“The Unbelievers Movie” Part 1

"The Unbelievers Movie" Part 1

Dr Craig reviews a documentary film featuring Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss. What is the main point of the film?


Transcript The "Unbelievers Movie" Part 1

Kevin Harris: Maybe you have heard about this movie featuring Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss called The Unbelievers. [quotes from the movie are played:]

● Richard, what is more important in some sense - if you had a choice, explain science or destroy religion?

● I think what these two men are doing out there - promoting a scientific worldview - is something of great value.

● There is no one whose views are not subject to question.

● Science is wonderful, science is beautiful. Religion is not wonderful, it is not beautiful, it gets in the way.

● I think these are wonderful things - people shouldn’t be threatened by science.

● I think we follow people who have courage to think about things that we haven’t thought about before.

● I think it is very important to advance the pro-science view in the modern world; it can only be a good thing.

● Ladies and gentlemen - the dynamic duo of science!

● Most evolutionary biologists - they don’t believe in this crude fundamentalist version of random selection that you propose.

● What a disgusting idea - I’m not saying, “This is the way it is you better believe it or else.”

● And that’s the point about beliefs - they don’t change the facts. Facts, if you are rational, should change your beliefs.

● But if you confront a belief that they have and show them immediately that they can see for themselves it is crazy then they remember it.

● That’s what I get from these guys - the permission to question everything.

The Unbelievers is a film spotlighting Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, and features various scientists and even actors like Woody Alan, Cameron Diaz, and Bill Pullman. It seems to harold what is seen as the rise of science and the fall of God, or at least the attempts of two prominent scientists to facilitate that. Dr. Craig, what are your initial impressions of the film?

Dr. Craig: Well, I expected this film to be a potent blast against belief in God: a powerful argument from contemporary scientists as to why belief in God is unreasonable today. And I was very disappointed, frankly, in what the movie really is. I found the movie really to be shallow, boring, and narcissist. It is basically about Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss and their magical mystery tours. They go about having these one-on-one conversations with each other in front of large cheering audiences, and that is really about it. So, it is difficult to discern in the film any sort of argument as to why belief in God is unreasonable and why we should be unbelievers.

Kevin Harris: It is a documentary film. The cover and poster for the film show this silhouette of two men walking away from a cross. There is a cross and then heading away from it is Dawkins and Krauss. The bottom line of it is, “What are you willing to believe?”

Dr. Craig: Yes, that is an interesting subtitle. They claim that they want to start a conversation, and yet the conversation that they pursue is an in-house conversation among unbelievers. The conversation is between Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins, and over and over again in this film we are treated to scenes of Dawkins or Krauss being introduced to large audiences and receiving enormous applause. Very heady stuff, I think, for them individually and they really pursue a conversation just amongst themselves. There is no attempt to bring in people from the other side of the issue to join the conversation. So, as I look at the film it seems to me that the answer to the question “What are you willing to believe?,” from their point of view, would be you should only believe that which is scientifically plausible.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, and they do have some highlights from debates and dialogs from some of their opponents, but it is mostly the most exciting sound bites and the most clash that occurred in those dialogues. What do you think is the central argument of the film?

Dr. Craig: Well, it seems to me that the central argument, when I stand back and try to find an argument in this film is this: the most brilliant scientists today by a wide majority do not believe in God and, therefore, belief in God is unreasonable. Just look at all of the top scientists in the world; they are unbelievers and, therefore, we should be unbelievers too. Now, if that is the argument, Kevin, then I think this is a faulty argument in a number of ways.[1] First of all, there are many scientists who are persons of religious faith and the film does not represent this accurately. For example, in a survey of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2009, they found that 51% of scientists believe in God, compared to 41% who do not.[2] So, the majority of scientists did express belief in God according to the Pew survey. Moreover, the Pew survey revealed that when you compare the percentages of those that believe in God to the percentages from one hundred years ago you find virtually no change. Back in 1914 there was a survey conducted by the psychologist James Leuba of 1000 U.S. scientist about their views on God, and he found that the scientific community at that time was evenly divided: 42% said that they believe in a personal God, and 42% said that they did not.[3] Virtually the same numbers as today. So, all of the supposed advances in science over the last one hundred years, including general relativity theory, quantum theory, advances in molecular biology and evolutionary theory, have not altered significantly the percentages of scientists who say they believe in God.

Moreover, when you look at the data more closely, what the Pew survey and others reveal is that these percentages vary widely depending upon the field of science. For example, biologists are much less likely to believe in God than chemists, for example; which is probably a result of the whole creation/evolution controversy and the sort of self-selection that goes on in the hiring of persons who are biology teachers at American universities.

So, the first point is that many scientists today are believers in God, and this includes some of the top scientists in the world. I think, for example, of people like George Ellis of the University of Cape Town. He was described to me by one other astrophysicist as the person in the world who knows more about cosmology than any other person alive today, and he is a theist. Christopher Isham is a quantum cosmologist in England who has been described as Briton’s leading quantum cosmologist, and he is a Christian. Francisco Ayala is one of the most eminent evolutionary biologists in the world, and he is a Christian believer. Allan Sandage, one of the world’s greatest astronomers, whom I think recently past away, was a Christian. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome project and eminent scientist is a Christian. So. the fact is, that Christians are well represented in the scientific community and includes some of the top scientist in the world.

Kevin Harris: Yeah, and it is a complicated question too, because what are the factors that would involve why a scientists, or philosopher, or plumber, or anyone else, may or may not believe in God?

Dr. Craig: This is the second point that I wanted to make, and that I think reveals, ironically, how unscientific Krauss and Dawkins are being. When you look at scientific studies of the religious beliefs of scientists, what you discover is that their unbelief is not the result of their science; rather, they came to their field of study already as unbelievers. They were unbelievers as teenagers prior to entering into their field of science. This was a result clearly demonstrated by the Rice University sociologist, Elaine Ecklund, in a series of surveys that she did at twenty-one major research universities between 2005 and 2008. What Ecklund showed from her research is that most scientists who are unbelievers do not become irreligious as a consequence of their science. This is what she says, “Rather, their reasons for unbelief mirror that circumstances in which other Americans find themselves: they were not raised in a religious home; they have had bad experiences with religion; they disapprove of God or see God as too changeable.”[4] So, the disproportionately high percentage of non-believers among scientists as compared to the general population is the result of self-selection.[5] The unbelievers or the irreligious, sadly, are more likely to become scientists in the first place as opposed to religious believers who will often go into things like theology, New Testament studies, philosophy, comparative religion, or other fields of expertise.

So, what I think is so ironic, Kevin, is that here are Dawkins and Krauss extolling and celebrating science, and yet, they themselves are so unscientific when it comes to examining the roots of the unbelief of scientists. When you look at what the scientific evidence indicates, what it indicates is that their unbelief is not the result of their science. If anything, they being scientists is the result of their unbelief. So, it commits a classic logical fallacy called post-hoc, propter-hoc: because something comes after this, therefore, it is because of this; and they have committed the fallacy of thinking that because these unbelievers are scientists, therefore, their unbelief is a result of science and, therefore, we need to listen to these great intellectuals and become unbelievers ourselves.

Kevin Harris: Well, we have got some podcasts coming up on this very topic that won't go away: science and religion, are science and religion compatible, and so on. Boy, it is a wake-up call for our non-theistic friends, for our non-Christian friends, for this atheist movement, to realize that science is not the Bastion Tower solace of the atheist that is impervious to religion and shows that religion is untrue. The fact that it is compatible is very disheartening to a lot of people.

Dr. Craig: Oh, I think it is. And I think this is also a wake-up call, Kevin, to the church, because quite frankly the evangelical community has not valued science and giving our young people the vision of becoming professional scientists as a calling from God. This same Pew survey that I mentioned in 2009, found that Evangelical Protestants, though they are around 28% of the U.S. population, make up only 4% of the scientific community. By contrast, the Jewish population is smaller as a percentage of the US population but it is twice the size the number of evangelicals in science. The Jewish community has valued and seen the importance of a career in science and so some great Nobel Prize winning scientists are Jewish. But the evangelical community has been sadly negligent in seeing science as a valuable career into which a young person might be called and serve the Lord and so we are not well represented in that community.

Kevin Harris: And when I hear what lay people say as well, Bill - people who may believed in God, they are nominal as far as their devotion to their beliefs - they just assume that there is a conflict between science and religion and that it is either/or. You hear this really come out when the actress, Cameron Diaz, is talking about this film. If you unpack everything that she says and that is, “Well science is obviously the way that we are going to get knowledge, and too bad so sad…”

Dr. Craig: This false dichotomy, Kevin, is perpetuated by this film. This whole film is based upon the assumption that science and religious belief are incompatible and therefore by celebrating and extolling the greatness of science you automatically diminish the credibility and tenability of religious belief. Now, that only works if these are like two seats on a teeter-totter, so that when one goes up the other one goes down, but they are not! This is a fundamentally false dichotomy between the reasonableness of religious faith and the reasonableness of science. What I have tried to emphasize here is that there is no reason to think that unbelief is generated by science or is incompatible with being a great scientist.

Kevin Harris: Alright, we are out of time today. Let’s pick it up there and discuss some more things about this film on the next podcast. Keep in mind that not only are there many free podcasts, articles, videos, and more at reasonablefaith.org, but you can partner with us financially to keep Reasonable Faith and Dr. Craig at the forefront of today’s battlefields for hearts and minds. If you support what we are doing, please just take a quick moment and donate online at reasonablefaith.org. We need it, and we appreciate it so much. We will see you next time on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.[6]



[1] 5:04

[2] More specifically, the poll shows 33% of scientists “believe in God” with another 18% that “believe in higher power.” 41% of scientists do not believe in either. See Pew Research Center for the People & the Press report titled, “Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media Scientific Achievements Less Prominent Than a Decade Ago”, Section 4: Scientists, Politics and Religion, released July 9, 2009. http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-4-scientists-politics-and-religion/ (accessed July 9, 2013)

[3] “In the two divisions of scientists taken together, the believers in God amount to 41.8 per cent. of the number of those who answered. If we put together the disbelievers (41.5 per cent.) . . . and the agnostics or doubters . . . we get 58.2 per cent. of non-believers." James Henry Leuba, The Belief in God and Immortality: A Psychological, Anthropological and Statistical Study (Boston: Sherman, French & Company, 1916), p. 250. See http://books.google.com/books?id=meINAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA250 (accessed July 9, 2013). Dr. Craig is referring to the percentage of believers and disbelievers (41.8% vs. 41.5%). Leuba explains that agnostics and doubters account for the rest.

[4] Elaine Howard Ecklund, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). p. 17.

[5] 10:25

[6] Total Running Time: 15:42 (Copyright © 2013 William Lane Craig)