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The Great Debate!

by glynch — last modified 02 Dec, 2014 04:42 PM

Christian and Humanist debate science and religion in Dorset Church - and later in the pub!

The Great Debate!

Debators in Milborne St Andrew (L to R): Eric Austen, the Ven Paul Taylor, David Nunn

An audience of about 60 people gathered in Milborne St Andrew Church expecting sparks to fly as David Nunn, a Humanist scientist debated with Eric Austen, a Christian mediator (and former banker and teacher), and as to whether Science and Religion are compatible. 

In fact the debate, ably managed by the Ven Paul Taylor, Archdeacon of Sherborne, was a serious and thoughtful continuation of a debate between two friends who hold radically different views about the existence of God and about the compatibility of Science and Religion.

Paul invited questions and comments from the audience that consisted of a mixture of Atheists, Humanists and Christians.

The big issue that surfaced was the nature of what people will accept as evidence. Is truth only to be found in our rational thought and through science and experiment or is experience of what religious people call the spiritual and hence God valid evidence? Are we simply accidental creations of mindless forces or is there intention behind the complexity of the universe in which we live?

David contended that, using Occam’s Razor (a principle developed by a Christian) that the simplest answer is the best one led him to accept the theory of evolution without any additional need for God. He suggested that Atheists are capable of living a good and moral life without religion and that religions only complicates matters with their concept of God. Religion has been the cause of many terrible things perpetrated over the centuries. He suggested that religious hierarchies had developed as a means of control and while recognising that religion does some good in this world its net effect is to damage the quality of life for people and restrict their freedom to be themselves.

Eric believed that the idea that we are here by mere chance was, for him, an inadequate explanation and conflicted with his, and many other people’s, experience of another dimension, a spiritual side to life. This includes an encounter with something beyond this world that for want of a better word he calls God. This God he believes in is not just to explain things that science cannot yet explain but is totally involved in the day to day experiences of humanity. He values, and with scientists is enthused, by the discoveries of science and shares their amazement at the beauty and complexity of everything. For him all of this serves to enhance his belief in a creator God.

Both David and Eric were encouraged by the number of people who came and their willingness to share with them in exploring through respectful discussion the implications of their beliefs. People continued to discuss after the end of the debate over a glass of wine and tea and coffee and nibbles. The debate then moved to the local pub and then back to Eric’s house in Milborne St Andrew and continued until after 5 a.m.!

Everyone seemed to appreciate the value of moving out of our comfort zones, out of our ‘thought ghettos’ and valued listening to views that were in considerable conflict with our own but still respecting those with whom we differed fundamentally.

An mp3 CD is available on request from Eric Austen on 01258 837213.

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