A groundbreaking debate between the Archbishop of Canterbury and Professor Richard Dawkins is to set to take place in Oxford next week.
The atheist scholar and the head of the Church of England will be pitted against each other at the Sheldonian Theatre on the 23rd February. While tickets for the event have already sold out, because of its popularity the debate will also be screened in the Physics department via a live video link. For those who cannot make it, the debate will also be broadcast over a live video screen.
The title of the debate, which will be chaired by the philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny, is “The Nature of Human Beings and the Question of their Ultimate Origin”.
The two men both have strong connections to Oxford. Dr Rowan Williams studied theology at Wadham College whilst Professor Dawkins studied zoology at Balliol College and is now an emeritus fellow of New College.
The event is scheduled to last an hour and a half and is being hosted by Sophia Europa of Oxford University’s Theology Faculty. Lord Patten, the Chancellor of the University, will also be attending the debate.
Dr Margaret Yee, a senior research fellow at St. Cross College, and the organizer of the event, said: “We are greatly looking forward to this dialogue event at the Sheldonian Theatre. Although tickets sold out in a matter of hours, we are delighted that anyone interested will be able to watch the discussion live on www.originsofnature.com.”
The event, which comes after months of planning and hard work, promises to offer what organizers’ have described as “a great opportunity for valuable, open discussion by three leading thinkers, with expertise in their respective areas of study.”
Opinion among students remains divided ahead of the debate. Peter Swann, a 3rd year medical student, said: “As someone who is both religious and a scientist I find debates like this polarize two issues which can be perfectly compatible. But I do think its definitely worthwhile because it does get people to consider difficult questions.”
A Biochemist from St Edmund Hall found it difficult to pick a favourite between the two candidates: “Rowan Williams will always be the ‘master’ because of his incredible hair, however Richard Dawkins is I’m sure regularly top of Tatler’s best dressed list and is bound to wow on the day.”
Whilst a third year Catholic student at Corpus Christi was unfussed by the prospect of the debate: “I understand neither Dawkins or Williams but fortunately I have the Pope and the St. Benet’s to provide answers to the thorny questions in life.”