Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On the fundamental question--evolution or creation?--Americans are on the fence. According to one survey, while 61% of Americans believe we have evolved over time, 22% believe this evolution was guided by a higher power, with another 31% on the side of creationism. For some, modern science debunks many of religion's core beliefs, but for others, questions like "Why are we here?" and "How did it all come about?" can only be answered through a belief in the existence of God. Can science and religion co-exist?

  • Lawrence Krauss web


    Lawrence Krauss

    Director, Origins Project and Foundation Professor, ASU

  • Michael Shermer web


    Michael Shermer

    Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and author

  • ian-hutchinson-web


    Ian Hutchinson

    Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, MIT

  • Dinesh-DSouza-for-web


    Dinesh D'Souza

    Author, What's So Great About Christianity

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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Lawrence Krauss web

For The Motion

Lawrence Krauss

Director, Origins Project and Foundation Professor, ASU

Lawrence Krauss is an internationally known theoretical physicist. He is the Director of the Origins Project and Professor of Physics at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Krauss has written several bestselling books including A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing (2012). Passionate about educating the public about science to ensure sound public policy, Krauss has helped lead a national effort to defend the teaching of evolution in public schools. He currently serves as Chair of the Board of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Michael Shermer web

For The Motion

Michael Shermer

Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and author

Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and Editor of, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University. Shermer’s latest book is The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths (2011). He was a college professor for 20 years, and since his creation of Skeptic magazine, has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, and Charlie Rose. Shermer was the co-host and co-producer of the 13-hour Family Channel television series Exploring the Unknown.

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Against The Motion

Ian Hutchinson

Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT

Ian Hutchinson is a physicist and Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and his research group are international leaders exploring the generation and confinement (using magnetic fields) of plasmas hotter than the sun's center. This research, carried out on a national experimental facility designed, built, and operated by Hutchinson's team, is aimed at producing practical energy for society from controlled nuclear fusion reactions, the power source of the stars. In addition to authoring 200 research articles about plasma physics, Hutchinson has written and spoken widely on the relationship between science and Christianity. His recent book Monopolizing Knowledge (2011) explores how the error of scientism arose, how it undermines reason as well as religion, and how it feeds today's culture wars and an excessive reliance on technology.

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Against The Motion

Dinesh D'Souza

Author, What's So Great About Christianity

A New York Times bestselling author, Dinesh D’Souza, has had a distinguished 25-year career as a writer, scholar and intellectual. A former Policy Analyst in the Reagan White House, D’Souza also served as an Olin Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute as well as a Rishwain Scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. Called one of the “top young public-policy makers in the country” by Investor’s Business Daily, he quickly became a major influence on public policy through his writings. In 2008 D’Souza released the book, What’s So Great About Christianity, the comprehensive answer to a spate of atheist books denouncing theism in general and Christianity in particular. D'Souza is also the former President of The King’s College in NYC,

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Declared Winner: For The Motion

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Voting Breakdown:

62% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (31% voted FOR twice, 24% voted AGAINST twice, 8% voted UNDECIDED twice). 38% changed their mind (6% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 2% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 7% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 2% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 13% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 8% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    • Comment Link Erik Monday, 17 December 2012 23:36 posted by Erik

      I am struck here by all the angry, spiteful posts by those that deny the motion. Look, those who can only see the world through the glasses of your chosen faith, understand this: the rest of us don't think like you do.

      If I were walking along with a member of the faithful and a burning bush started talking to us, especially in a deep and booming voice, your man would be throwing himself to the ground begging and asking what he must do... Scientists and atheists would be walking up to the bush looking for a speaker and the wire leading from it.

      We live in two very different worlds. You believe by hitting a remote you make it work by force of will or threats. Scientists just open it up and fix the lose connection.

      Now I would never say the faithful are anti-intellectual, but I would say you lack a disciplined mind.

    • Comment Link Donovan Monday, 17 December 2012 13:25 posted by Donovan

      Suddenly, Andie MacDowell joins the debate.

      Humor aside, this was as level headed as I've seen from De Souza, and as much as I perpetually find myself on the Krauss/Sherman side of debates like these, I have to appreciate the respect all four men showed each other here.

    • Comment Link Josh Monday, 17 December 2012 11:13 posted by Josh

      All I heard here was philosophical arguments for the idea that belief in a creator (God) is irrational... lol.... Not one shread of "scientific" evidence that supports the motion.... the fact that they even tried to argue on the premise that there was some sort of legitimit quantifiable/analytical/empirical scientific evidence was what made. Me listen... needless to say I left dissapointed. This discussion was hilarious and outside of garnering more laughs, the side arguing for the motion was clearly out of their realm.... this should have been called the "I didnt see it therfore it cannot be" debate. Nothing but pure pop science

    • Comment Link Curtis J. Ultsch Saturday, 15 December 2012 16:16 posted by Curtis J. Ultsch

      Science is an observational discipline. In no way can science be the agency of creation. To the extent there are existences for science to observe, an agency of creation has been working... God exists, Q.E.D.

    • Comment Link Robert Bone Friday, 14 December 2012 00:09 posted by Robert Bone

      To all those who rely upon the unanswered human questions in the universe in support of a belief in god(s); have you learned nothing from the billions of humans who came before you who claimed the same support for their beliefs? For example - the Mayan religious beliefs; Roman religious beliefs; Greek religious beliefs, etc. Are you so arrogant that you stand upon "the first molecule" question as if that is the one item that supports the existence of god(s)? You truly believe that you have the one and only question that will turn out to defy a rational conclusion? You figured out the one question that cannot be explained but for god's involvement? Pure arrogance!

    • Comment Link Peter Tuesday, 11 December 2012 11:28 posted by Peter

      Science is limited by its refusal to make stuff up!

    • Comment Link Magda Stenzel Tuesday, 11 December 2012 03:24 posted by Magda Stenzel

      Until Science can explain to me how the very first molecule of existence, even before the Big Bang, came to be, I will believe in God.

    • Comment Link Harris R Monday, 10 December 2012 19:57 posted by Harris R

      Airport kid, the statements "Science is incompetent to refute God!"
      and "Science increasingly points to a God!" are not contradictory statements anymore than "Science is incompetent to refute life in other planets" and "Science increasingly points to life in other planets." They are certainly not obvious contradictions. Science cannot refute what we may find in the future but it can increasingly point to it.

    • Comment Link Lily Monday, 10 December 2012 19:01 posted by Lily

      ...has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

      ...because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      ...God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the wold to confound the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.

      ...Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

      Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

      But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because the are spiritually discerned. from 1 Corinthians chapters 1 & 2

      Knock and it shall be opened to you; seek and you shall find...

    • Comment Link Robert S Monday, 10 December 2012 04:06 posted by Robert S

      We like monkeys and apes may have evolved from the lemur as found in archaeological digs in Germany. Religion on the other hand was and is man made as found in archaeological digs in the middle east.

    • Comment Link Harris R Monday, 10 December 2012 02:21 posted by Harris R

      Krauss claims that the universe is deterministic. If this is so then the words he speaks and the things he believes are determined by the laws of nature and has nothing to do with truth. This is a fundamental self-referential problem with atheism.

    • Comment Link airportkid Sunday, 09 December 2012 23:03 posted by airportkid

      "Science is incompentent to refute God!" says Dr. Hutchinson.
      "Science increasingly points to a God!" says Mr. D'Souza.
      Well, if science is competent to indicate God exists, it's certainly competent to indicate God doesn't exist. Science is either competent or it isn't, Hutchinson and D'Souza have unwittingly directly contradicted each other - and it's too bad Shermer and Krauss did not point out this obvious contradiction.

    • Comment Link Don Stierman Sunday, 09 December 2012 16:26 posted by Don Stierman

      Science does not refute God, but it does refute some particular human interpretations of God. Fundamentalists limit God to thinking and acting very much like a man, a model rejected by Jesus Christ.

    • Comment Link markrkrebs Sunday, 09 December 2012 09:16 posted by markrkrebs

      I enjoyed this a lot. I really liked the attempt (both sides) to argue substance instead of technicalities, when there was every chance of falling in that trap. (Technically, I feel the proposition was doomed to lose, and that Krauss failed to even make a case. That doesn't mean he wasn't compelling!) So maybe science can't refute god but his "turf" has been shrinking monotonically since the big competition began.

      These were the arguments I noted. Any see others they want to note?
      a) big tent (welcoming other religions (didn't use to))
      b) Non Falsifiable
      c) God put those dino bones there Last Thursday.
      d) Hawking's God with a Match (started the big bang)
      e) This hole fits me staggeringly well!" said the puddle. (Anthropic)

      Last I felt Dinesh's open statement was poor, basically retreating all the way to "God is nature (& science explores his majesty)" That's a form of God with a Match, non participatory and not different from science in any relevant way. Otherwise, it seemed to have been argued very honestly by both sides, which I liked a lot. Great show.

    • Comment Link Eric Saturday, 08 December 2012 19:41 posted by Eric

      No matter what all religious types no matter their "faith" one cannot expect them to be logical when it comes to evolution or in matters of science. No matter what...

    • Comment Link Alex Saturday, 08 December 2012 17:53 posted by Alex

      This opposition between reason and everything else I think is fundamentally spurious. I think this idea that there's love on the one hand and cool rationality of science, which is all clatter and clockwork, and soulless; this is a false dichotomy. And it's a dichotomy that's pervasive in the culture. I can't tell you how many times someone says "Scientifically prove to me that you love your wife". As though that was just the knockdown argument of all time against reason and faith. There's nothing irrational in principle about love. It is rational to value love, it is rational to try to recognize that it is one of our most cherished experiences and try to live a life that maximizes it. Understanding love at the level of the brain is not going to deflate its importance for us. The fact that we can understand the molecular constituents of chocolate doesn't make us not want to eat chocolate. These are different scales of interaction with the world. So it's not a matter of only being coldly calculating in our approach to life but where we have to call a spade a spade is gratuitous claim about uncertainty, invisible realities, and the moral structure to the universe. About a god who so hates homosexuality that he will whip up tsunamis in defense of chaste heterosexual people. This is a vision of life that is animating millions and millions of our neighbors and we have been cowed in to not criticize it.

    • Comment Link Winston Saturday, 08 December 2012 12:38 posted by Winston

      Science cannot refute the existence of god. However, it's not up to science to disprove the existence of god. The burden of proof is upon those who believe in god to prove it exists. And, thus far, they have produced nothing that has convinced me that god exists.

    • Comment Link carrstone Saturday, 08 December 2012 09:59 posted by carrstone

      As an atheist I do have faith - faith in my fellow-man. My faith is in his abilty, when left untrammeled by restrictive dogma, to erase the gaps in his knowledge. I have faith that his curiosity and inventiveness will increase the well-being of man, something that religion doesn't even pretend to be able to do. And I have faith that, in time, god will be but a footnote in history.

    • Comment Link T Saturday, 08 December 2012 08:03 posted by T

      God is imaginary, refute that!

    • Comment Link T Saturday, 08 December 2012 04:02 posted by T

      Of course science refutes god and understanding that is a sign of intelligence. Rather than merely a debate, this was more like an IQ test.

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