The next in the BrisScience lecture series is on tomorrow (Monday) night, at City Hall, 6pm for 6:30. Continuing to diversify the range of topics, the speaker is Margaret Wertheim, on the topic ” Space and Spirit: Why Science and Religion Together are Driving us Crazy”. As the extract over the page suggests, Wertheim thinks that we have a fundamental pyschological need for a reconcilation of science and religion.
I’m not so sure about this. One of the most striking features of the late 20th century was the collapse of active religious belief in most of the developed world, with the glaring exception of the United States. This didn’t result in any direct sense from scientific discoveries about the universe. And, surprisingly, it didn’t seem to produce any big changes in behavior (there have been changes in sexual mores, but these have been just as noticeable in the US as elsewhere) or any obvious rise in cosmic angst. You can find some statistical differences between believers and non-believers, and between those who regularly attend religious services and those who don’t, but they are a lot smaller than much of the discussion of this topic would suggest.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it, as I’ll be presenting at the IAAE Conference in the Gold Coast so maybe some Brisbane-based reader would like to put in a brief report on proceedings.
Space and Spirit
Science and religion are often viewed as two competing and utterly opposed epistemologies â€“ one based on faith, the other on reason.
Yet both are systems that attempt to make sense of the world and of humanityâ€™s place within a wider cosmological scheme. Religions usually posit that the material realm is just one part of a larger whole that also includes an immaterial spiritual domain, while modern science speaks only of a physical realm.
At the birth of modern science in the seventeenth century no one imagined that science was articulating the whole of reality, but increasingly, since the Enlightenment, that has been the claim. Hard line materialists today assert that any other view is philosophically naÃ¯ve and psychologically childish.
In this talk, writer and commentator Margaret Wertheim will trace the history of how, with the rise of modern physics, any notion of a spiritual realm was written out of the Western world picture. Wertheim will examine the social, psychological and cultural effects of this excision and suggest that science and religion together are driving us crazy. She will suggest that indeed we need to reexamine the foundations of our epistemic framework and that we cannot find collective sanity without some acknowledgement of the resources provided by both fields.