reported that Dawkins made the concession during a debate with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Sir Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theater, Oxford University. The debate that attracted international attention had the two engaging in a largely polite exchange for about an hour and twenty minutes on the topic: "The nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin." The debate, according to The Telegraph
, touched on "the meaning of consciousness, the evolution of human language – and Dr Williams’s beard."
Professor Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene
, The Extended Phenotype
and The God Delusion
made the "confession" that he really considered himself agnostic.
The debate took off with Dawkins arguing against the Archbishop, saying that Biblical writers were wrong when they said the world was made in six days and thus implied that it is not billions of years old as the Victorian geologist Charles Lyell
reports the Archbishop said: "The writers of the Bible, inspired as I believe they were, were not inspired to do 21st century physics, they were inspired to pass on to their readers what God wanted them to know. In the first book of the Bible is the basic information - the universe depends on God, humanity has a very distinctive role in that universe , and humanity has made rather a mess of it."
Dawkins in response said he was baffled the way "sophisticated theologians" who know Adam and Eve never existed continue talking about the "first couple" as though they considered their existence historical fact.
Professor Dawkins, a staunch advocate of Darwinian Evolution and admirer of Charles Darwin, and former Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, said at a point in the debate: "On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn't, I call myself a six." Dawkins said that he believes with a "6.9 level of confidence" that God does not exist . He said: "That doesn't mean I'm absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don't."
When Sir Anthony Kenny who chaired the discussion queried Dawkins, “Why don’t you call yourself an agnostic?” Prof Dawkins told him that he did.
reports Dawkins' disclosure caused a fierce debate to rage on the Twitter social network.