entity. That’s the kind of entity which we now explain by evolution, that’s the kind of entity that comes into being as a result of a long, slow, gradual process, long after the beginning of the universe. HH: But the universe is itself awfully complicated, Professor Dawkins. Where did it come from? RD: Well, the universe is not awfully complicated at the beginning. It has become very complicated through such processes as evolution by natural selection. HH: No, I’m talking about the whole cosmos. Where did that come from, 13 billion years ago? RD: It came from the big bang, which is not a complex process. It’s a simple process. HH: And what preceded the big bang? RD: Well, physicists won’t answer that question. They will say that time itself began in the big bang, and so the question what preceded it is illegitimate. HH: What do you think? RD: I’m not enough of a physicist to understand what I’m saying, but I have to say that that’s what physicists say. HH: So when you consider before the big bang, what does Richard Dawkins think was there? RD: I don’t consider the question, because I recognize that it’s an intuitively appealing question. I recognize that I, along with everybody else, wants to ask that question. Then I talk to physicists who say you can no more ask what came before the big bang than you can ask what’s north of the North Pole. HH: Dr. Francis Collins, are you familiar with him? RD: Yes. HH: Head of the Human Genome Project until recently… RD: Yes. HH: His new book is The Language Of God. He writes in it that the idea that scientific revelations would represent an enemy in the pursuit of understanding the book of Genesis is ill-conceived. How do you respond to that? RD: Well, I understand Dr. Collins’ point of views, that there is a compatibility between evolution and religion. How he manages to get that to the book of Genesis, however, I don’t know. The book of Genesis, after all, was not written by any philosopher or scientist of any great wisdom. The book of Genesis was written by tribesmen who had no privileged information at all. And so he, Collins would make a much stronger case if he would give up on the book of Genesis, and say that there is a compatibility between his conception of some sort of God and evolution. I wouldn’t follow him there, but it would be an awful lot easier to follow him than if he says it’s compatible with the book of Genesis. Why the book of Genesis, not any other origin myth of which there are thousands all over the world? HH: So you don’t believe a Creation is compatible, or God is compatible, with what you know of the physical universe? RD: I think it’s very unlikely, but what I’ve just said was that I would find that a lot easier to accept that I would the book of Genesis, for which there is absolutely no positive reason to find any acceptance for. HH: Dr. Collins also writes on Page 164 of The Language Of God, that Richard Dawkins is the master of setting up a straw man and then dismantling it with great relish. Are you two not friendly? RD: We’re very friendly. We’ve had several encounters. We had one hosted by Time Magazine, which was a very friendly encounter. He’s an extremely nice man, and so am I. And we had lunch together, I gave him lunch in my Oxford college, New College. We had a very amicable discussion, and we agree about most things, just not on the supernatural. HH: Professor Gould, whom I referenced earlier, is quoted in your book, and quoted in Collins’ book, excuse me. And Gould says to say it for all my colleagues, and for the umpteenth million time, science simply cannot by its legitimate methods, adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm it nor deny it. We simply cannot comment on it as scientists. If some of our crowd have made untoward statements claiming that Darwinism disproves God, then I will fine Ms. McInerney, and have their knuckles rapped for it. Your reaction, Professor… RD: Yes, I mean, that’s a very politically expedient thing to say, of course, because if you’re trying to, if you’re an educator, as he was and I am, trying to get scientific education on the rails, and to stop the anti-evolution Creationists in education, you want to get the sensible religious people on your side. You want to get the bishops and vicars and people on your side. And of course, they do believe in evolution. However, to say that science cannot say anything whatsoever about the existence of God, I think that is complete nonsense. When you think about what most people’s conception of God is, it is of a miracle-working being who raises people from the dead, who turns water into wine, who walks on water. These are all scientific claims, and they’re all, as Gould of course would agree, false. – – – – HH: Professor Dawkins, you won’t debate Dinesh D’Souza. Why not? RD: I don’t know why I should have to answer that to you, just like that, as though you’re some kind of prosecuting attorney. I don’t like him very much. He shouts, he’s loud, he’s rude. I don’t see any reason why I should spend my time. I’ve got plenty of other things to do. Why should I debate any particular individual? HH: I’m just asking. Hitchens has debated him eight or nine times, and is very complimentary of him. Hitchens is on my program quite often. RD: Yeah, he likes debating. I don’t particularly like debating. I’ve got better things to do. I’m very busy. I’ve got books to write, I’ve got other things to do. I will occasionally do debates, but I don’t see any reason why just because somebody challenges me to a debate, I should accept. HH: Did you ask for a $100,000 dollar donation to the Southern Theological Seminary, to your foundation, in order to debate Dinesh? RD: I forget who it was. I did that to somebody. I don’t think it was him, actually. It was somebody else, I think. HH: And why put that much of a price on defending what you consider to be sort of an inescapable conclusion of science? RD: That’s my way of saying no. I mean, I knew of course that nobody would pay $100,000 dollars, and I just said well, if you really, really want to, and I was very clear that it was not going to come to me personally, it was going to go to a foundation for the promotion of reason in science. HH: Are you, in your refusal to debate any and all comers who have established credentials like D’Souza… RD: Well, I’ve debated Francis Collins, whom I have great respect for. HH: But people like D’Souza, et cetera, people who are perhaps not as genteel, are you evidencing fear that the arguments might be flimsy in the public setting? RD: Not at all. Absolutely not at all. HH: Don’t you think the public are entitled to infer from your unwillingness to do… RD: They can infer what the hell they like. I don’t care. I have a job to do, and I’m going to get on and do it. HH: All right. At the outset of your book, early in your new book, The Greatest Show On Earth, you write about science teachers, “when they explore and explain the very nature of life itself, they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened with the loss of their jobs.” How often has that occurred? RD: It’s never occurred to me, I am very happy to say, and I would give short shrift to anybody who threatened me. However, I have heard over and over again from American school teachers, especially at school rather than at university, over and over again, I’ve heard from them, more or less heart cries, that they are not able to teach their subject properly, because they are indeed hassled and harried, and all those other words that I used. HH: You see, I’m flabbergasted by that. That would be big news. I’m in the journalism business, and if that had happened even once, especially the idea of someone being fired for teaching evolution, it would have been an international cause celeb, and I’m… RD: Oh, well, that’s very interesting then. I mean, I’m interested to hear you say that, because that makes, that suggests to me that what I should do is collect together some of the letters that I received. I thought that was undisputed. I thought it was well known. HH: Oh, it’s absolutely disputed. I think actually, you’ve been bamboozled by people claiming your sympathy, when they in fact have never been fired. I don’t know of anyone who’s been fired from the public school system for teaching evolution in the thirty years I’ve been doing this. RD: All right. Well, if you’ll send my publisher your address, I will, the next time I get letters along those lines. HH: But letters wouldn’t be dispositive, would they? I mean, you get letters from Creationists as well, and you toss them aside as piffle. RD: All right. I mean, I can’t actually produce chapter and verse over the telephone like this, but I, I’m, I think I’m a fairly good critical observer, and these sounded pretty convincing to me. HH: I would just suggest it’s really not that big of a problem. Let’s get to the substance of the book. There are fascinating chapters in here. I mean, I really, by the way, I loved The Greatest Show On Earth. I particularly love stuff like the bits about the dogs and the snouts, and the breeding… RD: Yes, okay, yeah. HH: …and about wolves adapting to the new waves of man versus natural selection, et cetera. RD: Yes. HH: But in terms, you then made a leap which left me a little bit trying to do calculation. It’s on Page 81. “The time that has elapsed since our fish ancestors crawled out of the water to the land is about three and a half million centuries, which is to say about 20,000 times as long as it took to make all the different, really very different breeds of dogs from the common ancestor they all share.” I think you are implying there’s more than enough time, and that for man to have evolved from fish, because of the nature of the adaptations demonstrated by dogs and wolves. Is that what you’re saying? RD: Yes, I was saying if you see what can be achieved when selection is very strongly applied by human readers, admittedly, and it’s achieved in a matter of centuries, then you extrapolate that out to the hundreds of millions of years that it took to go from fish to mammals, then it does become very plausible, yes. HH: But what I was looking for in the book, what I thought I would get, is later on when you talk about our common ancestor on Page 188, our common ancestor with the chimp is about six million years ago… RD: Right. HH: And Lucy’s at about three million years. RD: Right. HH: Why not just, you know, do the straight line of the number of generations, and here are the adaptations that occurred, and…because it would just seem to me that that’s what the big issue is, is this common ancestry claim, and that if it’s…as opposed to saying you know, fish, dogs, wolves, all this stuff, here’s Lucy, and here is how Lucy got to us. Why not write that down? RD: I thought I did. I don’t quite see what the distinction is you’re making. HH: Timing. Timing. You know, it’s not whether, it’s not from when the fish came out of the land. People argue about the common ancestor, the chimpanzee, which you put at six million years ago. And I’m looking for, maybe I missed it, I read the book pretty closely, where is that laid out, to get us from the… RD: You mean, where’s the evidence that that ancestor was six million years ago? HH: That and where’s the timeline from six million years ago to today? RD: Oh, okay. The evidence comes from molecular dating. So what you do is you take any pair of modern animals, and we happen to be talking about chimpanzees. HH: I understand, but where is it in the book? RD: Oh, I can’t remember whether I happened to leave that bit out. HH: That bit is everything, isn’t it, Professor? RD: No, there’s a lot, all sorts of other stuff in the book. HH: I know, but you spend a lot of your invective on the Creationists, about whom they just want to argue common ancestry with you, and that would seem…that’s what I went back through the book twice looking for… RD: Let me see if I get this straight. You’re saying that I simply asserted what, that humans and chimps have a common ancestor six million years ago? HH: You did assert that on Page 188. RD: Yes, okay. Now is it the common ancestry you think that I didn’t substantiate, or the date? HH: No, the date…not the date. Neither, in fact, but that the amount of time necessary, the six million years, or three million years from common ancestor to Lucy, and from Lucy to human beings. RD: Well, the dating is done by the molecular clock, which I did discuss, and I forget which chapter it is. But it’s not in the normal dating chapter. The dating chapter, which is I think Chapter 4, is about how you date fossils, okay? And that’s done by radioactive dating. HH: I’ve got all that, and I read it, and I understand. I’m just trying to figure out why… RD: Okay, now in the case of the human-chimp common ancestor, we don’t have that fossil, and so we can’t date that. What we do have is the molecular genetics of modern chimps and modern humans. HH: So you’re running a mathematical program backwards, in essence? RD: Yes. What you’re doing is you’re taking animals for which we have a good fossil record, where we actually know where the common ancestor was, because we can see it in the fossil record, and then we look at how different the genes are in those animals. And that gives us a calibration of the molecular clock. You say that this particular gene, you get so many changes in the gene per million years. HH: I’m not being very articulate, and I apologize for it, Professor. Maybe after the break, I can come back and we can think about it during this minute. What I was asking you is, if the argument is primarily that you have with young Earth Creationists, you don’t have much of an argument with Divinely-guided evolution, if that’s it, why not lay it out that here’s Lucy, and here’s how we got here, not how we date the genes backwards, but here are the intermediate steps as best we know them, that we know. When we come back, I just think it would make this much easier to get our arms around, at least a public conversation about. – – – – HH: Professor, where we were going in the last segment, I was wondering, do you have an idea or a map, or a general idea of how we got from the common ancestor to Lucy, and from Lucy to modern man, in terms of both dates and where it occurred, you know, Africa versus Asia? RD: Yeah, Chapter 7 is about nothing else. Chapter 7 is about lots and lots of human fossils. They’re all in Africa, and there are numerous pictures of them. I don’t see what your problem is. HH: Well, you were quick to admit that there are lots, that the argument about intermediate fossils is a false one, because everything is intermediate, and I thought that was actually kind of persuasive in a rebuttal. I was asking for the positive chart that says here’s where we go, and what you would like to have filled in. Where do you think is the hardest argument to make, et cetera? RD: Well, in the case of human fossils, we’re doing pretty well. I mean, there’s a pretty continuous, gradual record certainly all the way from modern humans as far as Lucy, and now as far as Ardipithecus. Then, there’s a bit of a gap before you hit the common ancestor with chimpanzees. But that’s only to be expected. HH: Well, I know that, and your argument about the fossil record is that every fossil that has ever been discovered has never been discovered out of order. Very interesting stuff. I’m just curious as to how many of those additional steps you think would be necessary to overwhelm the opposition? RD: Okay, well, it would…I think we’re pretty good from Lucy, or rather from Ardipithecus onwards. It would be good to go backwards from Ardipithecus, which is 4.4 million years, to go backwards to 5 million years, 6 million years, to the common ancestor with chimpanzees. That would be nice. HH: So after Lucy, what’s the next most forward one closest to us? RD: After Lucy, that would be, I would think, Australopithecus Africanus, or Homo Habilus. HH: And about how many years separate those two? RD: About, well, actually, Homo Habilus would be only a few hundred thousand years from Lucy. HH: And after Homo Habilus, what’s next? RD: I would think Homo Erectus, which would be maybe about another million years, and then Homo Sapiens. HH: And so do you expect, Richard Dawkins, that as the continued search for fossils goes on, that those gaps in the record will be filled in? RD: Well, I don’t call them gaps. I mean… HH: I know that, but… RD: They’re pretty close. HH: But do you expect any intermediate fossils to be discovered for those periods? RD: Yes, I do, but I don’t think we even need them, because they’re already so close, that the terminology, I mean, for example, Homo Habilus is sometimes called Australopithecus Habilus, they’re so close, that the terminology becomes disputed. HH: And do you expect they will all be in Africa? RD: Yes. HH: And none of them in Asia, none of them… RD: Well, humans first moved out into Asia about one and a half million years ago as Homo Erectus, so there are specimens in Asia which were independently there, and they came from Africa. HH: And so a hundred years from now, when this conversation is underway, what do you expect most of the argument to be about, if indeed there is an argument left? RD: Well, there already isn’t an argument left, because if you actually look at the evidence, it is completely conclusive. HH: Well, there is actually, as an objective lawyer, there is an argument left. Whether or not you think you’re persuading…there’s an argument in front of every jury, whether or not one side wins every time. RD: Well, what I’m saying is that because the evidence is already so persuasive, and some people are not persuaded by it, there’s no particular reason to think that amassing even more evidence is going to persuade people who are un-persuadable. HH: Well, you made the argument in the book that not believing in evolution is tantamount to Holocaust denial. RD: They’re both history denial, yes. HH: But do you actually believe they are equivalent? RD: They’re not equivalent morally, because Holocaust denial is usually motivated by a political agenda which is extremely sinister. HH: Agreed. But they’re not also…I don’t want to answer your question. Do you believe that they are actually equivalent in terms of evidentiary… RD: Yes, I do. HH: …provability? RD: Yes. I do think they’re equivalent in terms of evidentiary provability, yes. HH: And when people say well, we have reels and reels of film of the Holocaust victims in Birkenau, and in Auschwitz, and there is no film. I know you’ve got the gorilla experiment in the book, but isn’t that sort of a reach that undermines the credibility of the argument? RD: It is…okay, it is of course totally convincing that the Holocaust happened. There is absolutely not a shadow of doubt that the Holocaust happened. The same is true of evolution, even though there isn’t reels and reels of film. The evidence from everything else we have is so convincing, that they’re on a par with each other. HH: So if people don’t believe that those sets of evidence are the same, doesn’t that undermine your credibility? If they intuitively say well, that’s just ridiculous, the evolution debate is interesting and ongoing, and there’s nowhere near the kind of evidence there is for the Holocaust, therefore I should not believe Richard Dawkins, because he’s making outlandish claims. RD: But there are Holocaust deniers. Holocaust deniers are extremely numerous. HH: I know that, but that’s not what I’m asking. I’m saying if someone says those are not the same evidence sets, then Richard Dawkins is making an outlandish claim about which I should be unpersaded. RD: Well, I think you could say just the same thing about the Holocaust. I mean, it is staggering to me that anybody could possible doubt the Holocaust, and yet there are people who do. HH: I’ll be right back with Richard Dawkins. – – – – HH: Professor Dawkins, you talk about the Cambrian period quite a lot in the evidence for evolution in The Greatest Show On Earth. What do you think happened there? RD: In the Cambrian? HH: Yeah, that allowed for the explosion of the fossil record. RD: Yes, this is about half a billion years ago, a little bit more, and it is the time when most of the phyla that we now recognize first appear. They seem to have appeared rather suddenly, because there doesn’t seem to be much history behind them. Nobody knows exactly what happened then. Most people think the reason that they do appear suddenly is that animals have to have hard skeletons in order to fossilize, and maybe either they didn’t have hard skeletons, or they were too small. I make the point in the book that there are modern phyla, for example, the flatworms, which are, the flatworm is a very large group of animals, very important group of animals, and yet there are no fossils at all, which means that it’s possible for a phylum to simply appear as if from nowhere, without a fossil record. HH: Sure, but what, given that you talk about how many new species appear in the Cambrian period, what do you think actually happened about the evolutionary chain there, or about the conditions on the Earth that allowed for all the skeletal systems or the growth in size? RD: That’s a very interesting question. I don’t know. It’s possible that it was an evolutionary arms race between predators and prey, that predators suddenly got, became, well, not suddenly, because this whole process took about twenty or thirty million years, which is not a short time. It seems like overnight compared to more recent times, but nevertheless, it was a long time. There were some very big predators that appeared, which may have stimulated the evolution of hard-shelled creatures among their prey, who needed the protection from them. And the arms race then escalated, so that the predators became hard as well. And that’s one possibility. HH: And is that what you, Richard Dawkins, put your faith in? RD: I don’t put my faith in anything. I think that something interesting happened. Maybe they just got bigger at that time. Maybe there was a major shift, and one theory is that it was the invention of eyes that was important. HH: I’m running low on time, with this segment and the next one only, so I want to jump ahead. RD: Yes. HH: On the person of Jesus Christ, did He exist? RD: I suspect He probably did. I suspect there are lots of itinerant preachers, and one of them was probably called Yehoshua, or various other versions of Jesus’ name, but I don’t think that a miracle worker existed. HH: How do you rate the evidence for Christ’s existence, manuscript evidence, eyewitness evidence, things like that? RD: As I said, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if a man called Jesus or Yehoshua existed. I would say the evidence that He worked miracles, He rose from the dead, He was born of a virgin, is zero. HH: Well, you repeatedly use the analogy of a detective at a crime scene throughout The Greatest Show On Earth. But detectives simply can’t dismiss evidence they don’t want to see. There’s a lot of evidence for the miracles, in terms of eyewitness… RD: No, there isn’t. What there is, is written stories which were written decades after the alleged events were supposed to happen. No historian would take that seriously. HH: Well, that’s why I’m conflicted, because in your book, you talk about the Latin teacher who is stymied at every turn, and yet Latin teachers routinely rely on things like Tacitus and Pliny, and histories that were written centuries after the events in which they are recording occur. RD: There’s massive archaeological evidence, there’s massive evidence of all kinds. It’s just not comparable. No…if you talk to any ancient historian of the period, they will agree that it is not good historical evidence. HH: Oh, that’s simply not true. Dr. Mark Roberts, double PhD in undergraduate at Harvard has written a very persuasive book upon this. I mean, that’s an astounding statement. Are you unfamiliar with him? RD: All right, then there may be some, but a very large number of ancient historians would say… HH: Well, you just said there were none. So there are some that you are choosing not to confront. RD: You sound like a lawyer. HH: I am a lawyer. RD: Oh, for God’s sake. Are you? Okay. I didn’t know that. All right. I will accept that there are some ancient historians who take the Gospels seriously. But they were written decades after the events that happened, and they were written by people with an axe to grind, written by disciples. There are no eyewitness written accounts. The earliest New Testament… HH: I understand you believe that, Professor. I do. But what I don’t understand is how you can use the analogy of the Latin teacher or the detective, when it breaks down given your dismissal of evidence you don’t see fit to deal with squarely? RD: I think that’s a very, very specious comparison, because the Latin teacher is dealing with enormous numbers of documents. Remember, my Latin teacher is supposed to be confronted with skeptics who don’t even think the Latin language was ever spoken. And there’s huge amounts of documentary evidence of the Roman Empire. We’re talking about the entire Roman Empire here. There’s enormous amounts of eyewitness accounts written down at the time. It just is no comparison. HH: Actually, it is. It’s actually a very persuasive…in fact, the arguments for the manuscript evidence of Christ and His doings is much stronger than anything, for example, Tacitus or Pliny wrote. It’s just much stronger. Now you might counter with Cesar’s Gallic war commentaries, and you do mention those, and those are contemporary accounts by an eyewitness, but so are the Gospel evidences, say, of Luke accompanying Paul about. And yet you’re dismissive of the miracles that occurred in there. So I’m just wondering… RD: They may be. The accounts of Luke accompanying Paul may be real, but Luke never met Jesus. HH: But again, I’m not arguing that point with you. It’s just that you dismiss that all without dealing with it serially, which would not be, I think, consistent with your detective argument, or your Latin teacher argument, because… RD: I cannot believe that you’re doing more than just trying to score points. You cannot seriously be saying that the case for the existence of the Roman Empire is as weak as for Jesus. HH: That’s not what I’m saying at all. I didn’t say that. I said that your argument, by analogy, to a Latin teacher being harried by people who deny certain things, but especially your idea of a detective using evidence at a crime scene, that it doesn’t comport with your dismissal of the evidence for Christianity and the historical Jesus. RD: Okay, do you believe Jesus turned water into wine? HH: Yes. RD: You seriously do? HH: Yes. RD: You actually think that Jesus got water, and made all those molecules turn into wine? HH: Yes. RD: My God. HH: Yes. My God, actually, not yours. But let me… RD: I’ve realized the kind of person I’m dealing with now. HH: But what would that person be? The Stephen J. Gould student that you’re dealing with now? RD: Okay. You think that… HH: Wait, we’ve got to go to a break, Professor. RD: …something, because you’ve read in the Gospel, you think that Jesus turned water into wine? HH: I know you’re dismissive of me, but we’ve got to take a break. I’ll come back, I’ll give you a chance. – – – – – HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt with Richard Dawkins. Professor Dawkins’ brand new book is The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution. It’s linked at Professor, I have one last question, it’s very important for me to ask this, because I just kept coming back to it. You argue in the book at one point that the retina is so poorly designed, that it argues against the idea of a designer, because it’s such a messed up job. Conversely, though, if the object of the designer was to create a world in which faith was possible, but also disbelief, in order to make faith a choice and not an obligation, wouldn’t then you have to say that the world was wondrously constructed to that end, to preserve free will and the choosing? RD: You mean that God deliberately made mistakes so as to deceive us? HH: Not mistakes, that God created a world in which faith was possible by an order of its complexity, to allow for the Richard Dawkins of the world to exist, and be completely, absolutely convinced that He did not, that that’s the only situation in which faith is real. RD: So in order to make that the case, God said well, now let’s make the eye look like a botched up job so that…are you saying… HH: I think you understand what I’m saying, and you’re saying no, you don’t believe that, that it would not in fact fit that, a giant…for example, have you read the Harry Potter novels? RD: No. HH: Do you read any fiction at all? RD: Of course. HH: What’s the most complicated bit of fiction you’ve read? Like War and Peace? RD: Yeah, what’s your point? What point are you making? HH: That complexity in design, and counterintuitive steps, et cetera, don’t disprove the idea of genius at work. Genius at work often works through complexity and through misdirection. RD: I think that what you’re kind of saying is that God made the world look as though it had evolved in order to test our faith, when it didn’t evolve. HH: No, not test our faith. I’m saying that the world has been made as it is to allow for faith, because if it was made too easy for the simple-minded, it would simply be routine, and everyone would believe, and then there would be no faith. RD: That would be a pretty unpleasant sort of God. I think, I would say you’re welcome to believe in a kind of God who would do that, but it’s not the kind of God that would appeal to me. HH: Well, it’s not about what appeals to us, it’s about what is. And you also write that a beneficent designer might, you’d idealistically think, minimize suffering. But not if the soul was infinite, and suffering was necessary for its wisdom. RD: No, that’s true. I, once again, you’re welcome to that belief, if that’s what you want to believe. There’s a far more parsimonious explanation for suffering, which is natural selection. HH: Did you ever believe in God, Richard Dawkins? RD: Of course, I was a child. HH: And when did you put off your foolish belief in God? RD: When did I put away childish things? HH: Yes. RD: At the age of about fifteen. HH: And under who’s influence was it? RD: I suppose it was the influence, not of Darwin directly, but of the education in evolution that I was receiving. HH: And did you just up and one day declare that’s it, no God? RD: No, it was a more gradual process than that, as it was with Darwin himself. I mean, he gradually lost his faith. HH: Well, I hope you’ll come back. I hope I’ve demonstrated…I take your books very seriously, I read them and enjoy them quite a lot, and I would, I’d love to continue the conversation another time. Will you be game, Professor? RD: So would I, yes. HH: All right. Thank you, my friend. Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show On Earth is the new book. End of interview.


  1. Kevin Bywater says

    This is a great interview, Hugh. I appreciate that you pressed Dawkins on some very key facets of the discussion. His remarks are quite revealing. I do hope that you are able to bring him back on for future discussions. Thanks for all your good and faithful work.

    • Debbie Yancey says

      Hugh – love you show. Thanks for a incredible interview with Richard Dawkins. Polite, respectful,smart and amazingly revealing. Professor Dawkins exposed himself to be a compromised man. He has compromised faith in a higher power for faith in compromised science. Professor Dawkins does not have faith to believe in the overwhemling evidence of a higher power but does faithfully believe a science that does not have evidence to bridge enormous gaps of time and lacking fossil evidence.

      Loved his response to the water into wine question, I think he was truly shocked that a smart informed polite man as yourself could actually believe Jesus turned water into wine. Such a simple but revealing reaction. Great job!!!

  2. Justin Flavin says

    hugh – i LOVE your show and have been a fan for quite a few years now – but that “water into wine” bit really was a low point.

    you fell into the classic Dawkins trap – of making people of faith look like they believe in the tooth fairy or invisible pink elephants at the bottom of their garden.

    next time – ask him about the cosmological constant. or why gravity is the way it is. or why does Pi exist? seriously – there’s some amazingly inspiring stuff in Mathematics that really does make you stop and think.

    and i say that as a lifelong atheist. so i’m not coming at this post from a Christian angle. there is some crazy stuff going on in high level Maths. and Dawkins will have no answer for it.

    • says

      I suspect if you ask him about the cosmological constant or gravity, Dawkins will defer to physicists — the experts in the topic. Hugh will probably call that “punting”.

  3. Justin Flavin says

    btw – sorry for the critique – but it was needed.

    otherwise , the interview was awesome. really enjoyed it – you really need to get Dawkins on for a full 3 hour special. i think it’ll be actually good for him as well – he’s such militant British atheist that he has a warped view of America, as was evidenced in his recent documentaries.

    you know – the usual stuff – evangelicals are all crazy , america is crazy and the Taliban/Islamocrazies are no different to the evangelicals. A typical British viewpoint ,sad to say.

    I’d go for it – Dawkins on Hewitt would be an awesome idea. And incredibly interesting to listen to.

  4. Douglas TenNapel says

    Justin, forget Dawkins, why are YOU an atheist?! What’s wrong with you?

    I’ve debated enough Dawkinsian atheists that Hugh himself could have made water turn to wine and it wouldn’t change his opinion one bit. If an atheist saw a movie of Christ rising from the dead he would conclude, “Isn’t it amazing that a purely meaningless material universe could bring someone back from the dead?”

    • Justin Flavin says

      You are basing your logic on an assumption that a certain event actually happened in history. It’s just that i don’t believe it actually happened because there is absolutely zero corroborating evidence from Roman scholars at the time.

      I can only go by the evidence – and that is exactly where “faith” comes into it. You need a leap of faith to believe in Jesus. Which is absolutely fine by me and i understand that – but that’s just not good enough for myself personally.

      • Fallon Foster says

        Justin- Conservatives have, largely, been shut out of academia, except for Hillsdale, and instances where tenured Prof’s converted in-place. Additionally, I contend that the blacklisting of conservative ideas would have completely shut conservative thought out of public view in the previous decade had Reagan not removed the Fairness Doctrine [thereby begetting Rush, who begot talk radio, who begot Fox, who begets Barack all day!

        You simply would NOT believe any conservatives exist today, if you look at the record after Barry, and gang, complete the expunging of their history, and -thereby- ours.

        Which brings us to “the” Roman record. Jerusalem was a troublesome little back-water where commanders were disposed of … I can’t even pick an analogous back-water, ’cause “none of them are worth notice”.

        Why would any self-respecting [liberal-elitist?] Roman take, much less make, note of anything going on there until after ignorance was no longer an option?

        If I may ask, why do you require a contemporary “Roman” record of the resurrection, especially when you consider the personal maximum-motivations many of the soldiers had to keep those details out of Rome’s notice?

    • Justin Flavin says

      “Justin, forget Dawkins, why are YOU an atheist?! ”

      Watching Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” on TV as a kid in the late 70s , and contrasting that with what i was being taught in the mini-Taliban Catholic Republic of Ireland at the time.

      It was utterly clear to me , at age 9, that science was vastly more fascinating and interesting than religion.

    • says

      Whenever evolution comes up, we wind up with the topics of religion and science getting muddled together. Evolution deals with the question of what should be taught in science classes and what scientists believe are the rules by which living things have come to be the way they are. But many people view evolution as a negation of their religious beliefs.

      Religious doctrine teaches that miracles happen. The scientific problem with miracles is that they never seem to happen under laboratory conditions.

      Take turning water into wine. Turning water into wine requires that ethanol, tannic acid, esters, flavinoids, and a huge array of other chemicals appear in water somehow. The problem is, we don’t have very many known mechanisms by which these molecules would suddenly appear in water. I certainly wouldn’t count on such a transformation ever happening in my lab, and I certainly wouldn’t base an industrial process on it.

      Likewise, someone rising from the dead is very unlikely. We have a number of medical conditions that do occur, some more common than others. We see reports of people coming back from states of near death — mammalian diving reflex and treatment with various poisons. But Jesus was crucified, and his side pierced by a Roman soldier. Now Roman soldiers may not have been the most sophisticated bunch, but they did learn how to make people dead, and make sure they would stay that way. How likely is it that someone who had been treated that way would recover?

      Now religiously, I submit any of the laws of science can be set aside by a miraculous event. That’s sort of the definition of “miracle”. But the nature of a miracle is also such that we can’t count on them happening. Indeed, we don’t even have research papers showing miraculous events showing up at some very low rate. For example, water is used in millions of labs around the world, and no published paper cites a case where water turned into wine.

      So, if water was turned into wine, it means an event occurred which basically never happened any other time in recorded history, and which can’t happen by means of any known physical or chemical process.

      So if you’re teaching religion, your teaching will include tales of miracles. Water turns to wine, and people rise from the dead. But if you’re teaching a science class, do you teach that these miracles “don’t” happen, or that they “very rarely” happen?

      I don’t know about everyone else’s science classes, but my physics teachers never told the class “F almost always = ma”.

      • Justin Flavin says

        that is a well written explanation of what science is about. kudos to you sir.

        the irony of this is that science has not been damaged by the religious right recently – its been damaged by the “religious” green global warming crowd. the warping of science in that area is vastly greater than anything any Christian would attempt to do. we are now in a world where the Vatican thinks astronomy is ok and is apologising to Galileo, while government policy follows a “green” agenda on utter blind faith without any politician having any sort of scientific qualification.

        if you ask me , the real battle between reason and religion aint happening with the Christian evangelicals – its with the one-world UN green agenda bureaucrats and their followers.

        • says

          if you ask me , the real battle between reason and religion aint happening with the Christian evangelicals – its with the one-world UN green agenda bureaucrats and their followers.

          I think to some extent it’s both. The Christian evangelicals’ war against evolution has failed. Young earth creationism is dead. The science just doesn’t support it at all. The Intelligent Design form of creationism took a fatal drubbing in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. It won’t be back. (It’ll be interesting to see what the next step is. They can’t keep filing off the serial numbers, or there’ll be no daylight between their “theory” and real science.)

          The bad science on the other end involves more topics — heterosexual AIDS, climate change, second-hand smoke, the panic over swine flu, and any number of other items. These are bits of bad science that have one thing in common. They give a group of elites a rationale for imposing constraints on how other people behave. Heterosexual AIDS means we have to fund research into AIDS, far out of proportion to the incidence in the population; climate change means we can be ordered to cut down on our carbon footprint, by whatever means necessary; swine flu is being cited as a reason to impose a single-payer health plan.

          • Fallon Foster says

            “The Christian evangelicals’ war against evolution has failed. Young earth creationism is dead. The science just doesn’t support it at all. The Intelligent Design form of creationism took a fatal drubbing in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. It won’t be back. (It’ll be interesting to see what the next step is.”

            Evangelicals have been losing the “war against evolution” since they accepted the opinions/interpretations of men at the outset. The “war”; however, is not over, creationism is not dead, and assuming that evidence doesn’t exist leaves open the possibility that one will be proven wrong. Evidences is evidence… the interpretations are the areas of contention, and that contention continues.

            I think you, Justin, and anyone else still visiting this thread, might want to engage the thoughts presented in the following article. I’ve copied the abstract here, for your convenience, and then the link to the paper:

            An Apology and Unification Theory for the Reconciliation of Physical Matter and Metaphysical Cognizance
            by Desmond P. Allen
            February 22, 2008

            * author-desmond-allen
            * physics
            * supernatural
            * worldviews

            An Apology and Unification Theory for the Reconciliation of Physical Matter and Metaphysical Cognizance

            Because one is tangible and the other intangible, the physical and metaphysical are generally treated separately. But this dichotomy is illogical; at the very least it is inconsistent with reality, for the two are inseparable. A basic introduction to the principal issues in quantum physics is provided to stress two points: (1) our physical reality consists mostly of empty space, electromagnetic energy, and information; and (2) the metaphysical implications of nonlocality as evidenced by studies in entanglement, quantum teleportation, and zero-point energy. Then the impossibility of three critical events is addressed: the spontaneous ex nihilo appearance of an exploding mass via its own nonexistent energy, the spontaneous generation of organic life from inorganic nonlife, and the spontaneous generation of a complex metaphysical reality from physical matter. This leads to an apology for the necessity of a creator.

            Finally, a theory is set forth that reconciles inorganic, organic, and animated matter with the metaphysical realities of both the creator and the created. By coupling the metaphysical implications of quantum physics with the biblical understanding of God’s attributes, the thesis is set forth that our immediate physical reality—consisting of empty space, electromagnetic energy, and information—is basically a hologram depiction of God’s intent. God spoke and it was so. Since creation, God’s Spirit has continued to energize and interact with the universe in an entangled nature at the quantum level. Similarly, the individual metaphysical reality (the spirit) of each animated being interacts with its individual corporal body via this same entangled nature at the subatomic level.

            Man being created in the image of God, freewill, the existence of evil, and redemption are also addressed. And finally, because man is a special creature created in God’s image, it follows that man, merely by intent, has within him the ability, at least in a limited capacity, to cause change to his environment, this holographic reality; thus biblical healings and miracles occur. This concept could also provide an explanation for certain other human-generated phenomena.
            Keywords: Creation, big bang, deity, electromagnetic energy, evolution, eternity, faith, image of God, infinity, hologram, metaphysical, cognizance, miracles, mind, multidimensional, nonlocal and local realism, ontology, physics, physical matter, reality, redemption, sin, spirit, soul, subatomic, supernatural, time- space continuum, quantum mechanics


      • Bruce Hietbrink says

        You write:
        “The scientific problem with miracles is that they never seem to happen under laboratory conditions.”
        The problem is that this leaves out the aspect of agency. A miracle, pretty much by definition, depends on a free agent with the power to do that thing (i.e. God). So it’s not comparable to, say, a chemical reaction, that you can predict with absolute certainty given the starting conditions. Instead it’s more comparable to “will I or will I not scratch my nose in the next minute?” The answer is, I might. I have free will in this matter to do it or not do it, and you cannot predict with certainty which I will do. — Hey, there, I just scratched my nose! —
        So this goes back to the much more basic question of whether there is a free agent with the power to do so. Various cosmological arguments can address the question of whether or not there is a God who can create the universe. After that, whether or not he chose to make some wine is a pretty superfluous question.

  5. Dana Massey says

    Speaking as a really ignorant-of-evolution person, and not being willing to take too hard a line on evolution as a Christian, I found him INCREDIBLY arrogant and condescending generally. But the holocaust denier bit. That was absurd. Holocaust deniers, like Ahmadinejad, are patently calculating in their denying; they are full of bull. Most people of faith are not being coy about their creationist beliefs. A great many of us are really just ignorant of evolution. Some of us want to take hard lines; others of us do not. I do believe Jesus did miracles. But what has that got to do with evolution? Why did he ask that? And then to lump us with the Ahmadinejads of the world; well, that’s just ridiculous. I find him learned, arrogant and absurd. But it was sort of interesting.

    • Douglas Westfall says

      In addition to your points previously stated another fundamental breakdown between the analogy of Holocaust deniers being equivolent to those who deny evolution is that while yes there are large numbers of both, many of those who are Holocaust deniers exist in countries where they are kept from the evidence that would demonstrate that it is a false notion. Most of those that deny evolution live within a country and go to a school that teaches them about evolution and then on they reject it, but they don’t do so in a vaccum.

      Also, the person that Dawkins said he would not debate for less than $100,000 was Ray Comfort he’s that guy who does the show with Kirk Cameron, “Way of the Master”

      Lastly to Justin, I am continually amazed at the atheist’s amazement at some of the things that Christians hold to. We think that God created the entire universe ex nihilo, if God do that, why would the restructuring of water to wine be all that difficult, let alone making a baby (virgin birth) etc…

      • Justin Flavin says

        “Lastly to Justin, I am continually amazed at the atheist’s amazement at some of the things that Christians hold to. We think that God created the entire universe ex nihilo, if God do that, why would the restructuring of water to wine be all that difficult, let alone making a baby (virgin birth) etc…”

        Well, if you provide the proof of such miracles, then science itself would be revolutionised. Unfortunately for your position, there is no proof of such miracles ever happening.

        • Douglas Westfall says

          Well of course I agree with you that there is no empirical proof of miracles, such would seem to be impossible to produce just owing to their nature. I do think a case can be made and has been made for philosophical and historical proof but that is aside from the point. I just find it bizarre that the one really really big claim is treated as false a far lesser claim is considered absurd and perhaps on the verge of insanity. It has just never made any sense to me.

          • Justin Flavin says

            just stating that there is no evidence of religious miracles is not equivalent to saying outright that they are “false”.

            its just that we have no evidence for them. and that is precisely where faith comes in , because faith requires that leap to believe in such miracles.

            and that is totally fine by me – i realise that it is part of the human condition to believe in something other than yourself and something greater than yourself. thats just the way our DNA is made up.

            heck , even Magpies mourn for their losses.

            as an atheist , i do stop and think when i read such stuff. it does make me wonder. i grant you that.

            but getting back to miracles – all i ask is for proof. nothing more.

          • says

            It seems to me, if miracles happened with more than a very tiny frequency, there’d be evidence that they had occurred.

            Some time ago, I sat in on a talk about reiki. For the uninitiated, reiki is a healing method that involves directing energy toward healing the sick. Someone who’s been initiated can will this energy to do its thing, and heal illnesses.

            It is alleged that the discoverer of the technique set about healing everyone he could find, including the homeless dying in alleys in the area, and everyone he could find in any nearby hospital.

            It seems to me, if anything like this had occurred, someone outside of the reiki movement would have noticed. There’d be lists of these patients who had been given up on and who all miraculously recovered. There’d certainly be, at the very least, a statistical blip where the death rate at a few hospitals dropped to extremely low levels for unknown reasons.

            If this ever happened, the supporters of reiki seem unwilling to produce documentation. Therefore, I take claims about the efficacy of reiki with a small Siberian salt mine.

            The same kind of reasoning applies to any other claims of miraculous events. If I can’t investigate the event itself in person, I can look for reasonable sequelae and see if those exist.

  6. Nicholas Campbell says

    Dana, if you thought Dawkins was dismissive and arrogrant, check out the Boteach/Hitchens debate on iTunes U. Or Prager/Zingler at the American Athiests’ Convention. Or Prager/Hitchens when Prager interviewed him for God Is Not Great. By comparison, this was genteel and insightful.

  7. Marty MacDonald says

    Duke here again. There is a problem in explaining the “human beast”. How did our traits evolve from the previous species. Some examples: the origin of speech. My understanding is that speech just came on the scene. I suspect that speech evolved into religion, status, being good at something. Also how does Darwin explain the human desire to improve (i.e. being good at the violin for example) How does Darwin explain Angel Fans or one’s desire for a Haney Award.

    Let Darwin explain the Human Beast.

    Duke of Daggett

  8. Alan Cuthbertson says

    I enjoyed your Dawkins interview but I have to agree with Dawkins when he said “… I cannot believe that you’re doing more than just trying to score points.” It seems to me that, as a lawyer, you are trained to argue and build a narrative that is favorable to your case, not to uncover the truth. Good science considers all the evidence whether it strengthens or weakens a hypothesis or theory. Bad science argues like a lawyer. For example, when Johnny Cochran of the OJ “dream team” said “If it (the glove) doesn’t fit you must acquit” he wasn’t trying to get to the truth, he was trying to get OJ off the hook. You made a point about the design of the eye and said “…I’m saying that the world has been made as it is to allow for faith…”. I distinctly remember arguing with my Jehovah’s Witness aunt, about 35 years ago, that fossils proved that the earth was more that 6000 years old. Her response was that the Devil had deposited the fossils to weaken the faith of mankind (I was sort of dumbfounded). I think your argument and hers are in the same class and are really unanswerable by a scientist, although Dawkins did his best. I mean they rely on an entirely different frame of reference. You suggest that science is based as much on faith as religion when you said “And is that what you, Richard Dawkins, put your faith in?” I think this is again point scoring. Dawkins offered the hypothesis that an evolutionary arms race was responsible for the Cambrian explosion after clearly saying he didn’t know. This is not faith. He simply offered a hypothesis regarding a period that is poorly understood. Darwinism is not a faith-based pursuit.

    I still enjoyed it and I really appreciate your lawyerly approach in all other respects.

    • Nathan Hansen says

      I respectfully disagree that Hugh was simply just scoring points and being a ‘disingenuous lawyer’. Dawkins incorrectly associates his conclusion that there is no God as a scientific conclusion (he seems to be conflating ‘reason’ or logic with science). This goes to the heart of how Dawkins came to the conclusions about God that he has. I’d argue that Dawkins isn’t after the truth – I reject the notion that he is some pure crusader for reason and the use of scientific methods in all aspects of life. If he were agnostic and could admit that he could very well be wrong and that science is ill suited to answering the question of God’s existence I might believe him. Given that he’s absolutely certain there is no God when neither reason nor science provide a single and absolute answer to this question leads me to believe he is no seeker of truth.

      • Alan Cuthbertson says


        Dawkins has never spoken of absolute certaintly with respect to God, even in this interview he said “…I mean, you can never be absolutely certain that anything doesn’t exist. But you can show that it’s unlikely. That’s a pretty good, not exactly a final conclusion, but it’s certainly worth saying”

        You are simply not listening to him.

        • Nathan Hansen says

          I did hear him say that – but he has such disdain for ‘faith’ and those who have it that it guess I didn’t really believe him. My impression was that he holds that it’s possible – though very very unlikely – he’s wrong and that if he is wrong that religion is certainly not correct.

        • says

          I agree with Nathan Hansen here. Dawkins makes it very clear that he regards the religious as fools at best. By the same token, Howard Dean may punctiliously state that Republicans have a place in the political debate, but we still have him, on tape, saying his party, “in contradistinction to the Republicans, believes children shouldn’t go to bed hungry every night.”

          Dawkins harbors very obvious disdain for believers — perhaps as much as believers harbor for him.

  9. Carolyn Strong says

    This was an excellent interview! I am in a class that is touching on a lot of this and refuting Dawkings points. I have steered my friends to your blog to pick up the transcript. You will have added a lot of fuel to the discussion. It’s great hearing your lawyering skills at work with a tough nut to crack.

  10. Jeremy McGee says

    “Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts – but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message. Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive. Myth tells you what the experience is.”

    (From Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth)

  11. MJB Wolf says

    Contrast the Atheist rejection of a literal 7-day creation with the scientific belief that the universe “exploded” into being in less than 25,000th of a second. There are independent concurrent historical records of Biblical events, such as the darkness at the time of crucifixion, the city of Jericho (which Atheists used to say did not exist), etc.

    • Justin Flavin says

      you are comparing apples and oranges – your 7 day creation is based on faith and absolutely zero scientific proof.

      the universe exploding into existence is actually based on mathemathics. you could do well to research it – and i’ll be honest with you – it is THERE that you will find God. some of the maths involved is incredibly razor sharp and fine tuned to an exquisite degree.

      why is the speed of light 186,000 miles per second – and not 187,000 miles per second?

      why is the mass of a proton the way is it and not 1% heavier or lighter?

      why does gravity have a certain pull and value – and not more or less.

      no matter where you go in nature , you’ll find exquisitely fine tuned maths. and for me THATS remarkable and even evidence of God, if that is what you want to call it.

      • Fallon Foster says

        Justin- Why do some galaxies spin one way, while others spin the opposite way? Wouldn’t the Big Bang set them spinning in the same direction?

        Why do we have comets? They should have disappeared eons ago, back when the Sun engulfed the violently-spinning dry earth in which the first amino acid was trying to evolve.

        Maybe it wasn’t really a dry Earth… the Moon was closer then, too… the tides were AWESOME!

        • says

          Why do some galaxies spin one way, while others spin the opposite way? Wouldn’t the Big Bang set them spinning in the same direction?

          Why should it? Show your work.
          Conservation of angular momentum may be of some use in your calculations.

          Why do we have comets? They should have disappeared eons ago…

          New comets come in from the Oort cloud and Kuiper belt.

          …when the Sun engulfed the violently-spinning dry earth in which the first amino acid was trying to evolve.

          This fanciful (and wrong) image is based on what, exactly?

          • Fallon Foster says

            and the inverse?:

            “The following questions begged to be answered: What existed before the universe, before time and space, and from where did the exploding mass come? What is beyond the galaxies in the infinite reaches of space? What comes after it all ends? And what of life, especially intelligent and ethical life?

            Somehow the primordial ooze and time, no matter how much time one can imagine, just did not account for even one of these questions. Even before I understood the model of evolution, I already knew it was illogical. Frankly, I was offended that my teachers expected me to believe it. And I was extremely disappointed in them for apparently believing it themselves. In time I learned that logic can never convince passion. Irrespective of one’s education, without a purposed conscious intervention, one’s passion transcends one’s logic and reason.

            Case in point; although accepted by some of the greatest minds in the world, could there be anything more irrational than the notion that several billions of years ago, out of nothing, a theretofore nonexistent dense mass spontaneously emerged, which erupted in an enormously powerful fireball by its own theretofore nonexistent energy to spontaneously and immediately create from this chaos the defined fundamental forces of physics and the subatomic fundamental particles, which eventually organized themselves into a variety of atomic species, then into molecules, and then into a diverse assortment of inorganic matter that gravitationally assembled itself into this highly structured and precisely ordered universe.

            Then, after several billions of years, from this inorganic matter a primitive biological life-form spontaneously emerged. Not only had this organic life-form spawned from nonliving inorganic, previously nonexistent matter that had sprung into existence from nonexistence by its own nonexistent energy, this newly formed primitive organism managed to survive on nutrients that, heretofore, were also nonexistent.

            After another three billion years or so, this primitive organism mutated onto a more complex multicellular life-form, which over the next one billion years grew even more complex, spawning a variety of ever increasingly diverse and more complex species, some of which became animated, eventually splitting into two genders and achieving the capacity for selective reproduction. After countless changes, the most advanced life-form developed the ability for critical thinking—the ability to reason and make inference. In time, this advanced life-form realized its own metaphysical reality beyond its mere physical existence. And at last, the advanced critically thinking being assumed a common ethic based upon its universal metaphysical sense of morality singularly common to every family of its highly structured existence.

            In the end, and of its own accord, the original state of a nonmaterial reality had come full circle. From the nonexistent, and therefore nonmaterial, reality before the erupting fireball, to the material reality of the universe, and then returning yet again to another nonmaterial, though existent, metaphysical reality in the highly advanced being. Now perhaps I am still naive, but somehow the very logic of this entire hypothesis seems nonexistent.

            Regardless of the timeframe, the statistical probability of such events occurring is absolute zero at every critical step. How can one calculate variables that do not exist? How does one calculate the first obstacle, the probability of absolute nothing spontaneously generating a dense mass? One does not calculate zero variables; one imagines them. Likewise, the probability of lifeless matter spontaneously generating life, no matter the timeframe, is zero. There are simply too many conditional demands for even the lowest life-form to emerge. One of many such conditions is the sequencing of amino acids. As the physical chemist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati explains, “Life requires catalysts which are specific for a single type of molecule. This requires specific amino acid sequences, which have extremely low probabilities (~10-650 for all the enzymes required)” (Sarfati 2007). And that is but one of many requisite conditions of impossible contradicting scenarios that must be met to generate life from nonlife. Another such difficulty is that “the alkaline conditions needed to form sugars are incompatible with acid conditions required to form polypeptides with condensing agents.” So too is the detail that certain requisite building blocks are not formed; “ribose and cytosine are hard to form and are very unstable” (Sarfati 2007, pp. 1–3). The list continues, but the point is that the probability of life spontaneously generating from nonlife is essentially zero; for these and the many other conflicting conditions to be simultaneously reconciled by their own accord is beyond the realm of probability.

            And for those proponents who recognize these difficulties and wish to avoid them by only invoking the evolution paradigm to explain man’s existence once matter and life are accounted for, their obstacles are no less difficult, in that even if a primitive life-form miraculously emerged, the probability for a sustainable life-form is zero. Again Dr. Sarfati explains, “Biochemicals would react with each other or with inorganic chemicals. Sugars (and other carbonyl . . . compounds) react destructively with amino acids (and other amino . . . compounds), but must be present for a cell to form.” Then too, “The atmosphere contained free oxygen, which would destroy organic compounds . . .”, but “if there was no oxygen there would be no ozone, so ultraviolet light would destroy biochemicals.” Indeed, “All energy sources that produce the biochemicals destroy them even faster” (Sarfati 2007, pp. 1–2). Once again the list continues, so that the sustainability and probability of this supposed primitive life-form is essentially zero, thereby making even the notion of upward development a moot issue.

            Finally, and just as difficult, is the probability of a self-structured, purely physical life-form consisting of billions of beings that each possesses an identical, yet individual, metaphysical cognizance, intellect, and conscience which intuitively adheres to a universal moral code. The probability is zero, no matter how many gradual, upward, mutated changes the physical life-form assumes. Just as nonexistent matter spontaneously springing into existence by its own nonexistent energy is incalculable due to the absence of viable variables, the probability of even one of these physical beings spontaneously generating these complex nonmaterial metaphysical realities is nonexistent—absolute zero; and the probability of billions of them developing and sustaining the same metaphysical realities is beyond absolute zero.”
            Excerpted from an article previously linked.

          • Fallon Foster says

            How does conservation of angular momentum from a single starting point and time result in opposing spins among a minority of projectiles?

            What non-presuming proof exists for Oort Clouds?


            This article is old [’97]; however, it [may] satisfy your request…:

            As to your absolutist stance on the size of the sun a few billion years ago…

            Perhaps you are right.

            I may have heard that depiction of possible events… I certainly haven’t found documentation supporting that scenario. The contention that the Sun was consuming itself [shrinking] above and beyond its 80 year oscillation in size is still a matter of dispute, as are many particulars in studies in progress. The concept of as shrinking Sun was reversed ‘through time’ and led to the speculation that the Earth was inside the Sun early-on.

            I’m including this link because, for me, it depicts another aspect at work in the current contentions… the operational science is merely a starting point, a statement supported in the article, and the citations following:

    • Justin Flavin says

      and by the way – if you can prove the 7 day creation myth , there is a Nobel prize for physics coming your way and several million dollars in prize money.

      plus you will have fame for the rest of history as you will have overturned Einstein and Darwin.

      somehow, i dont think this scenario will happen anytime soon. i wont hold my breath.

  12. Paul Till says

    Hugh — this Paul in the Czech Republic — I’m teaching about creation at our Christian school here. Of course, when I say “Christian” school I mean that the majority of our kids are from atheist families who have never darkened the door of a church, and are learning about the Bible for the first time. I’m reading Genesis with them, and they we are having all kinds of great discussions. They are learning about my convictions but today I’m going to play them a good chunk of your Dawkins interview, with transcript (thank you, Generalissimo. Your interview was so successful in both allowing your esteemed guest to express himself fully and politely allowing the dissenting (Christian) point of view to be heard. By contrast, I heard a BBC interview with a Christian this morning. In case you didn’t know the BBC are as bad as any liberal American media outlet, and reporters are encouraged to badger their conservative (or Christian) with obnoxious questions and dismissive remarks. (This morning, “Yeah, but isn’t your religion all about compromise?” Um, no.) Congratulations on conducting such a good interview that Dawkins was allowed to be dismissive while you persisted in a professional, intelligent demeanor.

    • Cathy Clark says

      Paul – There’s really good information about the universe and its Creator at – check it out, and send your students there. Dr. Hugh Ross, an astronomer, established it to relate scientific evidence for the creation of the universe, and it shows Dawkins is dead wrong in his statements that the Big Bang was simple. The universe is so finely tuned that a tiny change could end life on earth; it boggles the mind and leaves me in awe of our Creator.

      • Paul Till says

        Hey, Cathy, thanks a lot. Guess whose DVDs we just got in a package from the US… Some Hugh Ross stuff is going to be in next week’s class! Can you make a further suggestion for me… I know that some of Hugh Ross’s contentions are quite controversial among Christians, for example, the idea that Genesis 1:14-18 (fourth day– lights, sun, moon) refers not to their creation from nothing but to their first appearance from the perspective of the earth. Do you know of a website where intelligent Christian discussion or even debate with Hugh Ross can be found? I expect to be giving my students several different “biblical” viewpoints. Thanks again!

  13. steve standridge says

    My God, pardon the pun, could Dr. Dawkins have been more derisive toward Hugh – particularly after realizing Hugh’s vocation? His flippant comment, “now I know what I’m dealing with” after pressing Hugh’s belief in Jesus’s turning water into wine was stunning.
    What really struck me, though, was the realization that this sort smarmy attitude is not only pervasive in the academic community it is also emblematic of the Obama Administration as a whole. In fact, a pragmatic argument could easily be made that his administration is so full of “scholars” that it may be the first truly “Academic Government” in this nation’s history. The problem, as this interview illustrates, is that many of the academians in Obama’s administration not only hold many of the same views as Dr. Dawkins, they exhibit open contempt for anyone who ardently believes in god, supports individualistic endeavors over collectivism or wants government to wield limited powers and control over their lives. Moreover, their careers have been so sheltered by the marbled halls of academia that they haven’t had to put their “theories” of governance into practice until now. They’ve had the luxury of positing these nifty little theorems about “democratic management,” “new public management,” “participative governance,” etc. in a vacuum. The only test of their hypothesis has been through peer-review by other intellectually incestuous scholars absorbed in their own little worlds. Trouble is, now that these people are in true positions of power they’re finding these theories are inarticulate, unworkable and unsustainable in the real world. Unfortunately, they, like the very evangelists Dr. Dawkins detests, are true believers of their own inbred postulates; because, hey, when you’ve been constantly validated by your peers how can you possibly be wrong?

    • Justin Flavin says

      i shuddered when i heard that. “no i know what i’m dealing with” expressed a certain arrogance and contempt.

      which isnt very nice to be honest. i really didnt like that.

    • Justin Flavin says

      by the way – you are entirely correct with your observation of “evangelists” in academia and the left wing political sphere.

      a perfect example of this is the worldwide cult that adheres to the global warming green agenda.

      it has so many similar aspects to hardcore fundementalist religion thats almost Jihad like in its nature.

      you are sir entirely correct in the comparision. isnt that ironic?

      • steve standridge says


        Few people have a true appreciation how bad our universities are. I’m in a PhD program at CU Denver (soon to transfer thankfully) and it is stunning how ardently these beliefs are held and to what degree they are presumed to “normal.” It’s actually quite disturbing what’s going on in academia right now. I know there are a number of author’s who’ve written ad nauseam about the subject, but outside them this epidemic gets little attention but should be of grave concern to those who as it is at the root of our national debate about the role of government. The program I reside in is Public Mgt and if you think about the sheer volume of folks coming out with their MPA, entering the government sector into positions where they’re free to implement policies that comport with this worldview it’s of little wonder, then, our governments are in such dire straits.

  14. Ken Mann says

    Regarding the subject of miracles and the knee-jerk rejection of them as irrational, impossible… etc. I would recommend:
    In Defense of Miracles

    It is a moderately heavy read. It starts with Hume and a pre-Theist Anthony Flew and contains many thoughtful pieces of reasoning and philosophy to make a case that Miracles have and continue to occur and that it is not irrational to believe in them.

  15. Nathan Hansen says

    Great and fascinating interview Hugh. There were many telling moments but the biggest one was for me was Dawkin’s astonishment at your belief in miracles. He seemed shocked to actually meet someone with faith – as if he’d heard of people like that but is securely insulated from such rabble. This moment – along with others – demonstrated his arrogance which I believe also undercuts his arguments.

    This is one thing which astonishes me about those who supposedly apply pure reason to arrive at the unshakable and certain conclusion that there can be no God. If they were to use only reason they’d have to factor in the truth that men of reason are often wrong about a great many things (all humans are fallible) and that reason is also limited by a limited understanding. Arrogant ‘pure-reason’ disciples tend to discount the limits of their understanding and exercise absolute faith in their ability to arrive at the truth simply through the application of their superior intelligence.

  16. charles dorfman says

    Methinks it takes a tremendous amount of faith to be an Atheist. The world has been around for a lot more than 6000 years, and the Devil did NOT make me do it.

    If you do not beleive in God, you have never been made wobbly in the presence of a beautiful woman (I am a man), or looked at a diagram of the human knee at your orthopedic surgeon’s office, or thought,in your mind, “who is doing this thinking?”

    • Justin Flavin says

      not really – being an atheist for me anyway means that there is no CURRENT proof.

      i’m not against the idea that in 2350 a.d. we suddenly discover something.

      it is ridiculous to close your mind to other possibilites. and i dont mind engaging them. but i just base my viewpoint on not taking that “leap of faith” that current religion demands. i understand that other folks do that – and i have zero problem with that – but thats just not for me personally.

      • charles dorfman says

        So, Justin, did the word Agnostic disappear from the language? It was always my understanding that Atheists are certain there is no God. Agnostics just have yet to be convinced.

        • Michael McGranaghan says

          That’s a common misunderstanding an atheist is simply someone who’s not a theist. ‘Apolitical’ means ‘not political’. ‘Amoral’ means a person who is ‘not moral’. ‘Atheist’ = ‘not theist’.

          Some atheists are called ‘strong atheists’ and they have a positive belief that God does not exist. Other atheists are weak atheists they simply don’t have a belief either way.

          An agnostic is something else entirely. An agnostic believes that knowledge regarding the existence or non-existence of God is impossible in principle. All agnostics are, per force, weak atheists. They can’t be theists since knowledge of God’s existence is impossible, and they can’t be strong atheists since knowledge of God’s non-existence is also impossible.

          One can however be a weak atheist without being an agnostic. Such a person, like Justin, would lack a belief in God but still be open to proof that God exists or proof that God does not exist, should such proof ever be offered.

  17. Justin Flavin says

    to all the religious folks on this thread – please get a copy of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” TV series.

    His approach is entirely different to the more militant activism of Dawkins and expresses a wonder of science and the universe we are in – and at times its even positively religious in nature in the sheer wonderment of how the universe works. I think a lot of religious folks will get a lot of it.

  18. says

    I’m curious about one thing. You describe Richard Dawkins as “punting” at various points during the hour. Would the following be an example?

    HH: And what preceded the big bang?

    RD: Well, physicists won’t answer that question. They will say that time itself began in the big bang, and so the question what preceded it is illegitimate.

    HH: What do you think?

    RD: I’m not enough of a physicist to understand what I’m saying, but I have to say that that’s what physicists say.

    If so, to me that looks like an example of a witness declaring a topic outside his area of expertise. In a courtroom, would you expect an expert witness on, say, bird populations, to express an opinion about water rights?

    • Michael McGranaghan says

      After the section you quote, Hugh goes on to ask “So when you consider before the big bang, what does Richard Dawkins think was there?”

      The problem with Hugh’s question is that it is based on a false assumption, namely that referents exists for the phrases “before the big bang” and “there.” The former phrase refers to a time and the later to a space, but physicists tell us that spacetime has an extent. No spaces or times exist other than in spacetime. “The Big Bang” is a name of one boundary to spacetime.

      I suspect Hugh was expecting Dawkins to answer Hugh’s question with “nothing.” But that wouldn’t be the right answer because other than inside spacetime no “there” exists for the nothingness to be in.

      The answer Dawkins gave was pretty good. The question *is* illegitimate, in a sense. Dawkins analogy that one can’t ask what’s North of the North pole was pretty good too.

      Hugh may not have understood Dawkins’ answer, but that doesn’t mean Dawkins evaded the question.

      • says

        There is that element as well. In fact, if I recall correctly, it’s pretty much the same answer St. Augustine gave to the same question.

        What was God doing before he made the universe? It’s an invalid question since, before he made the universe, he hadn’t made time yet, so the notion of “before” had no meaning.

        Maybe St. Augustine was just punting.

        • Justin Flavin says


          you are entirely correct.

          saint augustine and dawkins agreeing with each other – who would have thought?

          yes of course the “preceded the big bang” argument is nonsense, because time itself came from the big bang.

          its exactly the same as asking “what came before God” in a religious context.

          • says

            Actually, I wonder about “before the big bang” in light of current thoughts about brane theory. In order for membranes in 11-dimensional space to slam into each other and pump up the universe and create matter, energy, space, and time, the membranes have to be in motion. That implies the time derivative of position with respect to each other, which requires either time, or something “close enough for government work”.

            Maybe that’s an extension of General Relativity and “time-like” and “space-like” dimensions. But I don’t do tensor calculus very well.

  19. says

    HH: Why not just, you know, do the straight line of the number of generations, and here are the adaptations that occurred, and…because it would just seem to me that that’s what the big issue is, is this common ancestry claim, and that if it’s…as opposed to saying you know, fish, dogs, wolves, all this stuff, here’s Lucy, and here is how Lucy got to us. Why not write that down?

    I suspect what Hugh would like to see is as close to a genealogy linking chimpanzee to human as possible. He may be doomed to disappointment in this regard.

    It seems to me, this was also not the focus of Dawkins’ book — his was dedicated to the entire scope of evolution, all the way back to the first living things. (I guess I’ll have to get a copy of the book.)

    If Hugh (or anyone else) likes, there are books that focus on the history of primates as we know it. Michael Brass wrote The Antiquity of Man, which explores human history based on artifacts, fossils, and the gene record. It’s a pretty good guide to what was known as of 2002. (It’s listed as “out of stock” right now.)

    There are also excellent accounts of why scientists believe humans and chimps have a common ancestor, and why they’d continue to believe this even if no fossils had ever been discovered. One interesting bit of evidence is the pattern of retroviral insertions in human and primate DNA. Retroviruses have inserted their DNA in random locations in the DNA through history. Some of these are unique to humans. Some unique to only some humans. Others are shared — in gene sequence and location in the DNA — between humans and other primates. It’s hard to see how this would have happened, except for both humans and other primates inheriting them from a common ancestor.

    • says

      I got the impression in the last segment that both Hugh and Dawkins believe that the notion of a designer for specific features of the natural world, such as retinas, and the notion of a Designer for the Universe as a whole inextricably linked.

      Yes, I had forgotten I wanted to touch on that as well.

      Again, when evolution comes up, people conflate arguments regarding religious belief and scientific practice. In religion, we look at why things happened. In science, we look at how things happened. Religion tries to address the reason why humans, and indeed, the universe, came to exist. Science tries to deal with the instrumental causes that gave rise to what we see around us.

      Now Hugh asks:

      You argue in the book at one point that the retina is so poorly designed, that it argues against the idea of a designer, because it’s such a messed up job. Conversely, though, if the object of the designer was to create a world in which faith was possible, but also disbelief, in order to make faith a choice and not an obligation, wouldn’t then you have to say that the world was wondrously constructed to that end, to preserve free will and the choosing?

      The “design” of the mammalian eye is questionable because the retina is literally installed backwards. The light-sensitive cells are right against the retina. The amplifying circuits (mitrochondria, etc) are between the light sensors and the pupil. The cables (nerves) leading to the optic nerve run in front of the retina, between the retina and the pupil. Before light from outside gets to the brain, it has to pass through all the wiring and other hardware. It’s like you setting up your entertainment center with the cable box and the connecting cables in front of your TV screen.

      What’s more, the eye of the octopus is almost identical to the mammalian eye, only it’s installed right-side out. Light coming in hits the light-sensitive parts of the receptor cells first, and doesn’t have to pass through a bunch of junk on the way through.

      Design theorists try to make the case that an intelligent designer would have had a good reason for running the cables in front of the TV screen. Evolutionary scientists assert that when the mammalian eye evolved, it got stuck with the visual cells pointing the wrong way. It worked well enough. Turning the retina around might result in some improvement, but there’s no evolutionary path from here to there without tearing the eye down to the basement and starting over. Conclusion: the eye developed in accord with something that looks very much like an evolutionary process.

      Maybe a designer would have built in such evidence of evolutionary dead ends to make belief in a blind materialistic process tenable, but this leads to a very important question:

      If it’s impossible to tell the difference between a world that is purely the result of materialistic processes and a world created by God so it would look like it resulted purely from materialistic processes, what practical difference is there?

      I submit, not much.

      In science classes, we wind up teaching students about unguided, materialistic processes. Planets and stars move by the operation of Newton’s laws, not because angels are guiding them. And living things came to be the way they are because of unguided naturalistic processes, not because a designer cobbled together living things, each according to its “kind”.

      Unless there’s specific evidence of a designer suspending the laws of nature, science classes are constrained to teach that natural processes happen according to the laws of nature. In religion class, we may learn that the laws of nature were themselves designed to achieve the result we see, but that’s outside the realm of science.

      • Justin Flavin says

        “Unless there’s specific evidence of a designer suspending the laws of nature, science classes are constrained to teach that natural processes happen according to the laws of nature. In religion class, we may learn that the laws of nature were themselves designed to achieve the result we see, but that’s outside the realm of science.”

        The Catholic Church has come to that conclusion. And has a better reputation because of that stance. Others will follow sooner or later because it is damaging to a religion if that religion bashes science. science and logic always win out in the end.

        Religion should deal with the metaphysical, which science doesnt deal with – and thats perfectly fine by me.

  20. Barry Silver says

    Excellent, thought-provoking hour, although unlike the Lobdell interview, I was left with little urge to buy the book.

    Two things particularly struck me, and I have no particular dog in this theological hunt:

    1. The much-remarked-upon water into wine Q and A. How many of us have met with this same kind of incredulity when making a statement like “I LOVE Dick Cheney” or “I’m a huge Sarah Palin fan” in educated liberal company? Of course, stammering disbelief that anyone could be so much of a dunce as to disagree with you is not much of a debating point. It’s usually a tell that your interlocutor has spent too much time surrounded by like-minded associates. And who among us has not (as Hugh seemed to do) taken small mischievous pleasure in the matter-of-fact comeback, such as “I’m perfectly serious. Cheney is a great American….”

    2. Prof. Dawkins, who was mostly quite dignified and high-minded, let his slip show in an unfortunate and unattractive way with “When did I put away childish things” as a response to the question of when he stopped believing in God. Again, one can plug in other arguments which come down at their core to an article of faith. (Such as some of my favorites, “free-market capitalism is the best way to maximize human economic welfare in a free society” or “the best way to stimulate the economy is to cut taxes”) Dawkins is obviously right that children rely mostly on faith and as we grow and accumulate experience, education and analytical skills we rely less on faith. But adults also tend to dress up faith in fancy clothing and call it “philosophy”. Hugh’s faith may be right or may be wrong but one thing it is not is “childish”. This comment was a revealing, sour note. And, in my opinion, a bit childish.

  21. Fallon Foster says

    I enjoyed the interview, and reading through these posts. I find it ironic that “scientists” claim absolutist positions in declaring how the Big Bang went down, or the first living cell came to be alive, or the second living cell came to be alive…. or the “maths” which result in cohesion and conscience came about- None of which was observed by any human, none of which WAS subject to the scientific method- ALL of which is a matter of conjecture, aka: Faith.

    Hugh’s point about the preservation of the condition which requires the exercise of faith was spot-ON! Like it or not, even Justin lives by faith, and to believe otherwise is to practice self-deception.

    Now, Dawkins claimed that faith was a belief in something without any evidence. He was wrong. Sane humans require evidence with which to judge veracity and make values-judgments before projecting a conclusion, or investing in a proposition. Humans “live by faith.”

    We all share the same evidences regarding origins. Well, maybe not the “same” evidences… Dawkins was hawking a viewpoint, and limited time made it quite natural to avoid the evidences which did not support, or actually did damage to, that viewpoint. The fossils aren’t labeled, certified, or even categorized before we find them… We impose our constructs on them, and some among us like to exercise complete and unswerving faith in those constructs. That might prove problematic, as our knowledge is, and MIGHT always be, incomplete.

    I wonder how pine tree pollen came to be fossilized in precambrian strata at the Grand Canyon. It certainly wasn’t sample contamination. A very sterile environment was created before a second slice was obtained from further in… and it still contained fossilized pollen from a layer older than pollen. Either dating methods were erroneous, or the conclusions were erroneous….

    The evidence was, and is, a fact. Repeated sampling verified the fact.

    I wonder how Mammoths were frozen in under five hours, thereby preserving the lush vegetation in their mouths and stomachs. Evidence requires interpretation, which draws on assumptions, which involves faith.

    I know, as Dennis Prager advocates, thinking a second time… reconsidering a-priori assumptions, reassessing initial and subsequent claims, re-evaluating evidence(s)… All of that is almost inhuman, if we take normative behaviors as the measure for the definition.

    I cannot think of an area more important to our identities, self-worth, worth as viewed communally, development of political thoughts and structures, and choice of religion than the issue of origin. I hope that Hugh will stir this pot a few more times before Darwin is put back on the shelf for another 50, or so, years.

    I hope he stirs it good by interviewing Dr. Lisle, or Ken Ham, or someone else who has proved their adeptness at challenging the normative stronghold of assumed macro-evolution.

    • says

      I find it ironic that “scientists” claim absolutist positions in declaring how the Big Bang went down, or the first living cell came to be alive, or the second living cell came to be alive…. or the “maths” which result in cohesion and conscience came about- None of which was observed by any human, none of which WAS subject to the scientific method- ALL of which is a matter of conjecture…

      Gosh! There’s a lot to fisk in one paragraph.

      OK, the big bang: Scientists looking at the heavens see the universe expanding. Everywhere we look, we see red-shifted light indicating things are moving away from us. If we run the clock backward, we’d expect things to have been closer to us (and therefore to each other) in the past. Ultimately, you can only continue this trend backward so far before everything’s in the same place.

      Now there are lots of alternatives one could imagine. The universe could have been stationary until some point in the recent past, and only then started expanding. OK, what started the expansion? What physical mechanism do you propose? And does this mechanism act anywhere else in the universe, or is it an ad hoc hypothesis, intended to account for this one, and only one, thing?

      One thing about science: the people who practice it don’t like ad hoc hypotheses. Scientists like hypotheses that will explain large numbers of facts. They work hard to come up with theoretical structures that will account for every possible fact. That’s why we have theories of gravity, and not one theory for falling apples, another for falling rocks, a third for falling toasters, and so on. A hypothesis that explains only one thing is next to useless, because it doesn’t relate to anything else.

      OK, maybe the universe has always been expanding, but new matter’s being created all the time. Maybe this has been going on forever (Hoyle’s “Steady State” theory). OK, where’s the new matter come from? How does it appear? Where does it appear? What effects does this appearance have on the universe? What does it do to the force of gravity acting on galaxies as they move through space?

      People have looked for this extra matter, making various assumptions about how it gets here. If extra matter is spontaneously appearing in the universe now, it’s happening at too low a rate to be observed.

      Any other ideas? Remember, any new idea has to be consistent with the millions of facts we do know. It can’t contradict what we observe elsewhere.

      Right now, the best candidate is that the universe (a) is growing in size, and (b) was once a great deal smaller than it is now.

      And by the way, this is not an “absolutist position”. New data can always come along along to prove it false, and force scientists to change their minds. The whole notion of “dark energy” is actually a sterling example of this. Everyone thought the rate of expansion was slowing, due to the pull of gravity. Careful observations have proven that, if what we’re seeing is due to the expansion of space and not some unknown other phenomenon, it’s speeding up over time.

      If science had an “absolutist position”, these observations would have been suppressed, and the people who made them drummed out of the field. Instead, the observations are taken as new facts that have to be explained, hence “dark energy” and other hypotheses that don’t seem to be quite as newsworthy.

      So much for the “absolutist position” about the big bang.

      • Fallon Foster says

        “Absolutist” as in Dawkins, and his “kind”, who disregard creationist interpretations of evidence regarding origin because creation requires a creator as, at least, the first cause… That is why I strung three subjects together to illustrate the point.

        My professors were quite happy to discuss these evidences and interpretations quietly -and privately- in their corner offices; but, continued to spout the party line in class, never yielding a pip or a squeak that any contrary evidence or interpretation existed, much less should be considered.

        No Intelligence Allowed.

        …Been that way for a VERY long time, and now Barack, and Co. is/are moving the technique into the political realm.

        Your writing evinces one subjected to the tilted presentation; yet, in practice, not enslaved by it. Justin, likewise, seems very careful and prudent in accepting declarations and assigning allegiance.

        Do you subscribe to Dawkin’s definition of faith, or the one I mentioned, or a third iteration of your own?

        Having moved past the Big Bang, what about the origin of the first living cell way, way back there when the Sun would have engulfed the rapidly-spinning earth and the dangerously-near Moon? “Imagine” seems to me to be the perfect word for all that the scientific method can offer to those considerations.

        What about Noah? Was the world “destroyed” by a flood, or did the earth undergo a series of continent-wide rivers/tsunamis/ etc.?

        The assumptions we apply go a very long way in determining the understanding we develop. Having witnessed the demise of Higher Critics, the under-handed dealings of evolutionist profiteers [same species as evangelical profiteers, just a different order], the trashing of conservative values, and the accent of celebrity rule, I prefer to invest my faith in the Bible as the testimony of those who were present, and true.

    • says

      …or the first living cell came to be alive, or the second living cell came to be alive…

      Well, that assumes the first living cell wasn’t always alive to begin with, or that there was a “first living cell”. Maybe the universe is eternal, and there’s always been life on this planet.

      No? Don’t like that one? Runs afoul of what we know about the formation of the solar system and even the big bang? Well, since you’re willing to declare the big bang a matter of opinion, there’s no need to insist life ever had a beginning.

      No, we’re pretty sure the planet had a beginning. Not only do the earliest methods for establishing age stop at about 4.5 billion years ago, we have a very good idea of how stars work, and we know our sun has a limited fuel supply. The sun’s been around for five billion years, tops. Because of what we can see around us, and what we’ve worked out based on known physical laws, we are pretty sure the planet came into existence along with the sun. At that time, it had to be lifeless.

      Conclusion: at some time in the past, Earth went from being lifeless to being home to life. Maybe life arose in situ, or maybe it was seeded from outer space (panspermia). Both are possibilities, as the raw ingredients of life have been shown to form in atmospheres like that of the early earth, and have been found in meteor fragments that have fallen to earth.

      The only absolutist position I’ve ever seen about how the first cell came to be is that it did so by means of naturalistic physical mechanisms — that is, by the laws of physics and chemistry. Science assumes everything in the universe happens by means of known, or at least knowable, physical laws. And that’s as it should be. If you’re not looking for regularities, if you’re not trying to work out the laws that govern nature, you’ve quit doing science.

      Yes, scientists are relying on a basic assumption when they resort to only mechanistic laws to explain things. But those who argue that scientists are all wet are just as dependent on their own assumptions, on which they take positions that are no less absolutist.

      • Fallon Foster says

        I love the way you argue your points! I have responses; but, lack time tonight.

        Even so, I have to hint a bit….

        We’ve advanced from “imagine” to “pretty sure”.


        Not as far as I can tell.

        Why do you assume present rates have been constant through history?

        I think evolutionists and creationists agree on one aspect: The Earth was lifeless at the onset, and came to harbor life during the intervening epochs.

        Panspermia isn’t an answer, it just moves the question out of the reach of our capabilities to directly examine the “elements” of origin… absolutely devoid of scientific method there, and interpreted as a writer’s flourish.

        The fanfare over cells from soup was way overblown. Elements needed to form one amino acid were actively harvested and set aside, lest the environment that formed them would momentarily destroy them. No life has been synthesized in the laboratory, yet. Cloning is as close as any have come, and look at what intelligence was applied to develop that ability! Should anyone succeed in synthesizing life, it still won’t prove spontaneous generation… it will prove that intelligent intervention and direction were/are required to turn inorganic anything into something of a living.

        At the present rate of consumption, we don’t have a Sun if it’s 4.5 billion years old…

        …unless it engulfed the Earth, Moon, and other planets way back when the bugs were just getting started.

        And the Moon would have been so close that every tide would have been a R. I. P. Tide.

        Do you believe that everything which has happened did so as a result of naturalistic physical mechanisms? Got repeatable/verifiable, peer-reviewed studies to support that belief?

        Would you like to hold an Ace? Wish to practice Caveat Emptor? Are you, or are you not, absolutely sure?

        And in your final two paragraphs we return to shared positions/understandings. Science can only deal reliably with the physical realm. To do so, scientists are unable to function without employing a-priori assumptions and some understandings of even that physical realm escapes our grasp, at present.

        I appreciate the work scientists put into grasping and developing our world. We would be deeply impoverished by their absence [Waziristan comes to mind]. I do not; however, revere them as infallible High Priests, which some -especially tenured academics- are want to imagine:)

        • says

          Panspermia isn’t an answer, it just moves the question out of the reach of our capabilities to directly examine the “elements” of origin… absolutely devoid of scientific method there, and interpreted as a writer’s flourish.

          Well, it’s certainly not a very satisfying one at the moment. It can, at least in principle, be tested. We can use space probes to capture comets and other pieces of space debris, and we can analyze them to see what chemicals are present. If we find life forms of some sort in fragments of comets, then we have to see where they might reasonably have come from. Would we be looking at contamination from Earth somehow? Life forms that got ejected from another planet, say, during a meteor strike? Stuff that formed in space by some mechanism?
          What would we expect to see in life forms in any of these cases? Do we see those things, or something different?

          <blockquoteThe fanfare over cells from soup was way overblown. Elements needed to form one amino acid were actively harvested and set aside, lest the environment that formed them would momentarily destroy them.
          Not quite true. If you read the original paper, you’ll see that the system devised was one where water vapor from a boiling flask was allowed to circulate through the system and past an electric spark. When the water condensed, it, and anything created in the spark, was washed back into the boiling flask.
          Indeed, after the first attempt, which produced very little, Miller turned up both the heat and the power — the chemicals he was looking for weren’t nearly as delicate as he had imagined.
          Any “harvesting” was an automatic function of allowing condensate to drop back into the water. In an early earth, this would have been called “rain”. And it’s quite reasonable that the bulk of any chemicals that arose from lightning strikes and UV radiation would not be destroyed again immediately by the same processes, unless you contend that every possible niche in the planet was saturated with either lightning bolts or UV radiation.

          At the present rate of consumption, we don’t have a Sun if it’s 4.5 billion years old…

          …unless it engulfed the Earth, Moon, and other planets way back when the bugs were just getting started.

          And the Moon would have been so close that every tide would have been a R. I. P. Tide.

          Based on what?

          Do you believe that everything which has happened did so as a result of naturalistic physical mechanisms? Got repeatable/verifiable, peer-reviewed studies to support that belief?

          Only the complete absence of any repeated, verified, peer-reviewed accounts of anything happening by non-natural, non-physical mechanisms. Even the most artificial, intelligence-intensive, designer directed phenomena depend on the use of naturalistic physical mechanisms to create the intended effect.
          Clones are made by use of naturalistic processes. No researcher, no matter how intelligent, has caused a clone to appear out of nowhere.

    • says

      I don’t know what you’re referring to by “maths”, so I’ll head on to the last sentence of this paragraph:

      None of which was observed by any human, none of which WAS subject to the scientific method- ALL of which is a matter of conjecture…

      If that’s how you really believe, I want you on the jury if I’m ever accused of a crime.

      You have just declared that OJ Simpson’s guilt for the murders of Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson “a matter of conjecture”. After all, there were no human witnesses, except the killer himself who isn’t talking.

      If a crime occurs in the forest, and there’s no one around to witness it, you seem to believe guilt can never be proven.

      Well, if you’ve ever been on jury duty, you’ve doubtless heard judges talk about “circumstantial evidence” and how it can be more compelling and more probative than direct evidence (eyewitness testimony). “Circumstantial evidence” includes, among other things, all the stuff that has attracted fans to CSI, SCI:NY, NCIS, Cold Case Files, etc. Forensic evidence is evidence of stuff that happened when no witnesses were around to see it. Forensic science maintains that given the known effects of known processes, we can infer what happened in the past, even in the complete absence of witnesses.

      Well, gee. That’s what science does all the time.

      We don’t need to have seen the last ice age with our own eyes to know it happened. We can find the traces left by glaciers that used to cover North America. We don’t need to have tried to breath the primordial atmosphere to know it lacked oxygen. We can find traces of minerals that just don’t form in the presence of oxygen, and a complete absence of minerals that do form as soon as oxygen’s available.

      If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it, we know, based on our knowledge of acoustics, that it did, indeed, make a sound.

      • Fallon Foster says

        Karl- I love you like a brother; but, I can’t afford to read this one tonight… I know I can’t resist replying; so, thanks for the engagement… I must beg a recess.

        • Fallon Foster says

          Ok, I’ve read it.

          Evidence requires interpretation. THAT is my point.

          Second point- interpretation requires a perspective.

          If a tree falls in the forest, it rests on the forest floor, and we may come along and see it there. We may, based on its appearance, determine the cause of its fall, or we may not.

          Our ability to know is limited by our perception and presuppositions. Changing one, or both, seems (to me) to be one of the valid roles of science, and religion.

          Evidently, the lawyers for OJ sufficiently blurred the interpretations AND POSSESSION of the evidence so that they called his accusers into a questionable position.

    • Michael McGranaghan says

      Could you refer me to even one scientist who makes “absolutist” claims about the Big Bang or biogenesis or consciousness?

      Also, I’m quite confused by your use of the word ‘faith’ in your post. What’s your definition? You reject Dawkins’ definition, “a belief in something without any evidence.” You seem to equate faith with conjecture, which is odd. A conjecture is an idea under tentative consideration. I’m not sure a conjecture is a proposition to which one could be said to give one’s assent. If I say that a particular idea is a conjecture of mine, surely it isn’t an idea that firmly believe. ‘Faith’ on the other hand usually refers to a firmly or even fervently held belief.

      So what is ‘faith’ then?

      • Fallon Foster says

        In an interview with Michael Medved, Dawkins said faith was “belief without evidence.”

        That’s where the crazy people live.

        Dawkins is a propagandist as much as he is a teacher, or more so.

        As to your closing question:
        “That depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

        One can have a lot of fun with that word:

        I prefer the Biblical definition:

        I particularly subscribe the the King James version because it uses the term “evidence”. Our daily conduct provides the evidence of our faith and proves our commitment to the unseen truth.

        • Michael McGranaghan says

          Well, count me among the crazy people, then. Also count Merriam-Webster:

          “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”

          I think Dawkins’ definition of ‘faith’ is pretty standard. I also think Dawkins’ definition perfectly compatible with Hebrews 11:1 “the conviction of things not seen.” assuming that one takes the word “seen” metaphorically as meaning ‘that for which we have good evidence’.

          If you define ‘faith’ as the belief in things *literally* unseen then a WHOLE LOT of our beliefs are faith. I’ve never seen China for example but I have lots of evidence that it exists. To call my belief in China “faith” would be a definition so broad as to make the term nearly meaningless.

          • Fallon Foster says

            Dr. Dawkins used the term “evidence”.

            You quoted M-W Dictionary, interposing the term “proof” where Dawkins used “evidence”. That is a very loose use of the language in an area where such looseness can have very costly detrimental effects.

            To be clear, EVIDENCE exists. Evidence is… it has form and substance.

            All the rest is interpretation, inference, models based on assumptions….

            Both schools of thought rely, in the majority, on the very same
            set of evidence, the difference largely coming from the a-priori assumptions and the subsequent interpretations of said evidence.

            Hugh often has fun with callers based on the truth that a-priori assumptions can define how an issue is perceived before it is actually presented. Bias comes with breath, and good scientific method, in theory, is supposed to mitigate against biased interpretations.

            Sometimes it does; but, the history of science/scientists does not offer an encouraging record. Bias has ruled with brutal ease in the issue of origins, perhaps because the stakes are so high (philosophy/politics, prestige, government grants/contracts, private endowments)…evolution is big business….

            I fancy seeing an editorial cartoon with Dawkins and Hitchins pictured having tea on the spacious balcony of some huge stone castle where they cavalierly proclaim the lunacy of the Creationists.
            The trappings of wealth abound and lend credibility to their status….

            The second frame shows the full facade of the castle, a great stone edifice built atop a foundation of cobbled lumber balanced on vertical toothpicks, with a stream-fed moat encroaching under the near corner….

            Don’t ask me to accept the proclamations of lab-coated High Priests who believe that fulfilled Biblical prophesies must be disparaged while their philosophical-projection-sacred-cows must be held inviolate. My faith is obviously not that strong.

            Climate Gate.

    • says

      I wonder how pine tree pollen came to be fossilized in precambrian strata at the Grand Canyon. It certainly wasn’t sample contamination. A very sterile environment was created before a second slice was obtained from further in… and it still contained fossilized pollen from a layer older than pollen. Either dating methods were erroneous, or the conclusions were erroneous…

      Or the one researcher’s technique was flawed.

      In 1971 I obtained a collecting permit from the National Park Service and accompanied C. L. Burdick to the Grand Canyon. …. A total of fifty samples from the same strata which Burdick had studied were processed. All slides were completely scanned. No single example of an authentic pollen grain was obtained from any of these samples. In fact, the slides produced from the Hakatai Formation were in most cases completely free from any material of biologic origin, modern or fossil.

      (More here.)

      You can stop wondering how pine tree pollen got into precambrian rock. It didn’t.

      • says

        The legends of flash-frozen mammoths are apparently just that — legends.

        Which is probably a good thing, because it’s very hard to flash-freeze anything of such mammoth proportions. A ton of animal is going to have an awful lot of heat in it, and even freezing it in liquid nitrogen will take hours, at least.

        • Fallon Foster says

          You are, to the best of my ability to discern, correct.

          I was unable to locate an original, factual, source for the existence of said mammoths.

          I first learned of the mammoths, and the “precambrian pollen”, from lectures presented by Probe Ministries, then based in Dallas, in the late ’70s.

          In my search, I came across many fascinating articles, and some photographs, which I thought you might take an interest in.

          Understanding the breadth of the time vacuum this issue generates, I have elected to send
          for your consideration regarding Miller’s [failed] experiment, and this chart of cellular processes:

          Wish I could have moved the actual image into the Hughniverse… guess that was just too much bandwidth!

          How about one just for fun?


          The London Artifact is an iron hammer, surrounded by a solid mass of cretaceous rock. The handle was partially PETRIFIED. It was discovered in London, Texas. Notice the shiny spot on the metal part. The family who found the hammer, filed the metal to see if it was really metal; the spot has not rusted yet, even though it has been about forty-five years. Is it really iron? A test was done on the metal. This hammer contains 96% iron, 2.6% chlorine, and 0.74% sulfur. There are no bubbles in it at all. Yes, it is iron. The quality of which equals or exceeds the quality of any iron found today.

          I guess I’ll have to make it my gravatar in order to get it posted.

    • says

      The fossils aren’t labeled, certified, or even categorized before we find them… We impose our constructs on them, and some among us like to exercise complete and unswerving faith in those constructs.

      This may be news for you. Nothing comes labeled, certified, or categorized. Labeling, certifying, and categorizing is a human activity. We create labels, we arrange things in categories, and we certify membership in categories based on characteristics we collectively decide are important.

      Thus, we agree that a Yorkshire terrier and a Doberman pinscher are both dogs even though they don’t match, and we agree that neither one is a cat. We both agree that we can’t compare apples and oranges unless we agree to classify them both as “pieces of fruit”, but neither one is an egg.

      All of these distinctions and classifications are artificial, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful. (When’s the last time you had a three-orange omelette?)

      • Fallon Foster says

        Karl- My point is that the evidence is what it is. The interpretations differ, not the evidence.

        I enjoyed the Creation/Evolution site that you linked to on the pollen.

        I plan on spending more time there as it becomes available. I couldn’t not notice some very absolutist claims made on some of the entries; however, I did not find a way to question the author via that site.

        I concede the pollen contamination issue, having failed to realize that the pollen could be washed into the grains. When I first heard [later read] about that, the lecturer mentioned contamination by technicians as one of the early explanations.
        The follow-up extractions were carefully controlled to prevent introduction of pollen; however, if they didn’t go deep enough into the wall [I presumed, or was told, that they had cut in several feet to get to valid samples ] then pollen could certainly lodge and fossilize rapidly.

        As to classifying and naming… well, that’s what everyone does. I was referring to larger constructs, such as [this is an extreme example] the belief that God cannot exist so everything must have originated as a result of happenstance over time.

        I’ll get back to the mammoths next week.

    • Justin Flavin says

      i dont dismiss your belief in creation. for that is insulting to your belief system, and i recognise that.

      i would not want to live in a world where everyone thought the same – a free society should have a plethora of ideas and opinions , with none mocked or discounted. THAT is a truely free society. and i welcome it.

      it’s just that on a purely scientific level you are as wrong as me saying to you that there is an invisible pink unicorn at the bottom of my garden.

      of course i am free to believe in the invisible pink unicorn and in a free society nobody should force me to UNbelieve in that.. but there comes a time when you really do have to get a grip and just look at the science.

      The Vatican has done so – after copious amounts of theological advice.
      For me, that says a lot – religion and science can co-exist.

      • Fallon Foster says

        Justin- Do you claim omniscience?

        You mock my beliefs as though you know for certain that which eludes the remainder of the “scientific” community.

        You most certainly DO dismiss my creationist-beliefs, and you should stop trying to say that you don’t. You consider evolutionists to be the superiors, and in many ways they are… They get grant monies, and various honors which seem to elude scientists who proclaim a creationist interpretation, or – to a lesser extent- an intelligent design position.

        The government and foundations funding house clearly prefers “interpretationists” who leave mankind at the top of the decision tree.

        That’s the same good-ole-boy network which induced Mendel to eat himself to death… always been around in one form or another… again, part of the human condition.

        Power doesn’t determine truth, or negate it…it enables; but, it cannot yet save us from the grave.

        The Vatican holds no sway with, or for, me. Their opinion is still just an opinion, same as anyone’s. I do find solid reasoning among their letters, and good reasoning is always helpful and worthwhile; but, you will not impress me with one point or another just because the Vatican subscribes to it.

        As to the coexistence of religion and science- obviously true, and self-evident. That is not to say that Christian doctrine is compatible with evolution- I hold that it very clearly is not – and I hold to the veracity of the Biblical record in its reporting of matters physical, spiritual, and historical. The fact that others find that foolish, ignorant, or myopic does bother me… and I plead guilty to the latter two…but I do strive to learn, and I appreciate the inputs offered here.