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Human Genome Project leader Francis Collins debates atheist Richard Dawkins to launch Premier Unbelievable?’s ‘The Big Conversation’ Season 4

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The Big Conversation,” a popular video podcast series from Premier Unbelievable?, kicks off its fourth season with a bang, bringing respected scientist Francis Collins, Ph.D., together with noted atheist Richard Dawkins in his first substantial debate in 10 years with a Christian academic on the existence of God.

In a remarkably cordial pre-recorded conversation led by Premier Unbelievable? host and Theology and Apologetics Director Justin Brierley, the two expressed respect for the others’ perspectives and reminisced about their mutual friend, the late Christopher Hitchens. Dawkins was especially appreciative of Collins’ care for Hitchens during his health decline, despite their disparate beliefs about God and the afterlife.

“I was aware, Francis, of what you were doing for him... on behalf of people, as it were, on my side of the aisle, I’m really grateful to you for what you were doing,” Dawkins said.

Because of the warm rapport between the two, Dawkins made several concessions that many listeners might find surprising. He admitted that he comes to the debate with materialistic presuppositions, and that God would have to be a mind if he exists. In addition, as the discussion moved toward the argument from the “fine-tuning” of the universe to support life, Dawkins said “if somebody were going to convince me of the need for a God, it would be there.” However, he was quick to point out that he was still most definitely not a convert.

In addition to scientific topics related to COVID-19 and viruses, the two also discussed perspectives on meaning and morality, which rank consistently among the top 10 topics most requested by “Unbelievable?” audiences. It was also one of the most hotly debated issues of the conversation.

When it came to Collins’ belief that humans’ inherent morality and altruism is evidence for God, Dawkins countered this by offering an atheistic alternative based upon the idea of evolutionary “misfirings,” raising a strong response from Collins.

“It bothers me that one would basically discount the most noble acts of human radical altruism as a misfiring of some evolutionary mechanism that’s gone awry,” Collins said. “When I look around me and see what has happened with COVID… I mean, look at those people who are working in an ICU – nurses, doctors, other folks – giving of themselves as best they can to try to save lives, and exposing themselves to becoming ill and dying. That is an incredibly noble set of actions and to dismiss that – that bothers me.”

 As “The Big Conversation” season 4 gets under way, Brierley expressed excitement about the upcoming guests and topics, believing this will be the best series yet. In addition to Collins and Dawkins, future guests include psychiatrist Dr. Iain McGilchrist, renowned apologist Dr. Sharon Dirckx, novelist Paul Kingsnorth, former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, leading atheist philosopher Graham Oppy, and for a millennial perspective, popular podcaster Mikhaila Peterson. They will discuss ideas ranging from faith and brain science to philosophy, conversion and the future.

“I look forward to recording these conversations and sharing them with a worldwide audience, for both the insight we’ll receive into some of the most well-known thinkers of our time, as well as how it sharpens our own approach to discussions in which our ideas may be questioned,” Brierley said. “That is the point of much of our programming here at Premier Unbelievable?, but we also hope that it is as entertaining and encouraging as it is edifying for our listeners.”

The new season launches 20th May, following the “Unbelievable? Live” conference on 14th May at the British Library in London, where theologians and thinkers such as Dr. Alister McGrath, Dr. Joseph D’Souza, Lisa Fields, Skye Jethani and Phil Vischer speak to the conference theme, “God Unmuted.”  

The Big Conversation” video series from Premier Unbelievable? features world-class thinkers across the religious and atheist communities discussing faith, science and what it means to be human. Premier Unbelievable? has amassed millions of followers throughout the world, most notably in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.  The series is produced by Premier Christian Radio in partnership with the John Templeton Foundation.

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