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CFI events at Oxford Literary Festival next week

What Sort of Faith Schools Are Acceptable, If Any? Stephen Law vs Peter Stanford

Wed March 24th, 6pm. Main Hall, Christ Church.

Do faith schools help build communities, or divide them? Do they educate, or indoctrinate? Do they raise principled moral citizens, or dangerous moral sheep? Should a school that discriminates against staff and pupils on the basis of faith receive state funding?

Peter Stanford is a former editor of the Catholic Herald, and an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. His biographies have included Lord Longford, C Day-Lewis, Bronwen Astor and the Devil. His latest book, The Extra Mile: The 21st-century Pilgrim, is published in March. Peter had two children at faith schools and is a foundation governor of one.

Stephen Law is a philosopher and the author of a book on faith schools called The War for Children's Minds. Stephen will argue that the state funding of faith schools should be abolished, and that every child at every school should be reminded regularly that religious belief is something each one of them is free to accept or reject. Indeed, Stephen is not convinced faith schools should be permitted at all.

Simon Singh – Trick or Treatment?

Blue Boar 6pm. Thursday 25th March.

Simon Singh is the science author responsible for a string of best-sellers that include Big Bang, Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book. In his latest book, Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial, Singh and his co-author Professor Edzard Ernst subjects a number of alternative medicines to critical scrutiny, investigating what works and what doesn’t. Singh is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for questioning the evidence behind some chiropractic treatments. This has become a landmark legal case, of huge importance to the scientific community, many of whom (e.g. Richard Dawkins) believe English libel law has now become a threat to open scientific debate. Singh will be discussing the significance of this ongoing legal case, now being widely reported in the media.

Ben Goldacre

Sat 27th Garden Marquee, 2pm.

Ben Goldacre is the award winning writer, broadcaster, and medical doctor who writes the weekly Bad Science column in the Guardian. Goldacre is widely known for his scathing, satirical attacks on medical quacks, health scares, mumbo-jumbo and pseudo-science, and his book Bad Science has become a best-seller. His approach is passionate, charming, funny and merciless. While investigating television nutritionist Gillian McKeith's membership of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, Goldacre bought a "certified professional membership" on behalf of his deceased cat, Henrietta, from the same institution for $60.

Does Science Reveal The Mind of God? Polkinghorne vs Papineau

Friday 26th March. 2pm, Garden Marquee.

After a distinguished career, John Polkinghorne retired as a Professor of Physics to study for Church of England Ministry, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He is the author of several books arguing that science is not in conflict with religion. Polkinghorne suggests that God is the answer to the question of "why is there something rather than nothing?" and that "theism explains more than a reductionist atheism can ever address." David Papineau is Professor of Philosophy at King’s College London, one of the country’s foremost philosophers and atheists, and the author of the excellent philosophy primer, Philosophy: Essential Tools For Critical Thought. Debate chaired by Stephen Law (Provost, Centre for Inquiry UK).

Richard Wiseman – Science of The Weird

Sunday 27th Blue Boar, 4pm.

An introduction to the science of the weird - from psychic powers to fire walking. Prof Richard Wiseman has gained an international reputation for research into quirky areas of psychology, including deception, humour, luck and the paranormal. He is also a trained magician, providing wonderfully entertaining and interactive events that help audiences sharpen their thinking and observational skills and spot more easily when someone may be trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Prof Wiseman is author of The Luck Factor – a best selling book exploring the lives and minds of lucky people.

To book tickets go to


Martin said…
I am positing a theory that everyone has one ultimate truth, and one article of faith. Not everyone is the same, my article of faith is that I am not a solipsist. I have never come across a sound argument that demolishes the case for solipsism, so I just have to "have faith" that I am not alone.

Having said this, you can probably see I will have a problem in not funding faith schools. The only type of schools I would be able to fund would be for those devoted to solipsism. Autistic schools, perhaps. But these would be promoting autism, rather than compensating for its effect.

Somehow, something always has to held in faith. Perhaps it's safer to do this when the faithful are explicit in their aims?

Will any of these debates be "youtubed". I know, I know, I know, but it was only a matter of time before somebody used the term.
Stephen Law said…
no plans to, no. will post my notes though.
Paul P. Mealing said…
I'd be very interested in the Polkinghorne vs Papineau debate, though I've read neither of them - just interested in that particular argument.

Hi Martin,

John Searle in Mind quotes an amusing anecdote from Bertrand Russell on solipsism: "I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs Christine Ladd Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others."

Regards, Paul.
AtheistInChurch said…
What Sort of Faith Schools Are Acceptable, If Any? Stephen Law vs Peter Stanford

Would love to hear this debate. I find it hard to think that anyone starting now come up with faith schools as a good idea. I guess his arguments will be along the lines of:

- Tradition. We've had them for a long time. An obvious fallacy.

- Morality. Religion somehow gives us morality that we can't get elsewhere. Probably the most persuasive with many people, but little to support this argument either. Look at places where religion has declined, they appear to be no more immoral than places where it is prevalent; sometimes better.

- Parent's wishes. The evidence for this is patchy to say the least - and even if this were true, should the state pay?

- Community cohesion. Counter-intuitive, I know, but I have heard this one argued. Northern Ireland? Oldham?

Best of luck.

DM said…

Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism...

add some comment moderation to your blasphemy blog...
ryan anderson said…
hello stephen, i was wondering if you would care to do a post on this websites( "proof of god." i just watched the video on the site and was not really sure what to think about it.
Anonymous said…
Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.............................................
DM said…

Einstein puts the final nail in the coffin of atheism...



atheists deny their own life element...

add some comment moderation to your blog of blasphemy...idiot...
Just finished listening to Polkinghorne's Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction. He is so smart it's sick. The fact that he seems willing to accept the basic tenets of Christianity makes me fear for the future of humanity.

Best read of the week - A Case of Conscience by James Blish. This 60 year old science fiction novel describes a Jesuit priest investigating a godless alien race on the planet Lithia, 50 light years from earth. Great stuff.

For a laugh by the pool,I also recommend Colin McGinn's mindfucking. McGinn is a great example of why,in my preferred reality, philosophers would be treated like rock stars.

TAM [from Trelawny Parish, Jamaica]
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