'Darwin's rottweiler' battles ex-bishop at science festival

PROFESSOR Richard Dawkins and the former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway are set to go head-to-head at this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival.

The two will debate their very different perspectives on religion and science in front of what should be a sell-out audience.

The clash will be the second time they have debated on stage in Edinburgh, following a discussion on religion which was seen as a highlight of the 2006 Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Professor Dawkins – author of bestselling book The God Delusion and presenter of TV series Root of all Evil? – is a confirmed atheist and Darwinian evolutionist.

His fierce criticism of religion has led to him gaining he nickname "Darwin's Rottweiler".

Richard Holloway, who was Bishop of Edinburgh from 1986 to 2000 and is a former Professor of Theology, is regarded as one of the most outspoken and controversial figures in the Church.

He is well known for his support of liberal causes, including campaigning on human rights for gay and lesbian people.

Organisers expect the heavyweight speakers to attract a huge audience. Dr Simon Gage, director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, said: "The relationship between religion and science is one of the most intriguing of our time and the science festival is delighted to be able to give a platform to two of the most celebrated thinkers in this area.

"Richard Dawkins' book, which has won friends and enemies around the world, gives focus to the tension between scientific explanations of the world and very different religious interpretations and perspectives.

"I can think of no better person than Richard Holloway to tease out these issues in a style that will take all those present to new perspectives of their own."

And Mr Holloway admitted he was keen to resume his debate with Dawkins.

"I look forward to having another public conversation with Richard Dawkins, one of the leading thinkers of our age, on the topic of religion, one of the leading preoccupations of humanity in any age," he said.

The 20th anniversary festival will feature more than 100 events, discussions and lectures for an estimated 70,000 visitors.

&#149 Richard Dawkins and Richard Holloway On Religion, Science and the Human Condition is being held on Tuesday, April 1, at 8.30pm in the George Square Theatre, Buccleuch Place.

AN EXPLOSIVE MIX OF EVENTS

Highlights of this year's festival include:

&#149 Quirkology: Weird Psychology featuring Professor Richard Wiseman.

&#149 The Hot Topic with Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Advisor and a world renowned expert on climate change.

&#149 The Truth About Hypnosis with Dr Peter Naish.

&#149 Cosmos: A Beginner's guide with BBC TV presenter Adam Hart Davies.

&#149 Skeletron The Rope Climbing Robot. The winner of the Robot Olympics.

&#149 Dr Bunhead's Crash Test Jelly Babies. Dr Bunhead delights in bringing the world of science to youngsters, and his latest show promises an hour of live science, testing inanimate objects to destruction.

&#149 www.sciencefestival.co.uk

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