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Audio: Will Science refute Religion?

Jonathan Miller (picture) and John Gray in discussion at the British Library, 3 September 2007


Jonathan MillerScience vs Religion? It seems many see it that way, with both religious zealots, and atheist zealots such as Richard Dawkins, accusing each other of arrogance and ignorance. But here two prominent atheists argue that the two things are separate, non-mutually exclusive, human needs, and that talk of a 'conflict' is absurd.
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Taking part were John Gray, Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics, author of Black Mass, Apocalyptic Religion, and the Death of Utopia; and Jonathan Miller, physician, theatre and opera director, and television presenter, whose recent series Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief on BBC4 explored the relationship between science and religion.

The discussion was chaired by Lisa Appignanesi, author, novelist and deputy president of English PEN.

Gray argued that much secular thinking on history and politics owed more than it admitted to religious frameworks of apocalyptic and 'purpose-driven' thinking. Both he and Miller stressed the separation between science's progressive accumulation of practical knowledge based on refutation, and religion's catering for human needs to approach the unknowable.

Both had plenty of scathing words for Dawkins; Miller also entertainingly rubbished Derrida, ridiculed New-Age notions of 'spirituality', and cited Philip Larkin's poetry as one way, for him, in which limited human understanding can acknowledge the unlimited.

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