Belief in God: Prohibitive or Liberating? Lawrence Krauss & Uthman Badar | ANU, April 2012


Thanks to Stafford Gordon for the link

Discussion forum held at the ANU, Canberra on 9 April 2012 entitled “Belief in God: Prohibitive or Liberating? “. Dr. Lawrence Krauss and Uthman Badar discuss the following and related questions.

Is belief in God rational or irrational? What role should religion play in our private and public lives? Is science sufficient to make religion redundant? Is the way forward for humanity in the 21st century a return to God or the completion of secularisation process of modernity?


Dr Lawrence Krauss (U.S)
Dr Krauss is an international renowned theorectical physicist. He is Foundation Professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Dept., Co-director, Cosmology Initiative and Director, Origins initiative at Arizona State university. He was visiting Australia to speak at the Atheist Convention in Melbourne. Facebook:

Uthman Badar (Australia)
Uthman is a Muslim activist and public speaker based in Sydney. His areas of expertise and theology, logic, jurisprudence, politics, and economics. He is currently at the University of Western Sydney completing a PhD, and has engaged in many debates and discussion forums with advocates of atheist and secular ideology. Connect with Uthman Badar on Facebook ( and/or Twitter (

Written By: Lawrence M. Krauss
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  1. While I understand that the question is meant as a debate framer, it still sounds silly, especially here, to read the question, “Is belief in God rational or irrational?” And how would it be pondered if the question was, “Is belief in the gods rational or irrational?” Unless it’s the Lords of Kobol as worshipped by the Twelve Colonies. Any religion that lets you look at Kara Thrace is a pretty good one. 

  2. It’s so annoying when moderators inject themselves into the debate. I found this guy quite annoying ( and it appears so did both guests) as the debate progressed. 

    This is the first debate I’ve listened to with Krauss and I have to say, I’m impressed. I see traces of Hitchens in that he is not there to make friends. 

  3. Krauss is really kicking ass in this one!
    A technical comment: with all the brainiacs putting on these lectures, why in Hades can’t they modulate the moderator’s microphone so we can understand what the frack he’s saying? It’s like he’s in a bloody echo chamber, for chrissakes.

  4. I haven’t seen the video (not enough bandwidth here in the sticks).  I can see the value in the question, “Is belief in God (or gods) rational?”  If such belief furthers rational goals, then yes, the choice to believe could be seen as rational, even if the belief itself rests on irrational footing.  Many of my religious friends would fall to pieces without their belief, and so retaining it is the thing to do.  Gods are, after all, mostly means of social control, and so if belief by some results in that control it is rationally deployed if not rationally exercised individually.  This is a different matter from whether such deployment is ethical.


  5. At least it is an example to show that a debate with Muslims is possible, although that may be only true is a few parts of the world. The first two hours of this were not very much fun for me because it was educated double talk on the Muslim side and too much philosophic misstatement by Lawrence on the other, but the last 15 minutes or so are worth it because Lawrence cuts loose and simply trashes religion, much as Hitch would have, for treating adult humans as if we were still children, and for basing that treatment entirely on unsubstantiated revelation.

  6. I’m struggling to put my thoughts to words here about this exchange. I think ultimately, the existence of the debate is more important than the content at this stage of the game with Islam. The conversation is beginning.

    Thank you for saying the things you said, Prof. Krauss.

  7. Have to admire Krauss (& all the other rationalists who debate religios) for their patience and fortitude; I cannot be bothered wasting hours on a foregone conclusion inherent in the title! 

  8. I was more interested in the admissions from both sides rather than previously, repeated statements from each side.  Krause – we can’t explain consciousness, or the big bang (no quantum theory of gravity yet), science can’t make ethical decisions, but only provide information for others to make rationale decisions, science can show what consequences of decisions are, thereby enabling ‘moral’ decisions; the ‘why’ isn’t important, science gives us an understanding about ourselves. Badar – we should accept what we know about the universe as truth, but not necessarily if it’s just ‘possibilities’, philosophy (and religion) provide a framework for science to flourish and give to us answers we don’t yet have.  I wish these discussions (non debates) try to find common ground – I could see a lot of it here, but the focus is on disagreements, not agreements.

  9. I have to laugh when islam claims to be responsible for scientific development.  Science and arts developed in various environments dominated by religious culture. That is not the same as influence or support or derivation.  It is like christians claiming that newtonian mechanics and universal gravitation was directly influenced by xtian philosophy (despite Newton’s pithering with biblical hermeneutics, the churches never laid claim to it).

    Science advanced in sipte of religious inhibition and dogma.  The only possible similarity is that we may conclude that they are both searches for answers but with a significant difference.  Scientific discovery informs our view of reality and the universe whereas religion attempts to map reality to our expectations and beliefs.

  10. “Making friends” is an affordability currency on how much “enemies” are likely and liable to disaffect ones resourcefulness. Friends, to me at least, is a misnomer for market interest per se. Not a single “mentor” (inclusive every family senior and peer ) have I known whose motive is not with money and community market interest, rather than the “Friend” we like to think of as an untouchable descriptive based upon other values. Their perception is and was even more corruptible, or corrupted, than mine, which likely accounts for the collateral damage I, like so many of us (as like minded as I had too long naively remained),  tolerated and endured at the behest of their wantonness to gamble with the suspicion virus per se, far more than anything born of loyalty and virtue. The very concept of Karma revealed itself to me as a poison of human perception, most usually an excuse for excusing the intolerances humanity displays towards itself and the planet and ego grooming rewards to itself as one of those those who hardly deserve the casino jackpots life had to unload to them due their exploitative and fortunate receipts of chaos per se. Natural selection amongst humans, at least, supersedes (ridicules really)  karma and justice in all but those deluded mutations: that dominate in making temporary sense and fixating upon the gaze of sweet revenge ( as equal a poison in most case scenarios) born of willful harms and deliberations to exploit each other in whatever easy way can be concealed. In my understanding of the above, I have few (probably no) peer or reciprocal “friends” (only dependents – which exponentially weakened role I can hardly honour) and even less “would be friends”. However the position of my mind is none negotiable due this, rendering me a complete minus to formulate anything I could do to benefit myself on the utterly corrupted market of “life on Earth”. Que sera! Finally, for the low value it was worth finding this out, masonic and fraternal groupings are on par with all the corruptions natural selection would display in its fights for survival of species down the millennia: more magnified in realtime to us would be winners in lifes cheap meme pools of nostalgias and emotive indulgences. The so called preoccupations most have with the so called poetry and theatre of all this hardly holds my gaze for a second thought. The irony is as close to hilarity as pain can get and cares not a jot. So goes the carousel; and the organ grinding on! Belief: that liberates those desirous of delusions and prohibits the fighters of truth; the naturally selected lies of all humanity for their carnivorous survival upon the herbivores of truisms.

  11. Why do Muslims choose to live in Christian nations rather than in one of their Sharia paradises?

  12. I couldn’t bear to listen to the Muslim blather on about faith, but found in general that Krauss’ presentation was strong. And towards the end, where he is less worried about offending anyone, he argues well and clearly. I kept wondering what the Muslims in the audience were thinking.

    But even if few were swayed one way or another on that particular day, I think it is critical that religious people be exposed to arguments like these. For some, it may have been the first time their myths were ever questioned, and surely the bricks in the walls get chipped.

    But most of all, I appreciated Krauss’ defense of ridicule.

  13. Clearly there are two worlds living on the same planet, thankfully we have Lawrence in ours!

  14. It is always interesting to hear Lawrence Krauss. But before a discussion about “liberating” and “prohibitive” they should define what those words mean. Now I spent an an hour and a half before finding out that to an islamic intellectual, the word “liberating” actually means having strict rules and following them to the letter so life is better. It seems Krauss realized that too since he seemed quite frustrated by the end of the video.

    There is no common intellectual ground for a rational person and a theist. Theology is just too crazy, too Orwellian. Oppression is liberation. Slavery is freedom. Ignorance is wisdom. Hate is love. Death is life. Truths are lies and lies are truths. It’s all a sophisticated art of more or less complicated rhetorics in order to maintain a certain order and hierarchy in the society. All a secular rationalist can do is try to get along and talk about the weather, reasoning is useless.

    I respect Krauss for having the patience, since a conversation about reality with an islamic pundit is at best like talking to a scholar brought by a time machine from a medieval university. But it’s good that some rational people have the patience, because while rational arguments will never shake the opponent, they may convince some of the listeners and fence sitters.

  15. Two reasons: they want the benefits without doing the work, and their stated purpose is to take over by outbreeding us.

  16. It depends on what you want.

    If you want to feel as though you are the centre of the universe; not take any responsibility for the actions in your life and how they affect the lives of others and do not wish to have any real chance at maybe knowing some truths about reality, then religion is liberating.

    If you want to feel like a small insignificant part of the universe, realize you are responsible for your actions in your life and how they affect the lives of other people and wish to have a real chance at maybe knowing some truths about reality, then religion is prohibitive.

  17. His name is Krauss, not Krause. 

    After saying you were interested in the admissions from both men, you went on to list various admissions by Krauss and then once you had come to Badar, you included as ‘admissions’ the ideas that religion provides a framework for science to flourish in, and that ‘possibilities’ don’t have to be accepted as true. The fact that science only works in possibilities was thus invalidated in a single sentence. In what sense were these admissions?

    And why would you want to find common ground with someone who believes such stupid things? So you can get a nice warm, fuzzy feeling inside? Surely finding common ground with an ignorant fool is reason to worry rather than rejoice.

  18. If anyone has struggled through all 2 hours 20 mins of this (like I
    nearly have) then you will certainly have time for a hour of this:….

    Thanks to All About Meme for putting me on to this on another thread.

    PS As you can see, I’m struggluing with this new format! How do you do links?

  19. The debate merely reminded me of why Richard Dawkins doesn’t debate people like William Lane Craig. Because it gives them a degree of ‘respectability’ they don’t deserve.

    It’s tempting to try and see these debates as an outreach of science endeavouring to introduce rationality to those blinded by faith. But of course, it is nothing of the sort. The fact that Krauss might disagree with everything the Muslim speakers say is irrelevant to them. What matters to them is that he is there at all.

    It matters to them because the mere fact that a scientist showed up….regardles of whether he scorned their belief system… seen by the Muslims as indicating that they have a stance worthy of serious debate. The Muslim perspective is that if they didn’t have a worthy position then scientists like Krauss wouldn’t be arguing with them !

    Thus what we might see as a resounding defeat for woefully pathetic Islamic arguments will simply end up being cherry picked into litte sound bites on Utube under headings like ‘Krauss Agrees With Muslims’…….as there was actually a sentence where Krauss did agree with something. That is the sort of mentality one is really dealing with here.

  20. First of all: wow; Premiseless. Congratulations! You seem to have surpassed your previous levels of obscurantism. I really have no idea what you wrote.

    On another note: Krauss seriously ought not to “debate” people like this guy. It looks far better for him, Badar, does it does for Krauss. Bader really had nothing of interest to say, as is wont of most religious people.

  21. I was particularly moved by the point Krauss makes at 57:30 about being proven wrong as being a source of liberation. I have had such moments in my life and they are indeed wonderful, enlightening and liberating.

    I also couldn’t help but notice Krauss appears much more pugnacious here than I’ve ever witnessed him to be. I suspect he’s channeling some of the late great Hitchens, which is just plain awesome!

  22. Yes, Vorlund, I tend to laugh at that as well. When I stop laughing, I ask them why that scientific development stopped? I ask them how it could possibly have continued when it got to the point of revealing the scientific errors in there scriptures? How could they allow telescopes to be developed when such (tools of the Devil) let people see that Mo has not split the Moon, and that Jupiter had moons of its own that did not go around the Earth (which was, also, not flat and did not have “four corners”). Let’s not even get started on the what would have happened to a Muslim Darwin …

  23. Need to thread the Disqus comments.  We can’t see who’s replying to whom.

    Krauss was a little rough around the edges, but I think that comes with debate practice.  A lot of Hitchens’s polish came from preparation and practice.  Yes he was a quick wit, but 90% of it was knowing ahead of time what the opponent would say, and preparing how he would respond.  I do think he should take Dawkins’s approach of only debating people with some solid credentials.

    I did appreciate, as The Hitch would put it, Krauss’s vinegar.

  24. Was the motion a serious question? Is mine now?

    Lawrence Krauss absolutely panned their religion but it seemed to be like water of ducks backs; it figures, where there’s no sense there’s no feeling.

    What never fails to irritate me is the manner in which religious leaders present themselves as panjandrums; the presumptuous arrogance of the man, to start giving forth on QED in the presence of Lawrence Krauss!

  25.  The point to remember is that these panjandrums (with a little button up top, etc etc) are storytellers; a concrete understanding of reality has no relevance to their themes. When I hear their cajoling “Let’s be reasonable!” I automatically translate that as “Hey, I’m telling a story here. Play along and don’t ruin it with facts.”

  26. Further to my last: Notwithstanding all the rest of these kinds of exchanges I’ve subjected myself to witnessing over the years, this one takes the cake. Islam is hands down and by far, the worst, self serving, tripe based ideology, of the lot. And like Professor Krauss, I feel sorry for its adherents.

    And as far as the numbers game is concerned, it’s totally irrelevent how many Muslims there are; at one time everyone thought the sun orbited the earth, and everyone was wrong!

    Well, at least one clever Greek cottoned on to the truth, but he did so because he was a clever bastard; but then it was forgotten, and was re-discovered a lot later.

    Islam has been putting the kibosh on knowledge for a thousand years and now doesn’t have a clue about anything. 

  27. Are limits being placed on my capacity to like comments or is this just a glitch in my browser?

  28. This is like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Horribly one sided! Dr Krauss kills this guy with every sentence, every word.

    “That’s why I do physics, ’cause it’s easy.”

    This is the mind you’re up against Islam. You have no chance.

  29. ” Bad Christian experience from middle ages ” he said?  Like my life in Middle East was any better because of the Islam? What is he talking about?

  30. This maybe like dog fighting, but Uthman Badar should debate William Lane Craig on whose god is biggest. 

  31. There is a point in there I thought an unconquered peak: in which an audience member retorted they would kill their neighbour were it not for some  “placebo” preventing them from doing so.

    Krauss responded ,”I feel sorry for you.”

    Which I interpret to be about how Krauss thinks this individual thinks and reasons per se and what emotions they cultivate in order to motivate the way they regularly think and refuel. I have heard people from all corners recommending hatreds in some kind of way or other, beyond the scope of ideas and directed at individuals without relent. I personally wonder at what point we are in the territory of the religious and their emotional preoccupations whenever this feature is the main focus. At what point does the rational venture into theistic hell fire territory as motive for its intent?

    Are we to register human emotions (especially negative ones) as of rational value? Can it be done even? Or are we in denial of excusing ourselves such regular indulgences? When does emotion breach reason and become personal belief? Can the chaos we live amongst even help us to know this or are we, in different measure, prone to deceive each other in exploitation of our emotional indulgences, as have the religious down the ages?

    I’d really like to understand the place of anger and hatred in the human per se. from the perspective of freethinking and rationality, unpolluted by theisms poisons; but I’m not sure if this is as viable as arguing against mythological belief per se, though I think it critical to how theism grew so monstrous!

  32. In the first second of Uthman Badar’s opening remarks he shows subservience (the opposite of liberation) by praising god for being merciful, which, (if he exists) he is clearly not – for most animals and humans in many parts of the world that he supposes was made by god, life is a hard grind to an early death, characteristic of an evolving environment.

    Excuse me if I don’t bother with the next 2 1/4 hours.

  33. I have seen some of these debates where the religious person would make cosmological arguments, but then imply whatever they have to say somehow matches with a particular scripture. By doing it that way, they obscure that they have no arguments leading from their  cosmological claims or some other “math god” ideas intended to have appeal to intelligent people to whatever fairytale scripture they believe to be true. The link remains unexplained and stays under the radar most of the time. The non-believer usually plays along with the game by only rebutting their original arguments, but often leave the implication (physics — fairytale) link alone. 

    But you could mount a rebuttal very differently, by side stepping their trick, thereby regaining interpretational souvereignity. Their argument in essence always comes down to this:
    “Supernatural must have caused the Natural.”

    In more detail: “We have this conceptual box called ‘nature’ and we have no idea where it came from. We assume that inside this box, cause-and-effect and other intuitive laws govern everything (cause and effect are also good for storytellers). Now, since each cause must be caused, we end somewhere. And since the box ‘nature’ is there, we now need another box outside of the ‘nature’ box, so that it can cause the ‘nature’ box. Therefore we need a new box called ‘supernature’ to have brought us the ‘nature’ box. Since the supernature box is different, we can attribute all kinds of laws and rules to it we need and find convenient to sell our ideas. 

    By rephrasing it like that, it becomes apparent even more that they have no clue whatsoever what exactly is within the “supernatural” category and they can simply sneak in whatever they like. A muslim claims it must be Allah, a christian claims its their biblical god and so forth. And I think this should be challenged even more than trying to give the impression as if they actually have any evidence of their fairytales (and by talking physics, this creates the impression).

    Krauss and other should therefore restate their argment first.

    “So you say God must have created the natural, but I say it’s not one god, but two of them … wait, three gods must have created the cosmos! Wait… I have a new idea, FOUR gods, four of them, have created everything … [keep going as you see fit]

    I conclude, what you essentially say is that an arbitrary category called ‘supernatural’ must have created the natural and you use this new category to invent all kinds of things so that your scriptures work. But you have no argument why your particular myth should be true. We already know that the scripture isn’t factually true. And if you claim the scripture was inspired in some sense, and is merely meant symbolical (whatever that means); you are in competition with myriads of other mytholgoies that are equally symbolically and could have been inspired in the very same sense. So you essentially have nothing compelling to offer at all.”

  34. Well, I listened to the whole thing. Badar was unintelligible much of the time, even when I could hear what he was saying. His points were prepared and rehearsed, yet devoid of content beyond the simple variations on the theme of ‘we know that God exists because our prophet told us so’

    However many times Krauss highlighted the stupidity of Islam, and it was many; Badar seemed unconcerned.

    Krauss was brilliant, engaging, witty, and wasted on this crowd.

    Badar was persistent, determined, and yet too dim to realize he was not just defeated, he was eviscerated.

  35.  That’s true, but it’s becoming more and more evident that EVEN the cosmological argument, and the infinite regression arguments are losing ground.

    First of all, Krauss didn’t go in depth probably because of the audience preparation, but he’s the one that demonstrated that — very probably — the space in which the universe expands is flat and infinite, and that the big bang was not a singularity that created time, but happened through an infinite time. 

    Secondly the cause-effect principle itself is showing some weakness; for instance, at quantum level we see inversions in this principle that are fairly counter-intuitive. And just consider Democritus and its definition of the A-tomos; it’s just logical that dividing things you’ll end up to a point where you can’t divide anymore. Logical, but wrong — now we do know that we can go down to explore space and matter to a point where you  find no space and no matter at all. In a certain defined point in space there’s nothing. Taken at certain precise time, the universe *is* nothing. So, the principles we held true since ancient times, because they were suggested by our senses, are fundamentally wrong, at least at a certain scale that DO matter to define the nature universe.

    When you point the missing link (prime cause – fairytale) they can always say that their fairytale was revealed and “tested” through times (miracles, witnesses, you name it), while you’re making up a new untested fairytale right now. But when you point out that we have discovered -for a fact- (starting around 1920 and practically a scientific truth now) that both the infinite regression and the cause-effect principles aren’t universal then the prime argument for a “creation event” is lost. They can just hope that the audience is not mature enough to understand this, but that won’t last for long.

  36. Anyone notice the creepy patch on that guy’s jacket? Saw a cross and what looked like a snake. I can only imagine it’s some stupid snake worshiping Jesus cult. I hope they like to actually handle them, though. That’s when natural selection becomes a crucial factor. Like Lawrence said, it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, reality says snake venom kills you, no matter what your silly ass believes. That is unless reality says you have serum on hand, or a helicopter.

  37. The best possible outcome for this event is that Krauss is improving his skills for more worthy apponents. The loss of Hitchens is hard to fill but Krauss has the mind and spine to be a rational voice. He needs his presentation skill to improve and he’s very much on his way with his ‘rational passion’ with these so-called experts but I have to agree, this is not the way to go.This level of debate lowers the bar rather than raising it.

  38. This debate shows why Richard Dawkins decline these kinds of debates. I could not make any sense of any of arguments Uthman Badar put forward.

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