The atheists were Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, and Nancy Rothwell, a professor at the faculty of life sciences, University of Manchester.
The theists were the broadcaster and fertility expert Robert Winston, professor of science and society at Imperial College, London, and Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.
Among many other interesting exchanges between both sides, this particular one fascinates me:
Steve Jones: …I used to read very heavy books…at about age of ten or eleven, I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian…and suddenly that made me think, “Hang on, there’s some problems with this religion business. It’s all made up.” And that’s what I concern with. It’s all made up. It’s unlike science. If we are not here, if humans are not evolved, we will still have a solar system, we will still have, probably will have the smell I am risking my life working on. But we wouldn’t have religion. Religion is a man made construct. And that’s surely why I never had any time for it.
Denis Alexander: ...it’s interesting in the way that people’s pilgrimages go different directions. Because just thinking of that same book, Bertrand Russell’s book Why I Am Not A Christian, I have a very good friend who’s an atheist, who read that book to support his atheism. And as a consequence, he became a Christian. Actually he thought that if, you know, such a brilliant man could have such a poorly based arguments, then there must be something going on in this religion business...he is now a professor in neuroscience. It’s interesting the way that different books could influence different people into different directions.
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