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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).

(indicative prices not confirmed) £7 (£4 students) Free to friends of CFI UK. Tickets on door. Book shop and sighnings.

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.”

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  • James

    That was really interesting. I conclude that only science can solve scientific mysteries, only philosophy can solve philosophical mysteries, and only theology can solve theological mysteries.

    June 8, 2013

  • James

    I hope I can make it!

    June 3, 2013

  • John Jacob L.

    I've done so. It would be great to hear a counter-argument that made sense -------------------------

    May 4, 2013

  • John Jacob L.

    "Non-overlapping magisteria"? No. They both address the same questions/ mysteries. However, as I have said, the tools they use in this endeavour are very different. The tools of science are rational while the religions posit rather silly man-made stories.

    May 2, 2013

  • John Jacob L.

    There are questions that neither science nor religion can answer. However, consider the variation in the epistemologies. Good science follows the objectivity of the scientific method while the various religions simply assert. And the religions all assert something different! Science will continue to 'chip-away' at the mysteries currently in play but, in my opinion, some questions will always remain. If you want to guess, do so, but ensure your guesses are testable. Then we can call them hypotheses and, bingo,we are back to science.

    May 2, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Just realised its the same days as stone roses.

    May 2, 2013

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