At 9 a.m. today London time, BBC Radio Four had a 45-minute discussion of science and religion with Richard Dawkins, physicist Lisa Randall, and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. You can hear the whole program archived here, or, if you’re in the UK, hear it rebroadcast tonight at 21:30 London time.
The program’s blurb is this:
Andrew Marr discusses the wonders of the universe with Lisa Randall, Richard Dawkins and the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The cosmologist Professor Randall looks at the how the latest developments in physics have the potential to alter radically our view of the world around us, and our place within it. Richard Dawkins explores the beauty and magic of scientific reality, from rainbows and shooting starts, to our genetic ancestors, and believes the facts far exceed the stories of ancient myth. Jonathan Sacks rejects the false dichotomy of science and religion, and argues that faith has a complementary role to play in the understanding of the human condition.
I listened to the whole thing, and found it moderately interesting. Dawkins’s views (and Randall’s too, I believe) are pretty well known, but I was curious to see how a “progressive” rabbi dealt with the issue.
The most striking thing—something I find increasingly common among “sophisticated” theologians—is Sacks’s complete refusal to tell the audience what he believed, what kind of God he envisioned. He argues instead about the consequences of a world without God. Sacks claimed that such a world would not only be meaningless, but in it we would treat persons as things. (Yeah, just like they do in Denmark and Sweden!)
He also claimed, bizarrely, that the decline of ancient Greece can be attributed to its reliance on pre-Enlightenment values and the absence of religion, claiming that it might not have fallen had the people believed in the supernatural. (I wonder, then, what Apollo, Zeus, and Athena were.)
Rabbi Sacks also brought up, inevitably, the accusation of scientism—that the wonder and beauty we feel at the world cannot be explained by science. Richard and Lisa pulled him up short here, saying that perhaps those emotions might one day be explained by science, but at any rate cannot be used as evidence for God. At one point Lisa politely asked the Rabbi to stop using the adjective “cold” when he uttered the phrase “cold logic.”
Three deepities from the good Rabbi:
- “Without God, we are without hope.”
- “The uncertainty that religion deals with [as opposed to the uncertainties that science deals with] is the world we make tomorrow.”
- The value of religion is that it helps us understand “the world that ought to be.”