IQ2 Debate: We’d be better off without Religion

Thu, Aug 28, 2008

DAN Blog, Ideas, Teaching Resources, Videos

Would the world be better off without religion?

That was the proposition debated in the Herald’s Intelligence Squared Australia (IQ2 Oz) Series,
on 19 August in Sydney.

The three arguements “for” and three “against” the proposition would make interesting viewing in class as an introduction to contrasting contemporary perspectives towards religion.

You can watch the whole debate here.

A question posed from the audience after the debate asked “what steps, other than this forum, can the media and other formers of public opinion take to educate the general public to the point where they can stop fobbing off this important issue with religion causes all wars in the world or that religion = bigotry and closed mindedness?

Facilitating a critical and rigorous examination of religion in our classrooms is surely one such step.


Professor Vic Stenger is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Hawaii and adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado. Stenger spent forty years doing basic research in elementary particle physics and astrophysics before retiring in 2000 and moving to Colorado. He is the author of seven books that deal with the interface between science, pseudoscience, and religion including: The Comprehensible Cosmos and God: The Failed Hypothesis – How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. The last title was on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007. Stenger maintains that plausible natural explanations exist for for all observable phenomena and there is strong scientific evidence against anything mystical or supernatural in the universe.

Richard Ackland is a prominent columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald writing on legal and ethical issues. He is founder of Law Press of Australia, whose publications include The Justinian and The Gazette of Law and Journalism. Ackland has been a staunch advocate of free speech and was co-winner of the prestigious Gold Walkley for Journalism in 1999 following work as writer and presenter of the ABC’s Media Watch program. Ackland has also presented ABC Radio National’s breakfast program, covering a range of issues and controversies. In 2000 he was awarded the Voltaire Prize for Free Speech.

Lyn Allison was an Australian Democrat Senator from 1996 to 2008. Lyn Allison has been a prominent advocate for women’s issues, and human rights. She served on the Senate Environment and Information Technology Committeee, and the Select Committees inquiring into gambling and Health. Following a study tour to Lebanon, Allison introduced legislation intro Parliament which would prevent Australia from using cluster bombs. Allison is the former Director of the Employment and Economic Development Corporation in Melbourne and a Councillor for the Port Melbopurne City Council. Earlier this year she was named Humanist of the Year, for her commitment to the democratic process and support for the secular nature of Australian society.


Dr John Lennox holds three doctorates in the fields of science and mathematics (PhD, DPhil, DSc) and is a Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green College, University of Oxford. His most recent book is God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?. John also holds a degree in bioethics and has lectured extensively in Europe, both Western and Eastern, including many visits to Russia as a guest of the Academy of Science. a popular Christian apologist and scientist, travels widely speaking on the interface between science and religion. Like Dawkins, he has dedicated his career to science, but he has arrived at very different conclusions. “It is the very nature of science that leads me to belief in God,” he says.

Professor Suzanne Rutland is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Hebrew, Biblical & Jewish Studies at the University of Sydney and the main lecturer in the program of Jewish Civilisation, Thought and Cultures. She has published widely on Australian Jewish history, edits the Sydney edition of the AJHS Journal, as well as writing on issues relating to the Shoah and Israel. Her latest books are The Jews in Australia (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and Triumph of the Jewish Spirit: Forty Years of the Jewish Communal Appeal (Sydney: JCA, 2007). In January 2008 she received the Medal of the Order of Australia from the Australian Government for services to Higher Jewish Education and interfaith dialogue.

Professor Ian Plimer is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne and Professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide. He is a prominent critic of creationism, and is famous for a debate with creationist Duane Gish in which he asked his opponent to hold live electrical cables to prove that electromagnetism was ‘only a theory’. He has published over 120 academic papers and six popular books. He is also a prominent member of the Australian Skeptics. In 2004 he was awarded the Calrk Medal by the Rioyal Society of NSW. In the late 1990s, Plimer was involved in legal proceedings concerning the location of Noah’s Ark, in which Plimer was ultimately unsuccessful. His most recent book, Telling Lies For God, has a forward by Archbishop Peter Hollingsworth. Professor Plimer argues that religion is important for the fabric of society.

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