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(generated from captions) in their orange suits, So, next time you see these heroes you know they're just like you, doing extraordinary things. ordinary people of the stuff you see on TV, If you're feeling upset by any talk to an adult about it. that might help on our website. We've got some info It's at: We'll see you next time. Closed Captions by CSI This Program is Captioned Live # Theme music I'm Waleed Aly. Hi there, welcome to Big Ideas. the biggest question of all - On the show today, what is possibly Is there a God? American based Christian organisation The Fixed Point Foundation is an around faith and culture. dedicated to exploring the big ideas In recent years it's set up debates of the Christian faith with outspoken critics and Richard Dawkins including Christopher Hitchens came to Melbourne, and when Fixed Point they staged a feisty bout and atheist Peter Singer between Australian bio-ethicist and Christian John Lennox. and Oxford maths professor polite and peaceful, While the event stayed

intellectual punches thrown. there were some heavy church and its policy on condoms Singer cites the Roman Catholic loss of lives from AIDS and the resulting not to believe in God, as a good reason while Lennox says Communist Russia godless can be just as disastrous. proved that being deliberately recent book, The Life You Can Save, As a Christian, I find Peter's to live consistently a personal challenge with the ethic of care for others by Jesus Christ. as taught and embodied that Peter not only approves of, An ethic but seeks impressively to follow. It is very sobering. And I recommend his book. that I share his concern. I also have in common with him

inhumane treatment of animals. to stop the inhuman, I do not share all of his views -

on infanticide and euthanasia, particularly those I sense a consistency although, on these issues to the logical conclusion in taking his atheistic world-view that nature suggested it had. Ethics depends on values dependent on world-view and values are certainly, in part, that I hold to be false. and it is that atheistic world-view ladies and gentlemen, For I am convinced, that there is a god - the God who is the subject more precisely, of the opening sentence of the Bible. the heavens and the earth.' 'In the beginning God created is not blind I claim further that my faith in him but is rational and evidence based, rather like my science. science points toward God. Indeed, in my view, And in a moment I shall start there since it's so often assumed today in God impossible. that science has made belief and reasonable of me to point out But it would only be fair Christianity was through my parents, that my first contact with from a robust Christian faith whose ethical integrity springing and tangible evidence was my first credible that Christianity was true. without being sectarian. I might add that they were Christians as no doubt some of you will guess. I happen to be from Northern Ireland,

allow me to think and give me space. And my parents loved me enough to led me to my science. And that is what eventually science for a moment, So let's think about Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and the door of the famous stands a great mandate for a search, James Clerk Maxwell, put there by that Scottish genius as second only to Newton. who is ranked by Einstein It comes from the Hebrew Bible. studied by all who delight in them.' 'Great are works of the Lord, conviction that there is one god It was put there because the of the world affirms the unity and coherence in the 16th and 17th centuries. and it gave rise to modern science As CS Lewis put it - because they expected law in nature 'Men became scientific and they expected law in nature in an all-giver. because they believed historians, Edwin Judge, One of Australia's most distinguished puts it this way - the biblical doctrine of creation 'Christianity, or, above all, methodology of modern science. is itself the creator of the anymore, We don't hold the Greeks' perspective keep looking back to it in spite of the fact that people as the origin of science. It is not the origin of science.' believe in a god of the gaps - The pioneers of science did not therefore God did it.' 'I can't explain it, law of gravitation he didn't say, When Newton discovered his I don't need God.' 'Now I know how it works, in the history of science, No, he wrote the most famous book The Principia Mathematica, help a thinking person expressing the hope that it would to believe in God. that we can do science, And it's not only the fact

that point toward God. but the results of science God' wrote the ancient Hebrew poet, 'The heavens declare the glory of

studying those same heavens, and in recent years, just through the delicate balance, we have become aware of of the fundamental forces of nature the so-called fine tuning for life to be possible. that's necessary who won the Nobel Prize for physics, Arno Penzias, to a unique event, said 'Astronomy leads us out of nothing, a universe which was created one with a very delicate balance conditions required to permit life, needed to provide exactly the right one might say supernatural, plan. and one which has an underlying, But it goes deeper than that. in the importance of reason Peter and I clearly share a belief of science and ethics. in our respective disciplines on what evidence And the question arises - in human reason? do we base our faith Every scientist, for instance, intelligible to the human mind. assumes that the universe is amazed by this, and he said And Einstein was clever enough to be

about the universe 'The only incomprehensible thing is that it is comprehensible.' that a mathematical equation How can it be of a mathematician thought up in the mind workings of the universe out there? can correspond to the

Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner effectiveness of mathematics.' described this as 'the unreasonable What then is the justification

for assuming that human reason is reliable? At this point, the irony of the atheist position becomes apparent, for my atheist friends in Oxford tell me that the driving force of evolution, which eventually produced our human cognitive faculties, reason included, was not primarily concerned with truth at all, but with survival. And we all know what has happened, and still happens very often to truth when individuals or commercial enterprises or nations motivated perhaps by their selfish genes, feel themselves threatened and struggle for survival. Moreover, it appears to me that atheists are obliged to regard thought

as some kind of neuro-physiological phenomenon. Now, from an evolutionary perspective, the neuro-physiology might well be adaptive, but why would one think for a moment that the beliefs generated by it should be mostly true? After all as the chemist J.B.S Haldane pointed out long ago, 'If the thoughts in my mind are just the motions of atoms in my brain, a mechanism that has arisen by mindless, unguided processes, why should I believe anything it tells me,

including the fact that it is made of atoms?' Atheist John Gray spells out the implications of this view. 'Modern humanism is the faith that through science that humankind can know the truth and so be free.' But if Darwin's theory of natural selection is true, this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. And yet my atheist friends still insist that it is rational for them to believe that the evolution of human reason was not directed for the purpose of discovering truth, and yet they say that it is irrational for me to believe that human reason was designed and created by God

to enable us to understand and believe the truth. Where is the sense in that? And I believe American philosopher Alvin Plantinga gets to the heart of this. 'If atheists are right,' he says 'that we are the product of mindless, unguided natural processes, then they have given us strong reason to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties, and therefore inevitably to doubt the validity of any belief that they produce, including their atheism. Their biology and their belief in naturalism would, therefore, appear to be at war with each other in a conflict that is nothing at all to do with God. That is, atheism, by its reductionism, undermines the foundations of the very rationality that is needed to construct or understand or believe in any kind of argument whatsoever, including scientific and ethical arguments. There's clearly something wrong here,

and I suggest it is the fundamental assumption on which atheism is based. And that is that ultimate reality is impersonal mass energy and all the rest, including mind and intelligence, is derivative. So that atheism is forced to derive the rational from the irrational.

By contrast, Biblical theism teaches the exact opposite. It starts by asserting that ultimate reality is personal and intelligent. In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God. All things came to be through him. So, God is primary and eternal, it is matter and energy that are derivative. God is a person, not a theory. Human beings reflect his image and that is why science can be done.

That makes sense to me as a scientist. Whereas atheism does not. However there's more to God than intelligence. The existence of God, I argue, gives coherence to the notion of rationality, in particular makes possible the ethical reasoning that is rightly so important to Peter Singer. Now, I agree with you, Peter, that ethical concern and behaviour does not itself require religious belief. After all, you are yourself an impressive example of this. But that's exactly what I'd expect to find, since in my view, whether or not human beings believe in God, they are created in his image as moral persons with consciences. However, just as rationality can be used but cannot ultimately be explained without God, the same is true of morality. Again, I would cite history. For just as modern science sprang from Judeo-Christian roots, so did the concept of human equality that lies at the base of Western society. Atheist thinker Jurgen Habermas writes, 'Universalistic egalitarianism from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life and solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, humans rights and democracy is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.'

Everything else, he says, is just idle, post-modern talk. The value of a human being, on which such egalitarianism is based, consists not in what she can do, but in what she is. Made in God's image.

My Russian friends - how often have they said to me 'We thought we could abolish God and retain the value for human beings, we couldn't. We abolished God and we destroyed millions of human beings.'

I would suggest if you do away with God, you ultimately do away with human freedom because you are left with a mindless, unguided process that somehow threw humans up in its endless lottery to exist without ultimate hope for a tiny moment, only to be crushed by the same blind forces that produced them. Some freedom, that. And atheist John Gray says about the more vocal new atheists, like Richard Dawkins, 'They defend liberal freedoms without asking where they come from.' After all, as Nietzsche clearly saw, if there's no eternal base for values external to humanity, how can any of our moral standards be anything but limited human conventions, ultimately meaningless products of a blind, unguided evolutionary process. And, Peter, I find your recent writings fascinating because although I understand you to believe we are here by chance, in the preface of the third edition of Practical Ethics, you suggest that there may well be objective ethical truths that are independent of what anyone desires. That sounds to be increasingly consistent with my own position, and yet, to be fair to you, the Guardian Report of Oxford Conference recently says 'Nevertheless, Peter is no more inclined to belief in God, though he did admit that there is a sense in which he regrets not doing so as that is the only way to provide a complete answer to the question

'Why act morally?' Only faith in a good god finally secures the conviction that living morally coincides with living well. I look forward to exploring the reasons, Peter, why you feel you cannot take that step. Now, science, as marvellous as it is, has its limits.

why you feel you cannot take that step. And so I come to another piece of evidence, and that is Revelation in the Bible. I claim that God has spoken to this world, and in particular

the biblical analysis of the problems with humanity - not simply in horizontal terms of behavioural breakdown between people but of a vertical breakdown of a relationship of trust in the creator. Its unique solution to that problem, not in terms simply of human ethical development,

but in terms of something far deeper altogether. The restoration of the fractured relationship with God through the salvation he has brought through Jesus Christ. A relationship that brings a power to live ethically for God. And here we reach what, for me, is the chief evidence, not only for the existence but the nature of God. It was Jesus Christ who not only taught the golden rule, but embodied it. He fed the hungry, healed the sick and suffering, welcomed society's outcasts, brought forgiveness and peace and new life to the lives of multi-millions. He is able to do this because though he was a man,

he uniquely was never only a man, but God become human, come to be the saviour of the world. This is the central claim of the gospels -

the word became flesh and dwelt among us. And he made statements consonant with this. 'I and the father are one', 'Before Abraham was, I am.' 'I am the truth.' Now, these are staggering claims,

but we need to pause and reflect that the nature of the physical universe is staggeringly complex - we don't even know what energy is. So we should not be surprised that these far deeper realities are even more complex. And just as we believe in our deep physical theories because of evidence, my conviction that Jesus is the son of God is based on the fact of his historical resurrection from the dead that launched Christianity in the world. This is, of course, the crunch issue - if he rose from the dead, death is not the end and atheism is false. If Jesus did not rise from the dead Christianity is false. Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I find Christianity intensely stimulating. But as I read the Bible I do not only find intellectual satisfaction, I sense the voice of God speaking to me. This is intensely personal,

but I've been asked what evidence counts for me and this is an essential part of it. I am not only convinced that there is a God, I have increasingly learnt to trust him and I've strong reasons for doing so. After all, Christ died and rose for me and that generates in me a deep sense of utterly unmerited forgiveness, acceptance and peace that enables me to face the ugly side of my own nature and, with God's help, do something about it.

I have found in him a profound resource when facing life's perplexities, uncertainties and hard problems.

And to sum up, it is my relationship with God through Christ that in the end is the supreme evidence that God is real that fills my life with meaning and sense

and permeates my marriage, family life, work and rest. Time... And I deserve none of it. I would find it very hard, ladies and gentlemen, not to trust a god like that. Thank you. (Applause) Professor Singer, your opening statement. Thank you very much and I want to thank you, Larry, for organising this event, for this time coming to my home town, as I still think of Melbourne and John Lennox too for joining me here and I'm very glad that you at least got to see a football match. Whatever else happens you'll have learnt something from this visit. (Chuckles) And I want to thank you, John, too, of course, for your remarks and the spirit in which you've given them. So, let me begin with the reasons why I do not believe in God. I suppose you could say there is, um, there is at least one positive reason why I don't believe in God and two negative reasons. The positive reason is the one that was reputed to have been uttered by Laplace when the Emperor Napoleon asked him where God figured in his account of the cosmos. And Laplace famously replied, 'I had no need of that hypothesis.' In other words, to Laplace the universe was sufficiently explicable without positing a God or at least no more explicable if we do posit one so why do so?

And that, despite some of the things that John has said in his remarks

which I will come to either later now or in rebuttal is still the case. We do not need to believe in God in order to explain the universe and belief in God does not really help us to explain it. We do not need to believe in God in order to explain the universe Why do people believe in God? Well, I'm asking that as a philosophical question rather than a psychological question -

there may be some psychological needs for people to believe in God but looking at that more as a philosophical question we could say that in the Christian tradition, particularly in medieval times, the tradition attempted to develop rational arguments for the existence of God. And to some extent that still exists among Roman Catholic circles. I'll mention three of those famous arguments - there was the first cause argument - that you need to believe in God to answer the question what caused the universe to exist. The answer is, of course, God created it which John says he believes. We're talking about the biblical God, the God who is supposed to have created the world. Secondly the ontological argument which works from the definition of God

as a being with all the perfections, and thirdly the argument from design - that the world shows signs of having been designed by a god. Let me briefly look at these. The first cause argument is sometimes today resurrected

as something that is compatible with science because people sometimes say 'Haven't we learnt through science that the universe began with a Big Bang, that it began around 13 billion years ago.' John, I think, said that it was created from nothing or he quoted a scientist saying it was created from nothing and how could that happen, how can you create something from nothing? Doesn't that suggest that there has to be a god? But I think scientists are guilty of sowing a great deal of confusion when they use the word 'universe' in statements such as the universe began 13 billion years ago with a Big Bang. If you actually tackle a physicist who studies this issue and ask 'What do you really mean by the universe in that statement?' they will tell you, if they're honest, that what they're talking about is the observable universe or the known universe. The universe that we can observe

with our telescopes and all the devices we have seems to have begun from some kind of bang, if you like, development, about 13 billion years ago and to have been expanding ever since. But if you ask the scientists, 'Well, do we know that it began from nothing,'

they will answer, 'No, we don't know that at all. We can't observe anything before the Big Bang.' So any statements about what the situation was

before the Big Bang are not scientific statements. They are statements perhaps of religious faith or belief. So it may well be that the universe, for example, has been constantly oscillating, been constantly expanding and then collapsing

and then expanding again and that it's been doing that forever, for infinite time. That's perfectly compatible with everything that science can tell us. So we don't need a god to explain the beginning of the universe - the universe may have always existed. And indeed, if we think that - as the first-cause argument runs everything has to have a first cause - then of course that argument applies to God as well. If we're allowed to say God needs no first cause, then we ought to be allowed to say the universe needs no first cause.

The ontological argument, briefly stated, is that we define God as a being who has all of the perfections, all of the possible perfections. That means a god who is supremely whatever qualities you can think of as being perfect - beautiful, wise, good, powerful and so on. But then it's claimed that if this god did not exist, that would be a failing, that would be a lack. So this perfect being would lack something, namely existence, therefore God must exist. Well, very, very few philosophers nowadays believe that argument. If it sounded to you like some kind of conjuring trick, getting the existence of God out of a mere definition, I think your instinct was right.

I believe that Alvin Plantinga, who John cited a while ago, is one of the very few philosophers who thinks that that argument does have some merit but I certainly don't. Existence is not an attribute in the same way that power, or beauty or wisdom or goodness are attributes and it's a simple confusion to think that you can define a being into existence that way. Thirdly, the argument from design was once quite a powerful argument. It's the watchmaker's argument. Richard Dawkins has a book, The Blind Watchmaker, that says, well, if things happen by evolution, how could they all fit together so well? It seems like everything works well in the universe. There were signs of things having been designed - certainly people in the past thought that animals were created for us to eat and for us to wear their skins and they pointed to other things in nature like the fact that if water did not expand when it froze then ponds would freeze solid and fish would die and so on. There are things that people regarded as being beautifully designed, including our own organs and the organs of animals which seem to have certain functions and purposes. But, of course, now that we understand the Darwinian theory of evolution, that argument has fallen into disrepute. We understand much better how it is that we have certain organs, how it is that beings exist, that they have evolved over barely imaginable periods of time. Only those that were indeed adapted to their environment and could survive and reproduce left descendents that are still with us

and I think the fossil record now shows that and more recently our understanding of genetics shows our own biological relationship with very simple organisms, including bacteria, with whom we share some genes and then progressively we share more genes

with beings more like us until we get up to the great apes, chimpanzees, with whom we share something like 98% of our genes. So I think evolution

is one of the most firmly established scientific theories with a huge amount of evidence for it and we don't therefore need the argument from design So the arguments for the existence of God seem to me to be not strong. Now, interestingly in the Protestant tradition, those arguments fell into disrepute quite a long time ago and so Protestants began to disavow the arguments and say, 'What really matters is faith.' But what is faith? Faith is really just believing in something for which you have neither rational arguments, nor good evidence. I know that John is a mathematician by training, so I'm sure he's familiar with the 19th century mathematician and philosopher William Clifford,

who wrote a very nice essay about faith, using as an analogy a ship owner who was about to send to sea a ship full of immigrants. We can imagine they were coming to Australia, if you like, since many immigrants did set sail from England in the 19th century for Australia. And as we know, of course, you only have to go down to the Great Ocean Road and you find many places where some of those ships foundered and sank with great loss of life, for example around Loch Ard. But this ship owner that Clifford imagines, is uncertain whether his ship is seaworthy enough to make the long voyage to bring the immigrants to the new land. But he thinks about it and he says, 'Well, look, after all there's a divine providence. And how could a divine providence allow these good people who are going to establish their futures, men, women and children even, who are, at least the children, innocent of any sin, how could he allow them to drown on the way to the new world? So, I will have faith in God, and I will not bother to inspect the ship to see whether it's seaworthy,

because I have faith that it will reach Australia.' Well, of course, as I say, we know that some ships did not. And we would fault this ship owner and say, 'You can't just have faith in that way, you need to check the evidence, you need to look at it.' The ship owner's faith would have put lives at risk and unfortunately in the real world today, faith also puts lives at risk. In fact, the refusal of the Roman Catholic Church to tolerate the use of condoms, even in regions of sub-Saharan Africa where the risk of contracting HIV AIDs is extremely high,

has undoubtedly not merely put lives at risk, but cost perhaps millions of innocent human lives. We pay a high price for the religious faith of some religious leaders. So, I don't think the arguments for God are good, and I don't think we should rely on faith to replace arguments. But I have two arguments against belief in the God of the Bible. The first argument is that although we may live in a society in which most religious believers are Christians or, since we're talking about the God of the Bible, let's group together Christians and those of the Jewish faith -

most religious believers here come from one of those two religions and if we want to broaden this to the Abrahamic traditions, we can include Muslims as well. We know as a matter of sociological fact that if they had been brought up in other cultures with different religious beliefs, let's say in India, they would have been much more likely to be Hindus. Or if they had been brought up in Islamic countries, the Christians and Jews would have been much more likely to be Muslims. So, there's a kind of relativism about religious belief that should at least lead us to a skeptical attitude towards it. Is it just a coincidence that John is a Christian when his parents were Christians? It's surely not just a coincidence, it's surely that cultural tradition which made it easier for him to accept that belief, although of course, children of many Christians do abandon their belief. But I think that should at least make us critical about those traditions. But the second negative argument seems to me much the stronger one, and this is that if we're talking about the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition, that God is standardly defined as a being who is all knowing, all powerful and all good. Omnipotent, omniscient and omni-benevolent. And yet there is suffering in the world. How could there be suffering in the world if there were a God who knew about this suffering, had the power to prevent it, and did not prevent it? Well, Christians of course are not ignorant of this counter-argument and they say many things. For example they say 'But God gave us free will. and did not prevent it? But given that we have free will, he could not stop us from causing each other to suffer.' Well, we might question whether the gift of free will is worth the horrendous amount of suffering that there has been in the world, from no doubt as long as there have been beings capable of suffering. But, putting that aside, it's obvious that there is suffering in the world which is not caused by free will. For example, you will all know that for about a dozen years ending only a year or was it 18 months ago, south-eastern Australia had a terrible drought. And during that drought, many animals died. They died simply because the water holes dried up, or they could not get enough to eat. It was not human action that caused that suffering. So there is suffering in the world which is not caused by humans - caused by earthquakes, droughts and so on. Christians sometimes also say that suffering is the result of sin, but it's impossible to believe that a small child who is crushed by a falling building in an earthquake has sinned, and therefore deserves that suffering. And of course the animals that I've already mentioned did not sin and yet they suffer, not only at human hands but at the hands of nature. I have asked many intelligent, thoughtful Christians, and I am asking John Lennox again tonight, to explain to me how the existence of undeserved suffering not caused by human activity could be compatible with the idea that an all-knowing god created this world, knows about the suffering, could have predicted the suffering that an all-knowing god created this world, and did not change things to reduce this vast amount of suffering that goes on in the world today. It seems to me wildly implausible that that this world is a world that was created by that kind of god.

It seems to me much more likely that this is simply a world that has arisen through the processes of evolution that we are now increasingly familiar with which are indeed blind and unguided

but have, nevertheless, thrown up beings capable of reasoning. And, in response to what John said, I would say developed capacities to understand the world and their situation because that did have survival advantages but now can use these capacities to understand the world.

That seems to me by far the more plausible picture of the world we're in than the one Theists attempt to persuade us to accept. Thank you. (Applause)

Well, Peter, thank you very much. We could be here all night, I think, with a very interesting conversation. Let me do what I can and hope that we can then discuss these in detail with a moderator. First of all, Laplace the mathematician. When Napoleon asked him 'Where is God in your equations?' of course, he gave the right answer, (Speaks French) 'I don't need that hypothesis.' Because he was explaining how the thing is mathematically described. But if Napoleon had asked Laplace 'How is it that there is a universe which is governed by such equations?' he might have answered a different way.

And I think the mistake that's been committed here is the difference between mechanism and law as explanation on the one hand

and God as agent on the other hand. You will not find Henry Ford in the laws of internal combustion or inside one of his motor cars.

But if you want a complete explanation of the motor car, you will need both types of explanation. Now that brings me to Peter's next point of the traditional arguments for God, and we can't go into all of them, of course. But let me come to the argument from design. Now, whatever evolution can or cannot do, it is a mechanism. And the whole point of this category mistake is this - that the existence of a mechanism that does something is not in itself an argument for the absence of an agent that designed the mechanism. Now, as a mathematician, I am extremely skeptical about certain aspects of evolution, not the ones Darwin observed - but as has now been admitted, even by Richard Dawkins, evolution has nothing to say about the origin of life itself for a very simple reason. Because evolution needs to get going the existence of a mutating replicator.

Now the fascinating thing to my mind about the argument for design updated is this - that in every one of the ten trillion cells of our body, there's a database, a huge database. The human genome is 3.5 billion letters long, all in the right order, like a computer program. Now, all of our experience and intuition tells us that semiotic, language-like structure does not arise by natural processes. You only have to see the first few letters of your name written in the sand at a Melbourne beach when you will immediately deduce upwards to intelligent origination, whatever the mechanisms involved. And it seems to me one of the most powerful arguments from design today is the sheer existence of the longest word in any alphabet. That resonates to my mind much better with,

'In the beginning was the word,' than it resonates 'In the beginning were simply chance motions and so on.' So it seems to me, quite apart from evolution, the existence of this language-like structure is very powerful evidence for God. Now, Peter, you raised the question - I can't resist saying something about this - 'cause Richard Dawkins makes it the heart of his book, 'The God Delusion'. If you say that God created the universe, then you have to say who created God? Who created the creator? But this is a clever question because, you see, if I asked who created X I'm assuming X is created and if Richard Dawkins had written a book called 'The Created God's Delusion', I don't think it would have sold many copies. Because created gods we've known for centuries are a delusion, we usually call them idols. So it seems to me the question assumes what the Christian tradition, and indeed the Muslim and Jewish traditions deny, that is that God not created.

But when I had a debate with Richard Dawkins, again organised by our friend, Larry, I said this question is barbed because it works both ways.

If you claim that it is a valid question to say who created God, then let me try it on you. You believe that the universe created you. Who created your creator? I'm still waiting for the answer to that question. Now faith, Peter. I do not accept your definition.

That is the definition of blind faith and we all know the difference, we've seen it in the financial crisis. We thought we could trust some bankers, didn't we? And we discovered that our faith was not evidence based. Blind faith is dangerous, of course, it's the kind of thing that causes young people to fly planes into tall buildings. And I would want to emphasise that the Christian faith is not like that. It is a commitment based on evidence. John, in his Gospel, says at the end of it 'Jesus did many other things in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.' But these are written in order that you might believe that Jesus is the son of God,

and that believing you might have life in his name. In other words, here is the evidence upon which faith is based. And what launched Christianity on the Ancient world, as Paul pointed out to the philosophers at Athens -

was the fact of the resurrection as a base which they could place their faith in, an evidence base that gave them the confidence to preach Christianity. So I simply don't accept the definition. Now, brought up by parents who were Christians I was indeed. Peter, can I ask you, were your parents atheists? My mother was certainly an atheist, my father was maybe more agnostic - So you're perpetuating the faith of your parents too, like I am. Umm... ..it's not a faith, in my view. Well, of course it's a faith, don't you believe it? (Audience laugh and applaud) I don't have faith in any being. I think the point I'm making, Peter, that this is the genetic fallacy, as you well know.

And the point is and I take the point, because when I first got to Cambridge one of the first questions I was asked - 'Of course you believe in God, all you Irish believe in God and you fight about it.' And for that reason, I have spent my life among people that don't share my faith in order to be sure that I'm not being fooled. And I have known many people, not in the categories you and I are, who have become Christians because of the evidence

and they have changed their world view. So I think that is a distinct possibility. Your biggest question, and the hardest one I face is the problem of suffering and we'll have to deal with it when we get Larry to moderate us. Thank you. (Audience applauds) Thank you, well... ..there are a number of things that John said in his opening that I want to talk about, but just to go back to the point he was making before about the uncreated universe - he asked me who is my creator? I mean, I don't have a creator, I evolved as you all did from many generations, but I don't see a problem in thinking that the universe is not created. It simply has always existed. And I think the point is that...not that - I'm not arguing that the existence of the material universe is strictly incompatible with a creator, but I'm simply arguing that we have no need to believe in such a creator. And there is no argument for him from the fact that the universe because then the creator also needs a first cause. And if John rejects that assumption saying that, well, we define God as uncreated, then of course we can say the universe also is uncreated. I want to address, though, the point that John made both in his opening remarks and again now that Christianity is based on a historical fact, the resurrection of Jesus. The evidence for this historical fact is extremely slender, that's the problem with trying to rest on that. We don't have any contemporary documents that attest to this. We know from biblical criticism, new scholarship, that the actual so-called gospels that we read were written considerably after this.

They may have an earlier source, sometimes called Q, but that too was written at least a generation after this. So the idea of Jesus having been resurrected is something that was around in the literature that was written many years afterwards by Christians. But, of course, we know there are many diverse religious traditions that make all sorts of claims about historical facts and the idea of a god who is resurrected, who comes back to life, is also not unique to Christianity. We find it in other anthropological traditions and traditions around the time, we find - So I think to rest much on this claim as an historical claim, is extremely slender and particularly since it does seem to violate all the laws of nature that we know and understand we would need to have particularly strong evidence

in order to believe in it. This is a point that the philosopher David Hume made - that to believe in miracles, you would need have to have remarkably good evidence in fact, Hume thought that you could never really have such evidence. I wouldn't say you could never have such evidence, I wouldn't say it's inconceivable that you could have events that were so well documented and witnessed that even though they appeared to go against all the laws of nature that we understand, nevertheless you would believe in them. But certainly the idea that Jesus rose again from the dead is not something we could claim to be well known. In fact I would say there are pretty much no facts about the life of Jesus that you could take as being well-known and well documented but that would probably lead us too far. At least this central historical claim I think is something that you really have to be already a believer with faith to say, 'This is what I am going to stake my belief on despite the fact there are so many other religious traditions that claim all sorts of incredible things.' Now, I also want to deal with the idea that somehow although science or evolution can explain the mechanisms they don't explain this idea of the agent. But of course, this is precisely the difference between a car which we know was designed for a purpose and the universe which was not, in my view, designed for a purpose

and doesn't need any kind of agent. I don't see any problem with the idea

that consciousness arises from a process of evolution. We know that there are non-human animals which have consciousness of various sorts, in various degrees, and we can understand how consciousness can be useful for survival, how the capacity to feel pain can be useful in avoiding dangers and therefore helping you to survive.

And we know that, for example, things like being able to do rudimentary mathematics can be helpful to survive. So that if you see three tigers go into a cave and only two come out you know it's not a good idea to go into that cave. It's not surprising that we should have developed this capacity and now we develop it to a very high degree where we can write papers on these topics, as John has done, and I think something similar can happen with morality. That maybe we can have insights even into, as John suggested, possibly objective moral truths which has nothing to do with God but are objective in the sense that some of the truths of mathematics are objective and we have developed a capacity to reason

which enables us to see and understand those truths. So I don't think it follows from atheism that morality can only be human conventions although that would be a possibility that morality can only be human conventions But I think it's perfectly compatible with it that we have rational insights that are more universal. And in that connection I also want to reject the idea that John mentioned that the idea of human equality springs specifically from Christian roots. Not so. It's a part of the universality of morality that philosophers in different traditions have accepted that idea or something very like it. You find it, for example, in the stoic tradition which was around in Rome at the time when Christianity was spreading

so maybe it's no coincidence that Christianity picked it up and you find it also completely separately, independently, I'd suggest, in Chinese thought - in the thought of Mencius, for example, amongst ancient Chinese philosophers before the era of Christianity. So I think that human minds in separate cultures, differently, have come to accept. Maybe they don't put them into practice as much as we would like but they are ideas that occur

to the kinds of rational intelligent beings who have evolved on this planet. Thank you. (Applause) So, gentlemen, we now move to a time of questions and your responses. I certainly want to invite you to engage with one another to generate some conversation between you and I will invite you to ask each other questions. Let's begin with you, Peter. John has made this statement, he says - Do away with God and you do away with freedom. Would you like to respond to that?

Certainly. The word freedom means different things, of course.

We have, in a country like Australia, a considerable degree of political freedom.

I presume that John does not mean that if you do away with God, you necessarily have an authoritarian regime in place. I presume he accepts you could have political freedom, as indeed we do, although many Australians, from our prime minister down, are not religious believers. So presumably he means in some sense free will. And if that's what he means then I would say there's a sense in which that claim is true and there is a sense in which it's false. Obviously we have freedom to make choices. I chose to take part in this debate. I could have declined. I was conscious of making that choice. But could somebody have said, 'Well it was in someway pre-determined - if somebody had known the position of every atom in the universe at some earlier point and all of the laws that govern the universe they would have been able to predict that I, Peter Singer, would have accepted Larry Taunton's invitation to speak at this debate tonight.' Yeah, maybe, I don't know. It's a possibility. So there's maybe a sense in which the kind of deep metaphysical freedom that some theists and proponents of free will want to talk about is not possible on the view of the universe that I hold. But we should not be deluded into thinking that means that we don't make real choices - obviously we do. Professor Lennox, would you like to respond to that? I mean, it seems that the idea of God creating freedom is counter-intuitive. Isn't freedom found in the belief that there is no God? Well, I sympathise quite a bit with what Peter has just said. It seems to me you get varying degrees of this. What I was referring to, Peter, was my own frequent experience of Russia, the systematic imposition of an atheistic regime which left them - and it wasn't my quote it was their quote - that they felt that they'd been robbed of freedom. And of course the classic example of it is the Berlin Wall. So I was referring to it at that level. What I find quite interesting is that - I don't know whether you go along with this or were you hinting at it - when it comes down to it, Richard Dawkins, for instance, in his book, says that the universe is just at bottom what we'd expect to find if in the end there is no good, no evil, no justice.

DNA just is and we dance to its music. Because that would seem to me to spell the end of your ethics and all morality if we have that kind of determinism in the universe. Oxford Maths Professor and Christian John Lennox, taking it up to ethicist and atheist Peter Singer in the fixed point debate - is there a God? That's all from Big Ideas for today but don't forget the big questions are never shirked

at the Big Ideas website

where you'll find talk of God, the godless, the universe and just about everything in it. Visit the address on your screen for more.

And look out for generous servings of lunch time Big Ideas every weekend on ABC News24, 1pm Saturdays and Sundays. I'm Waleed Aly. See you again soon. Closed Captions by CSI .. THEME MUSIC To find our wonder, we must follow in the footsteps of the Toltecs. In 750 AD they built strange monuments at their new capital, Tollan Tula, in Central Mexico. Just a few ruins of this once great city survive. But these include four mighty warriors. These great statues were only discovered in the 1940s, buried in a trench.

They date from about 900 AD and they're thought to have originally been columns supporting a temple. They seem to be warriors or guardian spirits. Warriors because of their feathered headdresses, and they seem to be holding weapons. At the base of the pyramid there are sinister carvings - sculls, rattlesnakes devouring human beings... ..jaguars, ferocious heads, and also evidence of colour, blood red.

This was probably once all brightly coloured. But what did it all mean? All four of the great giants would also seem to have once been brightly coloured. The mysterious statues give a hint of just how splendid the city of Tollan Tula must have been. Later, the Aztec people told of incredible Toltec treasures. But these have long-since disappeared. As did the mighty Toltec Empire itself, which vanished rather mysteriously in the late 12th century, leaving only the great statues behind to preserve the secrets of this hidden empire. Closed Captions by CSI ..

This Program is Captioned

Live. Plenty of issues, but Nauru is not one of them at the

Pacific Islands forum. I

haven't come here to talk about questions people smuggling. That would

be premature. A man faces court after yesterday's Sydney

standoff. There standoff. There were a number

of personal items, but no

explosive device. Who knew what

and when. Senior news

officials contradict James

Murdoch. The first time he realised 'News of the World'

was involved - Ten days from

now, date night. You heard it here first. And could the fake

Julia damage the real Julia?

She couldn't really get any