Friday, 20 January 2012

Rowan Williams to meet Richard Dawkins

On February 23rd there is to be a debate/discussion in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, between Rowan Willams (theologian, poet, and Archbishop of Canterbury) and Richard Dawkins (scientist, rationalist philosopher and anti-religion campaigner), chaired by Sir Anthony Kenny (eminent philosopher, ex-Catholic priest, agnostic, former pro-Vice Chancellor of Oxford University). My colleague Revd Dr Margaret Yee has organised it. The event was sold out within three hours. Details here. The event will be recorded and available online, and may be live streamed.

People have been invited to submit questions for the panel. The subject under discussion is The Nature of Human Beings and the Question of their Ultimate Origin

These are my two :


Is the sense of wonder "that there IS anything at all" :

(a) an interesting but ultimately valueless human experience (best
kept that way lest people's desire for explanations lead to conflict),


(b) the unresolvable puzzle that lies at the heart of what makes us
distinctively human, and therefore the starting- (and ending-) point
for all intellectual endeavour?

(n.b. "that there IS anything at all" is not at all the same thing as
asking how or why what there is came to be.)


In your view, is a religion :

(a) a social structure based on propositional beliefs about the nature
of reality? Or is it more akin to :

(b) a language -- a mesh of interdependent words, concepts, rituals
and stories -- within which differing ideas about the nature of
reality are in a constant state of flux?