Pastor attacks scientist's talk

Edinburgh, UK - A leading figure in the Free Church of Scotland has criticised the organisers of a talk by controversial scientist Richard Dawkins.

Author and pastor David Robertson said he was concerned the event, hosted by the UHI Millennium Institution (UHI) in Inverness, would not be balanced.

Prof Dawkins, a specialist in evolutionary biology, will speak on the theme of Science and The God Delusion.

UHI said separate talks will give alternative views to Prof Dawkins'.

It will host an inaugural lecture by Andrew McGowan, principal of the Highland Theology College in the summer.

UHI also hopes to secure a date later this year with Dr John Lennox, a fellow in mathematics and philosophy and chaplain at Green College Oxford, University of Oxford.

However, Mr Robertson told the BBC Scotland news website Prof Dawkins and Dr Lennox should be sharing the stage on the same day.

He said: "In one sense I have no objection to a professor from Oxford coming to Inverness, but I do have concerns about how it has been done.

"All that is going to happen is Dawkins' people will go to see him and Christians will go to listen to John Lennox.

"What would be more balanced is having them on at the same time, that makes a whole lot more sense."

Mr Robertson, who wrote a book, The Dawkins Letter, in response to the scientist's The God Delusion, claimed Prof Dawkins' visit was not to promote science but to "advance a polemic", or controversial argument.

In November 2006, Mr Robertson wrote an open letter to the scientist challenging The God Delusion.

In the book, Prof Dawkins argued there was an irrational belief in God and religion has inflicted harm on society, from the Medieval Crusades to the 11 September attacks on the US.

Mr Robertson said he could have written a better case for atheism and described most of the arguments as "sixth form schoolboy variety".

Prof Dawkins will come to Inverness hard on the heels of a tour of the US.

A discussion between Prof Dawkins and Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh, was due to be held in Edinburgh's George Square Theatre on Tuesday.

Wednesday's free event in Inverness chaired by BBC Scotland's Gary Robertson was been fully booked within days.

Messages posted on the forum section of the University of Oxford biologist's official website have welcomed his decision to come to the Highlands.

One message described the area as Scotland's Bible belt.

Prof Dawkins is an outspoken supporter of Charles Darwin, the 19th Century British scientist who laid the foundations of the theory of evolution.

He has written several popular science books, including The Selfish Gene and holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford.