Cleo and I went to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History last night to hear a discussion entitled Has science buried God?
The venue for this important discussion was chosen because 150 years ago a famous debate took place here between Bishop of Oxford Samuel Wilberforce and the biologist and friend of Charles Darwin Thomas Henry Huxley. They famously clashed over Darwin’s recently published theory of evolution by natural selection.
We were very excited to have got two of the very few sought-after tickets (I bought ours back in June) and as we queued to get in it was clear there were plenty of people who had travelled a long way to be there. It felt like an historic occasion. With limited seating we went to watch the debate from the balcony from where we witnessed the grandeur of the main exhibit hall, its breathtaking roof and cabinets of precious exhibits. I think this is the most beautiful building in Oxford. The media were there in force and I spotted at least three film crews. I stood directly behind the BBC camera and got talking to the woman operating it. She was filming for a programme due to be screened during the Darwin season next February (marking his bicentenary).
The speakers sat beneath the skeleton of tyrannosaurus rex and the debate began.
I’m not even going to attempt to precis the discussion, but you can imagine what these two eminent professors – one Christian, one atheist – covered: the origins of life, natural selection, the ‘pettiness’ of Jesus (Dawkins’ word), the lack of scientific evidence to prove the existence of a god, the overwhelming evidence for natural selection, all the things you’d expect. I was especially staggered at the blinkeredness of Lennox to accept that the faithless (like me if you hadn’t guessed) can have morals. I find that attitude offensive and naive. I couldn’t understand why Lennox and others like him can’t see that because atheists have to work it out for themselves, really think about stuff rather than get it from some ancient dogma, that our moral codes are just as relevant, if not even more so because they are grounded in today’s experience with today’s knowledge. Anyway I feel a rant coming on so I’ll stop there!
The answer to the question ‘has science buried God?’ is obviously ‘unfortunately no, not yet’. But scientists have only just started to answer the big important questions. Give ‘em a couple of hundred years. But even then some people will be reluctant to accept the facts in favour of something more ‘woooo’.
And who ‘won’ the debate? Richard Dawkins, by miles. But then that’s what happens when you apply logic and reason.