The Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion conducts research into religious beliefs and theological concepts in relation to the sciences. The Centre is a part of the Theology Faculty at the University of Oxford.
The Sacred Rites in Kant's Soul
Steve Clarke, James Martin Research Fellow, Institute for Science and Ethics, Oxford Martin School, Oxford gives a talk for the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion. Joshua Greene argues that ordinary moral judgment results from the interaction of two distinct neural subsystems which generate competing moral intuitions. One subsystem generates consequentialist intuitions and the other generates deontological intuitions. Greene suggests that our faculty for generating deontological intuitions developed in response to an evolutionary need to suppress 'up close and personal' harmful acts within communities and when such acts are under consideration deontological intuitions tend to predominate in moral judgment. When 'up close and personal harms' are not under consideration consequentialist intuitions tend to predominate. A key problem with this account is that many deontological strictures (e.g. 'though shalt not lie') are meant to apply beyond the range of the 'up close and personal'. Here, the speaker seeks to defend Greene's account of the evolutionary origins of deontological moral intuition in the face of this problem, showing how it can be supplemented with an account of the ways in which social organisations can expand the scope of deontological moral judgment. The social organisations that are most effective in expanding the scope of deontological moral judgment are religious institutions. The speaker tries to show why this is so, drawing on Durkheim's account of the sacred. The speaker also considers the consequentialist normative arguments that Greene and Peter Singer build on Greene's descriptive account of moral judgment. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Evolutionary Theology Without the Concept of Progress
Fraser Watts, Cambridghe, gives a talk for the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion Seminar series. Integrations of evolutionary theory and Christian theology have often been built around the concept of progress. However, it will be argued that 'progress' is an unsatisfactory concept in both evolutionary and theological thought. Watts' proposal is that evolutionary theology does not require the concept of progress, and is better off without it. That theme is developed first in relation to human evolution and distinctiveness, where it is argued that there is no need to make the assumption that human beings are 'better than other species, just that they have distinctive capacities that were a necessary precursor to the incarnation. It is further argued that the 'Fall' is ambiguous in relation to progress, and represents a heightened capacity for both good and evil. Though Christ has often been seen as the culmination of evolution, it is suggested that an adequate evolutionary account of the work of Christ needs to be more concerned with the qualitative changes in human and cultural evolution introduced by Christ.
Neuroscience and the Soul
Professor Roger Scruton gives a talk for the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion on the 21st October, 2010. Patricia Churchland argued that 'folk psychology , with its everyday concepts of belief, desire, perception and thought, and its idea of the 'mind' as an individual entity in which all these processes occur, is a kind of explanatory science, effective in its way, but with obscure and empirically empty theoretical terms. It is destined to be replaced by a better science of human behaviour, and that science will be the science of the brain and the nervous system. Advances in brain physiology and the accumulation of evidence from brain-scans etc have given some credibility to Churchland's conjecture, and the attempt to meld neuroscience with the 'cognitive science' view of the brain and its functions has radically revised our picture of mental processes. Should we go along with this revision? Is folk psychology simply a proto-science? Should we adopt the view that the brain is the true locus of our mental life and the thing to which we are referring when we describe what we think, decide or feel? Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Science and Religion Around the World - Book Launch (27 Jan 2011)
Geoffrey Cantor, John Brooke, Ronald Numbers and Keith Benson, contributors to the Science and Religion Around the World book, give presentations for the Ian Ramsay Seminar Series on 27th January 2011 as part of the book launch. The past quarter-century has seen an explosion of interest in the history of science and religion. All too often, however, the scholars writing it have focused their attention almost exclusively on the Christian experience, with only passing reference to other traditions of both science and faith. At a time when religious ignorance and misunderstanding have lethal consequences, such provincialism must be avoided and, in this pioneering effort to explore the historical relations of what we now call 'science' and 'religion', this seminar looks beyond the Abrahamic traditions to examine the way nature has been understood and manipulated in regions as diverse as ancient China, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. The book that will be launched at this seminar, Science and Religion around the World, also provides authoritative discussions of science in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as an exploration of the relationship between science and the loss of religious beliefs. The narratives included in the book demonstrate the value of plural perspectives and of the importance of location for the construction and perception of science-religion relations Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
On the very idea of criteria for personhood (4 Nov 2010)
Timothy Chappell, Professor of Philosophy, Open University, gives a talk for the Ian Ramsay Seminar series on 4th November, 2010. Professor Chappell examines the familiar criterial view of personhood, according to which the possession of personal properties such as self-consciousness, emotionality, sentience, and so forth is necessary and sufficient for the status of a person. He argues that this view confuses criteria for personhood with parts of an ideal of personhood. In normal cases, we have already identified a creature as a person before we start looking for it to manifest the personal properties, indeed this pre-identification is part of what makes it possible for us to see and interpret the creature as a person in the first place. And that pre-identification typically runs on biological lines. Except in some interesting special or science-fiction cases it is human animals that we identify as persons Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Reconciling Islam and Modern Science: from schizophrenia to harmony (18 Nov 2010)
Nidhal Guessoum, Professor of Physics, American University of Sharjah, gives a talk for the Ian Ramsay Seminar series on 18th November 2010. Science, or at least Knowledge, has always had a special status in the Islamic culture and civilization. As Abdus Salam often said, some 750 verses of the Qur'an speak about knowledge, scholarship, and the natural world, compared to less than 250 verses directing the Muslim's life and actions. Modern Science, however, imposed new principles (methodological naturalism, in particular) and brought about new theories (biological and human evolution, especially), which the Muslim culture has found difficult to accommodate and integrate into its traditional worldview. In attempting to find 'good' relationships with Modern Science, Muslims of the twentieth century produced a number of propositions, from I'jaz (the scientific 'miraculousness' of the Qur'an) to 'Sacred Science' (where physics and metaphysics, including spirits, are unified), but most if not all of those propositions turn out to be fatally flawed when examined objectively. In this talk, he will briefly review the contemporary relations between Islam and Science, at both the popular and the elite levels. And highlighting the ideas that he develops in his new book (Islam's Quantum Question: reconciling Muslim tradition and modern science), he will offer a proposal that can help move the present prevailing attitudes of Muslims from schizophrenia to coherent harmony.