Dawkin's made a several claims that were incorrect. I wish to address a couple of them. A minor one was in response to Pell's comment that Darwin called himself a theist.
PELL: Well, science and religion are two different activities and in the Catholic Church you can believe, to some extent, what you like about evolution. I think Darwin made a great contribution. I remember talking with Julius Kornberg, a very distinguished biologist, and he's worked with ants for years and he said, you know, he's managed to change them by changing the conditions but there are a number of things that evolution doesn't explain. Darwin realised that. Darwin was a theist because he said he couldn’t believe that the immense cosmos and all the beautiful things in the world came about either by chance or out of necessity. He said, “I have to be ranked as a theist.”Incorrect reference aside it is partly true, though not quite how Pell put it. In The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, and Selected Letters, Darwin writes about reasons for his belief in God in the context of his belief gradually diminishing
DAWKINS: That just not true.
PELL: Excuse me it’s...
DAWKINS: It’s just plain not true.
PELL: It’s on page 92 of his autobiography. Go and have a look.
When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the Origin of Species, and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt—can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?An admission to theism at the writing of Origin that had subsequently become agnosticism. So while various arguments suggested theism to Darwin at some times in his life, this gradually gave way to unbelief. Pell is correct in his statement about Darwin convictions at the time he wrote his theory, though not later in life. This development is not clear from Pell's comment. However Dawkins refusal to acknowledge this is unwarranted, especially as he seems ignorant of these comments of Darwin.
I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us, and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.
However what is particularly astounding in this discussion is an earlier comment by Dawkins on slavery.
DAWKINS: When you say that Christianity has been responsible for a lot of good, including science by the way, which is somewhat ironic, I think that most of the great benefits in humanity, such as the abolition of slavery, such as the emancipation of women, which the Cardinal both—mentioned both of, these have been rung out of our Christian history without much support from Christianity. I, as an atheist, my friends as atheists, lead thoroughly worthwhile lives, in our opinion, because we stand up, look the world in the face, face up to the fact that we are not going to last forever, we have to make the most of the short time that we have on this planet, we have to make this planet as good as we possibly can and try to leave it a better place than we found it.Leaving aside the massive improvement in the conditions for women within Christendom compared to pagan society, where does Dawkins get his ideas about abolition?
without much support from Christianity.Christians were at the forefront of abolition, especially in Britain. John Newton eventually quit then repudiated his previous occupation because of his faith. William Wilberforce brought bills before parliament for years to put a ban on the slave trade.
Slavery is a complicated issue, but as far as abolition of the trading of slaves and the end of slavery as an institution, Christians were very much at the forefront.
I have not discussed Pell's comments here. In general I thought he did a poor job and I disagree with him significantly on several issues. It would take some time to address all of them.