Gus Holwerda, the director and writer of the film documentary, The Unbelievers, which follows atheists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss on a world speaking tour, recently took part in a debate with Christian author Graham Veale, whose book New Atheism: A Survival Guide, was published earlier this year.
The debate, broadcast by Premier Radio’s Unbelievable? show, hosted by Justin Brierley, focused on the two ‘rock stars’ of atheism and whether their arguments against religion stand up. The show included clips from the film, including a now-famous response by Dawkins to the question of which is more important to him: explaining science or destroying religion.
Dawkins says: ‘Science is wonderful, science is beautiful. Religion is not wonderful, it’s not beautiful, it gets in the way. There are all sort of other things wrong with it, but I mostly care about truth, the beauty of truth, the poetry of reality which is science and the fact that religion as a scientific explanation, it’s so dull, it’s so boring, it’s so petty – and it’s also wrong.’
Graham Veale rejected Dawkins’ claim that religion is a competing theory of reality to science. He said that historically, the first western scientists were not just Christians who were motivated to do science by their belief in a Creator, but it was their theology which originally shaped the scientific method. In this sense, science was brought to birth by the Christian faith.
He added that the dialogue between religion and science is so much richer than the caricatures presented in The Unbelievers.
Gus Holwerda responded by saying Veale was wearing the ‘rose-tinted glasses of history’. He said there truly is conflict between religion and science in the United States, where he lives.
‘I can tell you that when we show the film here, we encounter people all the time who are taught in their churches that evolution is a lie propagated by scientists who undermine their religious beliefs. It’s that simple to them.’
He said that with a sizeable minority of US citizens who don’t believe in evolution, and with school boards trying to remove evolution from school textbooks, science v religion is very much a live issue today.
To stream or download the debate, visit Unbelievable? on the Premier website. About The Unbelievers, Graham Veale said that churches and RE teachers would find it valuable viewing. ‘It summarises a lot of the objections you will meet when you are talking to people about Christianity.’
Photo of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss in Canberra, Australia, by Dan Tabár