Richard Dawkins on ABC’s Q&A

This past week Richard Dawkins appeared on the ABC program Q&A to answer some predictably heady questions. For those of you who don’t know Q&A is a weekly panel program where questions are posed to the panelists from the live studio audience or via the internet. The members of the panel change each week with some occasional repeats. Topics discussed vary greatly between weeks but if it’s a burning social, political or philosophical issue you can bet it’ll be featured on Q&A. It was really great of Richard Dawkins to accept his invitation to appear on Q&A, he must be aware that his reputation will precede him no matter where he goes and that he’ll often be fighting an uphill battle. Nevertheless he strides brazenly straight into the enemies line of fire and comes back safely having taken no prisoners.

For those of you in Australia you can watch the episode in full from the ABC website by following this link: ABC iViewNow unavailable

Everyone worldwide can still watch the episode in this slightly poorer quality version found here: Vidoemo

The other panelists alongside Richard Dawkins were the following:

Patrick McGorry – Australian of the Year
Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio
Tony Burke – Minister for Agriculture
Julie Bishop – Deputy Opposition Leader
Steve Fielding – Family First Senator

If you’re curious about the questions that were asked, here is a complete transcript of the questions. You’ll have to watch the show to hear the answers though…


Arthur Lith asked: Can one be a believer in God as well as a believer in the theory of evolution?

Religion and Psychology

Dan Anderson asked: Do you think that a belief in the transcendent (whatever that might be, but including ‘God’) is important within a healthy human psychology, or do you regard it as a symptom of mental illness?

Areligion/Atheism/Santa Claus

Cassandra Devine asked: Why do you feel the need to express your views so stridently when they’re not always welcome? Isn’t it rather like going around to playgrounds and telling children that Santa Claus isn’t real?


Renee Brasier asked: You are clearly against the teaching of creationism in the context of Science, but do you think there is any value in teaching religion in schools?


Hamzah Qureshi asked: Considering atheism cannot possibly have any sort of absolute morality, is it not then an irrational “leap of faith” (which atheists themselves so harshly condemn) for an atheist to decide between right and wrong, considering they have no absolute moral standard?

Intelligent Design

David from Victoria asked: Do you believe intelligent design should be part of the science curriculum, taught alongside evolution? Or do you believe it is non-scientific and should be relegated to the rubbish bin?

Religion and Gays

Andrew Kollington asked: Senator Fielding – you are courageously open about your religious and moral beliefs. As a believer in God, do you accept the Bible as the word of God and those who participate in homosexual behavior ought to be shunned or be put to death as the Bible demands? Or do so called ‘moderate Christians’ simply choose to ignore the word of God in this case, picking what passages they feel best suit our social trends?”

Asylum Seekers

Dennis Colombo asked: Both Labor and the Coalition have been severely criticised for their handling of the boat people asylum seekers. I would like to hear the views of the non-politicians on the panel about how they would go about it. Perhaps they can lead our politicians to a fresh approach!
What do you think?


Web question from Patrick O’Shea of Queensland: Do you wish for or indeed hope for an Afterlife?

My Thoughts in Brief

It’s very easy as on observer to think about some of the things that Richard “should” have said. I think under the circumstances he performed admirably, and the audience certainly seems to gel with a lot of his arguments. Some of his answers were a little more miss than they were hit, but that might just come down a discrepancy between his and my values. For example the final question about whether you hope for an afterlife. I would have said something along the lines of “well sure I can hope, but there is as yet no reason at all to feel that such hopes have any shred of possibility, in the same way that a man drowning at the bottom of the ocean might hope for some air.”

The Rabbi seemed very rational and her particular views on the relationship between science and religion come across quite harmless. It was interesting to hear Julie Bishop speak at such length, having only a passing interest in politics I haven’t ever spent time getting to know even our most prominent politicians. Hearing one such politician talk on topics so important to me provided a quick (perhaps too quick) means of making up my mind about her. All in all Julie Bishop came across reasonably, her biggest flaw in this area seemed to be her reliance about the Bible as a basis for morality.

But yeah, easy to nitpick arguments. The only panel member that really seemed like an absolute blundering ignoramus was of course Family First Senator Steve Fielding. What an absolutely ignorant, bigoted, hypocritical and buffooning creationist he is…

5 Responses to “Richard Dawkins on ABC’s Q&A”

  1. Why wouldn’t anybody hope for an afterlife, for goodness sake? If it exists, it will be a really interesting experience. I recently expressed that very sentiment on my own blog:

    Personally, I hope that there’s some kind of life after death. If so, it will be pretty cool figuring out exactly how it works and what it’s all about when the time comes. I’m certain that if an afterlife does exist, it will bear very little resemblance to anything that any of the world’s religions claim about it.

    But I have no real reason to expect there to be life after death. If it exists, I’ll find out one day, and if not, it won’t matter to me anymore.

    But no matter what, I’m not going to waste my time feeding fuzzy hints and letters of my name to some jackass in front of an audience.

  2. I saw this episode it was really painful to watch. While I don’t agree with everything Dawkins says he was by far the most intelligent person on the panel. There was no one to bounce off. Half of them were politicians and Christians. The agricultural minister started talking about “This cool guy 2000 years back who had some awesome things to say” and so yeah no ability to engage in a logical philosophical or metaphysical discussion about the existence of god. Not even going to go into detail about the fact they put a family first senator on the panel who believes in Young earth creationism ouch!

  3. i am a 21 year boy from iran.i grew up and live in a religious society and almost everybody around me believes in god.
    although i have never answered my all questions yet(and may never reach them) i am more interested in persons like dawkins than priests
    what if all that we know as religions is something made by past human to
    put their society in the right road?
    what if we as mankind donot want to accept this fact that we are organisms just like other animals?
    what if all that we think about aferlife is just a story to relieve our anxiety and stress about death?
    why all the big prophets were in middle east and not anyone of them in africa or latin america orin china?
    i donot think that our society would be a better place for life if the people donot believe in a powerful entity named god
    but i donot think also that we should sacrifise the truth to continue this condition

    • Thank you so much for the insight. It is practically impossible for me to imagine what it must be like to have grown up in a culture like Iran. I don’t agree with your argument that the world is better off with people believing in religion. Science gives us a perspective that cannot come from religion. I firmly believe that institutionalized religions like Orthodox Judaism, Roman Catholicism and Traditional Islam serve far more to blinker people and put up harmful “tribal” borders than any kind of good.

      As for why the big prophets came from the middle east. The simple and honest answer is that the brand of religion that has “prophets” as a part of it’s teachings arose in the Middle East. The same can be said of why all the Dalai Lama’s come from the East, it’s where the religion is centered. And according to Mormons the prophet Joseph Smith came from America, so there you go. Strangely enough once the religion spreads so too does the presence of prophets.

  4. […] of mine I’m pleased, every time a believer does I’m even more pleased, and every time somebody on the fence does, I’m ecstatic. -31.918383 […]

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