The former Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and founder of the Foundation for Reason and Science, Richard Dawkins, was recently invited to appear onÂ The Hugh Hewitt Show where the two discussed religion, Rome, evolution and much more.
One particular exchange (the Okay, do you believe Jesus turned water into wine? incident) has been quoted widely, but what follows is my favourite exchange from theÂ interview.
Richard Dawkins (RD): [â€¦]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.
Hugh Hewitt (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 [David Berlinski’s] 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 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 sins, 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.