On Sunday October 19th Chris Street from Humanists4Science
led a discussion on the assertion made by Peter Atkins that
“There is nothing that the scientific method cannot illuminate and elucidate”
Chris’ presentation can be found here.
Chris is a lifelong atheist who discovered Humanism seven years ago and is chair of Humanists4Science and president of Atheism UK. He is education officer and webmaster for Dorset Humanists. He used his IT skills to initiate and provide key support for the development of Farnham Humanists’ new website.
John de Prey’s report on Chris’ talk is below
“Physicist Leonard Susskin is the co-founder of the String Theory which is considered to be the leading candidate for the “Theory of Everything”. He questions whether physicists can ever understand reality. This is because it might be beyond the limited human capacity to visualize it. Chris Street, chair of Humanists4Science and president of Atheism UK, illustrated how many prominent scientists disagree. For instance Peter Atkins, former professor of Chemistry and vocal atheist, has stated “My faith respects the powerful ability of the collective human intelligence … to comprehend …without limit”.
Chis Street quoted Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Theoretical Physics, as having an unshakeable conviction that our universe is understandable, that mysteries are only mysteries because we have yet to figure out the almost always logical answers. However, Professor Al-Khalili has also said that we may not get the full picture, but science allows us to get ever closer.
Steven Hawkins, the renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist, suggests that in order to describe the universe we might need to employ different theories in different circumstances. This idea is not the physicist’s traditional expectation for a theory of nature, nor does it correspond to our everyday idea of reality. But it might be the way of the universe.
The philosopher Steven Law has questioned whether or not science can answer moral questions. He quotes David Hume who stated that science reveals what is the case; it cannot tell us what we ought or ought not do.
The debate was hotly taken up by the floor during the Humanist meeting. Will science one day tell us that morality, emotion, consciousness and the widespread belief in the afterlife are simply evolved human survival characteristics? Might Peter Atkins not be in effect making a “leap of faith” in his belief in the ability of science? The usefulness of philosophy was questioned. Our debate was skilfully inspired and facilitated by Chris Street.”