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8th June event: Can science solve every mystery? A scientist, a philosopher and a Christian discuss

Centre for Inquiry UK and Conway Hall present

Can science solve every mystery? A scientist, a philosopher and a Christian discuss.

Peter Atkins, David Papineau, Peter S. Williams

Can science answer every question? Should scientists show a little humility and acknowledge there are questions that only religion can answer? Are science and religion “non-overlapping magisteria”, as the scientist Stephen Jay Gould claimed, or is science capable of showing that religion is false, as Richard Dawkins believes? And what, exactly, do philosophers do?

Presented and chaired by Stephen Law (Philosophy, Heythrop and Provost of CFI UK).

Saturday June 8th, 2013

Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square

£7 (£4 students) Free to friends of CFI UK. Tickets on door. or go here

10.30am registration. 11am-2.30pm


Professor Peter Atkins (Univ. of Oxford). Chemist, atheist and author of many books including Galileo’s Finger and Four Laws That Drive the Universe:

“Religion closes off the central questions of existence by attempting to dissuade us from further enquiry by asserting that we cannot ever hope to comprehend. We are, religion asserts, simply too puny.”

“Sitting around thinking about the world … [that] is philosophy. And we know where that leads to in understanding. My argument is - nowhere.”

Peter S. Williams (Damaris Trust). Philosopher and leading British Christian apologist. Author of C.S. Lewis vs the New Atheists and A Faithful Guide to Philosophy:

“The existence of scientific laws is inexplicable unless we move beyond science into the realm of metaphysics, postulating a God who intends those laws for a reason.”

Professor David Papineau (KCL). One of Britain’s leading philosophers and humanists and author of Philosophical Devices:

“Philosophical problems are characterized by a special kind of difficulty, a difficulty which means that they cannot be solved, as scientific problems normally are, simply by the uncovering of further empirical evidence. Rather they require some conceptual unravelling, a careful unpicking of implicit ideas, often culminating in the rejection of assumptions we didn't realize we had.”


crabsallover said…
Shame this clashes with BHA Annual meeting in Leeds. Ongoing debate at Humanists4Science is whether Scientism is valid.
Anonymous said…
Why do you keep inviting clowns like Atkins to these events?
Hank said…
This could be an interesting debate.
Unknown said…
'Should scientists show a little humility and acknowledge there are questions that only religion can answer?'

Only religion can answer the important questions in life.

Should I pray 5 times a day?

Is it a sin to eat meat on a Friday?

Should I put oil on my face when I fast?

Can a woman be a priest?

Is it a sin to eat beef , or pork, or are all foods clean?

Are cherubim different from seraphim?

Only religion can answer these questions.

There are many questions that science cannot answer.

By contrast, religion has many answers that cannot be questioned.
Nullifidian said…
Should scientists show a little humility and acknowledge there are questions that only religion can answer?

Should religionists show a little humility regarding the quality of their answers?

“The existence of scientific laws is inexplicable unless we move beyond science into the realm of metaphysics, postulating a God who intends those laws for a reason.”

Here is where a little humility would be called for, because science does have an explanation for many physical laws. Noether's theorem shows that for every differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system, there is a corresponding conservation law. To attempt to express it non-mathematically, there's no special point on a line where a physical system works differently, which gives us the law of conservation of linear momentum and there's no special orientation at which a physical system works differently, giving us the law of conservation of angular momentum, and so on.

This doesn't settle the question of where all laws come from, of course, but that wasn't Williams' claim. He claimed that the existence of physical laws as a whole were inexplicable without positing the existence of a superintending God. This is not true, and it would behoove him to run claims like these past a physicist before making them. This is why I get twitchy when I see statements about how scientists should have humility, because it too often translates into "Leave me with my with my unfounded intuitions intact!"
Anonymous said…
Atkins always makes a complete ass of himself whenever he speaks about philosophy. I really grow tired of hearing his intellectually bankrupt ranting.
there are some instances when science cannot really explain some things or events.
L.Long said…
Can science solve every mystery?
Is an open question with no concrete meaning. But given time and being allowed to do so it can solve the real mysteries - eventually.
"How many angels can dance on the head of a pin" is NOT a real mystery, but the solution is easy.
Glen said…
I really hope that Steven Carr was making a joke. Otherwise it's a pretty odd list of things to compare to Science. Do you think the amount of times a day one prays, or what the difference between cherubim and seraphim are, is important in any way, to the Science in reality? Such questions belong in a literature class and make for interesting conversation if you like those books, as does the difference between a Ring Wraith and a Dementor.

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