Beyond Belief

These days, the Enlight­en­ment project finds itself in a tense cul­tur­al com­pe­ti­tion with reli­gion. Go around the US and ask, “how did we come to be?” and you will get dif­fer­ent answers. Some, appeal­ing to sci­ence and rea­son, the chil­dren of the Enlight­en­ment, will look to evo­lu­tion for answers. Oth­ers, with a reli­gious bent, will refer you to the Bible or intel­li­gent design — which is anoth­er way of say­ing, God is behind it all.

Is the Enlight­en­ment
project near­ing an end? Can sci­ence and rea­son even­tu­al­ly reassert them­selves, per­haps as pow­er­ful­ly as reli­gion recent­ly has? Or, can sci­ence and reli­gion at least co-exist and address dif­fer­ent ques­tions?

Ear­li­er this month, an impres­sive list of sci­en­tists and philoso­phers got togeth­er at the Salk Insti­tute for a con­fer­ence called, “Beyond Belief: Sci­ence, Reli­gion, Rea­son and Sur­vival.” The pre­sen­ters ranged from Richard Dawkins (Oxford’s well-known evo­lu­tion the­o­rist), to Joan Rough­gar­den (a Stan­ford pro­fes­sor who recent­ly wrote Evo­lu­tion and Chris­t­ian Faith: Reflec­tions of an Evo­lu­tion­ary Biol­o­gist), to Craig Ven­ter (who helped decode the human genome). Thanks to The Sci­ence Net­work, the so-called “C‑SPAN of sci­ence,” you can watch the videos of the dif­fer­ent con­fer­ence pre­sen­ta­tions for free online. (Note: To watch the videos, you’ll need Quick­Time. If you don’t have it, you can down­load it for free here.)

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