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 Ashley Tuesday, 12 March 2013 20:08 posted by Ashley

      Everyone:I will try and break this down at a very simple level.(1) I hope we can all agree that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means that as carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, the atmosphere gets hotter because carbon dioxide traps heat radiated from the sun. (Like a greenhouse in the sun, or a car with the windows rolled up on a hot day carbon dioxide acts like the rolled-up windows, trapping the heat).(2) I hope we can all agree that petroleum (oil and gas) and coal are made up of carbon.(3) I hope we can all agree that burning coal, oil and gas creates carbon dioxide as a byproduct (it comes out of the smokestacks of power plants and out of the mufflers on vehicles, etc.)Now it might get a bit tougher for the doubters to follow (4) The petroleum and coal that we have been harvesting and using for energy took tens of millions of years to form. Over a period so long that it is hard to comprehend, plants sucked carbon dioxide and, through photosynthesis, created oxygen and carbon, which it stored in the form of wood and plant matter. As those plants died and collapsed, they were covered up by other plants, or oceans, or rock over millions of years and put under tremendous pressure, which squeezed the dead plants and animals (carbon) into coal and petroleum (depending on the environment of formation, sometimes coal and sometimes petroleum).(5) The earth, over a period of roughly 5 billion years, has slowly and gradually evolved into a very balanced, delicate system where everything has a niche and everything is roughly in proportion to create a sustainable, dynamic, complex system. When species don't fit in, they become extinct and another species evolves (or perhaps two or three species) to take that one's place.(6) In the 150-200 years since the industrial revolution, humans have used carbon-based fuels that took roughly 300 million years to create. That's 200 vs. 300 million. Using these fuels releases carbon dioxide (locked into the coal and petroleum over millions of years) back into the atmosphere. Humans' rapid release of 300 million years worth of carbon (which was slowly, gradually stored by the earth) has created rapid changes to the earth's atmosphere and eco-systems. The earth simply was not designed to respond to such quick changes.As the planet's most intelligent species (and the species causing this dramatic climate change), we have a responsibility to work cohesively and intelligently to try and slow (it's already too late to reverse) this process as much as possible.For more information, read Fieldnotes from a Catastrophe or Beyond the Limits.

    • Comment Link Ricardo Tuesday, 12 March 2013 19:48 posted by Ricardo

      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 Kelly Thursday, 28 February 2013 12:48 posted by Kelly

      Change is the hallmark of the universe as we know it. Stars, planets, galaxies are created out of a fog of energy, and to say that life can't have been created out of the interplay of forces and particles as well is arbitrary. Primitive man created gods to explain phenomena they didn't understand. That process continues, and there's no basis for declaring today what it might or might not be able to explain tomorrow.

    • Comment Link john stark Tuesday, 26 February 2013 07:26 posted by john stark

      Science examines the material world and the relationship between finite measurable objects. Nothing in that finite observable universe is capable of creating itself. Nothing. Thus an infinite force unconfined to the observable world must not only exist but have the capacity to create that which it is not bounded by - finit capacity. God exists.

    • Comment Link Kelly Monday, 25 February 2013 20:04 posted by Kelly

      Where did life come from? No one has the answer to that. If you say it came from God, the obvious next question is "where did God come from?" You can't have it both ways. Either everything has to be created or it doesn't. To say that life does but God doesn't is setting up your own rules with absolutely no logical basis.

      It's much easier to make some educated guesses about how all those organic chemicals floating around the universe came together various environments to start replicating themselves and setting evolution in motion than to figure out how an invisible, pervasive, all-powerful intelligence either suddenly came into existence or, having always been there, suddenly decided, after an infinity of time, to create the spark of life. Why did it wait forever to create life, and why did it suddenly change its mind? Face it, that path creates more conundrums than it solves.

    • Comment Link Grant Monday, 11 February 2013 20:10 posted by Grant

      A response to nelsen_temple:

      They are not debating evolution, they are debating the existence of a supernatural being, "God."

      The Atheist isn't obligated to "prove what they believe." In this case, it is something they DO NOT BELIEVE. It is up to the Theist(s) to provide the evidence and rationale for the act of believing.

      Furthermore, no atheist I have ever heard debate or ever read, and certainly not Dr. Kruass, has EVER stated that "evolution created everything" or that "everything came from evolution." Evolution is a biological process, and explains biology perfectly well. So well, infact, biology doesn't make sense with out it. If you don't believe in evolution you are on the hook to explain why Whales have pelvis' and there are legless lizards and snakes with legs! You have to explain why dinosaurs had feathers and birds have left over DNA for creating TEETH. Lots of explaining to do on your part.

      Add also, that evolution isn't an explanation for the CREATION of life, but the PROCESS of change once life got started. The start from non-life to life is called ABIOGENESIS, which is a completely different process that has nothing to do with evolution or the origin of the universe. All three: Evolution, Abiogenesis, the "Big Bang" are separate explanations for separate processes that have nothing to do with each other---other than they don't rely on the magical man in the the sky and they have vast amounts of supporting evidence--none of which is contradicted.

    • Comment Link nelson_temple Sunday, 10 February 2013 08:51 posted by nelson_temple

      Intellectuals will continue to debate, as they always have, evolution. They don’t believe in God or believe there is a God so they will do all in their ability to prove what they believe is real. Those who believe in evolution will insist that evolution created the universe and all therein. Christians, and most other religions, will continue to believe it all came from God. I think most everyone believes in change, and if change is evolution then we all can believe in evolution, but evolution cannot create. When science can create a life form in a test tube, then they can win the debate. Of course it will take a test tube, a lab and a scientist and these things were not there in the beginning. So what did it evolve from?

    • Comment Link Charlie Hand Saturday, 09 February 2013 12:26 posted by Charlie Hand

      The proposition is simply true or false based on the definition of God. What was really debated was the definition of God.

      If, as the opposing team almost, but not quite, pointed out, your definition of God is a Holy God - that is, a creator of the Universe who is not part of the Universe (yet is free to act inside the Universe He created, or not), then the proposition is preposterous. Science can only refute assertions about the Universe. Such a God is outside the Universe.

      If God is defined as the supporting team defines God, some really big and powerful being within the Universe, who lives someplace we can't see, who has power to manipulate the Universe in supernatural ways, who "created" the Universe by scooping up a handful of Universe stuff from his back yard and forming it into our Universe, then the proposition is again unarguable. Clearly science refutes such a God.

      Science clearly refutes a God who is part of the universe.
      Science clearly cannot refute a God who is not part of the Universe.

      Mr. D'Souza was quite right in pointing out that athiests like to knock down fundamentalist theology and worldly Gods such as Neptune. Yes, science clearly refutes all forms of fundamentalism, and the God Neptune, because both Neptune and fundamentalism are worldly, not holy, concepts. Science has nothing to say about the holy, by definition.

    • Comment Link Aleksandr Makov Wednesday, 06 February 2013 05:10 posted by Aleksandr Makov

      I'm quite surprised no one asked for the scientific explanation of observable and reproducible placebo effect.

    • Comment Link we-according-to-me Monday, 04 February 2013 01:50 posted by we-according-to-me

      There is only energy (matter) in our universe; and at places where there is more energy than in the near environment, it will try to equalize itself, 'spread out'.

      There are a few 'Universal Laws'; one of them is the fact that energy has to equalize itself (The Second Law of Thermodynamics).

      Our universe is expanding at this moment, and thus energy has to fill up that bigger space (or as old-school taught 'tendency for disorder or entropy increase'); that's why many things around us disintegrates, tectonic plates drifting apart, planets moving further apart (in general).

      However, this 'overall tendency for disorder or entropy increase' is just a result of energy's reaction on the (maybe temporarily-) expanding universe and is not a Universal Law.
      The Second Law of Thermodynamics can sometimes result in 'order to increase; entropy to decrease'.

      For example: a river flowing down from a mountain can have a rock sticking out the water; behind that rock the water might flow upstream... but the overall trend is still that water flows down the mountain.
      Along the same lines, The Second Law of Thermodynamics can permit order to arise; but the over-all trend is disorder.

      Life forms; they display disorder PLUS order... but life still has to cope with the expanding universe and thus the 'overall tendency for disorder or entropy increase' stays in effect.

      Life forms display disorder PLUS order; all energy in our universe is part of one- or more cyclic systems. Each 'living thing' on earth is likewise a cyclic system.

      Life behaves like 'running around in circles'; you become tired but you're not getting anywhere! Yes, that includes human beings, our purpose in this world kinda sucks.

      For example: a tree is a 'cyclic system'.
      The trunk, roots and leaves are formed which is an increase in order.
      Evaporation of water while the sun shines on the leaves is dissipating energy; and just like a rotting tree gives an increase in disorder.

      Does this mean it all leads nowhere? No.
      Lo and behold; the scorching sunlight plus the scattered around water, soil nutrients and minerals are now gracefully circling around in what we call a 'forest' and all that energy (matter) is more equally spreaded out than before.
      Thanks to The Second Law of Thermodynamics.

      Approximately 3.9 billion years ago, around our Earth's equator there was much unequally divided energy/matter. Sunlight, water, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen; all scattered around.
      Obviously, at that point in time and at that region, the 'activation energy' was reached for 'life' to begin.
      It took around 1.8 billion years for the first cells to form, and another 1.4 billion years before some simple animals appeared.

      This 'Wonder of Life' and our universe having a 'flawless design' is actually nothing more than many, many particles (energy /matter) following some simple laws and repeating those over a very long, long time.

      Denying this can lead to fruitless debate about divine intervention.

      Oh by the way; Probably the Big Bang never took place and neither will we ever reach the 'cosmic heat death'; our universe will contract after reaching an 'activation energy', then expand again etc.
      Why? Because it's all about 'cyclic systems' and nothing in our universe ever reaches extremes; not the speed of light, not a temperature of zero Kelvin.
      Movement never stops. Energy can not be destroyed.

    • 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!....

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