Tuesday, 6 January 2015

NAIVETY, BIOLOGY AND GOD

A NEW PIECE IN THE PUZZLE OF LIFE?

Brian Cox, rockstar turned scientist, is on record as saying that he doesn't think about God until he is asked to do so. But then he says:
'Philosophers would rightly point out that physicists making bland and sweeping statements is naive.  There is naivety in just saying there's no God; it's b-----s. People have thought about this.  People like Leibniz and Kant. They're not idiots. So you've got to at least address that.'
Elsewhere in the same interview he also says of 'inflationary cosmology' and the possible existence of an infinite number of universes: 
'These things have not been discussed widely; they need novelists and artists and philosophers and theologians and physicists to discuss them.'
Research from YouGov last September found that almost half of British biologists are atheists, compared with less than one in five of the general population, with a smaller proportion being found among physicists. But the theory of evolution is apparently far from settled. Dr Mark Vernon, celebrated agnostic and writer, recently drew attention to growing 'unease about neo-Darwinian orthodoxy, the version of Darwin's theory championed by Professor Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene'.  The failure of the sequencing of the human genome in 2003 'to deliver on its promise to account for human diseases and behaviours through genetic mechanisms' has led to 'the mainstreaming of the new science of epigenetics'. This new science, says Vernon:
'undermines the idea that inheritance happens only via DNA, and that evolution is built solely on random mutations. To put it simply, life is far more complicated and responsive than "selfish-geneism" allows.'
Professor of Palaeobiology at Cambridge Dr Simon Conway Morris speculated at a recent conference that we should pay more attention to the co-discoverer of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace. Vernon again:
'Right from the start, Wallace argued that human consciousness was far more sophisticated than would be needed merely to afford human beings survival advantages.  We don't use language just to warn our fellows of danger but to compose sublime, searching poems.  We don't use sound just to attract a mate but to nurture the ecstasy and insights of music.'
The Reverend Richard Coles, another former pop musician, now broadcaster and vicar, was on a panel with Robin Ince at the Cheltenham Science Festival in 2013.  He made a not dissimilar point to Brian Cox's about naivety and religion. "Most people stopped thinking about religion when they were 8," he lamented, implying that the popular view of religion was formed in the nursery and has barely escaped the land of Narnia. Spurred by that provocative comment, we have invited him to come and speak to the Wychwood Circle on March 8th at Milton under Wychwood village hall on the theme, "Christianity for grown-ups." 


On February 1st we hold our first open discussion of 2015 with a further look at the book by very different biblical scholars, Marcus Borg and N T Wright, which was our springboard in December, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. Our theme this time will be their contrasting visions of Jesus and The Christian Life - the subject of the final two chapters in the book forming Part VIII (about 40 pages). As always, anyone is welcome as long as they have read the relevant piece for discussion. Wychwood Library, 7pm. 

On March 8th we welcome the Reverend Richard Coles, ex-Communard and vicar of Finedon, who is well-known to listeners of Radio 4's Saturday Live. His topic will be CHRISTIANITY FOR GROWN-UPS. 

April 12th sees our second speaker of the year, former comedy magician and actor Geoffrey Durham, who is now better known as an author, creative consultant and outspoken Quaker.  He has appeared on Radio 4's Thought for the Day and has written two introductions to Quakerism, Being a Quaker and The Spirit of the Quakers



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