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Institute of Advanced Study

Darwin, Science and Belief Conference

Senate Lounge, Durham Castle
Thursday, 19th April 2007

Laying aside the polemical 'debates' over whether the world is 4,000 years old, this conference will consider the ethics of efforts to convert a public from religious to scientific beliefs, and whether Darwinian science and religion truly are diametrically opposed.

Conference Programme

Session 1

If anthropologists generally avoid openly challenging the native spiritual beliefs of traditional societies, is it acceptable for scientists to contest the beliefs of the major monotheistic religions in modern society?

  • Professor Simon Coleman, Sussex University

          Science versus Anthropology, not Religion

  • Professor Bob Layton, Durham University

          The Social Context of Aboriginal and Western Creationism

  • Dr Denis Alexander, Cambridge University

          Science and Religion: Negotiating the 21st Century Rapids

Session 2 

Given it may be an evolved disposition, is religion inevitable in human society, and therefore futile to try to 'combat' it, or is it just a matter of educational standards?

  • Professor Lewis Wolpert, UCL

          The Evolutionary Origins of Causal Beliefs

  • Dr Timothy Taylor, University of Bradford

          Artificial: Why Darwin was wrong about People but right about God

  • Professor Steven Mithen, University of Reading

         The Inevitablity of Religion? A View from the Past

Session 3 

Is religion "bad" for society? Is science "good"? What do we really know about the societal costs and benefits of widespread religious belief, versus widespread scientific reasoning, versus a balance of both?

  • Professor Jeff Astley, Durham University

          Science, Religion and Well-Being: A Case Against Creationism for Adoloscents

  • Professor Douglas Davies, Durham University 

         The Evolution of God

  • Professor Ian Reader, Lancaster University
          Indiscriminate Terror, the Public Good and Ideological Misunderstandings
          of Religion
  • Dr Peter Collins, Durham University  
         Texts, Testomonies and Trade: An Evaluation of the Social Impacts 
         of Quakerism

Session 4 

Can science itself inspire spiritual wonder? What are the most fascinating recent scientific insights on the nature and origin of the universe beyond our world?

  • Professor John Hedley Brooke, Ian Ramsey Centre, Oxford

          Rainbows and Rapture: Scientific Discovery as Spiritual Experience

  • Professor Charlotte Hardman, Durham University

          Re-enchanting the World from Goethe to Western Spiritualities

  • Dr David Wilkinson, Durham University 
         Awe, Intelligibility and Design? The Revival of Natural Theology
         in Contemporary Cosmology



Edge of Reason