Phew, that’s over. Contrary to expectations, we got a very good turnout for last night’s seminar ‘The Big Bang and the Mind of God’ (I got the title from the last line of A Brief History of Time). Many thanks to those of you who came along, a good crowd always makes for a good atmosphere…
I probably let the science part of the talk go on a bit long, but I wanted to give a decent overview of the evidence for the Bang, and the theory behind it, before tackling the theology side of things. I’ve left the slides I used for the talk on the My Files page of this blog in case anybody’s interested (just click on the My Files tab at the top of this page and select the file from the list) or here
The discussion session afterwards was great – absolutely loads of questions, from all parts of the religious spectrum. For the discussion, I was joined by the chair Dr Micheal Howlett, who is both a scientist and a theologian and between our different answers to questions there was probably a good balance. A good representation of what the SopiaEuropa project is all about, I suspect. In any event, the discussion continued until the porters threw us out, a good sign.
A couple of interesting points came up – a colleague had a problem with my take on the Church of England (I referred to it being founded on the principle that Henry VIII wanted to get his leg over!) and he made some fair points concerning the English reformation. However, I still feel good ol’ Henry took opportunistic advantage of the upheavals in the Church in his attempts to sire a legitimite son, a good example of how a whole new Church can arise for no good reason….must look up more on this…
Another speaker felt that arguments concerning evolution were weakened by constant reference to Darwin! Of course science has moved on, but, as far as I know, despite some gaps, the theory of natural selection, as proposed by Darwin, is in very good health indeed, and is regarded as one of the fundamental mechanisms for evolution, resulting in the complexity we see (certainly not chance!).
We managed to record the discussion session, I’ll try and upload it later…..there will be a lot more on the topic of science and religion at next week’s SopiaEuropa conference at WIT…Cormac
There is a very good overview of evolution in last week’s edition of New Scientist. It’s a nice succinct account and explains how Darwin’s model has stood firm as the bedrock of today’s theory and evidence.
Re the convergence of science and religion, another point struck me during the talk. I was describing how the major religions not only differ, but are mutually exclusive, and how this position has remained essentially unchanged for millenia. It ocurred to me that this is another major obstacle for convergence; how can science converge with religion, if different religions diverge from one another?
Finally, Micheal H commented that I used the phrase ‘scientists believe’ a few times during the lecture, pointing out the similarity with religious phraseology! However, I think the similarity is only superficial – in fact, scientists use the word belief in the opposite sense to that of the devout. When scientists say “such-and-such looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, therefore we believe it to be a duck…”, we use the word ‘believe’ to soften the statement. The word conveys the idea that this is the current thinking, which could one day change should new evidence emerge…
By contrast, the devout use the word ‘belief’ in the opposite sense…e.g. “it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but we believe it to be a rhinocerous”, means that the observer will stick to this belief, irrespective of what evidence emerges…and that is the point of faith. A legitimate viewpoint, you might argue…but what happens when this viewpoint collides with known fact, or indeed with contrasting religions?