Dialogue between faith and science Science and Religion Conference - The Cambridge Muslim College
that, while science succumbs to uncertainty, the bracing certainties of faith introduce a more attractive alternative? Rationalist and atheistic thinkers like Daniel Bennett, Dr Winter reminded us, have argued that consciousness and free will are strictly the results of physical processes. There are no
Current research and new perspectives on consciousness and the role of the observer in fundamental physical sciences were discussed recently at the Cambridge Muslim College. Frank Gelli reports
Science cannot give you the smell of chicken soup", declared Albert Einstein. Cambridge physicist Jeremy Butterfield quoted the legendary scientist to illustrate the cognitive gap between subjective human consciousness and the physical, objective world which science investigates. It is to the credit of the Cambridge Muslim College that it organised an exciting day conference 8th September 17 to delve into such mysteries. The subject matter was not for the faint-hearted: ‘What is Consciousness and Why Observers Matter in Quantum Theory.’ A challenging title but appropriate for university whose glories include scientific geniuses like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawkins.
College Dean Dr Tim Winter, a.k.a. Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad, in the opening address stressed that the purpose of the gathering was not to advance solutions but to establish a serious conversation between science and faith. He invoked the Cambridge Platonist thinkers and the great Islamic philosopher and physician Ibn Sina’s doctrine of the soul as pertinent predecessors. The Conference panel offered ten presentations by physicists, neuroscientists, mathematicians, a psychotherapist and a philosopher. There was no attempt to assert a crude link between religion and science. Rather, each speaker set out some of the key problems involved in quantum theory. You could say it all goes back to Werner Heisenberg’s famous Uncertainty Principle, one of the cornerstones of modern physics. Formulated in 1927, that revolutionary discovery fractured the certainties of previous deterministic, Newtonian science. Because at the subatomic level there are no certainties about the path of physical particles, only probabilities, as Heisenberg’s experiments showed. Such uncertainty has deep implications for the scientific worldview. Could it be
thoughts, Dennett claims, only units of information. Others, however, respond that personal introspection means a mode of knowing not reducible to matter. Philosopher Thomas Nagel’s ground-breaking paper ‘What is it like to be a bat?’ shows how merely materialist, reductionist theories of mind omit something essential: what it is – or feels - like to be a particular conscious being, like a bat (pity we
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