Richard Dawkins on Australian TV waxes lyrical on science and religion, morality, the cross of Christ and the afterlife.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
RICHARD DAWKINS: The implication you make is that there’s something about religion which is personal and upon which evidence doesn’t have any bearing. Now, as I scientist I care passionately about the truth. I think that the existence of a supreme being – a supernatural supreme being – is a scientific issue. Either there is a God or there isn’t. Either there are gods or there are no gods. That is a scientific issue. Yes, it’s a supremely important scientific question. If the universe was created by an intelligence, then we are looking at an entirely different kind of scientific theory than if the universe came into existence by natural means. If God or gods had something to do with the creation of life, then we’re looking at a totally different kind of biology.
So I think you can’t just say religion and science have nothing to do with each other. Science can get on and you let people have their own religious – of course you let people believe whatever they like. But you cannot say that science and religion are completely separate because religion makes scientific claims. It certainly makes scientific claims about miracles, and you cannot reconcile an authentic approach to science with a belief in miracles or, I suspect, with a belief in supernatural creation. At least the very least you should say is that this is a scientific question.
RICHARD DAWKINS: I don’t think I want an absolute morality. I think I want a morality that is thought out, reasoned, argued, discussed and based upon, I’d almost say, intelligent design. Can we not design our society, which has the sort of morality, the sort of society that we want to live in – if you actually look at the moralities that are accepted among modern people, among 21st century people, we don’t believe in slavery anymore. We believe in equality of women. We believe in being gentle. We believe in being kind to animals. These are all things which are entirely recent. They have very little basis in Biblical or Quranic scripture. They are things that have developed over historical time through a consensus of reasoning, of sober discussion, argument, legal theory, political and moral philosophy. These do not come from religion. To the extent that you can find the good bits in religious scriptures, you have to cherry pick. You search your way though the Bible or the Quran and you find the occasional verse that is an acceptable profession of morality and you say, “Look at that. That’s religion,” and you leave out all the horrible bits and you say, “Oh, we don’t believe that anymore. We’ve grown out of that.” Well, of course we’ve grown out it. We’ve grown out of it because of secular moral philosophy and rational discussion. Jesus said some wonderful things and the sermon on the mount is terrific. Modern morality goes back to that and says, yes, that’ll do. That’s very good.
RICHARD DAWKINS: Let’s be realistic about this. We have brains. It’s brains that do the thinking. Our brains are going to decay. That will be that. But when you say, “Is this it?” How much more do you want? I mean this is wonderful. Wouldn’t an afterlife be incredibly tedious after the first thousand years or so?