Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s most famous atheists, is set to take on the Archbishop of Canterbury in a theological debate discussing issues such as the origin of humanity and its purpose. The debate, which is to be held at Oxford University, will happen on 23 February and will be streamed live online for viewers all over the world to watch.
Dawkins is well known for what even he describes as his “militant” atheism, and has published many books on the subject such as The God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker. He has met the Archbishop, Dr. Rowan Williams, in discussion before on his Channel 4 programme in 2010, where they tackled the evolution issue, both making convincing arguments. This new encounter is a great oppurtunity for two of the most influential figures in atheism and Christianity to go toe to toe in some of the most talked about problems of faith today.
It promises to be an important meeting of minds, but it is likely there will be a problem with its outcome; this being that because both of these men are at polar opposite ends of the scale of belief, the argument may well make no ground. It is unlikely, for example, that either party will concede and accept an influential point made by the other. Dawkins, being militant as he is, and the Archbishop, being responsible for the Church of England, both have enormous pressure for their cases to be dominant over their opponent’s, meaning that no satisfying or reasonable conclusion is likely to be made. This is only emphasised by the fact that both these men are extremely intelligent, and so will probably both be excellent in counter arguing.
There will be other philosophers present at the debate, but the point still stands that this sort of discussion, one with such gravity, possibly could have been held between great thinkers of a more moderate type, so as to postulate answers as opposed to attempting to defeat other schools of thought.
But at least for the sake of healthy debate, this meeting will be an important spectacle for both believers and atheists. If you are looking for answers, however, this may not be the one to watch.