Home Comment In Tweets: Comment at the Religion vs. Science Debate

In Tweets: Comment at the Religion vs. Science Debate


After what was seen by many to be a less than exhilarating evening of debate, Debate Correspondent Fiona Potigny takes to Twitter to recap the more captivating moments gleaned from the motion, “This House believes that science has buried religion”.

Ahh, it’s that time of year again. That wonderful time of year where frustrated theologians clutch at the table before them, their nails embedding further into the soft wood, whilst the words “Darwin” “big bang” and “creationism” dance through the air like confetti from an angrily launched party popper. When the cynical scientists roll their eyes as they’re told yet again that God lies behind the unexplainable. When eager DebSoc-ers lap up each and every deliciously tense moment with enough ooh-ing and ahh-ing to rival a pantomime. With the motion set as “This House believes that science has buried religion”, the ECU collaboration was back, and polemic as ever.

Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Except it wasn’t.
Though tension or engagement were hardly abundant in the air, something else was palpable: the ripple of social media waves. With a heavy hand and a weary eye the audience had taken to the #DebSoc Twittersphere to provide an insightfully hilarious commentary of the evening. Take it away, Tweeters…

Despite numerous bangs of the Binks gavel, Keith Denby, Chairman of Devon Humanists, would not be silenced. Darwin, Dawkins and the term “imaginary friend” all featured heavily in his five minute opening ramble. We get it, you don’t like God, the sea of unamused faces seemed to say. But no, he was determined to continue. So much so that he was quite literally applauded into silence by the audience.

  When asked whether occurrences like Black Holes capable of swallowing the Solar System whole counter the idea of an “all-loving God”, an expression of polite confusion registered across Christopher Oldfield’s face. “But that’s got nothing to do with the motion,” the Faith and Science Lecturer stated, “I just don’t understand, I’m afraid”.

After his earlier quip comparing the resurgence of a supposedly dead-and-buried religion to the resurrection (much to his own self-amusement), it seemed that Denby had dug his own grave now. “Well I suppose the fact that religion is still going shows that it hasn’t been buried yet, but I shouldn’t say that or I’ll have lost.” Er, you just did say it.


Years later, anthropologists will no doubt still be decoding Oldfield’s attempt to explain why science hasn’t buried religious “miracles”. We were told the above had something to do with Hume and “empirical phenomena” or something, but we’re still no closer to solving this mystery…

Hume provided just one of many, many philosophical theories our brains had the pleasure of being baffled by during the debate. There was no doubt that Oldfield was well-versed in his subject – his knowledge was impeccable – but we of the unlearned audience, however, were not. He had most definitely achieved his goal of bringing us from “false clarity” to “real confusion”, but perhaps not in the way he had hoped. It was thus that his rants at a speed more appropriate for a rap song produced responses such as this:

  And this:

After Denby’s earlier slip-up, the proposition were really clutching at straws, and what little was left of the debate further broke down into reductionist synopses of religion as “a journey into dark from light”, a God-driven force for evil, “a collection of cults with armies” coupled with emphatic fist-banging.


Having solely focused on deconstructing the notion of God, the proposition’s disdain for the Abrahamic religions was clear. But what of the nontheistic religions, would burying them be a good thing too?
Alexander Evans ‏@redlotus2 Jan 31

Sadly, Denby must have misheard this question, specifically the nontheistic clause, as his response was: “religion has brought us The Inquisition and Jihad – bury them all!” Thankfully, proposition partner Matéj Kohar of Exeter’s Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society, was able to save the day by reasoning that without any kind of religion, we could strive for a society in which actions are emotion-driven, rather than dictated by rules or commandments – one of the prop’s best arguments of the evening, leaving us to wish that Kohar had been able to shout louder than his teammate.

  Kohar also produced an excellent contender for DebSoc’s “Clanger of the Year” – the prize for the best quote – with this response to the opp’s pernicketiness over his pronunciation of “awry”.

Madeleine Davies, journalist for Church Times and the Guardian, was stand-out best speaker of the evening. Importantly, Davies used statistics and examples, such as 98% of people across India and Egypt being religious and the adapting image of the Christian churches to reinforce her argument that religion was still alive and thriving – something which the other speakers had not deployed so astutely, or even at all. Equally, she made the shrewd observation that science and religion can coexist: science does not in and of itself bury religion, and nor has it sought to. Though her voice was all too often lost in the swarm of deity disses and unintelligible philosophical ramblings, Davies’ moments of clarity paired with the proposition’s poor argument construction led to a strong win for the opposition. Nonetheless, by the end of the debate, the “big questions” had been left behind, and replaced with thoughts of the Ram…

@DebSocExeter Renes Descartes was a drunken old fart ‘I drink therefore I am’ #debsocphilosophy #debsoc


Fiona Potigny

Did you attend last Friday’s debate? Is this an accurate version of events? Leave a comment below or write to the Comment team at the Exeposé Comment Facebook Group or on Twitter @CommentExepose.

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