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December 5, 2012

Science Refutes God

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?

Main Points

For The Motion
  • Why does there have to be an entity to explain the universe? To say that God created the universe doesn't explain anything—it's simply a placeholder that could be filled with any number of things.
  • Darwin's theory of evolution disproves the story of creation in the book of Genesis. We can see from evidence around us that the world is a Darwinian place where death and disease are constantly present and chaos seems to rule. This goes against the teaching of the world as a creation of a completely benevolent and all-powerful God. Either God is not all good, or not powerful enough stop these forces.
  • A belief in miracles goes against the facts and spirit of science.
  • We know that religions are man-made because they are culturally bound. They have evolved as a mechanism for social cohesion. If Religion is supposed to reveal "universal truths," why do they all assert conflicting "truths," i.e., there is no salvation except through Christ, Jews are God's "chosen people," Mohammed is God's one true messenger, etc.?
Against The Motion
  • The existence of God is outside the realm of science. Science exists within the boundaries of time and space, within God's creation and God's plan.
  • God, as the infinite "transcendent other" can never be fully comprehended by a finite individual.
  • The idea that religion is antithetical to science is absurd. Evolution asserts that God made the universe and created life—it does not say how. It is perfectly compatible with science.
  • Miracles are inherently one-off events; science is incapable of investigating them.
  • For science to refute religion, it needs to come up with something better, and it hasn't. Science cannot disprove the existence of God, life after death, and a soul.
  • 00:00:00
    So, Robert, why this debate? Why does this one intrigue you, in particular? Because I know it does.

    Robert Rosenkranz:
    I kind of got interested in this topic by reading a book about science. It was by the astronomer royal of England, a man called Martin Rees, and the book was called "Just Six Numbers." And it was about six physical constants that were imprinted in the early universe, in the first 100 millionth of a second after the Big Bang. And these constants express ideas like the strength of gravity, the strength of the bond that keeps the nucleus of atoms together, the uniformity of that initial fireball. And if any of those six numbers was much larger or much smaller, we would really not have a universe; either stars and galaxies wouldn't have formed, or there'd be no elements as complicated ascarbon and oxygen, or the Big Bang would've been succeeded by a big crunch into a black hole in which all matter would've disappeared.
  • 00:01:11
    And when you think about this, or at least for me, I thought, could this be just chance or is there some uncanny intelligence at work in this early design?

    John Donvan:
    And for the -- what we're doing here tonight, why is this not -- you know, this has been going on for a long time, this conversation, why is this not just the Scopes Monkey trial all over again?

    Robert Rosenkranz:
    Well, because I think this conversation should be much more sophisticated than when dealing with the literal truth of something in the Old Testament. And, in addition, of course, science has moved on so much since that time. So I think this is going to be a very -- a much more subtle and interesting debate than that one might have been.
  • 00:01:54
    John Donvan:
    I'm sure it's going to be, because we're going to bring out our debaters so that you can meet them, and we'll let the debate get started. Thanks very much. Robert Rosenkranz.

    [applause]

    Two of you are in the dark, and I don't mean that metaphorically.

    [laughter]

    I'm --

    Male Speaker:
    Let there be light.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    All right. In fairness, we have to let the other side do the same thing.

    [laughter]I just want to invite one more round of applause for Robert Rosenkranz for making this possible.

    [applause]
  • 00:02:58
    Isaac Newton invented calculus, and he believed in God; Max Planck was the father of quantum physics, also a believer; Copernicus, the solar system, he had the faith; and Galileo and Francis Bacon and Pascal, they all believed. What they also all had in common is that none of them was born within 150 years of us. Today, three out of every five scientists, knowing what they know, said that they can't really buy into the concept of God. Science refutes God, they would say. Really? So then what about the two out of five scientists who do believe in God and they actually know the same stuff?
    It sounds like the makings of a great debate, so let's get on to it.

    Yes or no to this statement: science refutes God. A debate from Intelligence Squared U.S. I'm John Donvan, we have four superbly qualified debaters who will be arguing for and against that motion, "science refutes God." Our debate goes in three rounds, and then the audience votes to choose a winner, and only side wins.
  • 00:04:02
    On the side arguing for the motion "science refutes God," Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His partner is Michael Shermer; he is a founding publisher of Skeptic Magazine, and a columnist for Scientific America. On the side arguing against the motion that science refutes God,
    Dinesh D'Souza; he is the bestselling author of "What's So Great About Christianity?”
    and director of the documentary, "2016: Obama's America."

    [applause]

    And his partner is Ian Hutchinson. Ian Hutchinson is the professor of nuclear science and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • 00:04:58
    [applause]

    Let's meet our debaters. Our motion is, "Science Refutes God." And welcome first to argue in support of the motion, Lawrence Krauss.

    [applause]Oh, that was confusing.

    Lawrence Krauss:
    I'm eager.

    John Donvan:
    You are eager. So, Lawrence, I first want to chat with you just -- just a moment. So I want to tell folks, you are a theoretical physicist. Your research interests have included partial physics, dark matter, neutrino astrophysics, which is kind of easy stuff for all of us. You also -- you like to push buttons, and you wrote "Forget Jesus: The Stars Died So That You Could Be Here Today," which doesn't sound very polite.

    Lawrence Krauss:
    Do you think that's provocative?

    John Donvan:
    Slightly, yeah.

    Lawrence Krauss:
    Well, I think provoking people and ridicule and satire is incredibly important in the world today. Nothing should be above ridicule because it gets people to think and least of all,
    religion.
  • 00:06:05
    John Donvan:
    And your partner is?

    Lawrence Krauss:
    Michael Shermer.

    John Donvan:
    Ladies and gentlemen, Michael Shermer.

    [applause]

    Michael, you are the founder of Skeptic magazine and the Skeptics Society. You were not always skeptical on this issue. You, as a teenager, were a born-again Christian, and then you switched to the other team. You're what my eighth grade nun would call "a very brazen and naughty boy."

    Michael Shermer:
    Well, I'd be happy to talk to her about it for you if you like, but --John Donvan:
    She passed on, which I think would go to the other side.

    Michael Shermer:
    Well, I was a born-again Evangelical. I went knocking on doors to doors to tell people about Jesus. And then later when I became a born-again atheist, I went back to those same houses and knocked on their doors… I was wrong.
  • 00:06:56
    John Donvan:
    All right. Our motion is "Science Refutes God." We have two debaters arguing against this motion. I'd like to introduce the first, ladies and gentlemen, Dinesh D'Souza.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Dinesh, you're a best-selling author and the director of "2016: Obama's America," the second highest grossing political documentary of all time. You have debated this issue a number of times. You've been on stages arguing against atheists a lot. And a lot of times they say that science refutes god, but you came out with a book called "God Forsaken." And the way you turn this argument on its head, how?

    Dinesh D'Souza:
    Well, I think science is a -- can be a tool to help us understand God. And so far from science refuting God, I see science as a wonderful instrument for helping us learn about the world and thus learning about its creator.

    John Donvan:
    And your partner is?

    Dinesh D'Souza:
    My partner is Ian Hutchinson.

    John Donvan:
    Ladies and gentlemen, Ian Hutchinson.

    [applause]
  • 00:07:54
    Ian, Ian Hutchinson, you are a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. Your contributions to science include, and I take this from your biography online at MIT, they include, "The First Observations of Polarized Tokamak Electron, Cyclotron Radiation andDevelopment of Diagnostics and Thermal and Nonthermal Electronic Distributions Based On It." So you're that guy?

    [laughter]

    What are you doing here?

    Ian Hutchinson:
    Well, I guess that is the question, isn't it?

    [laughter]

    Ian Hutchinson:
    But most seriously, I am a scientist, and I'm also a Christian. I think both are very important parts of the way that we understand the world. And I think that's why this debate is so important.

    John Donvan:
    All right. Ladies and gentlemen, our live audience, act as our judges. We ask you before the debate has ended to vote twice, once before you've heard the arguments and once again after you've heard the arguments. And the team whose numbers have moved by the highest percentage will be declared our winner. So we would like to register the preliminary vote. If you go to the key pads at your seat, set of numbers one through three, and if you agree with the motion at this point, Science Refutes God, we want you to push number one.
  • 00:09:10
    If you disagree, push number two. And if you are undecided or agnostic, push number three. And if you feel that you've pushed a number in error, just correct it, and the system will lock in your last vote. And we're going to hold the result of this first vote until the end of the debate. When you vote the second time, we'll compare the two numbers. And again the team whose numbers have moved by the highest percentage will be declared our winner.

    All right. So on to round one, opening statements from each debater in turn. Our motion is "Science Refutes God." And here to debate first in support of this motion,
    Lawrence Krauss. He is the director of the Origins Project and professor of physics at the school of earth and space exploration at Arizona State University. He is an -- also an author of the best-selling book, a -- let me do that again so that it's clean for the radio broadcast because I really want to help you sell this book.
  • 00:10:13
    Lawrence Krauss:
    Yeah, you bet. You can take all the time you want.

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    He is also the author of the best-selling book, "A Universe From Nothing." Ladies and gentlemen, Lawrence Krauss.

    [applause]

    Lawrence Krauss:
    Thank you. I actually wore this t-shirt for the subject of the debate. And it's the center of the debate. And it's clear. The motion is science refutes God. And Michael and I have the distinct advantage here of arguing in favor of the motion because in fact we have evidence, reason, logic