Is there evidence for God?

January 24, 2012 • 5:31 am

Two readers called my attention to an interesting one-hour debate that aired on the BBC1 “Big Questions” show about a week ago. Two big groups of goddies and atheists participate in a total of four videos. If you click on the link below, all four will open in sequence.  Things start off pretty tame, but get heated in the third video.

Some of the arguments for God are familiar: religious scientists like Gregor Mendel prove that science and religion are compatible; natural selection can’t explain reciprocal altruism (of course it can, and altruism in humans may be largely a cultural rather than a genetic phenomenon); the cosmological argument applies to the Big Bang (this is handily countered by chemist Peter Atkins); the physical constants of the universe are “fine-tuned” for life (Peter Atkins again responds well); the existence of love testifies to the existence of God, as does the “fruitfulness” of the world; one guy heard God speaking to him (in English, of course), and so on.  One person even asserts that we don’t need evidence for God to accept his existence.

The emphasis on personal revelation as evidence for God is pervasive and remarkable (see a remarkable pwning of this notion by atheist Kate Smurthwaite at 5:20 in video 3). In fact, the bulk of the “evidence” adduced for God is of the form “He spoke to me personally.”

At 10:05 in video 2, there’s an exchange about theodicy in which Pastor Acquoi Karbah explains childhood leukemia as the result of sin that God sees as necessary.

Despite the seeming bias of moderator Nicky Campbell towards the goddies (and this may be merely my own bias), they don’t come off as having a coherent position, undoubtedly because they disagree not only about the preferred faith (Muslim vs. Christian), but also about whether God intervenes in the world.  The coherence is all on the side of the atheists, and if you spend an hour watching the video, you’ll be proud that you’re on that side.

The videos.

h/t: Sigmund, Rev. El Mundo

129 thoughts on “Is there evidence for God?

  1. Very nice comments. They warn me from less rigorous science. The religious people are not referring to the Intention Experiments of this century as evidence for almighty spirit. They are basing their comments on “horse and Buggy” religion. They are honorably pursuing virtue, but without adequate knowledge of receny discoveries. This comment applies to scientists commenting without knowledge of the many Intention Experiments. One may find help in his pursuit of his humanity by exploring the Intention Eperiments, which is the utimate purpose of this discussion.
    It is good to find this group of concerned citizens, keep up the good work.

  2. Peter Atkins is extremely underrated, particularly by philosophers. Galileo’s Finger packs so much into a small book it’s one of my favourite recommendations.

  3. I saw this when it aired. Though the atheists did well I’d have to say the constant interrupting of the person speaking was rather annoying.

    Even though the so called ‘evidence’ was pretty thin, sorry.. non existent, it would have been nice if the discussion would have stuck to the idea of evidence. It obviously didn’t cause there is none. It always falls back to feelings, morals and things unexplained by science. So tiresome.

    I did enjoy it though. I think the atheists demolished pretty much everything thrown at them and when the ‘old’ arguments for gods’ existence showed up I was groaning and rolling my eyes with all of them. I does get tiring hearing the same nonsense over and over again.

    It was the only Big Questions I’ve seen so far. I normally avoid the show but when the title came up of what it was about my wife kept it on and at first I was worried it was going to be all full of appeasement but was glad when I realised there were atheists on there and their arguments were good.

    1. “it would have been nice if the discussion would have stuck to the idea of evidence”

      exactly what I was thinking, just reading Jerry’s review of it, before I even watched it.

      confirmed on viewing.

      seriously, it has really pissed me off more than ANYTHING in the long, tired debate over theology, this idea that when asked for EVIDENCE, the theoidiots end up providing anything BUT, and commonly even trying to redefine the very word itself.

      it’s beyond aggravating.

  4. Awww Jerry. No mention of the fantastic Dr Francesca Stavrakapoulou. If you’re not familuar with her work she’s well worth the effort. An atheist biblical scholar with some excelent BBC doccumentaries to her name and a new book on ceremonial burial coming out soon.

    1. I highly recommend the three programs that she did on the BBC regarding god, Adam and Eve and historical David. They were brilliantly done and informative. Especially for someone like me who doesn’t have a biblical study background of any sort.

      I would love to see a new series with her demolishing the New Testament.

      Also not sure if she’s ever been invited to any free thought conferences or not but would be nice to see her name at a few. She would be an excellent guest to have.

    1. I don’t know about leprechauns and dryads, but I assure you: the monster under the bed is real. He has grey fur, orange eyes, sharp teeth and claws, and will attack just when you think you are safe.

      1. Oh, but that’s where you’re worng.

        His fur has both stripes and spots, his eyes are green, and you will never think you’re safe.

        And he’s on the bed, not under it.



  5. “At 10:05 in video 2, there’s an exchange about theodicy in which Pastor Acquoi Karbah explains childhood leukemia as the result of sin that God sees as necessary.”

    *vomits violently*

    1. I often note at this point that theodicy sorta rhymes with idiocy. Such is the only conclusion a theist could possibly reach unless they dismiss the idea of divine intervention and essentially become a deist, or simply pull the “mystery” card, which is a theological term that means “I don’t want to think about it”.

      1. A further reason why there can’t be a benevolent god.
        If there were one, he would have appeared by now and revealed himself to everyone and thereby putting an end to all these strained rationalizations of the theodicy by these sophisticated theologians.

  6. “(see a remarkable pwning of this notion by atheist Kate Smurthwaite at 5:20 in video 3”
    She is completely fearless in these debates.
    I almost felt sorry for the priest whose argument she destroyed. Mind you, it didn’t take much to make him look silly – his earlier attempt to dismiss atheists for mistaking the notion of God as an interventionist being was hilariously undermined by that African pastor right beside him who was constantly interrupting him to say that God DID intervene.

  7. One person even asserts that we don’t need evidence for God to accept his existence.

    Most of the religious people I know hold this position. Goes along with the claim that faith is a gift and a virtue etc.

    1. The ones I know generally use a completely incompatible approach of saying that it is even essential that there is no evidence for God because if there was it would prevent us from having free will and the choice of whether to believe or not.
      When I point out that Jesus dying, coming back from the grave and flying up to heaven, sounds like exactly the sort of evidence that would destroy the free will to choose of those who witnessed him, I suddenly find the argument (goalposts?) shifts and it is all, “something cannot come from nothing, therefore Jesus”, or its all personal faith.

      1. You could also point to Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, Lot, etc… All of these folks had direct, concrete knowledge of God’s existence, yet there seems to be no theological issue with them having free will.

        But the most famous theological figure to know beyond a doubt that God exists, yet still exercise free will? That award goes to Satan. 🙂 The ‘standard’ view of him utterly undermines the argument that knowledge of God prevents one from exercising free will.

        1. Yep, you’d think the whole parting of seas and wiping out nearly the entire population of the earth in a flood would be considered concrete evidence of the divine.

    2. Yet those same people would presumably be highly indignant if they were to be incarcerated without any evidence.

    3. Alvin Plantinga holds this view. He calls it a “basic belief” no more in need of proof than the belief that the past exists, or that other people have minds, or that one plus one equals two. But he hasn’t justified the analogy, to my knowledge. But then he probably doesn’t think he has to do that either.

      1. What’s especially idiotic is that none of those examples are basic beliefs – they’re all based on observation and evidence.

        1. Technically, that 1+1=2 is a mathematical theorem, based on the relations of abstract axioms, and in a sense of observation and evidence. If that does not correspond well to the relations within your evidence, the problem is in your mapping the relations to addition and not to the theorem.

          1. A theorem in any cogent sense is a general concept which governs how a certain range of particulars operate. To use your implication, one might as well say that the integral of 1 with respect to x is x up to a constant of integration is itself a mathematical theorem. To be certain, it is a mathematical proposition, but it says nothing whatever beyond itself; it makes sense only in light of being a consequence of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus.

          2. In so far as the term “theorem” is a proposition whose truth as derived as a consequent of the basis axioms, “1+1=2” is a theorem.

            True, it’s is thus relational (with respect to the axioms). So, for pedantry one can say it’s a theorem of ZF.

            I don’t think I accept Justicar’s “general concept” requirement, but I’d be willing to argue that the abstract nature of the underlying axioms (such as having “set” be an otherwise undefined term) makes it a “general concept”.

            It also says something beyond itself, in so far as it may be used as a lemma towards a proof that “2+1=3”.

      2. He calls it a “basic belief” no more in need of proof than the belief that the past exists, or that other people have minds, or that one plus one equals two. 

        And that the Sun is bigger at sunset than it is at noon, and that there exists absolute space and time, and that light emitted from a moving source travels at c+the speed of the source, and that it definitely should be possible to measure the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time, and that we have free will…
        Yeap, our intuition teaches us well.

        1. “The past exists”? I can’t get my head around that notion – not even when considering the microwave background. (It, like a tree ring, exists now, showing us what the past was like, but is no longer.)

      3. Anthony Kenny mentioned this in “What is Faith” and then pointed out that somebody equally could have “there is no god” as a basic belief, so it’s not a particularly useful stand to take if one actually wants to persuade somebody of the veracity of one’s beliefs.

    4. People say that they don’t need evidence, but I can’t help but feel like its a lie. If they really didn’t need evidence, Biblical Archaeologists wouldn’t have been thrashing around Israel constantly looking for evidence of the Bible’s stories for the last century or two. If they really didn’t need evidence, there wouldn’t be people trying desperately to reconcile all the contradictions in the Bible (or even altering it). And they certainly wouldn’t be standing in the way of evolution mounting a counter argument, because evidence doesn’t matter does it?

      It does matter, and I think the lack of evidence, and the need to avoid addressing the counter evidence saps a lot of the creativity and intelligence out of religion.

      1. I think this is a little unfair on Biblical archaeology. Yes, Ben Gurion, shortly after 1948, told his academics to go and dig for the ‘title deeds’ of the Israeli state, referring to King David-era Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula etc. I imagine that Israeli archaeologists are under huge political pressure to come up with some data which confirm ancient Israelite settlement of the land now known as Israel; but to their credit, we have people like Israel Finkelstein who have demystified the Holy Book, suggested later dates for the writing of the Bible and reduced King David to a minor, ineffective warlord.

        The state of Biblical Archaeology, which by the way is a jargon phrase indicating an archaeology which seeks confirmation for the Bible story in the ground, is, thanks to people like I.F., a highly contested one; imagine if there weren’t honest scholars like I.F. around, ones who kowtowed to the Judaic ultra-orthodox. The Israeli state would be thoroughly in the ownership of the religious right.

        There is also the Copenhagen minimalist Biblical school, the Sheffield University academics too, which posits a deep scepticism whether archaeological evidence matches the Biblical history of Ancient Israel and Judah.

        I think of Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated Troy, Mycenae and Tyrins, from what seems to have been the search for money and fame; again dodgy motives, but it is due partially to his work, for instance, that the link was established between Troy and the Hittite empire. Give these archaeologists a break, Sajanas!

    5. Of course, that this particular position – faith being belief without evidence and somehow just as valid as it would be if there were evidence – gained momentum only after many hundreds of years were spent looking for evidence they fully expected to find must surely be a coincidence.

      Not to mention that the bible is full of examples of God interacting with humans on a regular basis – why did God suddenly change his mind about that?

      As is it’s yet another example of the have-cake-and-eat-it mentality of religious believers.

  8. “God spoke to me personally.”

    As a general argument, this was thoroughly demolished centuries ago. It was, iirc, Tom Paine, that firebrand propagandist for the American revolution, who responded (to paraphrase) “How nice for you, but I don’t have to believe your second-hand report.”

    1. Re: God from personal revelation

      Because you can’t convince these folks that their personal revelation isn’t divine, I would ask of them:

      “So if I pray and ask jesus into my heart, and a voice answers, how do I know it’s god?
      What question could I possibly ask to distinguish between god or satan (or an evil spirit) trying to trick me?”

      If they say “you just know”, then relate the story about the beheading on an Alberta bus because “The psychiatrist said that Li performed the attack because God’s voice told him McLean was a force of evil and was about to execute him.”

      If they respond that god wouldn’t ask you to do evil things, you can talk about Abraham being asked to kill his own son, etc.,

      For all these issues, the fundamental question remains:

      “How do you know you’re not being deceived”

      either by the voice in your head, or a priest, or rabbi, or whatever.

      Not oddly at all, it’s also the key question in any scientific investigation.

  9. I have to say that I was “impressed” by the fact that the religious demanded to be allowed to speak or finish while as soon as their waffling “argument” was being trashed by the atheists, they yabbered over the top and wouldn’t let them speak or finish.

    How bloody typical – demanding special treatment.


    1. Even when the atheists were trying to be helpful… 

      No, that’s not what the Big Bang is, so don’t waste breath on completing that argument… 😉


  10. natural selection can’t explain reciprocal altruism

    How is this still an issue? Evolution, being imperfect, often takes shortcuts and suboptimal solutions. Human altruism is like duckling imprinting.

    In both cases, the “perfect” adaptation would come with some kin-detection equipment. But that is difficult to evolve and takes food/energy to maintain. Meanwhile, a variant with no-kin-detection works almost as well in nature, because in 90% of cases the animals you (first) meet are very very likely going to be your kin. So the sloppier, no-kin-detection variant propagated.

  11. Am I being thick or what? If “…natural selection can’t explain reciprocal altruism…”, wouldn’t all altruistic acts be a function of religiosity? Or of some other undefined abstraction?

    In which case, wouldn’t adoptive parents have to be religious? If you were a social worker and a prospective adopter explained that, “God told them to do it,” would you recommend them as parents?

    I think I’d run in the general direction of away.

    1. No. Arguments of this type are intended to argue for a creator, not for religion. The idea is that if you can’t explain altruism via natural selection, it must have gotten there some other way. Therefore goddidit.

      It’s just a “god of the gaps” argument with a little bit different window dressing. The example doesn’t require religion per se, it just requires that there be a force that is directing human development that sits somehow outside nature. And then follow that up with the cognitive leap to say “that sounds like God to me”. Two flawed bits of reasoning wrapped up into a single “argument”.

      (And really – “we can’t explain altruism therefore God”? Is that really what they come up with? The equivalent of Bill O’Reilly saying “tides go in, tides go out, you can’t explain that” is one of their arguments for God?)

      1. That’s really what they come up with…until you point out its flaws. Then they claim it was never one of their main arguments and you should read more serious theology.

        I’d suggest that one way out of this is to ask theogians to present their best argument first, or top three or something. But realistically that will not prevent this argument-shifting behavior. It just makes it more transparent.

  12. Ed Yong, when he was still at Science Blogs, had went over a great study that, essentially, boiled down to:

    For many religious people, the popular question “What would Jesus do?” is essentially the same as “What would I do?” That’s the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

    Psychological studies have found that people are always a tad egocentric when considering other people’s mindsets. They use their own beliefs as a starting point, which colours their final conclusions. Epley found that the same process happens, and then some, when people try and divine the mind of God. Their opinions on God’s attitudes on important social issues closely mirror their own beliefs. If their own attitudes change, so do their perceptions of what God thinks. They even use the same parts of their brain when considering God’s will and their own opinions.

    In short, what God believes and does is nothing more than windowr to the inside of the person who professes the beliefs. Assholes have an asshole God. Nice people have a nice God. Homophobics have a gay–bashing God. Liberal Hippie save the world types have a liberal hippie save the world God.

    Nothing more. Nothing less.

  13. “In fact, the bulk of the “evidence” adduced for God is of the form “He spoke to me personally.””
    That is about schizophrenia, isn’t it ?

    Neuroscience has shown that mind/brain/intellect is aggregating facts and feelings in one’s best way for constructing one’s reality in accordance to one’s belief.

    There is a real jungle in some people brain. Hopefully god is everywhere and sees everything… If god exists I imagine it as a schizoid cynic.

    1. lol. Yes. That would be pretty much the only way to describe an entity with such a contradictory and inhumane pattern of behaviors.

  14. So, why exactly are theists repeating exactly the same debunked nonsense over and over again?

    Are atheists really that bad in presenting debunktion, even to a non-general populace such as was this?

    We should really think what is going on here, if we don’t want to repeat the same stuff in 10 years from now.

    1. Theists always repeat the same debunked nonsense over and over.

      They don’t have any new material to go on because there hasn’t been anything original published in over fifteen hundred years.

    2. It’s simple – they have a morbid fear of rejecting their bullshit and living in a world without their fairytales. Remember that they will be tortured in hell by their loving god if they don’t worship the bastard.

    3. So, why exactly are theists repeating exactly the same debunked nonsense over and over again?

      the arguments are projections.

      the repetition is denial.

      really, these two things explain the vast bulk of it when things like money and power aren’t involved.

      in those cases, it’s just pure, straight out lying for profit.

  15. I think a good counter argument to the altruism argument would be squirrels. Squirrels bury nuts for the winter, and dig up nuts when they need to. It’s almost never the nuts they buried.

    Put altruism in that framework, and yeah, natural selection is a reasonable source.

    1. er, no.

      altruism is only used as a term when there is a cost to individual fitness that is either made up for by kin fitness (direct benefit to relatives), or by the expectation of reciprocation (in which there also have to evolve systems to prevent cheating, too).

      in the case of the squirrel nuts you pose, if it really is random (it’s actually not, IIRC), the squirrels have no expectation of reciprocation, they just find buried nuts at random.

      a better system to look at might be acorn woodpeckers, that use a communal larder.

      even then, it’s still complicated.

      about your squirrel example, you might want to read this:

      for woodpeckers:

      and for the concept of altruism itself as applied to behavioral ecology and evolution, check out some of WD Hamilton’s original work on the subject of altruism and kin selection, or search on the term “Hamilton’s Rule” for a starter on the subject.

  16. I took part in the show. I am the one sitting directly behind Kate, in the brown coat and pink shirt. I left the show very very frustrated after having tried on many occasions to get picked to contribute to the debate. I have got some good counter-arguments against many of the theological humbugerry, that I felt so disappointed not to get in (especially considering that I was at the early morning filming of the live show and tried and failed to join the debate there as well). The BBC’s policy on such shows ought to be reviewed. About 18 months ago, a similar show with exactly the same title was filmed in Peckham, with the same guest speakers (See Youtube). Looks like if you are not already a “media person” or if you have not got an outlandish tale to tell, you will never get a look in. Next time, I am going as a priest of my very own religion.

    1. Make sure to bring a funny hat with you. Real important clergy always get funny hats. A fez with a propeller on top a la Ray Stevens might be a slight give away though.

  17. If God himself showed up at one of these forums, threw some lightning bolts around, perfomed a few miracles, showed me what a soul looked like, etc, I’d allow that as a good starting point, but I would still remain skeptical pending further evidence. So, these nitwits with their word games just aren’t going to cut it. Call me when you have some evidence.

    1. Hey how would you know that it was God who showed up and was throwing around lightning bolts? Could be Zeus. Could be Thor. Hell it could be Satan (or Trelane. or Q.) Proving that a godlike being can exist would be a good starting point, proving that that being is the Christian God would take a lot more effort (for starters, said superbeing would need to have a good answer for the whole “why is there evil if you’re so powerful and loving and good” question. Shrugging his shoulders and saying “I’m a mystery” isn’t going to cut it…)

      1. I don’t know which god, either, if a god at all. Being omniscient and omnipotent wouldn’t be proof of anything but (seemingly) omniscience and omnipotence. It would get my attention, though.

        Maybe that’s where PZ gets his POV. It’s easy to say that I agree that theoretically there is something which might convince me to change my mind, but when push comes to shove, I don’t know what that could possibly be.

        1. Being omniscient and omnipotent wouldn’t be proof of anything but (seemingly) omniscience and omnipotence. It would get my attention, though.

          The problem is that, at best, empirical evidence could only show that a being was very-potent and very-science, and not that it was omni-anything. There is no way to use empirical evidence to “prove” omni-qualities, any more than one can count pebbles to “prove” that there are an infinite number of them.

        2. It gets into Arthur C Clark’s old saw about technology and magic.

          The single biggest problem is that due to the way human brains and human senses work, it would always be easier to fool us than to show a true demonstration.

          1. And that’s pretty much why I still wouldn’t believe it. And why I put “seemingly” in there. The only thing a being like that would prove is limitations on my ability to test properly.

        3. I’ve always held that evidence to convince me of a deity interacting with the world would be easy to provide, and would take exactly the same form as that we use in anthropology to determine if an artifact was made by humans or not.

          first step: find out what humans are capable of doing, and how they can interact with their environment to produce things.

          This gives a likely range of possible actions that could have been used to create things within a certain time period.

          this is only step ONE of course.

          How do we go about determining what humans are capable of doing?

          Why, we ask them. We can directly work with… ourselves… to determine what the possibilities are. Then, using independent evidence of the technology available in a given era, we can make a reasonable and testable hypothesis as to whether discovered artifact “X” was or was not made by a human.

          OK, this being the very first step, to do the same thing for a deity we would need:

          -to be able to communicate directly with this deity to find out what the range of possible actions they can take, and how they can interact with the environment to produce things or processes.

          strangely, I never get any further than that when attempting to apply this to any concept of any deity ever devised.

          so, yeah, I can envision how evidence could be provided for the existence and action of a deity.

          it’s also why I’m extremely confident there aren’t any deities.

  18. I find it extremely annoying how they kept bringing up people on the religious side where some tragedy befell them and religion changed their life. Yet on the atheist side they had no such person, seemingly just a bunch of intellectuals and such. The mere choice of people who debated was itself an emotional argument for the theist side. How biased?! They should have gone out and found someone for whom atheism changed their life, some gay person from a fundamentalist home who accepted themselves because of atheism or something. What rubbish to deliberately present theism as nicer!

    1. Actually, at the end of the video they had Carl Weininger, who had polio and lost a hand in a motorcycle accident, who noted that the one time he asked god for something–the only time in his life–and asked for got to take away his agonizing pain he got nothing. At which point the weird and obstreperous “R. Rev” Stephen Lowe responds saying it is wrong to think of god as an interventionist god (which is really weird, given how much god intervenes in the bible and given how Jesus says if you pray for it you’ll get it)

      1. Yea, I hadn’t gotten that far in the debate yet (was only at Part 3/4). I did see that.

        Still not the same as having an atheist for whom atheists life was changed for the better. Some theists are going to look at this and think here’s all these theists whose lives were bettered by belief, this atheist didn’t get god to help him and now hates god, I think I’ll choose god. That’s not quite what happened, but it would be nice for atheism to be presented as a positive force in people’s lives. To learn science and appreciate the world without god has enriched my life!

  19. The theist strategy was to muddy the waters, nothing more. You ask for evidence, they pretend such a thing shows nothing. You give arguments for the veracity of evidence, they point to mysteries. It’s a shell game, a street-corner cup-shifter could learn a thing or two from that lot.

    One truly specious comment from the theist side was the claim that ‘modern’ faith comports with modern science. My only thought was, “right, well, as soon as you cull the bits that don’t conform, and couch the bits that do in mystery, sure!”

    I was delighted to find that the young man with the stubble and glasses talking origins was a Muslim, because it appears that the same arguments can yield contradictory conclusions(Islam v Christianity). Either conclusion is absurd, but the convergence of two completely incompatible faiths on the same road, in the same buggy, purporting to simultaneously arrive at two separate destinations was just a treat to behold.

    1. The young muslim guy, Adam Deen, is a professional apologist. He gives the impression that he is a convert from evangelical Christianity and has just changed a few words but continues to use all the same arguments that Christian fundamentalists favor.
      Funnily enough he gets some criticism from fellow muslims for two reasons. First they think he is simply plagiarising the arguments of William Lane Craig (who, as a Christian, cannot be trusted) and secondly the Sunni fundamentalists think he is a Shia muslim – and thus an apostate!

      1. Well at one point, he did sound like he was about to launch into the Kalam Cosmological Smokescreen, WLC’s favourite joke in his stand-up routine.

      2. Wait, Muslims give Adam flack for plagiarizing Craig’s plagiarism of an Islamic theologian? Isn’t that like just a reclamation or something?

        That’s just too funny.

  20. Gah. The Priesticist from Oxford proves that even the best schools have their share of fools and idiots. He can’t even refute the muslim guy who asserts that the Big Bang was a “controlled explosion” and his lame excuse is that he’s no expert on the quran. It’s essentially saying “I can’t criticize his bullshit because I’m not an expert on it.”

    As for the Prime Cause, I thought that the notion was shown to be faulty long before I was born. In fact Plato’s Socrates demonstrated that you can always keep asking for another layer of explanations until you arrive at a point where you can no longer come up with an explanation to support the next explanation up. At that point you have either reached the limit of your understanding or perhaps there really is nothing more. The notion that there is nothing more is self-consistent; the Prime Cause notion is self-contradictory (what caused the prime cause). The Prime Cause argument assumes both causality and agency when in reality neither is necessary and it also pretends that there must be an infinite regression in causes until you reach the magical Prime Mover (which you must remember causes things with intent). So adherents of the Prime Cause reject the Big Bang as the origin of the known universe because there is no conscious agency involved – they are compelled to add an unnecessary conscious agency.

    1. “As for the Prime Cause, I thought that the notion was shown to be faulty long before I was born.”

      Wasn’t this addressed by restricting the notion of cause to things “that begin to exist”, the first premise of the Kalam card trick.

      1. Well, that’s the attempt. But what’s the distinction between something that exists and something that begins to exist? Even assuming that there is a distinction between the two, which I simply do not see, a beginning requires a dimension of time, time being a feature of this universe. To suppose that a beginning can operate independently of time would require more work than Craig is capable of quotemining into existence.

        1. It also commits a fallacy of composition: even if any individual part of everything (= the universe) has to be caused into existence (whatever that means exactly) it does not follow the aggregate has that property.

  21. Why can’t the theists keep to the point and answer the questions?
    The idiot in the 3rd video complaining about the ficticious comment is a side show. I thought it was about evidence for god, not respecting christianity and giving it a free and unquestioned ride. It’s like he’s saying you can’t say it’s ficticious because others believe it is true – muppet!

  22. Does god have a deep booming voice when he speaks? Is it clearly a male voice? We look into the well for god and see only our own reflection…. (I stole this from some philosopher, and would be grateful if anyone could name him).

  23. The part I can never get past is that there’s no evidence for ANY of what they’re saying. God operates in this way through that means. (Say, he causes cancer for this or that purpose.) But there is no evidence for that assertion. “Makes sense to me” and “My understanding of the Bible suggests this” and “I just believe it to be true” don’t count as arguments.

    Maybe the Mean Sky Fairy is real, after all, but someone getting cancer hardly seems to make the case. No, not even if the person getting cancer learns a Valuable Lesson™ and becomes a Better Person™.

  24. Here, as in likely any such larger group discussion, there is at least one person named “Mohammed,” or some variation of the spelling.

    In other words, there are a lot of gents named “Mohammed” in the world.

    What if someone lets it slip that he has drawn a cartoon of one these gents: “I have drawn a cartoon of Mohammed.” To keep the dagger-in-the ventricle types at bay, should one prudently add the disclaimer, “not the prophet”?

    What if it’s a circle-and-five sticks illustration?

    What if it’s drawn with invisible ink?

    Or, drawn with a toothpick or the like, with no ink or graphite, but leaving little grooves and the like discernable to the discerning jihadist eye?

    Or, what if it’s a “Find Elmo” drawing? The Islamist can’t get mad unless he can “find Mohammed.” Or what if the artist says it’s a “Find Mohammed” drawing, or merely names it “Find Mohammed,” but Mohammed was never there in the first place to be found?

    It seems a bit inconsistent to get so bent out of shape about a cartoon or portrait in a Danish magazine, yet name all these male children “Mohammed,” which would seem to reduce whatever noble lustre possible adheres to the mellifluous Mohammedan moniker.

  25. Just in case anyone want to know who was taking part (I don’t think all of them got captions, although I was mostly listening rather than watching):

    • the priest and particle physicist, Dr Andrew Pinsent
    • The Times columnist, David Aaronovitch
    • the Muslim thinker, Adam Deen (what kind of qualification is “Muslim thinker”?)
    • leading atheist scientist, Professor Peter Atkins
    • bible scholar, Francesca Stavrakopoulou
    • author, Charles Foster
    • Patsy McKie, founder of Mothers Against Violence
    • former Triad gangster turned Methodist
    Minister, Kim Goh

    … and a couple of others the BBC doesn’t list on its website:
    • Diana Fleischman, evolutionary psychologist
    • …

    Anyone catch the other names?


    1. lolz. Muslim thinker. that’s an awesome title!

      i enjoy running drinking coffee at least 3 times a day so i’d like to be known one day as a 3-coffee a day thinker.

  26. The theists would have been better off to let Andrew Pinsent be the only voice for their side. He didn’t say anything convincing, but at least he wasn’t downright embarrassing like the rest of that motley collection. I wonder how it must feel to have to align oneself with such people.

  27. I once put myself through the grueling task of watching all – yes all of the so called documentary “Darwin’s Dilemma”. I can’t say I would recommend it to any one with an IQ over 90. It dares to prove that certain life forms appeared at exactly 2:00pm on a Tuesday. All this time I thought time and time lines were a construct of humans. Guess that set me straight, I will watch the videos contained within this message, they should be rather amusing.

  28. lol. the Muslim Philosopher was awesome!

    Paraphrasing, “If someone hears a loud bang and everyone asks the question what caused that bang? And someone replies nobody caused that bang, nobody is ever going to accept that as an intelligible response”


    I guess he’d much more like the explanation that goes, If someone hears a loud bang and everyone asks the question what caused that bang? And someone replies an invisible Guy in the sky really caused that bang. That’d be more intelligible to him.

  29. “Pastor Acquoi Karbah explains childhood leukemia as the result of sin that God sees as necessary.”

    We know.
    That’s not an answer.
    It is a restating of the problem.

  30. I went and watched the videos and was struck by the crummy quality of the “evidence” on offer:
    —I had a personal experience relevant only to me and your conflicting interpretations don’t interest me.
    —Evidence?! Who cares about evidence?
    —Being religious makes some people feel good.
    —The Koran says it’s the word of god.
    —Things happen.
    —I have a belief that can be just as true for me as your contradictory belief is for you.

    Of course, I wasn’t expecting anything better, but come on, people.

  31. Proof of God, in the theological sense, is of course a misnomer, a philosophical contrivance to avoid accepting our ignorance of such a reality. As a humanity, we have all been conditioned, seduced or indoctrinated, for all of history by ‘theological’ exegesis, particularly those with their own religious claims and agendas, to accept that a literal proof of God is not possible for faith. And thus all discussion of morality and apologists ‘theodicy’ is contained within this self limiting intellectual paradigm and bubble of presumption, especially evident in the frictions between science and religion. It would now appear that all sides squabbling over the God question, religious, atheist and history itself have it wrong! That bubble could now burst at any time!

    For without in any way questioning evolutionary theory, in fact relying in small part upon it, the first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ is published on the web. Radically different from anything else we know of from history, this new teaching is predicated upon a precise and predefined experience, thus a direct individual intervention into the natural world by omnipotent power to confirm divine will, command and covenant, “correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.” So like it or no, a new religious claim, testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof now exists. Nothing short of a religious revolution is getting under way. More info at

    1. That’s nice.

      Got any…oh, I don’t know…evidence? That the Zombie of Zion really did terrorize Jerusalem a couple millennia ago?

      …’cuz, from where I sit, the whole shootin’ match sure does read like a bunch of tall tales told ’round the campfire in order to keep the kiddies in check.

      Once you’ve established that this Jesus of yours really is real and not just a figment of indigestion, then we can consider the cosmic significance of it all. But we both know that you won’t even bother, because we both know it’s all bullshit, of course….



  32. Watching these videos only saddens me, because of the near impossibility of seeing such a debate, filmed in a US studio, appearing on US television–neither network nor cable nor public television would dare to even contemplate such a thing.

    As the rest of the world creeps forward–often painfully, in fits and starts–we in the US slide inexorably down towards the abyss of superstition and irrelevance.

    1. But then again, you don’t have to endure either Muslim philosophers (is that a conceivable entity?) or Muslim thinkers (now, wrap you mind around that concept!) spouting nonsense by the cartload.

      “Always look at the bright side of liefe.”

    2. But then again, you don’t have to endure either Muslim philosophers (is that a conceivable entity?) or Muslim thinkers (now, wrap you mind around that concept!) spouting nonsense by the cartload.

      “Always look at the bright side of life.”

  33. DRAT! When I attempted to view the videos via the provided link, I was greeted by:
    “This video is no longer available because the YouTube account…has been terminated…due to…third-party notifications of copyright infringement.
    – Listing the BBC as the main

    Any suggestions on how to find them elsewhere?

  34. The programme “Is There Evidence For God?” is episode 2 of series 5 of the BBC1 religion and ethics debates called “The Big Questions”.

    I had hoped to view it on the BBC iPlayer but for some reason or another it isn’t available.

    And it was the BBC themselves that got it removed from YouTube.

  35. The problem with accepting a god of some kind, whether Allah or Jesus or a Unicorn, is that you will have to accept any wacky, sexist/racist/hateful, or irrational rules that come with it which the ruler of the religious state can punish you for (such as Islamic blasphemy or working on the Sabbath).

    So, when you accept this god, all the oppression and hatred has to come with it, and we should all, hand in hand, force any non-religious individuals to participate with us or die.

    This may not happen today in many places, or reach the point where a person has to die, be stoned or burnt or even beheaded. However, it still occurs on the small scale of social relations which also sucks (such as, for example, adopting children in Islam being forbidden).

    1. Alors, ma Baudelairienne athée, this is new to me that Islam forbids adoption. But I think you’ll find that the Prophet himself adopted and, notoriously, indulged in a little spot of incestuous polygamy, by marrying the wife of that poor adopted son. There’s something in this inter-generational incest in the major monotheisms; a Catholic woman, in a sort of mirror-image polyandry, can have 5 fathers – her own father, the priest, il Papa, the Lord Jesus and God the Father. Seems like a bit of over-compensation by the celibate clergy to me.

      Anyway, Islam and adoption; it’s actually a contested point within the religion – some Islamic authorities are willing to go along with adoption; nevertheless, it’s one more example of Steven Weinberg’s dictum about needing religion for a morally normal person to do bad things. Only an ethically paralysed theist could seriously argue against adoption.

      1. a Catholic woman, in a sort of mirror-image polyandry, can have 5 fathers – her own father, the priest, il Papa, the Lord Jesus and God the Father

        You’re leaving out the Holy Spirit, which is the only one of the Trinity who is actually documented to get down with the ladies (although only if they’re virgins).

        1. When I write ‘have’, Tulse, I do not mean the dirty deed.

          But, blime, jiggy-jiggy with a daddy-ghost-dove-love machine; you couldn’t make it up. Oh, I forgot…

      2. Islamic sharia allows a different approach to adoption. It’s to financially (and maybe emotionally) fund an orphan boy or girl. However, they can not stay at your house after the age or maturity and can marry you even though you may have raised them as a mother or a father.

        Or the other way is to marry a widow with fatherless children. This is another side of Islam that only gives credit to men instead of women if they indulge in some gender role or the other. The godly reward in that case, for the adopter/new father is very high, they say.

        So, the orphans will still have to stay at the horrible orphanage (because they are horrible here, unlike other locations and other countries).

        The issue here is, again, private property. If you adopt a son or daughter, they automatically inherit your family name and so become a possession of yours under the name of reproduction and family systems. And so, Islam thought it was very clever and made it forbidden.

        The only issue here is that an adopted child at the age of 11 for girls and 13 for boys(typically), they are no longer allowed to have a normal domestic life in their own homes because then, mixing with the opposite sex is prohibited, even if this person of opposite sex is your foster parent. And so, the children will no longer be allowed to live in the house or inherit the family name even if they want to.

        I still consider it barbaric – to take away a potential home for a teenage child in the name of modesty. Especially if the child himself doesn’t even want to be Muslim or is yet to reach the age of maturity to decide what religion they want.

        1. Interesting, fleurs…. Of course, none of these ideas about property relations entered our minds when my wife and I adopted. Other considerations, which I think you can imagine, came into it.

          However, I asked Carol, when you wrote your first post, whether there were any Muslims in our British adoptive parents’ training group – 18 of us running through issues with Social Workers on the subject of developmental questions in adoptive kids – and she confirmed my impression that there were Muslims in the group. But, we could be wrong.

  36. You should realise that you are making a mistake by accepting the garbage scientists spit out at the people who are godless and have no lives (except for living to ‘disprove’ existence of God, or, rather build their ‘evidence’ upon theories like Darwinian ones
    Etc. These are all (like most other atheistic sciences and ‘evidences’ build
    Upon theories like, for example, the Darwinian theory written by whom but those who later admit that their theories rely, and are built upon, many unsure, unprovable ‘facts’

    1. I think you should look up the definition of “evidence”, “theory” and “fact”. I don’t think they mean what you think they mean.

      Oh, and High School English: I suggest a refresher course on sentence structure.

    2. Notice that all of these so-called unbiased shows are made by the government. This is all for the new world order which about to go into motion soon. Even if you don’t believe me, just wait. It’s only a matter of time before te facts speak for themselves. First, you will see things like vaccines which you are ‘free’ to take or not but it will come to pass that all of you scientists, atheists, pagans, satanists and all those who aren’t or fir God but for the world and evil will have taken power in the world but don’t worry, God will start afresh with the world and you will be, all of you, damned for all eternity for your ignorance towards God, if
      unless ( and I hope you do) turn back to God and ask for forgives for he is an infinite see of mercy (God). But don’t go searching for even the nowadays for even it has been influenced by the devil and and evil (accepting abortion(and endorsing it), altering the holy temples of God; churches, so that it it odeous and meaningless to himand even offensive and directly ignorant to the basic principalities of out , the only valid and pleasing religion to God, the HOly Catholic and Apostolic Church. I suggest that you, all of you, turn to God for the answers you ever-hunger for and find a Tridentine mass where you can worship your Creator and God (Latin turpentine mass: the society of St. Pius X) beforentsntoo late. I hope that you realize the mistake your making and turn to God and don’t waste your lives watching T.V using computers excessively and thinking that this impossible theory that we are just some animal like the rest if the animals. Wake up! Your days on this earth are numbered and unsure. We gave conscience and a soul. This body is only to earn our soul the salvation our Lord wants give him that by going to mass, fulfilling his desires and generally standing back and looking at the big picture. I’m a 15 yearold from Ireland I hope you go to mass at the St. Pius X mass because I’m certainly happy I found the last remnant of Gods people!

      1. Kind Sir,

        How old is the Earth? What is the basis for your answer? Would you care to locate and justify the compassionate design rationality of the reproductive strategy of the Ichneumonidae wasp? Can you justify the design rationality of the circuitous route of the recurrent laryngeal nerve? Do you believe that women should submit to the authority of men?

        Is anything true simply and solely and merely because someone says so?

        Sir, go read Oliver Cromwell’s complete “bowels of Christ” quote.

        There is no one so confident of his opinions as a budding adolescent. Is there anything you would confess to not knowing? I bow in your direction.

  37. This debate is overdue for a shakeup and it’s going to get more than anyone ever imagined or expected. And it supports evolution to boot!

    The first wholly new interpretation for two thousand years of the moral teachings of Christ is published on the web. Radically different from anything else we know of from history, this new teaching is predicated upon a precise, predefined and predictable experience and called ‘the first Resurrection’ in the sense that the Resurrection of Jesus was intended to demonstrate Gods’ willingness to real Himself and intervene directly into the natural world for those obedient to His will, paving the way for access, by faith, to the power of divine transcendence.

    Thus ‘faith’ is the path, the search and discovery of this direct individual intervention into the natural world by omnipotent power to confirm divine will, Law, command and covenant, while “correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.” So like it or no, a new religious teaching, testable by faith, meeting all Enlightenment criteria of evidence based causation and definitive proof now exists. Nothing short of an intellectual, moral and religious revolution is getting under way. To test or not to test, that is the question? More info at,

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