Thursday, December 07, 2006

beyond belief 2006

Beyond Belief 2006: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival was a conference of many eminent scholars (such as Richard Dawkins and Paul Davies) from the fields of psychology, astronomy, biology, philosophy and others that took place November 5-7, 2006 at the Salk Institute in CA. These notable scholars discussed the ongoing relationship between science and religion in our contemporary society and the possibilities of where we as a society and a civilization might be headed as a result of this fascinatingly interesting and historic interplay.

At the Beyond Belief 2006 website, the lectures given by the various presenters can be watched and/or downloaded to a hard drive. I haven't had the opportunity to watch all or even many of the lectures, but the one that I did see which I thought was superb is given by astrophysicist and director of Hayden Planetarium, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Titled "The Perimeter of Ignorance," Dr. Tyson examines how some of the world's most awesome thinkers, such as Galileo, Newton, Huygens, of the past and many well-known intellectuals of today can remain religious despite their remarkable abilities to solve scientific problems on their own and the overwhelming evidence which suggests that the world is not directed by the power of a divine, omniscient being. For Dr. Tyson, the fact that most lay people are religious isn't significant. What's significant to him and that calls for further investigation is why 15% of the nation's top scientists are religious. In the course of his speech, he also looks at the reasons behind the tremendous intellectual achievements that the Islamic world enjoyed from roughly 800 to 1100 CE and why their achievements tapered off. Finally, he argues that the evidence is overwhelming that we and indeed the world are not the center of an Intelligent Design. Forget about the man-on-man induced violence and suffering, there are so many different examples of natural phenomena that inflict so much suffering on humanity to suggest that we, humans, are just one element of a rich and complex puzzle in which we are not the center. As Richard Dawkins argued, if a loving, benevolent, omnipotent God as depicted in the Christian tradition whose foremost creation was man did create the cosmos according to the tenets of a divine purpose, life and indeed our world would probably be very different.
Watch Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's fantastic presentation here. I'd be curious to hear your views.

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