Jonathan Sacks and Richard Dawkins debate at BBC festival

Prof Richard Dawkins (left) and Chief Rabbi Jonathan acks Prof Richard Dawkins and Lord Sacks will debate at the BBC Re:Think Festival

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Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins and Britain's Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will meet on Wednesday in an hour-long debate on science and religion, as part of the Re:Think Festival in Salford.

The festival, hosted by the BBC at MediaCityUK, runs from 12-13 September.

It aims to explore and debate ethical and religious issues affecting society.

This will be the second time that Prof Dawkins and Lord Sacks have exchanged their opposing views on faith and science in a public arena.

In October 2011, Andrew Marr discussed the wonders of nature with Prof Dawkins, Lord Sacks and cosmologist Prof Lisa Randall in BBC Radio 4's Start the Week.

Start Quote

There can, and must, be a great partnership between science and religion ”

End Quote Lord Jonathan Sacks Chief Rabbi of Britain

In that occasion, Prof Dawkins's contribution touched upon the beauty of the physical universe, and highlighted the supremacy of scientific discourse over myth or faith in the explanation of reality.

But Lord Sacks said that, while science provides facts, religion gives meaning; humans, he said, need both.

Ahead of Wednesday's debate, the Chief Rabbi reiterated that view.

He told the BBC: "There is a belief that science and religion cannot coexist, that the advance of one is to the detriment of the other.

"I believe this is wrong."

He added that there was "more to life than science and more to religion than ignorance and superstition".

"What is needed, now more than ever, is a conversation between the forces of science and those of religion," said the Chief Rabbi.

"Richard Dawkins is a gifted scientist and someone who has contributed a great amount to our understanding of the world.

"I hope we will be pleasantly surprised and realise that there is a very strong argument for saying that, despite obvious differences, there can, and must, be a great partnership between science and religion."

New year's debate

The Chief Rabbi will also meet Prof Dawkins in a BBC documentary to be broadcast on the same day.

Jonathan Sacks asks Richard Dawkins if there is a scientific explanation for optimism and hope

The programme will mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

During an interview with Richard Dawkins filmed for the documentary, Lord Sacks put it to him that hope was based on having faith that good things might happen.

Prof Dawkins replied: "You don't need religion to have hope. You don't need the supernatural.

"Hope is an attitude to the future. The future is an unknown and you can take a scientific attitude to prophesy the likely future."

"Hope is not something that you have evidence for - it's something that you feel in you."

Aaqil Ahmed, commissioning editor of Religion & Ethics at the BBC, has high hopes for the Dawkins-Sacks debate: "Jonathan and Richard are two of Britains most revered thinkers in this area," he said.

"I can't wait to listen to them explore the complexities of the relationship between religion and science.

"This is a chance to see in the flesh if the gaps between these two worlds can be bridged by possibly the only two people who could manage it."

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