Memo to Prof. Richard Dawkins: example of good-humoured tolerance

Surfing the www, as one does, I came across this interview between – believe it or not – Woody Allen and Billy Graham, presumably produced in the 1970s (studio decor, relative ages, hairstyles etc; late 70s?). Initially nervous about watching – concerned I was about to witness a verbal laceration one way, or a thunderous assault the other – I was very pleasantly surprised. The word charming easily sprang to mind. Here it is, in two parts.

I was then also pleasantly surprised – given the tenor of so many commentators on YouTube – by some of the comments left in response – with which I’m in full agreement:

You know it is refreshing to see two people with different views come together and speak without having to have an on-air spat.


They BOTH came off great! Billy maintained a compelling, sincere dignity and zeal for his faith. Woody was humorous, intelligent and engaged. What a model for a friendly exchange between people who disagree!


only one comment for me – i can’t imagine a discussion as intelligent like this being on any network programming today.

What struck me was the good humour and responsiveness of the two men. Each listened and was attentive to the other. But also they both seemed to have a mutual affection and respect for one another.

The thing that really grates for me about Richard Dawkins, the author of the Selfish Gene and the recent God Delusion, is his career-long seeming intolerance of people who do not share his perspective. I find him hard to digest because to my mind it’s inevitable you and I will have our own perspectives. I’m in my shoes, you’re in yours. I don’t know if I can ever truly know your experience. Or how you experience. Maybe Dawkins could learn something from – well, it’s not a case of either/or – both Allen and Graham?

I’m glad to have had the opportunity to blog about this, having side-stepped going into any depth on the issue (of fundamentalism in both science and religion) before. [Of course, the supposed indivisibility of each other’s experience begs the question as to the nature of language and communication, which I will sidestep here! Save to say that you may be interested in this blog’s ‘good communication?‘ page.] Thanks for reading.


4 Responses to “Memo to Prof. Richard Dawkins: example of good-humoured tolerance”

  1. picturepost Says:

    I’m glad someone else gets frustrated with Dawkins! The irony is that his blind faith in the status quo verges on being irrational itself.

  2. drfrank Says:

    Yes, there’s a slightly crazed, hard, steely look in the guy’s eyes – of a kind that Thatcher and Blair have both been observed to have developed after a few years in power. Time to usher in the era of the more flexible and forgiving eye, methinks…

  3. Bad Says:

    I find that most people who characterize Dawkins in the way you have haven’t really read much of his writing or seen him talk to religious people. He is generally _very_ polite in person, even with people he’s debating.

    If any non-believer criticizes religion too seriously, everyone decides that they are a fanatical madman, no matter what their actual arguments are and no matter how polite their tone. It’s just a lazy cliche at this point.

  4. drfrank Says:

    Dawkins’ interview with Alastair McGrath, for example, can be found online at
    Agreed – I did lie back, relax and let my guard drop by resorting to cliche – I deserve a smacked wrist!

    Actually, there’s a dose of non-believers who critique Dawkins’ attitude (and his thinking). My brother cites Professor Ruse in the States. I’d point you to my former professor’s comments at
    You may not find the dose healthy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: