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 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.

    • Comment Link Daniel Friday, 07 December 2012 19:09 posted by Daniel

      Theatricality and deception. Powerful agents for the uninitiated.
      -Bane was talking about every single theistic argument that exists today.
      Unfortunately, due to scientific education, most atheists are initiated.

    • Comment Link ChuckSigler Friday, 07 December 2012 09:11 posted by ChuckSigler

      I haven't yet listened to the full debate, but there is a premise about 'religion' that may play a role in this debate.

      If the essential source of 'religion' is a belief in supernatural or spiritual beings, as Edmund Tylor (a 19th century anthropologist) and others hold, then a premise that science can only be done while believing in the possibility of the uniformity of natural causes within the closed system of nature (see my other post for an explanation of this) would reject any argument that a transcendent, spiritual being could influence what happens in nature. This would be seen as inherently religious and therefore not scientific. This understanding of religion seems to underlie the supporters of the debate statement, "science refutes god."

      Emile Durkheim, a 19th century sociologist, believed that: "A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, i.e., things set apart and forbidden--beliefs and practices which unite in one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them." He argued that the concept of the supernatural was relatively new; one that emerged with the development of science and the separation of the supernatural—that which cannot be rationally explained—from the natural, that which can be rationally explained. For Durkheim, a belief in the supernatural was NOT religious until it became a unified system of belief and practices relative to the sacred and then united into a moral community, a 'church.' So early historical scientists like Isaac Newton, could hold to a belief in 'god' and still be said to be doing science as long as their 'churchly' beliefs and practices were not a part of their science. If our view of religion is more like that of Edmund Tylor than Emile Durkheim, then science as the uniformity of natural causes in an open system of nature (the essential premise for those who reject the debate statement that science refutes god) is rejected as inherently religious because it allows for the possibility of a transcendent, spiritual being outside of, beyond the sphere of nature.

      So to debate whether science refutes religion, we must first ask what we mean by science, and what we mean by religion. An inability to at least agree, for the sake of the debate, in the possibility of the opposing understanding of 'science' and 'religion' leads either to a short debate; or one where neither side can hear what the other side means as they argue for or against 'science refutes religion.'

    • Comment Link ChuckSigler Friday, 07 December 2012 07:31 posted by ChuckSigler

      A fundamental premise for all science is "the uniformity of natural causes." By the way, this is not a premise that is conclusively provable by the scientific method. The divide between the two positions in the debate is over whether this premise of science occurs within an open or closed system of nature. The uniformity of natural causes within an open system, where something from outside the system of nature can influence events within the system of nature is the starting point for the theistic, religious side of the argument and their view of science. The uniformity of natural causes within a closed system of nature, says that even if there is anything beyond the closed system of nature (which the supporters of the debate statement "science refutes god" reject as possible) we cannot know it and it cannot influence anything within the closed system of nature, is the starting point for the atheistic, nonreligious side of the debate. If the only acceptable scientific results are those that begin with a premise that science can only be done within a methodology that assumes the uniformity of natural causes within a closed system of nature, then the debate will always conclude that science refutes god.

      The notion that both opponents to the debate statement are Christian is irrelevant, unless you are somehow attempting to argue that a Christian theistic belief system makes them incapable of doing science. This begs the point. This argument above is based upon the writings of Francis Schaeffer; "Escape From Reason."

    • Comment Link Luis G. Martinez Friday, 07 December 2012 07:07 posted by Luis G. Martinez

      There is so much evidence for a God of creation and a Christian God in specific that He made it so who ever looked at the evidence would believe. Some have a philosophical bias against a God because for the most part they haven’t investigated the evidence. Even most Christians don't know the reason for their faith. If you look at the Great Pyramid in Egypt it is a sign for our last days as to truth of Jesus. You look at the Shroud of Turin and my God you've got to be a complete idiot not to believe. There is much more.

    • Comment Link chet Friday, 07 December 2012 06:15 posted by chet

      phenomenal job by the debate director. I thought it was extremely un-biased.

    • Comment Link Kenneth Friday, 07 December 2012 04:49 posted by Kenneth

      Tss, that is so gibberish Jake, to say that love your enemies as said by Jesus Christ. The old testament was inarguably one of the most malevolent, fictional, yet holy books in all of times, and how can an even loving god be sacrificing his own son for the redemption of mankind? How can it be? There's so many alternative plans your genie could have done instead of sacrificing and torturing and being a bloody mess about it. "The Christ myth has served us well." As pronounced by Pope Leo X. How can you even prove that atheistic people are committing atrocity? How about Hitler? You can't deny the fact that Hitler was a catholic. Religious faith is bias and is propaganda. If all of these fundamentalists and religionists hold different variations of truth, one can easily conclude that all of these religions are all bloody scams. There's no truth in religion, you people should come back to Science, Reasoning, Logic and Reality. You should get out of your boxes limiting your thoughts and thinking. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." By Carl Sagan

      Science is progress, religion is regress.

    • Comment Link Richard Knijnenburg Friday, 07 December 2012 01:47 posted by Richard Knijnenburg

      A problem with this discussion is that it is too narrow: the motion shouldn't be "science refutes God" (capital God because the against-guys are specifically Christian) but "science refutes added meaning". Let me define "added meaning" as the complete set of properties that is outside of scientific thinking. Examples of elements of this set are "love", "truth", "understanding" and "meaning" itself (a bit of recursion never hurt anyone outside of grad school).

      Now, I'm not arguing science can't e.g. describe the processes underlying a reported feeling of "love", but I'm arguing the subjective feeling of "love", i.e. how I, or you, or anyone else is experiencing it as part of the self is outside of the range of what science can do, simply because no one can truly know that experience - just analyze reports on it and measure the electro-chemical responses in the brain. Which, by the way, I assume to be the full basis for the self.

      What interests me as someone who wishes to understand and know as much about the (my) universe as I can is the range of answers to the question "why is there something instead of nothing", with the "why" in that question obviously part of my defined set of "added meaning".

      Science can't refute added meaning, so it can't refute God/god/gods.

      What science can and does do is add to the set of added meaning, because it is the only tool available to determine how things are instead of how we would want them to be.

      So having said that, you might understand why I'm firmly in Michael Shermer's corner, considering myself a skeptic, but I would still vote no on this motion.

    • Comment Link David Douglas Friday, 07 December 2012 01:21 posted by David Douglas

      Isn't God mostly a WORD???

    • Comment Link John Bamford Thursday, 06 December 2012 23:08 posted by John Bamford

      The problem here is the motion itself: Science can't "refute" God anymore than it can refute the existence of unicorns. You can't prove a negative. However, the burden of proof lies not with science but with theism: It is theists who are obligated to provide evidence in support of their belief, and it is precisely this they cannot do. For they have none. What science has done --- rather than "refute" God --- is show that God is not a necessary hypothesis to explain anything about the universe. Every thing that apparently once needed God as an explanation has been shown to be quite fine without "him". Belief in God is nothing more than an unjustified belief, supported by no evidence whatsoever.

    • Comment Link Bill Thursday, 06 December 2012 22:32 posted by Bill

      This is for Nik Catalina who posted on 12/5/12 at 23:16

      Your quote from Socrates is logically flawed. By asserting that you know only that you know nothing you are violating your own premise. i.e. you do know something! (it happens to be that you know nothing!).

      And, so it goes with many of the arguments against God. Quite emphatically, you can know something. It is NOT all relative.

      A lot of people, when asked what it would take from them to believe, respond with, "Well, I'd have to see clear proof. I'd have to see these so called miracles performed in public, in the light of day, in front of hundreds of witnesses".

      BUT that did happen! Not once, not twice, but so many times that "many books could be filled describing just the miracles performed!". And these miracles were performed before a religiously savvy people on the look out for charlatans. A people who labeled Him a heretic and put Him to death. Yet, none disputed the miracles.

      The Christian Bible clearly addresses this in Romans 1:20. Creation bears witness to God. Men become vain in their imaginations (devising ever more preposterous theories to deny God) and... professing themselves wise they became fools (deluding themselves with their own cleverness).

      There are many reasons to desperately want God not to exist. At the top of the list is most likely the ferverent desire not to be a created being. Being a created being means not being at the pinnacle. It opens up so many uncomfortable questions about: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

      Rather than refute God, science affirms his existence. The Psalmist tells us the Heavens declare the glory of God. How wonderful that science allows us so many more ways to appreciate and take part in that creation.

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