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 Adam T Burklow Wednesday, 30 January 2013 22:23 posted by Adam T Burklow

      While a fantastic idea, this debate was a monumental failure in that it turned out to be not a debate of Science refuting God, but rather of Science refuting Christianity. Both opposition members are professed Christians, and both were there to defend the Christian ideal, while both proponents were given the task of attacking a set of 3,000 year old traditions and dogma which has become increasingly simple thanks to our advanced knowledge of life and the Universe. Agnostic theists like me are simply not moved by the arguments of Krauss & Shermer. Although I agree with them on most points, and I admit that Krauss is pretty funny, his arguments still end far from explaining the creation of the Universe or the creation of the first life. At present, Science has no answer for these two questions, and it is completely rational for me to think that there is or can be a transcendent being/reality, such as the absolute, which is beyond the realm of human comprehension. Until molecular biologists can create life in a lab, or new, more advanced telescopes can witness the instant of the beginning of the Universe, I will have to accept that there is something else, beyond our understanding, which has a stake in all of this…

    • Comment Link Beth Thursday, 24 January 2013 23:26 posted by Beth

      Science has refuted the catholic church but has proven there is a God over and over. In Gen 1 Moses, not at all a scientist, describes how the universe evolved under the direction of an eternal being. Read it, everything fits. First the life...animals...then humans. If you are stuck because it refers to it being one "day" at a time...tell me how you refer to time next time you create life.

    • Comment Link Balavidya Sunday, 20 January 2013 14:32 posted by Balavidya

      Easiest thing in the world to prove that there is God. God is the Absolute Supreme Controller. In this manifest creation that we are experiencing, Time is the Supreme Controller of all animate and inanimate entities. Absolutely nothing is independent of the influence of time. Absolutely everything is subject to Time. Time is God. Q.E.D.

    • Comment Link JSA Friday, 18 January 2013 10:10 posted by JSA

      You should have had Stephen Barr Against. Dinesh D'Souza? Really?

    • Comment Link God Wednesday, 16 January 2013 19:43 posted by God

      Obviously science refutes god. All arguments for god are nothing but words. The crux of the argument is exactly the idea of imagined intention. Dinesh says that science can explain how the universe is but not "why" the universe is. This notion that there must have been considered intention in the design of the universe is clearly the result of humans being used to designing things and nothing more. It's like a male seahorse looking at a human baby and assuming that its father just gave birth to it, because male seahorses are used to giving birth. This way of looking at the universe reveals itself to be baseless when you think in the other direction. Consider, for instance, a lesser being, like a seahorse, thinking any thing at all. Just because we think about whether or not we're ready to be parents, does that mean seahorses do, too? Obviously not. The fact that we make things does not at all imply that we were made.

    • Comment Link Thomas Tilley Monday, 14 January 2013 22:32 posted by Thomas Tilley

      I believe no one can prove or disprove the existence of God. The human mind created God and God made the ape human by giving it an awareness of its own existence. This is what was "created" and made an ape human. God is an awareness that we are human and that we live for each other. God, and our evolved beliefs, created this awareness in us. God has told us from above--the top of our heads--that we must have faith, hope, and love in and of what we believe; we believe in God. The question is: who or what may have made us aware of these beliefs. The same mind, through knowledge and progress, has not created anything since, but with knowledge has and is destroying humankind. The only thing humanly created is God and perhaps poetry, all else destroys humankind and the world it lives in. It is not the belief in God that causes wars; it is the religions humans have imposed on themselves to destroy the human mind-- God.

    • Comment Link Dave Sunday, 13 January 2013 21:49 posted by Dave

      While Krauss and Shermer did an nice job of maintaining a substantive debate, despite D'Souza's propensity to dismiss rather than identify and solve (proving how poor of a scientist he is, not to mention his obvious lack of conviction to truth and his proclivity toward sensationalism, as so clearly shown in his documentary on Obama); I truly wish Krauss and Shermer would have nailed the ridiculously parochial subjective basis the theists made on so many topics, such as D'Souza's reference to the idea that morals evolve due to Smith's "impartial spectator," which is so flawed in suggesting we are "preprogrammed" with morals. He obviously never studies the effects the environment has on the lack of morals in feral children. D'Souza also really messed up suggesting science (and what I think should have been more accurately described as observation: as the former is not required to obtain the latter) cannot prove what happens after death. It is quite clear what "physically" happens to us , or any other animal for that manner; the flawed perception/belief is that we are unique (as a result of having a soul) and therefore must have further purpose, which is just egocentric. We are no better or worse than any other animal, tree or any other form of matter. Until man decides to embrace this notion and accept our ACTUAL reason for being (which is simply the same as any other animal: to live), we will be stuck wasting time on trying to enlighten others and fight to avoid being effected by others who espouse this egotistical notion that something MUST happen after death!

    • Comment Link Brent Thursday, 10 January 2013 06:22 posted by Brent

      I can understand the frustration on the part of some of the commenters here. Of course science doesn't refute God. The God concept is infallible, refutation is impossible. What the atheist side should have made clear, and indeed what should have been the motion for the debate, was that science has shown there is no good reason to believe in God. That's a very different claim.

    • Comment Link Jeff Monday, 07 January 2013 17:49 posted by Jeff

      I find it telling that the debate topic was changed into "Defend Christianity" by those for the motion.

      This occurred because the legends and beliefs of Christianity are easy to mock. It is easier to make someone who believes them sound foolish then to actually defend the premise that science refutes Gd.

      This would be like a fish proclaiming to other fish that their investigations have refuted the existence of water. They can proclaim it all day but can only do so because of the sustenance of the very water they dismiss.

      How foolish to Gd must these people seem as they proclaim loudly and pompously that since He hides himself from them behind a veil of nature He must not exist.

      They seem to believe that if there were a Gd, He would be constantly be blinding us with the knowledge of His presence but does this make sense? If there is a Gd, and He has given us a purpose to achieve, an all encompassing knowledge of Gd would defeat the purpose of creation.

    • Comment Link John Hooten Friday, 04 January 2013 04:49 posted by John Hooten

      I sure would like to see the experiment that was used to "refute" the existence of God. Maybe I could replicate it here at home. You know, I've never seen a black hole. I'm told that you can feel its effects. But then again, I'm told that you can feel the effects of love.
      I'd really like to see that god-o-meter!....

    • Comment Link robin brisebois Thursday, 03 January 2013 05:11 posted by robin brisebois

      I look forward to the debate based on the question asked at approx. 1:31:00
      "Why is god necessary?"

    • Comment Link I M Probulos Tuesday, 01 January 2013 01:15 posted by I M Probulos

      I think Lawrence Krauss presented his argument very well. The argument is for science and reason and rationality versus the God argument and the Christian religion. A belief in God, religion in general, and all superstitious behavior is common because it is a response to the 12 Unthinkable Horrors of Human Existence:

      1) There Is No Afterlife
      2) God Does Not Answer Prayers
      3) Life Is Chance
      4) Life Is Not Fair
      5) There Is No Eternal Justice
      6) God Is The Invention Of Man.
      7) A Single Mistake Can Ruin Your Life
      8) Man Is Not Special
      9) There Is No Absolute Morality or Truth
      10) Free Will Is a Myth
      11) Experts Can Be Wrong
      12) Romantic Love Is A Myth

      Sciences supports them. Religion, faith and a belief in God refutes them because, for 85% of the population, it is more comforting to believe the myth than the reality.

      I M Probulos

    • Comment Link david Friday, 21 December 2012 14:32 posted by david

      Neither side clearly understood what they were talking about and the audience certainly didn't either. Science can't possibly refute God. However, it can refute the existence of certain gods. Some power caused the universe and that power is God. What they needed to do in this debate was identify the god they were debating about. Both sides had concepts of God that are wrong so they were fighting and defending a "straw" man, or god.

    • Comment Link Dave Friday, 21 December 2012 09:46 posted by Dave

      @Andres Pabon

      I agree with you with regards to Deism, but Christianity, Islam etc. make assertions in their holy texts about the nature and history of the same universe that science aims to explain and explore.

      As science grows and evolves and discovers more and more about the history and nature of our universe, assertions made in biblical texts are falsified or confirmed, and from that we can gain insight into whether or not these texts contain truth.

    • Comment Link Philip Romov Friday, 21 December 2012 09:43 posted by Philip Romov

      I can see where they are going with the science refutes god. As Andres rightly points out, its not that science refutes faith. Rather, as I understand this debate, it is that science refutes the scientific proofs of god.

      There has been a slew of seemingly scientific arguments proposed as evidence for god. To me, they have all been flawed in one way or another, and the speakers in this debate explain why quite eloquently.

      I can also recommend the two dan barker vs dinesh desouza debates, as well as sam harris vs dinesh desouza, for possibly more faith-baised content.

    • Comment Link David Friday, 21 December 2012 08:14 posted by David

      Anders P. and others ignorantly use false information to defend their beliefs which are just as religious as those they deny. Correctly speaking, any belief about how people should live is a religion. It's true that the gods of the Bible and the Koran do not exist as described in those documents but to deny that God exists is equal to denying that the universe exists. Some ultimate power caused the universe and that power is God. Also, "faith," as the writers of the Bible used that term, is belief that is based on irrefutable evidence rather than the absence of evidence. Notice that I said "irrefutable" as opposed to "undeniable." Additionally, just because the writers of the Bible thought that the evidence they offered was irrefutable does not necessarily mean that it actually was. One more thing. Modern science, by its very nature, most certainly does attempt to establish "the truth" and dispose of prejudice which it wrongly assumes is "faith." What this means is that people who describe themselves as atheists don't know what they're talking about but then, neither do so called believers. People who are very serious about knowing the real answers to such questions need to study my recently published book, "The Answer" to be found on Amazon and published for the Kindle reader. You can actually know the answer and know that you know it but it can't be done the usual and popular way people have attempted to do it in the past.

    • Comment Link Andres Pabon Thursday, 20 December 2012 08:58 posted by Andres Pabon

      I'm an atheist, and always have been. I should side with the "for" team, by all accounts. However, I believe the arguments presented were completely irrelevant.

      The reason? Science does not refute god because it's not what science is dealing with. Science explores the nature of the universe, and has absolutely nothing to do with faith, which is, by definition, believing in spite of being proven wrong.

      I still don't believe in god, and it's likely I never will. But to put science in the role of a faith destroyer would make any philosopher go nuts. Those are just not comparable by any means.

    • Comment Link Dave Wednesday, 19 December 2012 14:21 posted by Dave

      As a person who was raised in a theistic household and switched to agnosticism as an adult, I was very much looking forward to listening to this debate. The first third of the debate was interesting and mostly relevant to the motion "Science refutes God." The remainder did nothing to advance the arguments either for or against the motion. Discussions about the Bible, or morality, or the origins of religious belief are interesting questions, but irrelevant to the question at hand. It is unfortunate both sides allowed the debate to get sidetracked instead of focusing on the actual motion. (I belive the debate could have stayed on topic better if I^2 had recruited agnostics instead of theists to argue against the motion.)

      In my opinion the debate was pretty much over less than one minute after it started. In his opening statement Krauss admits science does not disprove God, but he goes on to claim "refute" and "disprove" mean different things. Merriam-Webster disagrees with him.

      refute - to prove wrong by argument or evidence : show to be false or erroneous
      disprove - to prove to be false or wrong : refute

      Supposing we accept Krauss' implied interpretation that "refute" is a less formal or less rigorous form of "disproof," he and Shermer still don't refute the motion as stated. He outlined his argument as follows:

      P1. If God is unnecessary to explain the world around us, and
      P2. If there is no evidence for God, and
      P3. If belief in God is irrational,


      C. "Science refutes (the existence of) God."

      That is not a logically valid argument. Even if he successfully showed all three propositions are true (which he didn't) it doesn't follow that God doesn't exist. It is entirely possible for God to exist in spite of those conditions.

      I think Krauss and Shermer gave a passable explanation to show P1 is true. They claim P2 is true, but make the mistake of believing "no *scientific* evidence" is the same as "no evidence." P3 is irrelevant for establishing the truthfulness of the proposition and shouldn't be included in the argument. (In the context it's being used "rational" means nothing more than someone who shares Krauss' worldview. He uses it sway opinion via ridicule, not as an objective characteristic of a true belief.)

      Given the high quality of most I2 debates, I was hoping to hear compelling new arguments from the side for the motion. I was disappointed. Not only did they rehash many of the same irrelevant arguments, but they had no answers for any of the questions I, as a science-minded agnostic, have about their arguments. D'Souza and Hutchinson raised a few of those questions, but didn't pursue them well enough.

      I was honestly surprised and somewhat discouraged 13% of the audience found the arguments for the motion compelling enough to switch from undecided to supporting their position. Ultimately they had no arguments and instead resorted to emotional appeals to make their case. Was it enought to "win" the debate. Yes. Does it move the science/God discussion forward? Not a bit. When a group that is supposedly founded on logic and reason ignores that logic and reason do not support the position they hold, something is wrong.

    • Comment Link L.R._NY Wednesday, 19 December 2012 02:37 posted by L.R._NY

      Without Christianity mankind would have landed on the moon 1000 yrs earlier.

      Those who bow for the God component are mental slaves and indeed lack self-discipline, in need of a herd to walk, talk, behave.

      It would be a great gift to our great grandchildren if we could have a world where religions are Not allowed to impose at birth, on children and people who are mentally Not able to put the material in question.

    • Comment Link Christopher Tuesday, 18 December 2012 04:37 posted by Christopher

      Whether or not science can answer where the first matter came from...that does not in any way presuppose that it was a God that created the first matter.

      Ultimately....we may never know....but what makes us so special that we have to know?

      Trees don't get to know why they are why should we know the meaning of our own existence?

      Eternal life? Who is to say that our "time" here on Earth isn't eternity already? Time doesn't exist...clocks do.

      I suggest that all beliefs in God are mere conditioning.

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