Alan Lightman and Richard Dawkins in conversation. Moderated by Matthew d’Ancona.
As a theoretical physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a scientific view of the world, whose logic is governed by a small number of impersonal forces and laws. These decree that all things in the universe are relative, material and mortal. But one summer evening in Maine, looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, he was overcome by an oceanic feeling: a hint of something unified, absolute, and immaterial.
As an evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins can find no hint of an immaterial universe in hiding. Science arrives at knowledge by evidence, and everything else is fiction. If we need meaning, we go to art – or religion – to console us for its absence. Science explains most things. But not everything. If not ‘everything’, why not, and what do we call the rest? Does faith play any role in science? Yes, but not what is understood by religious faith. What kind of faith, then?
The encounter between science and religion has received an unprecedented public airing over the last decade. Join us for a head-to-head between two scientific sceptics who find themselves on different platforms, but waiting for the same train: would it be possible to prove or disprove the existence of an intelligent and purposeful creator – and, if so, how?
Alan Lightman’s latest book, Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, was published in April by Corsair.