I recently was the subject of a film along with my friend and fellow scientist Richard Dawkins. We're here to answer any questions you might have about the film, or anything else! Ask away.

Richard will be answering his questions personally and I will have a reddit helper

I'm also here with the filmmakers Gus & Luke Holwerda, if you have any questions for them feel free to direct them their way.

Proof: Richard Lawrence

DVD US [With over an hour of extra features]

DVD UK [With over an hour of extra features]

iTunes US

iTunes UK

edit: Thanks to everyone for your questions! There were so many good ones. Hope our responses were useful and we hope you enjoy The Unbelievers film! Those of you who haven't seen it check it out on iTunes or Amazon. The DVD on Amazon has extra material. Apologies for the questions we were unable to answer.

Comments: 2247 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

Phaz170 karma

How would you describe the relationship between science and philosophy? Are they peers? Can they ever address the same questions? Is one dependent on the other? etc

lkrauss432 karma

Science generates knowledge, philosophy reflects on it.

voidcase127 karma

Is there anything you have said on camera or written in a book and later regretted or changed your mind about?

lkrauss157 karma

I replied earlier but the system went down at the same time: The answer is of course--many times! I like to think I can change my mind based on good evidence or logic, and I also know that one often is forced to speak on camera before fully having time to fully think about the answer.. But I try to focus on doing better in the future rather than regretting the past.

woodpecker31125 karma

Mr Dawkins, thank you very much for your AMA. Many people I have talked to seem to think that your "abrasive" style is counter-productive to the cause of atheists. What would you say to these people?

Edit: I just wanted to thank Mr. Krauss and Mr. Dawkins for answering my question, as well as the other people who have answered my question or the answers given, they have made for an interesting read.

lkrauss262 karma

Richard is not abrasive. He is blunt, and we need that.

retreatingarmy124 karma

Most treasured Hitchens memory?

lkrauss287 karma

I guess I'd have to say hugging him goodbye the last time I saw him.

dripdroponmytiptop113 karma

Hi there! Lawrence Krauss, you're my favourite theoretical physicist(Don't worry, Richard Dawkins, you're my favourite biologist), your lectures are entertaining and informative, and your cameo on Penn Jilette's show was hilarious! Please consider doing another one! Your humour and enthusiasm makes listening to everything you talk about a ton of fun.

I guess I need a question, however. After Cosmos ended, everyone I know has been craving more. One suggestion put forth, was a rotation of hosts. You, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, and a few others were in my favourite video to share, the "Storytelling of Science" talk, and I think you'd be a fit to host a show, with the personality you put forth in your lectures and panels. My question is: If they approached you, would you do it?

...Also, I'm an animator, so I draw a lot of cartoons all day. Here's one of you, since you're finally doing an IAMA!! Congrats, I've got the Unbelievers waiting for me on iTunes when I get home from work today, can't wait to see it.

lkrauss93 karma

Of course I'd be happy to look for any new ways to reach people and would be willing to consider such a possibility. Television reaches many people and it's nice to try to use it to expose more people to science.

Secondly, thanks for the cartoon! Maybe you could make me a cartoon character on tv

thejevans109 karma

Dawkins, what is your favorite book by Krauss? And Krauss, what is your favorite book by Dawkins?

lkrauss241 karma

My favorite book of Richard's is River Out of Eden. It is the most beautifully concise description of evolution I've ever read, I liked it so much I sent Richard a fan letter when it appeared.

Matt_KB96 karma

What is one discovery or innovation that you hope that humanity will achieve in your lifetime?

_RichardDawkins198 karma

Another one that I think has a realistic chance of being solved, is the origin of life

lkrauss162 karma

I echo Richard. I actually think the origin of life will be solved in our lifetime, probably in the next decade.

lkrauss157 karma

Discovery: to know whether our universe is unique or not

Innovation: to act globally to solve global problems [like climate change and ridding the world of nuclear weapons]

atnorman85 karma

How would the two of you respond to someone who invoked the Quine-Putnam Indispensability Argument and used it to argue that since this implies the existence of abstracts, therefore physicalism is false?

To Krauss, the idea of the universe as a quantum fluctuation isn’t exactly new, Edward Tryon first hypothesized it in 1973. But in his model both the energy and the sum total of certain other discreet quantities must all be zero. To do this he postulated the existence of equal amounts of antimatter and matter. How does your model get around this, or does it?

What’s the two of yours opinion on James Ladyman and Don Ross’s Ontic Structural Realism? (Dawkins was in a workshop with Ross, which is why I ask)

lkrauss83 karma

The question is rather technical, but in fact we do suspect there were equal amounts of matter and anti-matter in the early universe. How the very small asymmetry between matter and anti-matter developed is one of the more fascinating developments in particle physics in the past 30 years. We don't yet know the full answer but we have lots of plausible scenarios, many of which are testable.

nainaco76 karma

My question is for Richard. How do you, on a personal level, handle all the hate Richard? How does it affect your personal life and over the years how have you learned to handle it? Thank you for doing this AMA!

lkrauss125 karma

First off, I often answer questions that are addressed to Richard. Forgive me. Secondly, the great thing about hate mail is that it means that people are listening and interested enough to respond.

lotusflower052976 karma

I was inspired Dr. Krauss after I heard that you refused to lecture on Atheism or Islam after learning that they were segregated based on gender. This is kind of a silly question but if you could be turned into a woman for just one day what would you do? Same question for Richard Dawkins.

lkrauss151 karma

I would enjoy the experience of being genetically superior and having a larger corpus callosum which would allow me to multitask much better.

UberChrisOfUltraWah76 karma

Do you guys believe the current state of the USA, theologically, is at a dangerous crossroads? I as a UK resident am seriously scared of America politically

lkrauss228 karma

I'm not as worried. In spite of the fact that fundamentalists are the loudest, all polls continue to suggest that the number of unbelievers continues to grow in the US.

_RichardDawkins118 karma

Superstitious and supernatural beliefs become more and more dangerous as advanced technology becomes available to ideologically or faith-driven fanatics. The distinguished astronomer Martin Rees gives humanity a 50% chance of surviving through the 21st century.

lkrauss84 karma

I'm less worried than Martin Rees. There will be challenges and there will be disasters but I'm more optimistic.

lkrauss75 karma

Previous thanks and goodbye didn't show? I wonder if it really needs a ??? to appear.

Thanks to everyone for your questions! There were so many good ones. Hope our responses were useful and we hope you enjoy The Unbelievers film! Those of you who haven't seen it check it out on iTunes or Amazon. The DVD on Amazon has extra material. Apologies for the questions we were unable to answer.

Kuhonium70 karma

Richard Dawkins, I remember watching a video of you talking about imperfections in organisms, like the path of the recurring laryngeal. What are some other good examples in the argument of poor design?

lkrauss251 karma

Breathing and eating with the same orifice

Dr_Kuh69 karma

What kinds of music do you like to listen to?

Will there be another reading of hate mail, Prof. Dawkins?

lkrauss154 karma

I tend to listen to indie rock, and I really do love Radiohead in our movie.

Matt_KB49 karma

What is one thing that amazes you most about the natural world?

lkrauss72 karma

It's kind of trite but I would say: Everything.

AkkaWIN48 karma


lkrauss92 karma

To be a good communicator, talk about what excites you and do not hide your excitement! :)

Matt_KB46 karma

What are some non-scientific hobbies that each of you enjoy?

lkrauss79 karma

Mountain biking and scuba diving for me

mostlynein20 karma

Do you have a cat?

lkrauss53 karma

Yes we do, although I'm allergic to them.

Matt_KB44 karma

Who were some influential educators in your lifetime?

lkrauss118 karma

Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, Isaac Asimov and my junior and high school teachers. I admire the latter tremendously for their dedication.

BennyXavier36 karma

To both of you guys: What is the single best piece of evidence you can provide for evolution?

lkrauss83 karma

For me it's the beautiful connection between the number of chromosomes on humans and great apes. Read about it!

Matt_KB32 karma

What piece of non-scientific literature do you most enjoy reading?

lkrauss33 karma

I do enjoy comic novels as does Richard. Also, I happen to be a sucker for mystery stories. Maybe it's because I like solving puzzles

cucuruzandrei31 karma

Can science answer moral questions? What are your views on that?

lkrauss69 karma

Without science you can't answer moral questions because without science you can't know the consequences of your actions and until you do you can't make rational decisions.

ibnwarraq30 karma

Loved The Unbelievers :) Huge fan.

You (and Sam Harris and others) have often spoken about the unique threats of Islam compared to the other world religions. Most liberals are silent on Islam - or keep repeating that all religions are the same, with "fundamentalism" being the problem.

Why do you think this is?

How do you see the challenge in tackling Islam shaping up at the moment?

lkrauss64 karma

There is no doubt that Islamic fundamentalism is a huge problem in the current world.

In many ways it's not that different from other fundamental religions, it's just 500 years behind Christianity.

In that regard, unfortunately the current world is one in which global communication is possible and dangerous new technologies exist. And that is the key problem.

Ultimately, I suspect that what's driving Islamic fundamentalism are economic inequities. And, as happens in the first world, once people's standard of living improves they find wonderful replacements for fundamentalism.

Of course, all of that is nice to say in principle... but in practice it is going to take a long time and a lot of pain before the problem of Islamic fundamentalism can really be addressed.

dubbiewins28 karma

Hi Richard and Dr. Krauss - thank you for joining us!

Richard- If you were to change the curriculum of schools, what would you change in the science education? Secondly, in 'The Unbelievers' you say at one point, that you do not wish to debate religious fundamentalists- why is that so? Certainly, to my mind, these are the kind of people we wish to overcome and not necessarily religious people, who does embrace the wonders of science?

Lawrence- Do you think that Humans in our lifetime will achieve the technology to be able to live forever? If so, what is your greatest dream that you may someday be able to do, that we don't yet have the technology to do right now?

Richard/Lawrence- If you had to pick one book, that every single human being ought to read, what book would it be?

lkrauss37 karma

I certainly hope not. I can't think of a worse fate. Moreover, I suspect that death is an essential part of life.

Ragemelon28 karma

What is your favorite book?

lkrauss84 karma

Catch-22 it taught me the beauty of juxtaposition and humor in writing.

fractal_shark24 karma

How does an atheistic/materialistic view of the natural world account for pure mathematics?

Many contemporary atheists are materialists, believing that everything is reducible to the physical. This seems especially true of those who come from a scientific background. At the same time, much in modern mathematics doesn't seem to be rooted in the physical world. Prima facie, abstract topological spaces, Grothendieck universes, nonstandard models of arithmetic, large cardinals, and many more objects of mathematical study seem to not be about physical objects. Many of these have not seen application in scientific theories.

How does an atheistic materialistic worldview account for these abstract mathematical objects?

Edit: Some context to this question for readers in this thread. One of the things championed by contempory atheists/skeptics/whatever one chooses to call them is the importance of science education. This plays into the broader push for STEM---Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math---education. Yet the view of materialism advanced by these people doesn't seem amicable to a significant chunk of mathematics. To those of us in the M of STEM, it can seem as though we are being asked to support something that compromises the foundation of our discipline. Should we support this materialist skeptic push for science and empiricism? I think the answer is no if mathematics is one of the targets. My question is trying to get at whether this approach puts mathematics in a 'handmaiden to the sciences' role, or whether that's just a surface appearance. Judging by the answer I got, it appears to be more than just a surface appearance.

lkrauss58 karma

Mathematics is a language that models the world. It is not the world. It is not surprising that one language is better than others for modeling the world. And that language happens to be mathematics

MetalChick23 karma

I'm a big fan of both of you and have read all of your books. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

My questions are: What is your reaction to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby contraception case? Do you feel this sets a dangerous precedent regarding religious freedom in the United States?

lkrauss49 karma

I'm very disappointed. I do think it continues the precedent of interpreting religious freedom as freedom, instead of what it really is which is the right to restrict the freedom of others.

XeioZism23 karma

If I'm 18 and just graduated high school, what types of career paths do you guys recommend if I'm very passionate about the cosmos, showing others how amazing our universe is and what science has done/will do? (I really admire Bill Nye's career)

I have watched so many video segments of you guys on youtube throughout the past 2 years. Thank you so much for inspiring me and teaching me about many questions I've had since leaving christian faith. I truly appreciate you guys.

lkrauss41 karma

Do what excites you! Don't worry about a job, but take advantage of education to do what you enjoy and see what happens.

GodoftheGeeks17 karma

A question for both of you, what is the one thing you haven't yet accomplished that you want to accomplish?

lkrauss31 karma

Every day I focus on what I haven't done rather than what I have, and that's what's so fascinating about science. You never know what's around the corner.

BranchDavidian17 karma

From the trailer it seems that your film is promoting this idea of a mutually exclusive dichotomy between science and religion. Do you have a problem with religious scientists? And would you still have such a massive problem with religion if, say, the YEC crowd shrank to the size of the flat earth crowd?

lkrauss30 karma

I have no problem with religious scientists as people or as scientists.

Fundamentally religious doctrine is inconsistent with everything we know about the physical world. And therefore I see no need for it.

To the extent that it doesn't get in the way of progress for those individuals it's fine. But that doesn't mean it's useful.

Pantherion14 karma

Question to both of you. I wonder how your minds/brains work? I struggle a lot, and maybe it's because my lack of conscious thinking. I never think, not when im alone nor whilst talking. Am I doing something wrong? Do you think in words or abstract ideas when sitting in your chair thinking? What about when you talk, do you manage to think of what to specifically say in words ahead WHILE you're talking? Or does every single word come "naturally" to you and you aren't really consciously 100% aware of what you're saying? Any response would be enormously appreciated, huge fan and supporter of both of you.

lkrauss17 karma

We all struggle. With words and our science. Sometimes it comes more easily than others, but ultimately the only way to make progress is to keep working in spite of the difficulties. Don't despair.

derekandroid14 karma

Brazil or Germany?

lkrauss46 karma

Alas, I think Germany. Brazil has lost two star players. But that doesn't mean I'm a fan of soccer.

Dank_Underwood12 karma

How much resistance did either of you receive when filming, producing, and advertising for The Unbelievers?

What are some of your most memorable hate mail you've gotten?

lkrauss43 karma

The filming and producing were a delight, and the response of the public has been remarkably positive.

What surprised me was how many critics focused on my clothes and not the content of the movie.

Tpalmer112 karma

Can you please give me advice on how to raise our three year old daughter without religion? And what to say to critics when they feel we are robbing her of having an identity and other "benefits" of religion. I usually say that I don't want her to feel bad or guilty for being perfectly normal and I don't want her to believe supernatural stories that would lead to fear. That explanation is sometimes taken offensively.

lkrauss38 karma

The main advice I would give parents is to not be afraid to say I don't know, and to use it as an opportunity to discover things together.

That means not taking things on faith or authority, which is essentially living without religion. And also, encouraging the natural creativity and enthusiasm that we're all born with.

whited5212 karma

Hello Prof. Krauss and Prof. Dawkins! I am a university student and a huge follower of both of you. I would like to know what your best advice is for an aspiring scientist and engineer. I love science but the steps to become an engineer are starting to wear me down. Thank you!

lkrauss29 karma

My advice is first don't let the bastards get you down. Keep remembering why you enjoy science.

And as Winston Churchill said Never ever ever give up!

Squnk1827 karma

As a college student soon to enter the professional world of science, what can I do to further the public's understanding of science?

lkrauss21 karma

First, do the best science you can. That will increase your opportunities to have an impact on the public's understanding.

Then, take advantage of every opportunity you see to help others around you. First locally and then more broadly.

Kenos6 karma

Why didn't you guys release The Unbelievers for free, on Youtube for example, so it would (maybe) reach a bigger audience?

lkrauss14 karma

It cost a lot of money to produce the movie. It would be nice for the people that supported the film to recoup their expenses.

connorjquinn5 karma

Professor Dawkins and Professor Krauss,

Firstly, thanks so much for helping me on my personal journey to atheism. Your books and debates are inspiring. Now onto my question, do you feel "westernized" countries are becoming more secular? Particularly America? I've read that "atheism is on the rise" but recent Supreme Court rulings seem to fly in the face of that.

lkrauss10 karma

In fact it is clear from statistics that western countries are becoming more secular. The supreme court is an anachronism.

jamie795124 karma

I absolutely love both of you guys! Thanks in advance for your answers!

  1. In your opinion, what has been the most exciting discovery in your respective fields in the last few years?

  2. What is the biggest hurdle we need to overcome for a more educated world? How do we get people to understand how science works, and to actually take part?

Thanks again for your time, and I look forward to watching the Unbelievers.

lkrauss10 karma

  1. I'd say it would have to be the discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up and not slowing down, which changes everything about the way we think about the universe.

  2. The way people understand how science works is by experiencing it. That means, to me, discovering how your preconceptions are wrong by seeing how empirical evidence can contradict them.

CammyTIceSlice3 karma

Is there any scientific merit to the claim that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything?

lkrauss7 karma

Of course! Douglas Adams couldn't be wrong.

Ale_Alejandro2 karma

Hi, first I would like to say I am a big fan of both, I Read The God Delusion, A Universe From Nothing and The Selfish Gene all of them blew me away on so many different levels, Thank you so much for that.

So, here’s my question, its more of a thought experiment I haven’t been able to get around, what would you think happens if you separate two entangled particles, leave one here on earth and send another into a black hole, what would we be able to obeserve in the behaviour of the the particle we have on earth? or would the entanglement be lost?

Thank you.

Edit: Typo

lkrauss2 karma

If you have access to only one of two entangled particles you don't know it's entangled. It behaves the same for you as if it's not entangled. So there'd be no experiment you could do to know it was.