Dawkins vs Pell – QandA on ABC TV
Last night on the ABC the program “Q and A” featured a debate between Dr Richard Dawkins and Archbishop George Pell, and I for one was excited to see this match-up of opinions.
For those who aren’t familiar with the program, it usually has a panel of 5 guests from a varying backgrounds discussing questions posed to them from the audience, via email or via video link. Hosted by Tony Jones, this format is highlighted by the inclusion of onscreen tweets which are chosen by the ABC staff. For me it’s usually a once-a-week opportunity for me to yell at the television, and throw shoes at the screen, and last night’s installment promise to be a night when I should have made sure all smallish objects were out of my reach, lest they be launched through my Sony Vaio.
This week however there were just the two guests, and I’m sure this was done in order to give QandA a “title fight” feel. Most would think that given my preoccupation with religion and the like that this would be just my cup of tea. Not so. To my dismay, last night’s installment was a dull disappointment. Dr Dawkins was quieter than I would have liked, and Archbishop Pell came across as verging on senility. While the questions from the audience and online community were good questions, the answers were nothing short of predictable. Regardless of the content of the questions, the panelists both continually brought the answers back to the topic of whether god existed or not. And as could be predicted, Dawkins said no and Pell said yes.
It struck me last night that the god question is pointless. Either god exists, or god does not exist. If there is a god, what kind of god there is is also a boring question, as it’s all speculation. It’s like asking what colour a unicorn’s favourite pyjamas are. This argument can only go around in circles with the believers claiming belief and the non believers claiming the opposite.
I would much rather the topics be in Dr Dawkins’ field of expertise, biology and science, than the topic of theology. Rather than Dawkins being forced to discredit Pell’s arguments about his belief system, it would have been much more interesting to see Pell being forced to address his own cognitive dissonance about the nature of the universe at the hands of scientific inquiry. Pell should have been subjected to questions about the harm that religion can do to people, rather than speculations about the nature of his own personal Jesus.
The god question/hypothesis is a dead-end, and since they had one of the world’s top popular scientists on the program they could have made it much more interesting. Personally I was bored by the whole exchange. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’m bored of the arguments launched at atheists again and again. Maybe the frustration at the brick wall of ignorance thrown up by believers has become too much for my tolerance levels. In any case I see it as a wasted opportunity where much more interesting topics could have been discussed.
UPDATE: Dr Dawkins actually comments about the QandA episode below this article at “Why Evolution Is True“.