Science and Belief

The recent onslaught of Richard Dawkins on religious belief is the culmination of almost 400 years of growing scepticism, exemplified most powerfully in the work of David Hume (1711-1776)  who was the first philosopher systematically to refute grounds for the existence of a God.

It is all too easy for Christians to be dismissive of the position of atheists and so the objective of this discussion is to explore some of the issues:

1. How realistic is it to confine reality to what can be demonstrated in a laboratory or, less satisfactorily, in a court. In other words, is there any such thing as a corpus of evidence about reality on which we can all agree?

2. How does reality relate to paradigms? If we work within one paradigm we have to dismiss some material as anomalous; and we often miss important material because we are not 'looking' for it as it does not fit our paradigm.

3. Then there are abstract propositions, like theorems in geometry; they are internally consistent but in what way are they 'true' compared with laboratory evidence and the one hand and theological propositions on the other?

4. If rationalists only place credence in facts as they can be established in a laboratory, where does this leave history and context? Can we really separate an occurrence from its context. Do ideas change their meaning through time?

5. If we were to look at ways of understanding our existence, how would we characterise:

6. Finally, what arguments might we use to counter Dawkins? And is there any point in trying?

KC III.2011.