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Our universe background

Why Are We Here?

A four-part documentary in which Oxford physicist Ard Louis and film-maker David Malone meet scientists, philosophers and writers to discuss questions about meaning and the nature of the universe.

Ard Louis

Ard Louis is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Oxford where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology, Born in the Netherlands and brought up in Gabon, Africa, with a pet chimpanzee called Bertje, he studied for his PhD in theoretical physics at Cornell University. He is both a Christian and an accomplished molecular gastronomist.

David Malone

David Malone is British filmmaker who has made science documentaries for British television for nearly 30 years. As well as documentaries for the BBC Horizon series, his films include: 'Testing God', shortlisted for the Royal Television Society best documentary series award; 'What We Still Don’t Know' and 'Dangerous Knowledge'. As well as directing, he also presents science documentaries for the BBC.

1. Meaning-seeking beings

If our universe is made up of nothing but atoms and particles, is any search for real meaning a delusion? In this first film of the series, Ard Louis, a Christian, and David Malone, an atheist, embark on a journey to see if they can reconcile meaning and purpose with the workings of a purely material universe. Watch the introduction.

2. The Reality of Ideas

Are the only truths those that can be proven by scientific experiment, or are there other truths, perhaps like those of mathematics, that are not part of the material universe? Watch the short introduction to the film.

3. The Animal Within

How do we decide what's good and bad? Can science help us decide? In this third film of the series, David and Ard try to reconcile claims that science makes about our moral choices with what we feel we know about ourselves. Watch the introduction.

4. The Moral Compass

Where do our moral values come from? In a world of atoms and molecules what authority can our moral ideas really have? Ard and David embark on the final stage of their journey which takes them from rural India to Vacaville Prison in California. Watch the introduction.

Why are we here?

The 'Why are we here?' documentary series was the original idea of David Strachan, managing director of Tern Television. Both the documentary series and this website and have been produced with the generous support of the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF).

The series will be available from the middle of January 2017 on CuriosityStream, the ad-free streaming service for documentary films set up by John Hendricks, former chairman of Discovery.


This website is based around the interviews that were filmed for the series. The site was built and designed by Screenmedia Design.

The interviews

There are currently 18 interviews. They can either by watched in their entirety or in smaller clips. Transcripts are available for both the full interview and the clips.

The subjects

As well as being organised by individual interviewee, the material is also organised by subject. There is a very short introductory clip from the series for each subject.

Related content

For each subject are there are links to a selection of other resources. This includes other interview clips on this site where there is a close connection in the subject matter, but also to other resources outside the site.

In choosing these resources, we have tried to select material which will appeal to those with a general interest in the subject. We have done our utmost to select material which is clear, understandable, and well-written.

There is a selection of shorter, more popular articles which give an overview of the subject; longer articles from academic journals which go into more depth; classic texts, and books aimed at the general reader who wishes to explore more. The books are linked to Amazon because of the value of the reader reviews.

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