picture by J.Salmoral
The panel were not a cross-section: they believed, and so each of them were dominated by a great unseen presence of their imagining: invisible but constant, with an authoritative answer to every question, a small assured voice in their ear, nagging at their better judgement. I refer of course to Richard Dawkins who dominated proceedings from afar.
I wrote in my notebook the words "DAWKINS" and "GOD", and underlined both and annoyed Mark intensely by making a tick every time either got a mention. "First to ten?" I whispered, as Dawkins took a commanding 6-2 lead.
The panel soon achieved a consensus: science and religion should work together. There was no need to see them as fundamentally separate, they can learn from each other: different domains, you see.
It was all terribly Church of England. I longed for a fundamentalist view to spark some controversy, some hissing even: a scientist with contempt for the supernatural? an evangelical bible-literalist to tell us we the earth was younger than the Great Pyramid? Either would have been good, but instead we had Nancy Cartwright, Nicholas Last, John Millbank and Roger Trigg.
In my notebook I recorded every thought from the speakers that seemed to me interesting or novel. Trigg had the most - by a country mile - so here's two of his:
- If you cannot conceive of anything that could shake your faith, in other words if your faith does not exclude anything... then you believe in everyhting and nothing at all. He was thinking 'religion' I was thinking 'climate change'
- Scientific study as we know it could only have arisen in Christian context. It was Christian teaching that allowed the possibility the God could have created the world anyway he wanted...so it was in order to investigate exactly how he did do it. I was thinking 'Arabic Maths? Egyptians measuring the circumference of the Earth?'
It was a good question.
Last had a poor answer - that the whole world was evidence for God [see (1)]. I thought of Carl Sagan's answer. That would do it for me.
At the end there were self-important questions from the audience "Don't you agree that science itself requires more faith than belief in God?" (No), and then were released into the humid night.
I took my friend to one my favourite pubs, which was a mistake because that was evening it had no beer. God saw us coming...or did he? We settled into a corner table and considered the evening.
"It ended Dawkins 15, God 11", I told Mark. "I call that a clear win"
"You can say that if you like, he mumured, "but Dawkins wasn't even here . ..and we have to assume that God was"
We are going again on the 28th.