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Richard Dawkins Versus David Quinn

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Sorry for the serial posts, but so much is happening. David Quinn, a well-known Catholic commentator and journalist in Ireland recently debated Richard Dawkins on Irish radio.

Dawkins comments in the debate: “I’m not interested in free will… Just as before Darwin, biology was a mystery — Darwin solved that…”

David Quinn is one sharp cookie. (I love that Irish accent!) Check it out:


Quinn and the host certainly do a good ambush on Dawkins, but thier arguments fall apart easily. Quinn instantance on god being "because of matter" is no more distinctly religious than Dawkins opening statements about metaphorical einsteinian gods etc. Quinn has only defended this level of theism by arguing his matter-defense. And to this Dawkins had already explained his sympathetic, neutral at most, position on the matter. Its a huge leap tho to say that supernatural fictions written in the bible are true based on this argument. Quinn has to reach back beyond the primordial goo to mention a time when gods existence can't be disproven as his proof. Rather than give a single piece of evidence in say, the other 20 billion years of the known universe. Generally, athiests are basically skeptically open to the possibility that a "god" got the universe going because it cant be disproven. As clearly stated by dawkins in the debate. Although, this doesn't make it any more true, for the moment than than say that unicorns were responsible. Neither is more provable or dissprovable. This semantical argument of Quinn's is vague and fleeting at best. Is that the best he can come up with? Free will. This is a moot point. We exercise free will over our genes when we (for example) use birth control. This is contradictory to what our genes might "program" us to do as Quinn imagines the "materialist" thinks. Just because our genes determine how tall we are or how we have a predisposition to eating chocolate or any other attribute does not rule out human free will by definition. Its a moot point. Certainly Quinn does not hope to argue that genes do not exist. If he is than that is quite a stretch as he refers to being a moderate and sympathetic to evolution and the '20 billion' year universe. Or atleast he jumps onto that boat when he needs to at one point. davecalder
What a nob. Dawkin's is just unbelieveable. The guy got his head handed to him in that exchange. Shows him up for the looney that he is. Not that it will make a difference to his TrueBelievers[TM] jwrennie
Dawkins is a very, sharp cookie with very good verbal skills. He is able to articulate the strengths of his metaphysical view well. He is also aggressive. From my perspective, the problem has been that he is given platforms from which to expound without competent opposition. This gives his views more convincing power than they deserve. Quinn provided the necessary counterpoint. He was able, knowledgeable and articulate. But, as important, he was able to counter Dawkin's aggression with firm and equal aggression. He was not uncivil. Without this kind of oppositional firmness, Dawkins can shut down necessary counter views so that the debate does not function in allowing listeners the opportunity to hear both sides. Dawkins needs just this kind of opposition. bj
[...] Over at Uncommon Descent, GilDodgen links to a debate between Richard Dawkins and David Quinn. It is worth a listen, as Quinn does a very good job of nailing Dawkins on his straw man arguments. However, what caught my ear was the way Dawkins didn't want to talk about free will. Why is this significant? Well, UD member eldinus spotted the same problem I saw. According to eldinus: “I’m just not interested in free will, it’s not a big question for me.”-Dawkins [...] Telic Thoughts » Dawkins Goes Limp on Free Will
Dawkins on the "non-randomness" of natural selection:
You said in a recent speech that design was not the only alternative to chance. A lot of people think that evolution is all about random chance. That’s ludicrous. That’s ridiculous. Mutation is random in the sense that it’s not anticipatory of what’s needed. Natural selection is anything but random. Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don’t survive. That’s a non-random process. The animals that are best at whatever they do—hunting, flying, fishing, swimming, digging—whatever the species does, the individuals that are best at it are the ones that pass on the genes. It’s because of this non-random process that lions are so good at hunting, antelopes so good at running away from lions, and fish are so good at swimming.
http://beliefnet.com/story/178/story_17889_1.html 1) "Mutation is random in the sense that it’s not anticipatory of what’s needed. Natural selection is anything but random. " Therefore NS is anticipatory? 2) "Natural selection is a guided process, guided not by any higher power, but simply by which genes survive and which genes don’t survive. " But natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of genes. So it is a process which is guided, guided by itself. Then again, Allen MacNeill just told us that Natural Selection is a result, a phenomenon, and not a process at all ( well, sort of - he did contradict that a tad). Charlie
Yeah, I agree Dawkins pretty much painted himself into several corners during that short snippett. I like the tenacity in which Quinn pointed out his inconsistencies and the inadequacies of his answers. Well done. Atom
Dawkins always harps on the notion that Darwinian evolution is not random, that natural selection is the antithesis of randomness. Just once I wish an interviewer would point out that natural selection is truly non-random, but that it doesn't create anything; it only throws stuff out. The source of innovation and new biological information is random, according to the theory, and therefore all of life is indeed the product of a series of accidents. GilDodgen
“I’m just not interested in free will, it’s not a big question for me.”-Dawkins I find it funny Mr Dawkins would say that after he said the following as part of his "Dangerous idea"... "But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?"-Dawkins http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_9.html#dawkins eldinus
Dawkins, "I'm just not interested in free will, it's not a big question for me." But Ricky, if we don't have free will, then you are wasting your breath by trying to convince us to give up our faith. bFast
Dawkins made me laff out loud several times. Stalin's atheism had NOTHING to do with his actions? Free will is just not something he's interested in? (How convenient.) Darwin explained life? Sure thing. Dawkins thinks science will eventually explain how matter exists? Statement of faith, and wishful thinking. This thing stopped just as it was getting good. Quinn was about to dispense with the "faith is merely things believed without evidence" straw man. Quinn is Dawkin's philosophical superior (obviously) and he was beginning to make Dawkin's look like a sputtering fool. Another 15 minutes would have been nice. mike1962
WormHerder wrote: “The (paraphrased) ”free will is not important” comment of Richard Dawkins is quite telling, if free will does not exist not only is there no basis for morality and law. From a scientific point of view there is no basis for objectivity and so no basis for scientific endeavor.” That’s right. In fact free will is very strictly related to intelligence, consciousness, reason, intellect and knowledge. Without all this stuff I really don’t understand as Dawkins himself can speak so much of science. Self-contradiction again! niwrad
Quinn was great. It's funny when Dawkins gets backed into a corner, "I simply deny that" Wow great response, mr. "man of the evidence". shaner74
Thanks for posting that interview-David Quinn was an opponent not picked by Dawkins and it shows-he was excellent. The (paraphrased)" free will is not important" comment of Richard Dawkins is quite telling,if free will does not exist not only is there no basis for morallity and law.From a scientific point of view there is no basis for objectivity and so no basis for scientific endeavour. How important does free will seem now Richard? WormHerder
@late_model (Thanks for the heads up on the Colbert report -Dawkins interview, Check it out ya'll.) Ok am I the only one missing something here?? Dawkins on the Colbert report said that evolution is ' Not random plain dumb luck' (I'm paraphrasing here)....Okay stop the bus!... Since when has evolution been anything else than random dumb luck???? I've head Dorkins say it a million times hisself!!!!! Dammit Richard, get your story straight - we either have a compulsive liar on our hands who changes the 'facts' to suite the audience or or an idiot who doesn't in fact know what he's talking about. (my votes on both actually) lucID
Sal, I disagree that there was anything uncivil in the debate. There were accusations, but I didn't think they were uncivil. Anyway, I liked the distinction that Quinn made between "fairy stories" and belief in God (an equivalence that I think Dawkins has made). He noted that the two types of belief are really apples and oranges, since children always abandon fairy stories as they grow older, but they don't generally abandon belief in God. russ
SMACKED DOUWN! Free will is certainly a big question! And this time our athiest fanatic RD is quite in trouble. Quinn makes a very valid point: The answers where the Universe is coming from and how it all started is very speculative in terms of science, so it is personal belief and theology/philosophy that is left to answer these question on a per human basis. RD: "But...." Quinn: "You can't have it both ways, Richard!" RD: "I totally deny that!" Great debate! tb
For a real laugh check out Dawkins on the Colbert Report viea You Tube. I think we found Darwin's Dick. late_model
I was quite impressed with David Quinn. He's one of the sharper knives in the dishwasher, in my opinion. Paul Brand
Dang, I was about to post my take, but you beat me to it, Gil! Here was my take: Prince Richard gets into a gutter shouting match. I think Quinn was quite uncivil, and Dawkins returned the favor. Very entertaining. Go 7 minutes and 57 seconds into the show to hear this. Dawkins gave away the store:
Q: Do you think people who believe in God are dim? A: No...There are some people who even manage to combine being apparently perfectly good working scientists with believing that the book of Genesis is literally true and that world is only 6,000 years old.

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