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 Lucas Saturday, 29 June 2013 02:18 posted by Lucas

      Thanks for the reply (#51 to my #49). Sorry if I conflated your potision with that of, say, Krauss, who isn't afraid to say that physicists know more about some philosophical questions than philosophers do. But at 9 minutes into the talk you do say that science has something to say about those [meaning, purpose, etc.] issues , and that it is delivering news to people with a lingering interest in religion. (The news of course, is that the universe doesn't care about you .) This is what I find suggestive of a lack of familiarity with relevant work in the arts and social sciences.The assertion that the universe doesn't care isn't as blatantly polemical as Dawkins' famous pitiless indifference , but it's close. Dawkins used a phrase that normally would apply to humans (inanimate things not being capable of pity or indifference), and applies it to the universe. His procedure is in the same logical category as those asserting that the universe loves you as if the universe might be the sort of thing that loves or hates you, but turns out to be rather more of the latter. Similarly, your assertion, while simply negative, carries a hint of this pseudo-anthropomorphism. The proof? Listen to the cheers of the young atheists in your audience. They associate pitiless indifference with a kind of existential heroism: we can take it , they say.And what I'm saying is that this heroism is uninformed and crude. There are many ways in which our feelings about the world or life in general can be rationally articulated so as to portray the world (or parts of it) as welcoming or appalling or boring (etc.), as worthy of our reverence or contempt or whatever…without reverting to a simplistic religious picture or its shadowy antithesis. Furthermore, there is an ethical argument to be made about what feelings toward the world we *should* express to others. We should be optimistic, for example, so as to encourage our children and neighbors (and ourselves); and we should, by the same reasoning, portray the world as welcoming rather than hostile, if we can find a rational way to do so.You didn't address my point about meaning as transcending the individual (because it inheres in culture and society). It's relevant because the idea that the individual is the source of all meaning is very much in line with the attitudes of young fans of Dawkins, Harris,, viewing themselves as heroes who can suck it up in the face of the withering cosmic indifference. This is, in my view, a pernicious sociological development, for which some scientists bear an ethical responsibility. Don't go there Sean!

    • Comment Link Trisha Friday, 28 June 2013 13:27 posted by Trisha

      Does the north pole, longitude and latitude really exist in material reality? No. They are abstract human constructs that embody imaginary fixed locations that allow us navigate our world. It could be very easily argued that God and religion do much the same thing for human moral navigation. Just as you would not want your imaginary fixed navigational points shifting about frequently since it would make navigation problematic, so those who have imagined aspects of the divine do not like you putzing with their moral compass.Science has not been a very good exemplar of morality or ethics, because Science is dedicated to finding out how things function and not so much what should you do?'. I find it starkly common in scientific thinking that the ability to do something, anything for that matter, is license to do a thing, and claim such behavior inevitable in the name of progress'. For a few fine examples consider the fine Killer Bee, delightful Eugenics, Biological weapons, Pre natal sexual selection, and most human genetic engineering. Any act seems to be forgiven in the name of curiosity, and self restraint and self control are seen as insufferable limitations that should be cast off, along with free will it gets in the way of progress'. I notice that the first thing scientists do after they discover something is try to control it absolutely with little hesitation. What pray tell will scientists do when they claim to have found exactly how the human brain works? Most likely they will set about finding ways to control it as their tenants do not give them reason to pause and consider what they do, only that they can do it. As for Atheism, well. The fact that the universe is intelligible is the first assumption that must be made for any science or logic to be possible, and direct evidence that random chaos does not seem to be the governing principle of the universe. With an intelligible universe as a given (please don't be silly and say you can make a logical argument inside of an unintelligible universe) It would be wise to consider that we have only been looking about for a very short time, and in that short time humanity has created countless imaginary universes in our stories, myths,fictions, and religions. With engineering and science we have created our own indoor worlds that keep us more safe and comfortable than most of the surface of our planet can. Given how much we have created in such a short time How can you be so blithely certain that no one came long before us doing much the same thing..and given enough time on a far grander scale?

    • Comment Link April Friday, 28 June 2013 10:59 posted by April

      In the complicaetd world we live in, it's good to find simple solutions.

    • Comment Link Maria Friday, 28 June 2013 06:45 posted by Maria

      Interesting. Haven't had a chance to read through your blog too much yet, but what I have read has been enjoyable. The points raised assume one unfortunate Cartesian mistake: the assumption that we KNOW much of anything. Atheism and theism are both belief systems. One can no more disprove the existence of God than one can prove the existence. Therefore belief and nonbelief are both acts of faith alone. (Sorry atheists, the fact that you first make up your own definition of god and then surmise such a god doesn't exist does not make what you think fact. Sorry theists, the fact that your scripture says something does not make what it says fact either.) If a neighbor's child believes there are monsters under his bed, I don't take it upon myself to disprove the existence of monsters. It is a non-issue for me. If my child believes the same thing, I'll work with him to resolve the issue so he can sleep. If one neighbor is Muslim, another Christian, and another atheist, and they argue amongst themselves, I don't try to convince them any is right or wrong (maybe one, two, or all three are). If they do it belligerently at a party in my house, I try to help them come to terms with each other. (This has actually occurred-- love the diversity of thought, anyway.) Unless some divine presence makes itself known unequivocally, it will always be an unprovable, unending debate. Thinking our extremely limited understanding of the universe proves or disproves the existence of one or many gods is a very limited outlook and unscientific at best. I have my own beliefs, but that doesn't make me right or wrong. The idea that I hold a certain belief may be a fact, but it does not mean what I believe is fact. I just wish more people would understand that and stop the negative energy on all sides. (On the other hand, if any of you fellow human beings out there are omniscient, please let me know. I have some burning questions for you.) All that said, back and forth in a mutually respectful way can be fun and stimulate thought on all sides. I look forward to reading more from your debate.

    • Comment Link Ikram Friday, 28 June 2013 06:06 posted by Ikram

      about the relationship between science and ethics is experimentalism. Experimentalism has no pre-commitments about what reality is like; it does not make an a priori division of things into natural things and non-natural things. Rather, experimentalism has only two commitments, both of which have to do with the nature of evidence. First, whatever evidence we have for our beliefs about what exists must be experimental evidence. Taken broadly, experimental evidence is public, third-person-checkable observation, including observations of interventions (as in the case of controlled trials). Second, if no experiment could be devised to decide between two competing hypotheses, then those hypotheses are not really different they are merely notational variations. In addition to these two suppositions, the experimentalist carries with him or her a hope that whatever reality is like, it may be discovered through experimentation.3a. You ought to more carefully separate dualism and non-naturalism. The reason for rejecting Cartesian, interactionist substance-dualism was not that thinking substances were non-natural. Nor was it that Descartes couldn't think up a way for interactions to work. It was (as you say) that interactionism was incompatible with things like conservation of energy. But now, suppose we made very careful measurements and discovered that when people decide to do this or that thing, some energy is added to the physical system of their brains. Maybe the pineal gland gets a measurable little kick, as Descartes thought. Had that been what we found, I think we accept Cartesian dualism as at least roughly correct today, even if we had no good account of precisely *how* the interaction took place. The point is that (at least one version of) interactionism makes some experimental predictions that are not upheld in actual experiments.3b. Dualism potentially muddies the waters further in that dualism has several varieties not all of which are interactionist, substance dualism, and not all of which have been given up by respectable people. Even among the early moderns, you find non-interactionist dualisms. And today, you find varieties of dualism, like predicate dualism and property dualism, that are not so easily knocked down as is substance dualism. (Moreover, some prominent proponents of predicate or property dualisms today are atheists, and they think of their dualist commitments as perfectly naturalistic. And you can also find sophisticated theists who are not dualists.)Summing up: You would be better off calling yourself an experimentalist and then pointing out that experiments lead you to believe that active, personal divinities don't exist and that inactive, impersonal divinities do not provide opportunities for experimental test. You can happily stay away from dualism, which is a bit of a red herring in theism-atheism debate. Instead, defend the experimentalist presuppositions, since if you get people to agree to be experimentalists, then the experiments will carry them to the truth, whatever the truth may be. And then lay out how you think experiments bear on the question of the existence of divinities.

    • Comment Link Katyushka Friday, 28 June 2013 01:55 posted by Katyushka

      It depends on the level we are talking about. People like Stephen Hawking even think Einstein's Theory of Relativity can be improved upon because it is an approximation and does not meet the observations exactly. There are still questions about the differences between quantum physics and relativity. There are still things in the quantum world that remains mysterious such as entanglement. There are new species being discovered all the time which open a new light into the time period of evolutionary occurrences. And so on. I wouldn't label any of these total failures. More of a narrowing down to the truth.

    • Comment Link Paul Leduac Sunday, 09 June 2013 17:32 posted by Paul Leduac

      But we do know how we came into being, and it wasn't from the rib bone of a human prototype. The folks arguing against this motion assume that the lack of a scientific explanation for the origin of the Big Bang constitutes evidence for their religious explanation, and in so doing are undermining everything they've said in previous discussions on religion. Isn't one of the oldest arguments FOR religion that lack of evidence does not constitute evidence of lack? They have claimed that lack of scientific evidence for God's existence does not mean God doesn't exist. Yet that's the logic they're using in reverse now with the Big Bang. They're saying that lack of evidence for a scientific explanation means there is no scientific explanation, which in turn must mean there's a God. Well they can't have it both ways. If that logic holds true, then science has refuted God a thousand times over. Just because they have found ONE scientific question our scientists haven't found the answer for yet doesn't mean there is not a scientific explanation. See, we already have plenty of evidence that science exists. We don't need to prove that science caused the Big Bang. It's self-evident.

    • Comment Link Garrick Little Friday, 07 June 2013 15:15 posted by Garrick Little

      This debate, (and the comments on it), present opinions that have little authority except that claimed by the author of the opinion. I don't object to the challenge to the authority of Scripture and by extension Christianity however for the most part the challenge is based on nothing more than opinion. I doubt that those taking the Darwinist position could present even a minimal grasp of the concepts that describe the Christian world view.
      So what does Lawrence Krauss as director of the Origins Project have to offer us? A highly speculative description of the origin of the universe which attempts to explain how the universe as we know it came into existence. Is there one piece of scientific information, (fact), that he can present that provides irrefutable evidence to support the case for the spontaneous formation of the universe? The logic goes like this. We live in a material world. It had to come into existence somehow so we formulate some explanation no matter how unlikely and with no possibility of being tested and describe it as a working model. Who can challenge this? More to the point what authority is presented other than that of the author?
      Darwinism, in fact can offer us little to address the question of the origin of life itself or answer the question of how it is possible to live in a universe that apparently was more ordered at one time and is now less ordered and continuing to be less ordered with every passing second. These issues ultimately demonstrate the limits of the scientific method to process Truth! This is not due to a lack of information ultimately-rather an unwillingness to pursue the implications of the evidence that has been uncovered. The Darwinist approach is to conclude the outcome of the debate before the substance of the debate is engaged.

    • Comment Link James Thursday, 06 June 2013 17:36 posted by James

      Really you guys just need to see a person's blind eyes get opened when you pray for them, or deaf ears get open or a lame person walk when you share about the power of Jesus and pray for them. It's not "logical", its not "scientific" and it doesn't fit into any models. We'll never know the full extent of what there is to know about the universe. So how in the world can we say God doesn't exist or science refutes Him when we can barely figure out how we came to being, or the numerous other mysteries scientists give themselves too.

    • Comment Link Pat Ross Thursday, 06 June 2013 09:00 posted by Pat Ross

      In view of scientific knowledge of evolution, humans have greater responsibility to refute the religions that divide and create ideology based violence and persecution, justified by religious doctrine. It produces nothing but self justified genocide and warring the name of God...the ultimate insult to the Universe, and to mankind.

      Ending these foolish superstitions and mysticism is the kindest act that humans can do for themselves in pursuit of a liberty all should have, free from the religious prisons of the mind built over thousands of years without science. We are a global village that needs to act like it.

    • Comment Link Thomas Olds Monday, 03 June 2013 16:00 posted by Thomas Olds

      By Darwin's own admission "irreducible complexity" disproves his theory. Think ribosomes, flagella etc. -- Darwinism is more akin to a religion than any type of scientific theory. Science can neither prove nor disprove it. The same can be said for intelligent design.

      However, when you kick astronomy into the equation, our solar system, the function of the moon, elipitcal orbits versus circular, the unique attributes of the sun the idea of chance and other earths out there just waiting to be found seems the expectation of a fool.

      Was disappointed with the debate. The audience reflected a Darwinist convention with no appreciation whatsoever of what science of the last 50 years has added to the arguments for or against intelligent design.

    • Comment Link Pat Sunday, 02 June 2013 20:26 posted by Pat

      Religion, more than likely, was created to answer what mankind has always been unable to answer because he had not the technology or knowledge, and training, to discover the answers when religion was used as the substitute for the then unknowable.

      The real question is whether humans are smart enough not to ruin the plant, destroy it, or make themselves extinct from their pick-and-choose knowledge used for their own self interest.

    • Comment Link Ron Coleman Friday, 24 May 2013 13:14 posted by Ron Coleman

      Quite a few apparently confused cleverness with wisdom when casting their votes.

    • Comment Link H H Markley Thursday, 23 May 2013 10:51 posted by H H Markley

      I by accident watched this debate late last night. This was a non-debate because the opponents of "does science refute God" were representative of a premodern 19th century theology. The proponents were versed in modern quantum physics. The opponents had no familiarity with modern 20th Century theology and its existential approach to religion. I doubt that the producers of this show sought good thinking theologians. They ohly wished to create a specious debate. The great 20th Century theologians are of course dead: Paul Tillich, the Niebuhr brothers, Bultman, and Bonhoeffer. A few of their adherants are living - Marcus Borg, a few seminary professors, Rob Bell and some others like myself. Ciao,

    • Comment Link Michael Thursday, 23 May 2013 02:56 posted by Michael

      Man made god

    • Comment Link john32 Tuesday, 21 May 2013 14:40 posted by john32

      A very big deception of the devil is to get you to debate God, Christianity and other religions. This is one of the surest ways to ensure, that you will never experience real salvation and eternal life, and all the wonderful things God has predestined for you.

      Let us just suppose (for those who do not have faith), that even if you argue and debate, and finally, even if it is a long shot, and you finally are logically convinced (by the way, there are many books,eg by thomas equinas that logically prove the christian faith) that there is a God, and that He is the christian God. Does it mean you are going to heaven, just because you are mentally or intellectually convinced that Jesus is God??????

      Not at all. Not unless you have a spiritual experience called being born again.A logical belief in Christianity will prevent you from experiencing the Real Deal, that is a Spiritual Salvation in Christ in the following ways:

      The devil was once a mighty archangel, and presently with billions of demons, evil spirits, unclean spirits, etc with a far superior intelligence than humans.Each human being is assigned to tens, if not hundreds of evil spirits and demon hordes, that would love for you to deny their existence. For if you deny their existence, then surely you will deny God's existence. It is extremely easy, 1,2,3 steps for Satan to deceive humans in more than a thousand ways.

      Don't even think you can compete with satan intellectually. However, he has no control over your heart, and what you choose to believe.And that is the loophole, which God has opened up for you. The faith route is the only way you can bypass Satan,and his cronies who guard the intellectual gates of the human mind.

      When you get in to the logic debate about God, few important things to consider in SPIRITUAL WORLD which is what actually matters:

      1) You could be tempted to fall into the dungeon of SPIRITUAL PRIDE, as you are tricked into judging Almighty God, which is a fool's folly.Spiritual pride was the reason, for satan's downfall. Also for man's downfall, in garden of eden, as eve sucumbed to the temptation about being as knowledgeable as God.

      This could also result in the person who is logically convinced that Jesus is God, as an intellectual knowledge of the truth, will become a STUMBLING BLOCK for a real SPIRITUAL SALVATION experience.

      2) It could also lead to DECEPTION as the person, cannot find God in the intellectual domain, but only in the Spiritual domain. God's thoughts are far higher than yours, mine and the devil's, so you have to trust Him at His word. As it is written in the bible:
      Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

      God is spirit, only a spiritual born again experience can save the person, and the first thing to do is to humble ourselves. Second, we need deliverance from demonic spirits of unbelief that hold people as captives. This can be done if the person humbles himself/herself and receives Jesus Christ into the heart. Deliverance can be done even online, and specific prayers can set the captives free.

      I speak from experience. Not here to argue with anyone.

      Simple challenge for those who are sincere: Ask God to open your eyes, and to reveal Himself to you.Ask in JESUS name.Simple. Try it. IT WORKS

    • Comment Link Arjay Wednesday, 15 May 2013 21:20 posted by Arjay

      I didn't realize until watching the debate how shallow the iqsquick process is. It'd have been a more valuable experience to watch the panel questioned by a skilled interviewer such as Charlie Rose. Viewers don't need 'bread and circus' before and after polling to indicate which side of a simplistic proposal is more believable.

      God? What defines god?

      The concept of god doesn't require eternal life. It's probable that when we die we'll return to the state that existed before our birth, no matter what our personal virtues and failings may have been.

      Science knows a great deal but can only speculate on parameters which define the limits of reality. God is one of many names for the universal process from which our existence stems.

      Humans are likely never to fully understand that process. For practical purposes everything that exists is part of a scientific miracle.

      Scientists propose! God doesn't.

    • Comment Link Carl Landsness Wednesday, 08 May 2013 20:12 posted by Carl Landsness

      I'm uncomfortable with the question... because of its right/wrong win/lose nature... and the emotional baggage attached to the "God" word. I'd prefer more win/win explorations into the forces that impact life... including the mystical aspects of life.

    • Comment Link Rick Cypress Tuesday, 07 May 2013 10:38 posted by Rick Cypress

      Most of you are missing the point. A (nondescript) god/deity cannot be proven to exist or not exist because that god/deity is a non-falsifiable hypothesis, as easily dismissed as it is asserted. Think of satirical examples such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Celestial Teapot, etc. However, if one is intellectual honest with oneself, one MUST admit that the god/deity they follow IS well described and DOES have characteristics and attributes that ARE falsifiable. Especially when talking about the Christian/Muslin/Jewish god(s). That particular god has attributes, widely accepted by its followers, and those claims such as physical manifestations, miracles, prayer answering, historicity of religious text and the contradictions and atrocities found within. These are all falsifiable, testable claims that when challenged, DO NOT stand up. That is why when it comes to the god of the bible and koran, he CAN be proven not to exist.

    • Comment Link John Covel Wednesday, 01 May 2013 08:13 posted by John Covel

      The motion requires that God is within the rational grasp of methodological materialism. If a god is outside of empirical invalidation then there's no point in talking about whether or not God is refuted by science.

      It should be established by the opposition to the motion whether or not God can be invalidated. If God can be invalidated, then there are some important logical questions that comes to the forefront. A falsifiable God has to answer to some profound logical contradictions before we can even talk about empirical invalidation.

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