Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Richard Dawkins, and Sir Anthony Kenny will explore “the nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin” at Oxford University today. Specifically, they will discuss whether science, philosophy, and theology in dialogue can “map a more progressive route for reflecting upon such matters.” The event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST, has long been sold out, but you can watch a webcast of the event for free (or watch the archived video shortly after the event).
Margaret Yee, co-convener of the dialogue with John Hedley Brooke, sent along a list of the submitted big questions to be addressed:
Stage One: Current human individuals
Isabel Richards (undergraduate, Physics and Philosophy, University College)
Across centuries and across cultural and religious boundaries, literature and other art forms have demonstrated the capacity of individual human beings to express an independence of spirit, of thought, and of creativity. Does capacity for individual expression require explanation?
Dr. Angeliki Kerasidou, D.Phil (Oxf), Researcher in Bioethics, Ethox Centre, Oxford
The issue of “human nature” is a highly controversial one in the circles of philosophy and theology. Could biology help philosophers settle this debate?
Catherine Milnes (Head of Classics and Religious Studies, Sandbach High School)
Given that religion is such a universal feature of the human condition, is not the concept of religiosity worthy of scientific investigation?
Dr. M.M. Yee, Senior Research Fellow, St. Cross College (Principles of Knowing: Science, Humanities & Theology)
Are “heaven” and “hell” simply poetic images spoken by a Welsh bard, which, in a scientific world, are best understood as concepts of a bygone age and not treated as fact?
Stage Two: Origin of the human species
Dr. Robert Gilbert: Fellow and Tutor in Biochemistry, Magdalen College
Do you think that human scientific knowledge can be wholly explained by biological evolution?
Human beings are immensely imperfect, with so many of our potentialities unrealized. Are these failures of evolution, or are they failures of design?
Stage Three: Origin of Life
Berry Billingsley, Lecturer in Science Education, Reading University, and Principal Investigator of a project looking at children’s ideas about science and religion.
Surely if the truth is that the Universe is billions of years old and life evolved, it would have been better when the Bible was written to say nothing about how humans began. Did the writers essentially get it wrong?
Stage Four: Origin of Universe
Dick Wolff, Local United Reformed Church minister and city councillor (degree in mining engineering)
Is the sense of wonder that there is anything at all (a) an interesting but ultimately valueless human experience, or (b) the unresolvable puzzle that lies at the heart of what makes us distinctively human, and therefore the starting point for all intellectual endeavor? [n.b. asking why there is anything at all is not the same as asking how or why what there is came to be]
When a scientist says “There’s probably no God” what does this mean—is it a statistic or based on empirical results, is it based on a historical inquiry—what kind of a statement is this?