Archbishop debates faith with Dawkins

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The Archbishop of Canterbury and atheist Professor Richard Dawkins are to go head-to- head to discuss the ultimate question.

The leader of the Church of England will meet the UK’s most famous non-believer to debate “the nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin”.

The pair – who may be unlikely to find much common ground – will be joined by philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny at the event at Oxford University.

The discussion, which organisers expect to be “invigorating and enlivening”, is already fully booked but will be streamed live online on February 23.

The two men have exchanged views on evolution and the existence of God before.

In a Channel 4 programme in 2010, Prof Dawkins asked Dr Rowan Williams if he would see God as having any role in the evolutionary process.

Dr Williams said: “For me, God is the power or the intelligence that shapes the whole of that process.

“As creator, God’s act is the beginning of all creation.” At which point Prof Dawkins intervened to ask: “So by setting up the laws of physics in the first place in which context evolution takes place?”

Dr Williams replied: “Things unfold within that.”

In the programme Prof Dawkins said Dr Williams uses “poetic language”, adding: “There does come a time when you worry that people are going to misunderstand it.”

In an article on his website, published earlier this month, Prof Dawkins said of Dr Williams: “My suggestion is that the best way to understand Rowan Williams is to remember that he is a poet.