Monday, 8 April 2013, 6:00PM
St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside

The Boyle Lectures: Science and Religion in Dialogue

The Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, Professor John Hedley Brooke, Dr Richard Chartres

A review of the past ten years' of the Boyle Lecture and their contribution to the dialogue between Christianity and our contemporary understanding of the natural world.

The key to understanding the relationship between science and religion lies in the recognition that both are, in their own specific ways, concerned with the search for truth, a truth that is attainable through commitment to well-motivated beliefs. The ‘new atheists’ fail to acknowledge this fact, polemically alleging that religious people believe without evidence, or even against the evidence. This false caricature results in the new atheists paying no honest attention to serious theological discussion. Their writings are full of assertion but lacking in engaged rational argument.

Of course, in their search for truth science and religion are exploring different dimensions of the human encounter with reality. Science is concerned with impersonal encounter – reality treatable as an ‘It’, you might say. This is a realm in which experience can be manipulated and repeated as often as is desired. This ability gives science its great secret weapon of experimental testing. If you do not believe that the pressure and volume of a given quantity of gas at constant temperature are inversely proportional, just investigate for yourself and you will find that Robert Boyle was right. Yet we all know that there is a different dimension of reality, the personal and transpersonal, where reality is encountered not as an ‘It’ but as a ‘Thou’, and in that realm testing has to give way to trusting. If I am always setting little traps to see if you are my friend, I shall soon destroy the possibility of friendship between us. The attempt to manipulate God and put God to the test is the sinful error of magic. It is in this rich and profound realm of personal and transpersonal experience that religion pursues its quest for truth.

I see a cousinly relation between my scientific experience and my theological experience. I like to say that I am two-eyed, viewing reality with both the eye of science and the eye of religion. I believe that with this binocular vision I can see further and deeper than I could with either eye on its own.

 

Photographs of this lecture are available to be viewed on the Gresham College Flickr page here.

the-revd-dr-john-polkinghorne-kbe-frs

The Revd Dr John Polkinghorne was Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood. He became an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens' College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996.

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professor-john-hedley-brooke

Professor John Hedley Brooke was educated at Cambridge University, obtaining a first class degree in the natural sciences (1965) and a doctorate for work on the history of chemistry (1969). For 30 years he taught at Lancaster University, becoming a member of the International Academy of the History of Science in 1993. In 1995, with Professor Geoffrey Cantor, he gave the Gifford Lectures at Glasgow University. From 1999 to 2006, he was the first Andreas Idreos Professor of Science & Religion at Oxford University, Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre and Fellow of Harris Manchester College.

Following retirement, he has spent time as a 'Distinguished Fellow' at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Durham (2007). He has lectured worldwide on science & religion and in November 2001 gave the 'Distinguished Lecture' of the History of Science Society. From 2000 to 2003 he directed the European Science Foundation's Network on 'Science and Human Values'.

A former Editor of the British Journal for the History of Science, he has been President of the British Society for the History of Science, President of the Historical Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and President of the UK Forum for Science & Religion. He is currently President of the International Society for Science and Religion.

Among his books are Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 1991), which won the Watson Davis Prize of the History of Science Society and a Templeton prize for outstanding books on science & religion; Thinking About Matter (Ashgate, 1995); and (with Geoffrey Cantor) Reconstructing Nature: The Engagement of Science & Religion (T & T Clark, 1998; Oxford University Press, 2000). He has also contributed to both The Cambridge Companion to Darwin and The Cambridge Companion to the Origin of Species.

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dr-richard-chartres

Richard John Carew Chartres is the 132nd Lord Bishop of London, being confirmed in office in November 1995. He was previously Bishop of Stepney (1992-1995) and Gresham Professor of Divinity (1987-1992). His Gresham lectures covered topics as varied as prayer, the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. He read history at Trinity College, Cambridge and was ordained as a priest in 1974. He is very concerned with environmental issues, and since 2006 has the led the Church of England's Shrinking the footprint campaign. In 2008, the Independent on Sunday named him the 75th most important environmental campaigner in Britain.

All the previous lectures by the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dr Richard Chartres can be accessed on our website here.

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Transcript

8 April 2013

The Boyle Lectures: Science and Religion in Dialogue
The Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS
Professor John Hedley Brooke
Dr Richard Chartres

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