Daniel Dennett‚Äôs been at it again, this time in a juicy online Prospect debate with Richard Swinburne (pictured right), Emeritus Nolloth professor of the Philosophy of the Christian religion at the University of Oxford. In the debate Swinburne suggests science can‚Äôt begin to study religion without first acknowledging that God exists. Dennett argues that religions might well be a nice way of explaining what‚Äôs happened so far, but they‚Äôre not useful for furthering our understanding of the natural world because they don‚Äôt make any meaningful, testable predictions. But according to Swinburne that‚Äôs not what science is all about. Hmm‚Ä¶
A few excerpts:
Swinburne: ‚ÄúSo why are the most general laws of the multiverse as they are? Why do all particles behave in exactly the same way as each other, so as together ultimately to produce human life? This enormous coincidence in particle behaviour requires explaining. I’ve got a good theory which explains it [God]; you haven’t‚Äù.
Dennett: ‚ÄúFrom my perspective, your imaginative attempt at an inference to the best explanation is telling for the one thing it lacks: a single striking prediction. That’s why it can’t be taken seriously as a contender against a purely secular and materialist theory of cosmic and biological and cultural evolution‚Äù.
Swinburne: ‚ÄúI don’t think that it is in any way important that science should make predictions‚Äù.
Link to earlier post about science explaining religion.
Link to earlier post about Prospect debate on whether science can explain mental illness.
Link to event at At-Bristol Imax next Weds, where Dennett, Swinburne and others will be debating science and religion.
Make a real day of it and check out their Your Amazing Brain exhibition while you’re there.