Friday, February 6, 2009

Science and Religion - LSE podcast review

The public lectures at the School of Economics are podcast in the LSE podcast and afterward at the compiled Uchannel Podcast (sometimes nearly immediately, sometimes up to months later). The latest lecture I listened to was held on January 21st with speaker Professor John Worrall about the incompatibility of science and religion.

Worall operates from the perspective of Science in this matter and examines a variety of ways to define religion such that it might be compatible with science, yet is not too widely or so vaguely defined. Too widely defined would mean that in the definition either science gobbles up religion or vice versa. Too vague would mean religion is watered down to such an extent the definition no longer covers what in practice is understood as religion.

It struck me that Worall, coming from science, was not particularly dedicated to haul in religion. He was, so to speak, rather indifferently weighing modern understanding of religion and see if the religious way to understand the world would meet his starting point requirements of science. His view on science was that of a method rather than a body of knowledge or a view of the world; the method of testing all claims it makes by systematic observation - one feels the influence of Karl Popper. As close as a free version of religion comes to it, Worall supposes the two just might be compatible in that light. But otherwise they would not and he doesn't seem to be particularly worried about this.

This, in my view, might have been very different had we had a talk by a religious person, trying to save science for his or her world view. Any religious person (obscure fundamentalists apart) will try to salvage science and this in itself goes to show what profound authority science has acquired in the modern world. I think there are many like Worall, who wouldn't want to reject religion out of hand, but would lose any sleep over the conclusion the two were incompatible. The division of task, Worall suggests by the end, in which science explains the how and religion the why in the world, smack of being reduced and simplified for both the large body of science as well as the large body of religions, leaving the matter totally unresolved.

More LSE Events:
The crisis,
Desiring walls,
The Post-American World,
Reparing Failed States,
Europe and the Middle East.

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