Episode 1 The Big Questions

Episode 1

From Brunel University, the questions are: Are some people paid too much? Should industrial action only target employers? Plus would today's 'wise men' believe in God?

Similar Content

Browse content similar to Episode 1. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Today on The Big Questions: Fat cats, strikes, and today's wise men.


Welcome to the tenth series of The Big Questions.


Today we're live from Brunel University London.


Welcome, everyone, to The Big Questions.


This Wednesday was dubbed Fat Cat Day, when Britain's top


bosses earned as much after two and a half days'


effort as the average UK worker gets for a whole year -


The chief executives of the top FTSE 100 companies earned on average


just under ?4 million - that's each, not between them.


The top earner, Sir Martin Sorrell of the advertising agency WPP,


banked over ?70 million in 2015, the latest year


The national living wage for over 25s is just ?7.20 an hour.


You think that this has got a really detrimental effect on society as a


whole. Explain what you mean. We know that in countries where there


are higher levels of inequality, illustrated by this gap in pay, that


there are higher levels of violence, mental ill health, higher levels of


physical ill health, and poorer education. This affects everybody,


whether you are earning ?77 million or ?28,000. Why does it have that


effect on people? We're not talking about a Sheeran and Wayne Rooney.


Specifically people who are CEO of a company. It is symptomatic of a


highly divided society. The UK is the six most unequal country in the


OECD. We know that they and other organisations like the IMF are


paying inequality is a very bad thing for society and they are


worried about it in economic terms as well. It is about inequality,


isn't it? Supposedly so. What do you mean by supposedly? It depends on


whether you think inequality is a good or bad thing and whether that


means anything. Let me rephrase the question. Is inequality a good or a


bad thing? I would prefer to refrain to answer that because I prefer to


look at what it means for people to live with. Interesting. If you look


at firms with higher levels of income inequality, they tend to have


higher operational performance and they tend to have longer-term


returns for shareholders. What that means is that if you are in one of


those firms as low paid worker, what you really want is guilty in your


job and to know there is talent at the top. It doesn't necessarily


matter how much the person at the top is being paid. What you don't


want is for them to walk off and for you to be left with a company that


is not worth as much. You want to be working with a company whose share


price is doing well and you want to know there is talent at the top. We


live in a world where companies are getting bigger and bigger so people


are being paid more to run them. Because they are larger, and so


asking questions about whether inequality is good or bad doesn't


necessarily tell us what is good for the work on the ground. If you did


get rid of the top people because of the pay, and they went elsewhere...


But if pay doesn't matter, why not cut the pay? We don't know that


cutting pay improves performance. The illustration is that it doesn't


do that. Capping pay doesn't improve performance. Shareholders, fund


managers are getting more active as shareholders, they do cut pay and do


a of things like improving innovation, and they do more like


bringing up the value of the company through the operations, but they


don't cut pay to do that. So it is more compact than headline about


inequality? Having been a low paid worker myself at times, like many


people here, I wasn't thinking about the share price of the company. When


I was trying to make ends meet I wasn't thinking that. I wasn't


thinking it was all OK because if we keep the same buzz at the top you


will look after us. That is a really paternalistic view. -- the same boss


at the top, he will look after us. It doesn't matter who is at the top.


Whether the CEO does well or badly, they are still being paid obscene


amounts of money. Are these amounts of money obscene? They are extremely


high but there are two questioned here. Are they being paid more than


they are worth to the company? And other workers worse off as a result?


The answer to the first question is no. In general the CEO matters


enormously and having a good one can mean not just the difference between


profit and loss but life and death for a big company. On the second


point, the ordinary worker, I have had very low paid jobs as well and I


didn't care what the share price was. I did care about job security


and about that company being competitive and I did care about


knowing that next week and next month that my wages might be a bit


higher. The weighted get that is not capping it at the top and not


driving the talent away from the UK. It is to get the best leaders and


the best people at the bottom. Let me finish. I wish we would spend


less time worrying about how much people at the top are paid and more


time thinking about the wages at the bottom. It isn't and either or


situation. When you look at some companies, like Sport Direct, the


wages and conditions for the workers are appalling and the leaders are


paid a lot. Getting rid of the talent at the top is not going to


make things better for the workers. The corporate welfare is coming in,


the ?40 billion subsidy to the pensions, that is being creamed off


by the managers at the top making huge bonuses. Huge quantitive easing


been put into the banking system to rescue it. Meanwhile wages haven't


recovered to pre-2008 levels. This doesn't make sense. They are not


seeing the benefits. The top 1% pay the majority of all income tax. 90%


of people earn less than ?50,000 in this country. It is a very small


number right at the top creaming off excess profit. And paying a lot of


income tax. But your hands up, audience. I am sure you have an


opinion. One of the answers that has been suggested is to have workers on


remuneration committees, which would be more collegiate way of doing it.


Make that argument. I think it be more realistic as a conversation


based on the real experiences of the workforce. One of the reasons why


the huge numbers come out at the end of the process is because everyone


around the table is used to massive numbers and they are very highly


paid professionals desensitised to the public reaction when we hear how


many millions. So put members of the workforce in there to test these


huge pay packets and see why they are being awarded. They tried it in


Germany, workers on boards. And in the companies where it was tried,


they had far lower value than probable companies without workers


on the board. How are you measuring value? Worker satisfaction? Happy


families? Quality of life or just purely shareholder profit? Yes,


squeeze the wages and baby profit for people who invest. Or are you


talking about job satisfaction for people where they can build a life.


I don't disagree with that per se but when we came to the responses to


people, let's get government to do something about it, that seems to be


the best anyone can come up with. The government has got to do


something about it because the government is having to subsidise


people. People are not earning enough in their wages and their


take-home pay to exist in this country. The government is having to


pay in terms of tax credit, universal credit. They have got to


top people up. People are going to food banks in this country, people


who are working, and I think that is a disgrace. If I may, Theresa May,


if I may, is launching the shared society idea this week. Some people


were saying that ?10 million a year, ?15 million a year, whatever, is not


consummate with that. What does the audience thing? Green jumper? Quick,


if you would? What is the intention of the CEO? Are they there to make


long-term benefit for the society? If you look at 2008 prices, all the


CEOs were there what happened after that? CEOs make profits for the


shareholders. What is their intention? Are they there to make a


difference for society or to get their salaries? If accompanied as


well, the workers do well and society does well the


counterargument. -- if the company does well. If a person is looking


for a salary 300 times that of the average worker in this country,


surely the only thing you can be sure that that person is that they


are greedy and selfish? Is that the sort of culture you want to create


within that company and within society as a whole? Yes. Wizbit? Are


these people greedy and selfish? Bill Gates, he does philanthropy.


Everything has got to be quantified. As Theresa May said, we need a fair


society. When you look at BHS, which affected many thousands of people,


by one greedy person. Nobody minds CEOs that perform well earning lots


of money because obviously we need to support that creativity, but what


we are speaking about is where we see blatant corruption, and we


really need to fight against that. As the young lady mentioned at the


front about food banks, there is social enterprise in Wednesbury and


we have a food bank because our parents are so poor that they cannot


afford food and local authorities cannot afford to pay for the


education plans as opposed to support. We need a fair society and


we need to root out corruption both in private and local authorities who


don't pay for the things that people at the bottom rung of society need.


Thank you for that point. Anyone else? Mick Whelan, union man, what


are you stand about? We talk about family. I am not against wealth


creator Jim, economic viability, contributing to GDP, people going


well. -- wealth creation. But the tactic is doing well off of the


employees, not off of investment. How can we manufacture additional


profits by taking it away from the people we employ? It should be


shared about. Don't we have a million kids between the ages of 16


and 24 who are not in employment? We have the biggest growth in zero


hours, typified by ASOS and Sport Direct. People are suffering from


companies that make massive profits and don't recognise the contribution


of the staff. The only thing that we are really debating is whether CEOs


matter to the value of their firms. Hang on. Does a company that makes


the right strategic decisions have an edge on its rivals? All the


people with money on the line, share investors, pension funds, they all


agree that when a good CEO leaves a firm, the firm becomes much less


valuable. The person who ran Burberry, when she stepped down


suddenly, Burberry became half ?1 billion less valuable and she was


paid much less than that. Martin Sorrell is a great example. Is he


worth ?70 million? I think Bob. He built WPP. -- I think more. They


made shopping baskets before he came along and now it is one of the most


important advertising firms. He built it from the ground up with his


hands. This is a very important person. You one study like that


leading your phone whether you are share holder or worker. -- leading


your firm. I will come back to you. What about that situation? We are


going to drop your page dramatically, Mr or Mrs CEO, and


they say, OK, I will take my laptop, leave the company and go to Geneva


and you lose that talent. What about that? I think it is very rare that


it is a Mrs! The FTSE 100 CEOs, there are six women, which is


another issue. But what if they are going elsewhere and you lose the


talent? We are possessed with talent. We are calling it talent.


These people are working extremely hard and they may be extremely


creative and as somebody has already said, what is Martin Sorrell doing


for ?77 million that he would not do for 76 million? He built the company


from nothing. Great. The problem is that businesses don't exist in


isolation. Whether it is WPP, any other business you care to mention,


it is built on the back of the education of its workers that we are


all contributing to, being built on police keeping society safe so they


can keep their businesses going, it is built on the efforts of nurses


and care workers and people who look after our children so we can go to


work. These people are not seeing any benefit from this. Does not in


isolation. Justin? Does this not set the great example in our society? I


could one day be making ?70 million a year. Maybe not! As I said that...


I would be confident that you would be giving it back to the people


because you care more. Allegedly! Is it an aspirational thing? We are


discussing inequality and voices in the audience said it didn't matter


but of course it matters. We are society. There was an argument made


over here that the bigger your company, the more money you can get,


does that work for the NHS? Does that work for schools? Do teachers


get paid more when they are teaching 30 children? Of course not. This


failure to recognise that there is a contradiction between saying we are


all citizens, all equal, we all get the vote, but you don't matter


because you only earn ?5 a week, it is a con. If we really believe in


society, we should be investing in everybody, irrespective.


NHS workers and teachers know that they don't get as much, they are not


working for private companies. That begs the question whether end we


start from somebody come and we have not specified who, needs to stick


their finger in and cut CEO papered do we also have to cut middle


management pay? We are talking about the CEOs of private companies. This


is a creature of the state. There is a knock-on effect on public sector,


not all teachers are working for the state, many are working for private


companies, with academise Asian. -- with academies. We are seeing this


have an impact because then it forces up the wages in the private


sector. Stefan, I have had enough from you. You don't normally save it


is counterintuitive that is put to you because you might agree, we will


get somebody to respond, but it looks like hay and remuneration that


up. -- pay and remuneration of a company fails, what is going on


there? A system that doesn't work and the latest big set of research


from Lancaster University shows there is no link at all between


vastly increased CEO pay packages and capital letters. You can


understand if it goes well, they get a bonus. But who is doing the work?


The bigger the company, the moral support the CEO has come the more


senior managers there are the more divisional managers there are, there


should be less credit to a CEO for running a bigger company and they


don't run it on the own. They take decisions with the board and with


their senior management teams. There is this superhero vision of one


human being apparently changing the destiny of the corporation with tens


or hundreds of thousands of people doing the work. And the middle


managers are taking the decisions. It is very tell stuff. We pipe up


these people and they take and demand ever bigger packages and they


are getting them because there is nothing to stop them. Sony ten years


ago was much bigger than Samsung, they decided to invest in


smartphones and Sony didn't and that was a good idea. Samsung is a giant


and stone is that Regazzoni is getting worse because of a strategic


decision made by someone at the top. If I was Sony I would have wanted


the right CEO who took that decision.


That the numbers in perspective is that this gentleman made a good


point that we have to quantify it. In an average FTSE 100 company, the


average salary of the CEO is less than one 1000th of the operating


costs. It is not to us and anybody watching for -- but what the company


is a tiny amount to spend to get the best person for the job. If you


think that Tim Cook is not with 0.001% of Apple's costs, you need to


think more about what happened in the companies when they make the


wrong decisions. Is it not the case that it is not so much what people


get if they have a successful company and they are vibrant and


energetic and dynamic, it is what people get riled about is the


evasion and tax evasion and dodging. If you have somebody like Bill Gates


for example with making huge amounts that is doing a lot of philanthropy


and doing a lot for society, do you not celebrate somebody like him? Of


course and the world would literally be a poorer place if we do not have


such great philanthropists as that but these are different issues. You


look at somebody like Warren Buffett comedy is concerned about inequality


-- he is concerned. It is an evil is decided that there is a big gap. The


business community is bothered about this. Research shows that 71% of


employees are concerned about bosses pay and think it is too high at 59%


are demotivated by that service is having an effect on productivity.


Also on morale, if we value an average CEO at 324 times the income


of a care worker, that shows that our society is putting profit before


people. APPLAUSE Thank you very much. The first


debate of our new series and very interesting.


If you have something to say about that debate log


on to bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions and follow the link to where you can


We're also debating live this morning at Brunel University,


should industrial action only target employers?


And would today's wise men believe in God?


So get tweeting or emailing on those topics now or send us any other


ideas or thoughts you may have about the show.


It's been a miserable six months for the hundreds of thousands


of people who commute into London on Southern Rail,


the rail franchise that serves much of Kent,


They've faced cancellations, delays, over-crowded trains and all-out


strikes in a dispute over whether the sliding doors should now


be controlled by the drivers instead of by separate guards on the trains.


On Thursday, a report from the rail regulator said that driver-only


trains would be safe on Southern Trains provided certain


And one of the unions agreed to talks with


the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.


As things stand, there's three more days of strikes called for next week


And to make matters worse, the tube trains are on strike today


and British Airways employees are all out on Tuesday


It's not a good week for passengers to get anywhere on time.


Should industrial action only target employers,


Can we not find out a way of doing that? Give us an idea of the misery


this has caused the collateral damage of this strike. There was no


doubt who feels the pain on transport strike and passengers are


many of whom don't have choices, they rely on these services to get


to and from home and it makes their lives a misery. Southern rail,


300,000 people every day use their services to get to work and back and


their lives are being disrupted. It is costing businesses tens of


millions of pounds of people don't know if they can get to the office


at what time, to meetings, theatres, restaurants, shops, their takings


are down. People don't stick around at the end of the day and of course


there is a human cost. The passengers don't know what time they


are getting home, can they the family meal, can they have bath time


with the kids? Most passengers would say that enough is enough and get


back to talks. Collateral damage is huge on this. Misery is not too


strong a word. Yes. And I spent most of my life promoting the rail


industry, trying to get long-term investment, and get fares down to


rate where people can afford them, not 14% of their gross income. But


you get to a situation, we have only just recently gone on strike, our


first strikes were early in December and we halved those strikes next


week in relation to consideration us. The reality is this is not a


pecuniary strike, it is not about money, we're not looking for


leverage or better conditions or pay, we believe that these 12 yard


trains are unsafe. We are campaigning for safety. Short-term


pain and long-term gain? We hope so. We're not doing this for ourselves,


this is not the normal sort of dispute in relation to a poor pay


offer. The regulator said it would be safe with certain conditions. The


evidence to the transport select committee and the report last week


they said that it can be safe and went on to highlight issues we said


were unsafe and did not give an improvement. Cleaning the mirrors


was one of them. If you can't see the people on the platform and you


can't do the platform train interface, it is inherently unsafe.


Passengers always see the he said, she said of the unions and employers


and this is where we have to like an expert evidence from trusted


independent third parties and that is what we had last week, the


regulator, Her Majesty's inspect of railway, an independent person


saying this is a safe way of working. -- inspector. They made


some recommendations and make's members were involved. They


identified some improvements that could be made, whether it is cutting


away foliage, improving lighting and in some instances where there is not


good visibility, having extra staff in the station. For the most part


this is a safe way of working there are things that could be done to


make it safer but instead of a wholesale disruption, work with the


employer. The idea that this wholesale disruption has come from a


strikes if nonsense. At Stratton Station for years, because of


Strathern -- Southern rail's incompetence from the station has


been run into the ground. We are suffering as passengers. It has been


bad and it is getting worse. My son is a wheelchair user and he cannot


use the railways without help. Southern rail are proposing to take


that away, we were to plan journeys much more in advance. This should be


a public transport system that works and is fit for purpose and serves


everybody but he will not be able to use it and of other disabled people


will not be able to. A lot of people don't realise that Southern rail is


basically nationalised. In 2015 it was taken into public hands, they


kept the brand but the Department for Transport decide on pay and


conditions. That's not true. I'm happy to show... They formed the


core GTR and put south-eastern, Southern, great Northern together.


What they did to force this group was given a contract where all the


revenue goes to the government and the government bears the costs, it


is still privatised... And the government decides pay... Let him


finish his point. The government decides conditions of this is no


more privatised than London buses. That thing in Dia Chakravarty. What


kind of disputes can we have going ahead that will change things and


give better conditions for workers? And if there is a proper grievance,


to address them and redress them, without members of the general


public suffering as much as they have been doing and as much as they


will be doing with other disputes in the coming weeks? That is where the


debate should be. If the unions are telling us that there is a pay


issue, a work commission issue, people would be more willing to


listen. All we hear from the outside, as we just heard from the


unions saying this is a safety issue where we do have independent experts


saying it is not. You mentioned the report from last week, we have seen


requests from the London Evening Standard which also came out last


week saying that the number of incidents, serious incidents, in


driver only trains had been coming down massively. We don't really see


a safety issue but we keep hearing from the unions that there is one.


It seems to us like there is a lack of transparency and honesty on the


unions part. That makes it very difficult for us to understand why


this is going on and we are the ones being held hostage. We need unions


in society. Absolutely, they have an important in protecting workers'


rights but with that comes great responsibility. To what extent can


they hold us hostage and if they do, they have to be honest about it.


Just a second, please. If they do think that conditions are not good


enough and to strike, they have to ask if they are just about to go to


strike. It is an issue of trust. My dad was a doctor, he went into the


NHS as a vocation, we get to the point where we see junior doctors


concerned about the NHS being on its knees and now we see that it is, we


should have listened to them. We should listen to the teachers...


APPLAUSE We should listen to the train


drivers that are safety issues because we don't listen to the


people who are at the metaphorical coalface who are dealing with


reality. Listen to the people doing the job. Why do you think the


experts are constantly lying? I think Michael Gove make an


interesting point about not believing experts. We would have an


empty front row if we do not have expert! There is a clear public mood


when we think a government policy of divide and rule, dividing passengers


against Uni and when the real villains in this other government


and why not intervening and could sort this out -- against unions. If


they listen, we could sort this. Organisations like us would say OK,


if government is the source of all evil, open it up and take it out of


their hands and let there be more competition, more deregulation. Who


does Southern rail compete against? This is nonsense. So why don't we


open up? Don't have the ?1.2 billion sucked out by the prophets and


invest it in a decent and proper train service -- profits.


Excuse me! Let's hear from the people. Sorry! In the glasses?


Having doors that are just operated by drivers, we have been doing that


in the London Underground for 40 years, and it works. On the


platforms we have got people who are there who will allow trains to go on


and off. The list can be done safely and we have got CCTV. There is so


much technology around it. Other unions using this as an excuse


because they are worried that train guards will be a job that is


removed? I am not quite sure what the unions are gaining on this. I


think the lack of transparency doesn't match up with what is being


said. The moral heart of this is the collateral damage, if you want to


use that phrase. Customers, travellers, members of the general


public. We heard about misery and that is what we are discussing here


really. How can that be avoided? I don't think it can be avoided in the


short term for a long-term game, as you said before. If I'm travelling


on the train, I know this gentleman spoke about having no guards, but I


was on the DLR last week and there was a guard opening and shutting the


doors. We say that isn't true that in some cases it certainly is. It is


the right of a worker to withdraw their labour if they feel that


safety is a crucial issue. Personally I would feel that the


person who is driving the train or the person involved in the flights


with British Airways, whatever that dispute is, they are on the front


line, so I believed then more than an employer who may have a vested


interest. The flight crew lay is astonishingly low. Some people would


be surprised at how little it is. It is something like basic pay,


?16,000. Yes? I think there should be an honest debate. We are trying!


Normally in these instances, you usually get experts, but experts are


not the users. We should hear from the users themselves. He has got the


son who has a wheelchair. We should take on board more his opinion


rather than listening to the so-called experts. You are user,


aren't you? How has your using been recently? Misery is a nice way of


putting it. I have been used as a football. My staff, my candidates,


my clients, they are having trouble getting to and from work. Sit down


at the table and negotiate, don't use us as the football. Yes, there


are issues that need to be sorted out but you don't need to strike and


you don't need to make someone's income impossible because of the


strike. And family life? It is putting a real strain on people that


use Southern Trains so it would be nice to see them back at the table


and they are blaming each other for not doing that. This is something


they do in France with transport strikes. They turn up to work and do


their work for no pay, but they open the turnstiles and they let people


travel for free. So the company suffers but the general public


don't. Little idea for you. Nice idea. Great idea. Part of the


problem here is that the very thing we are talking about, for the last


nine months they would rather have us in the High Court four times than


sitting round the table. It is only now that we have a strike that


people say they want to talk to us and they have gone to ACAS. We have


been willing to talk throughout. What the strategy of the company and


the government is a fait accompli, they will do what they want until it


is too late for you to do anything about it. The reality is that


Britain is not a great place to be. Sexual assault has gone up on the


railways over the last 12 months. Drivers when travel on were well


trained at certain times of night because it is not safe. -- private


way to travel on certain trains. But what about the conductors? Well


where are they? The people they promised not there now. Has there


been an industrial dispute in this country that you have not supported?


Yes but that is personal and I will keep it to myself. It was just


getting interesting! We all have value judgments we make about why


people do certain things. In relation to this dispute, this is


about a safety issue that we feel incredibly strongly about, and it is


driven by the 18,000 people that drive these trains every day. Trust


the people that work on the trains because they know more about it than


you do. My simple question. Why not trust the unions can tell us. What


are people meant to see when you look at the requests and apparently


these departments are responding truthfully. If not the unions should


probably take them to court. It is very confusing for people sitting


outside. One of the offence we keep hearing about his ticket office is


getting shut down. That has nothing to do with safety, come on, you have


got to agree to that as well. It is just about keeping jobs. There are


minimum staffing requirement on stations after the King's Cross


fire. If they are not in place, and ticket offices are not open at


certain stations, they aren't safe but I'm not involved in that. Has


the role of union changed in your society and will it change in the


future? It is important but it is interesting to note that the average


union member is a woman, over 50 and works in the public sector, not the


private sector. We are increasingly seeing that private sector workers


are deciding not to join unions and I think that is all the worse


because unions do much more than just striking. What should the


union's main role be? They can give union support to workers, let you


know if they are being taken advantage of, and advice bureau.


There is an important role there. Let me finish. A huge percentage of


the public believe trade unions are good thing. OK, but they are not


doing that with their feet. Unions take a combative approach, that is


the real danger, they strike a lot, which drives up the cost of having


them, and they will be replaced. Where we have got driverless trains,


there may not be any drivers in ten years' time to strike. The more


difficult they make it to work with them now, the quicker the axe falls.


He isn't difficult. He is a pussycat. The lady right behind you


wanted to say something. Nick is exasperated. With the safety and


that you have got to take on board all aspects of that, but isn't


striking making the recovery harder? With a taxpayers and the people


paying for tickets, the people who support the railways, for people not


to get to jobs, to lose their income, surely there is another way


around it? Revenue strikes or something. Seppi tackles the


employers rather than customers. -- soak it tackles the employers rather


than customers. This is the moral question. It's sometimes said that


management gets the unions they deserve and there has been horrible


mismanagement in the railways. It shows how difficult it is to take


legal industrial action in this country. If you go on other railways


in this country you get contented railway forces and they are proud of


the railway on which they work. I always speak to people about their


jobs and that is very much the case but you cannot say that about this


company at the moment. It is a public service and people are not


paid a lot of money. They go into it because they want to do that but


they have got to be in an environment where they can do their


job safely. We have got to find a way out. Striking like this is a


nuclear option with massive impact and all sites need to find a way


back from the brink. This is having a devastating impact on hundreds of


thousands of people. The safety case doesn't sound... Independent voters


have looked at this and said it isn't unsafe. Doubtless it could be


safer. Nick and his members have not been on strike. I really would urge


you to go the extra mile and find a way of going back to the table and


calling a halt. We have try to find a way through this 24 hours a day


and there has been an unwillingness. This was driven by the DFT 12 months


ago and they openly said this would be the consequence of what they


wanted to do and they would rip up the contract of the drivers but


spectacularly the media don't report that. The media are not showing all


the evidence we produce on what the driver can and more importantly


cannot see. Nobody wants to go on strike. It is the last option of any


trade union. My members don't want to be losing money prior to


Christmas and post-Christmas and they have the same pressure on them


as everyone else. They don't want people to be massive fares and we


empathise with the travelling public. They are the people we want


to help most and we don't want to alienate them. Tell us about the


abuse they are getting. Naturally when people can't get to work


because trains are delayed, it is only highlighted by this dispute how


poorly the staff suffer. They couldn't run 25% of their services


without the goodwill and overtime of drivers, which tells us they have a


dearth of resources anyway, which is why the service was and is so bad.


Should there be a moral limits on what you impose on the consumer, the


customer, and travel? Should there be a line beyond which you should


not go? These are hard-won rights and we have seen improvement over


the decades because of strong unions and the right to strike. If you take


that away, we risk going back. There are less unionisation in the private


sector because employers are clamping down on employees. We need


workers to be listened to and we need them to have control because


that will make the workplace a better place. Thank you.


If you have something to say about that debate log on


to bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions and follow the link to where you can


Tell us what you think about our last big question too.


Would today's wise men believe in God?


Next week we're back here at Brunel University


for a special edition asking just one big question - is digital


And if you'd like to apply to be in the audience at a future show you


We're in Bradford on January 22nd, Glasgow on the 29th


Friday was Epiphany, the day the three wise men finally


found the baby Jesus, God in human form,


after following the star in the East.


They were Magi, revered and respected Babylonian astronomers


and astrologers who studied the movements of the stars


and the planets looking for signs and portents of important events -


so rather like ancient versions of Professor Brian Cox,


except they believed in magic, miraculous events and in God.


Would today's wise men believe in God?


Brian does not believe in any of the above. Doctor Vince Vitale, author


of Jesus Among Secular Gods. Here is a thing, the more educated you are,


the less likely you are to believe in God. Why? On this question I


would have answered no. Why is that? Why is that the case? Why is it the


case that the more educated you are in the less likely you are to


believe in God? There are many reasons for that and it depends


where you are looking. It is not the case in most places in world and in


most times throughout history. A new survey in 2013. Most of the highly


educated people around the world believe in God because most people


do believe in God. I was studying philosophy in Princeton and I


thought they've had to be blind and rational, and I thought irrational


faith was a contradiction in terms and I were surprised when I first


began to look into this and I first opened the Bible and I saw it


talking about debating, like this show, and reasoning, and the word


persuasion is most used when suddenly makes the decision to


become a Christian. I like that you chose the word wise for this show.


When you have a conversation with someone and you think that person is


wise, what are you talking about? You are not just talking about who


is most educated. Somebody might be very intelligent. When you are


asking about wisdom, you are asking about direction for life and if you


want directed by life you need answers to some fundamental


questions of life, origin, meaning, morality and destiny. That comes


from metaphor and interpretation. If somebody said to you that I believe


literally in Adam and Eve and I believe the earth is less than


10,000 years old and I just saw an angel, would you say they were wise?


Let me start with a starting point. Origin meaning morality and destiny.


We have got to answer those questions before we get to that.


Those are the fundamental question that everyone has got to answer


them. It is easy to poke holes in certain forms of literalism, but


criticism has an empty alternative. Where do we come from? Is there a


meaning in life? Is their purpose and where are we headed? If you


answer that you can live with wisdom and pass it onto others. That the


point for each of us. Interesting. Interesting thought if


I may say so. But if the between the more educated you are, the less


likely you are to believe in God? Vince makes a nice point about the


word wise but maybe the most natural way to interpret wisdom is referring


to intelligence and rationality... Curiosity. We don't know what the


village between intelligence was an belief in God was 2000 years ago but


today's wife men and women are less likely to believe in God. There is a


lot of literature on this. Why is that? A number of reasons, one


possibility is that people who are more intelligent art is likely to


conform, we don't live in a cultural vacuum and a lot of our beliefs are


influenced by the provided link culture around us and another for


civility is highly intelligent people are more inclined to be


analytical and not go with their gut a number of reasons. They might be


turned off by Liz Watson. It says in the Koran and the vital that you


should go out and seek knowledge -- literalism. There is a lot of


resistance two sides. That is true. -- persistence to science.


That will always be an obstacle. It is also to believe in God can take a


certain amount of intellectual unity because you are agreeing that there


is being fat is lot smarter than you and that will narrow the conclusion


that you control -- fact is a lot smarter. Meacher


that if the -- Meacher said that if there was a god, how could I then


not to be one. -- Nietsche. Russell, you understand astrology and


particle physics and obviously evolution but if somebody said that


they believe in angels, would you think they were wise? I would think


I would have to ask them why they believed in it,... It is in the


Bible. And personally I do believe in angels but in an certain context.


I was brought up in an environment of nominal churchgoing but had never


really experienced the narratives about Jesus as a person and it was


at the age of 18 when I was beginning my first degree in physics


that I read some of the eyewitness account of the life of Jesus and I


was amazed at the things that were there and the authority I have ever


heard of before. For the last 27th years I have been living this


tension Anne Haug on on the one hand I can be faithful to this person,


Jesus, but on the other hand be a fully fledged academic physicist --


about how. It is a wonderful tension to be able to study the physical


mechanisms of the universe... What is a particle physicist's take on


angels? You believe in them. As a Christian, we look to Jesus as the


primary source of information about God. I am sure Ryan will be talked


about the fact that our brains are predisposed to want to make up


stories and so there are a lot of stories about fairies and angels.


What is the difference between them? Mythological creatures that have no


statement in fact. I think we have to be careful. As the psychologists


and evolutionary people will tell us, we are proud -- predisposed to


make up stories so we have to investigate and look for authorities


and to see who actually knows about spiritual things and test them. Just


like good scientists as to test things and separate the myths and


the stories from the underlying realities. Justin. I think the idea


of testing biblical statements, you mentioned eyewitness in the Gospels,


around the Nativity the Gospels or contradict and fill in gaps. If we


go to that with serious criticism, we discovered it is a random series


of stories. Stories are useful for making people do things but the


notion that we have a Nativity today with the stable and the oxen and the


three wise men confected in the middle ages. They start painting


pictures of boxes and God knows what else. It is a fantasy. There is no


reason to think there were three, it is an example of the fact that when


we don't take these texts seriously enough, we assume there were three


wise men and then maybe we can quickly to the conclusion... People


who came to adore this strange offspring of a virgin... Russell and


Vince make some interesting points I thought about a deeper level of


understanding of the greater truths. I sense from both of them that they


were uncomfortable with literalism of people saying that that happened,


the Earth is 6000 years old and all that, but let me put that to you, it


can put a lot of people off religion because they hit it and they think,


come on. The Bible to me is a very rich text but in different genres


and some art historical and some are poetic and some are creation


narratives and we have to look at each one in a deep way and say, what


was the intention of the author in the first place? But we might get as


much out of reading Lucretius and Cicero all engaged with the fact...


Whether we would get as much out of them... Some of the creation myths


of religion are fascinating. And if we get as much out of them depends


on the truth question, whether or not this true. I beg your pardon,


the gentleman there. By any historical standards, the texts


don't fit. The contradict one another and by and scientific


standard, you are looking at miracles as evidence for God, these


don't stand up either. If we are saying, should a wise man, whether


that be an academic or other scientists, should they believe in


God today, you have to almost suspend your critical faculties to


do so. Do you do that? You are a distinguished physicist, are their


two Russells? Definitely not and did I became a Christian I have thought


more about philosophy and meaning and truth, the sort of things that


are the bread and butter of philosophers but actually which


scientists don't often think about. For me, becoming a follower of Jesus


has pushed me towards deeper thinking and a deeper analysis of


all aspects. I know a lot of academics and physicist who are


religious but also accept science are very excited by the subatomic


world. Do you think God is there? We call this God of the gaps, when we


try to look for God and the part of science we are not clear about. And


when we understand that he has to move to another gap. I would say


that God is the primary cause of all the things a primary explanation --


parallel explanation. What an interesting phrase. Spinoza was the


first man, he was the biblical critic and understood the old


Testament and the new Testament and heated the big failure of modern


religion is to try to derive science from a text that is essentially


nonscientific. I would never try to do that. So how do we meld the


scientific and the religious world? But you don't try to do that? You


talk about nonoverlapping magisterial. That is a term that can


be helpful but there is a bit of overlap as much as what scientists


today and what people of 2000 years ago have in common is that we want


to understand the world in its entirety. We are curious people who


want to know what it means to be human in the universe and part of


the answer to that question comes by understanding the physical world


around us, the mechanisms, but part of it wants to know who made this.


Who are the authorities? Who would we want to look to for ultimate


explanations? To only take half of that question and only look at the


physical mechanisms and not the wider question I think is to miss


out on half of life. You wanted to say something? Looking at the little


question, we have to say, what has been the impact of literalism. It is


a relatively recent phenomenon in this country. Yes but we are lucky


that we are in the age that we are and we can have this debate.


Beforehand, the framework of the whole society was religion and if


you dissented, you paid the price. Talking about angels, we also had to


talk about the demon and -- demons and the devil. Over 50,000 people


were executed, many women, not always, 26% were men, but they were


executed because of Exodus 22-18, thou shalt not suffer a witch to


live. An eccentric person, people pointed the finger at you. Devils,


demons? Come on! I think we have to be specific. Jesus is the one I


would look to who knows about these things and there are times he talked


about these things and times he dismissed them as superstition so it


is a case-by-case basis. That is terrible what you cited, but no


world view would want to be judged based on the worst things that have


been done in its name. And we have to look back to the founder of


religion, to Jesus who said to love your enemies and pray for those who


persecute you. And do and others as you would have them do to you. We


take that for granted. If that something perhaps predated religion?


It is not. I think it is, I think we have a deeply ingrained sense of


fairness. In very young children, coming back to our first debate,


they be strongly to unequal distributions of things like


stickers for instance. There is a psychological cost that we pay when


we witness unfairness. This vaunted question of the relation between


religion and morality, Wanda's point, a psychologist, Paul Bloom,


has satirised this idea, I see your style and I raised you the Crusades.


The idea that you take historical examples... Stalinism was very much


a quasi-religious system. The gentleman with the beard. I feel


like the wise men of modern times probably wouldn't believe in God


because there is like a taboo about it. You get an umbrella term with


Christians, if you believe in God you believe in angels and a man put


all these animals on an arc. It becomes a ridiculous thing. But I


think you really should. Science can give you the how but they cannot


give you the wide. If you're a broader knowledge of something the Y


-- the why. Is there a why? No. That is all we have got time for!


As always, the debates will continue online and on Twitter.


Next week we're back here at Brunel for that special debate


Nicky Cambell returns for the tenth series of The Big Questions, with moral, ethical and religious debates from Brunel University, Uxbridge.

Are some people paid too much? Should industrial action only target employers? Would today's 'wise men' believe in God?