Richard Dawkins vs Cardinal Pell

Hi,

On Australian tv, there is a show where Richard Dawkins and Cardinal George Pell are answering questions on faith, athiest etc, you can view it here:

abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3469101.htm

I thought that it was most funny. It was good but it was funny. I like how Dawkins asked what is everyone laughing for when he said something really stupid. Cardinal Pell was great with the quick wit answers and he was funny at times too. I had a good laugh.

Very entertaining debate. In my view, both parties made good and not so good points.Though I did find it a little unfortunate that the studio audience was so overwhelmingly biased.

abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s3469101.htm!

The even bigger bias was Cardinal Pell being asked about suffering and why so many people suffer. The opposite of that of course is and Cardinal Pell mentioned it and was ignored and that is why is there so much good in the world. Dawkins wasn’t even the slightest bit challenged on that one.:shrug:

Nevermind. Pell has called Adam and Eve mythical. It’s a doctrine of faith that they were the first humans and specially created. Interestingly, Dawkins called him on it, that non-humans gave birth to humans. I thought Pell was sound.

Dawkins says that he rejects Darwinian evolution as a social application (the survival of the fittest), though that is the natural result of Darwinian evolution without God and His truth for living as He chooses for us in the picture.

If I remember correctly we are free to believe that the story of Adam and Eve happened on a Spiritual Level, and the Garden of Eve and the events that took place therein may not have been a truly physical event.

from my experience His Eminence Cardinal Pell is Theologically Sound.

Yeah, that got me too.

Tony Jones also seemed to be quite anti-Catholic. I don’t know much about him or watch the program regularly, so am unsure as to whether such bias is just a part of his personality. But he seemed preoccupied with challenging Pell and left Dawkins alone for the most part. :shrug:

A few members of the audience seemed pretty immature. I know quite a few people who went (one of my friends asked a question on the show), but it would have been nicer if there was a bit more respect shown. Some of the things Dawkins and Pell said were quite humourous - neither of them appeared to be exceptionally good orators, so that made it even more amusing in some ways - but I can understand why Dawkins was getting frustrated with the audience at some points.

For all of the discussion on this site about Richard Dawkins, after seeing and hearing him, I am less than impressed.
I believe him to be little more than a hyped street hustler with an overblown intellectual reputation.
I would love to see and hear him debate a Jesuit rather than another churchman who is not adept in debating! But that would never happen because he and his handlers would not only lose their argument, they would end up losing their livlihood from the pseudo-intellectuals who pay to hear their pap.

There were a few interesting things I noticed.

When Pell backed up Dawkins’ argument on Darwin’s faith with a specific book reference, neither Dawkins nor Jones challenged him.

Both men are very intelligent. But it seems clear that Dawkins either has not read the material on which he bases his points, or that he has a bad memory. Pell, on the other hand, clearly has read material that supports and contradicts his ideas - he just rambles too much, and a few things he said didn’t really fit with Christian teaching in my view.

In my opinion the host was clearly biased, he would always question the Cardinal as soon as he was about to make his point. Dawkins was rarely interrupted as far as I could tell. The audience was also clearly biased as could be seen by the amount of applause they would give Dawkins compared to the Cardinal I did only watch the last 20 minutes of it, so I could be mistaken.

No, I think you’re right.

Though as far as I could tell, the audience was largely in support of the Cardinal and gave him much more attention. There were quite a few Catholics in the audience (I know of about 15 who went).


I think Pell was correct in saying that the story of Adam and Eve is not scientific. It was written many years after the events themselves would have happened. Science cannot prove original sin, nor can it prove or date the creation or existence of souls. Only God and faith can.
However, it is a historical story. It gives us facts about how we developed (from a human couple), about our makeup and reproductive connections and about our relationship with all Creation. As the Cardinal said, asking “why” is a natural human preoccupation. The Creation story would have given its first audience some answers to such questions, and there’s no reason why it can’t do the same for contemporary audiences.

We should pray for the Cardinal and for Dawkins. We should be true examples of Christian love - respecting nonbelievers and charitably encouraging them to search for the Truth. If the only living Christian example presented to nonbelievers is one of hatred and intolerance, then I think we do people like Dawkins and our faith a great injustice.

Cardinal Pell is sound. The Church teaches that Adam and Eve in the Scriptures are symbolic figures of the first human parents, not a literal historical account.

Here I think Dawkins is on solid ground. It would appear to me that the common understanding of “social darwinism” is in fact a flawed understand of darwinism. “Survival of the fittest” does not necessarily mean physically fit, it also refers to intelligence. The more intelligent something is the more likely it is to survive. Darwnism also relies upon diversity of the gene pool for survival of a species. Thus to survive as a species the human race needs a variety of genes and mutations to be passed on as well as opportunity for intelligence to blossom. Neither of those 2 essential elements are present in the common understanding of “social darwinism.” Thus social darwnism would appear to lead to destruction of a species rather than its survival.

I agree. However, I’ve seen Dawkins better. In this debate he seemed unable to even laugh at himself. I understood his larger point about defining “nothing” but its still funny to hear someone argue over how to define the meaning of “nothing.” The fact he couldn’t grasp that humor made him appear a poor sport.

I believe him to be little more than a hyped street hustler with an overblown intellectual reputation.

Dawkins is great at debating science, he’s downright horrible at debating philosophy. The finer points of philosophy and theology absolutely escape him and he’s unable to engage them in any meaningful manner.

Pell is correct in his reference. However there’s other statements made by Darwin that would seem to contradict it. Some on the internet are claiming that while Pell had the quote right, he took it out of context.

Either way, I’m not sure what difference it really make if Darwin was a theist or not.

Cardinal Pell said humans “probably” evolved from Neanderthals but it was impossible to say exactly when there was a first human. “But we have to say if there are humans, there must have been a first one,” he said.

“It’s a very sophisticated mythology to try to explain the evil and the suffering in the world,” he said.

“It’s certainly not a scientific truth. And it’s a religious story told for religious purposes.”

Was he “dead” wrong according to the Catechism ???

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

**How to read the account of the fall
**
390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

Man’s first sin

397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of.278 All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.280 They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

Regards
GlennJoe

That was one of the better Dawkins debates. Cardinal Pell is at least a pretty good match for him. I think there were some things he could have presented better, but Cardinal Pell was overall very successful at not backing himself into corners, like a lot of people who debate Dawkins do, and being honest and rational. I didn’t watch the whole thing, but he presented the Catholic faith (the truth) well.

It did make me very irritated when people laughed that they were preparing young boys…for First Communion. Catholic priest jokes are culturally accepted to be hilarious, but jokes about Muslims being terrorists are culturally accepted to be absolutely horrible. (To state the obvious, they are both incredibly tasteless and horrible.) Cardinal Pell handled that well, especially considering it probably stings a bit extra for him, given the accusation made against him in 2002.

Okay, but how about a Dawkins debate with someone at CA now? :smiley:

I have not seen anyone contend, as you have, that the Church officially teaches “that Adam and Eve in the Scriptures are symbolic figures of the first human parents”

Can you point me to the official Church documents that state this?

I have read the following Catholic Answers tract:
catholic.com/tracts/adam-eve-and-evolution

Adam and Eve: Real People

It is equally impermissible to dismiss the story of Adam and Eve and the fall (Gen. 2–3) as a fiction. A question often raised in this context is whether the human race descended from an original pair of two human beings (a teaching known as monogenism) or a pool of early human couples (a teaching known as polygenism).

In this regard, Pope Pius XII stated: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parents of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now, it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own” (**Humani Generis **37).

The story of the creation and fall of man is a true one, even if not written entirely according to modern literary techniques. The Catechism states, “The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC 390).

Am I reading you wrong, or is your contention that the human race did not descend from 2 original humans (Adam and Eve)? If so how does this square with HUMANI GENERIS?
vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

Dawkins did in fact challenge him on that issue. They probably were not aware that page 92 of Darwin’s autobiography did not say what Pell said it did. Pages 92-96 of Darwin’s autobiography make it clear that Darwin was an agnostic.

Its a pity that Pell does not have the skills of a Jesuit and resorted to an easily uncovered misrepresentation.

For starters, the Church does not teach that God literally created the world in 6 days and the first two human beings out of mud as literally recorded in Genesis. The Big Bang and evolution are acceptable beliefs for Catholics to hold, thus why would the beginning of the story be allegorical but the rest of it literal history?

Furthermore, we read in the Catechism:

375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

Am I reading you wrong, or is your contention that the human race did not descend from 2 original humans (Adam and Eve)?

I have no idea how the human race physically/biologically descended. However, a symbolic understanding of Adam and Eve does not negate a 2 person origin of the human race. It simply means that the fall did not happen exactly as portrayed in Genesis 3.

If so how does this square with HUMANI GENERIS?
vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html

The key phrase would be “it is in no way apparent." By using those words Pius XII does not seem to be asserting conclusively that they are incompatible. Rather, he carefully chooses his words to make clear the degree of certainty involved: “it is in no way apparent” how they “can be reconciled” with each other. That’s pretty close to saying that they appear to be incompatible prima facie, and that he has not yet heard a persuasive argument to the contrary.

In the years since the encyclical the Church has not reiterated this restriction thus apparently is leaving it up to scientists and theologians to fill in the gaps. However, theologians and preachers would still not be “at liberty” to publicly declare polygenism as fact since the Church has no officially reconciled the two yet.

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