Meriol Trevor Lecture

My visit to Bath was at the kind invitation of Fr Bill McLoughlin (left), a Servite priest who runs the parish of St Peter and St Paul on the outskirts of Bath, and is also Catholic chaplain to Bath University. He attended Meriol Trevor in her last illness and decided to set up an annual lecture in memory of her. Meriol Trevor wrote the definitive two-volume biography of Cardinal Newman. She also had an interest in theology, particularly the relationship between science and religion.

Mine was the sixth annual lecture and was entitled "Creation and Evolution. A positive view of how the Theology of Creation can be informed by a scientific understanding of the world." The text can be downloaded from my parish website's Controversies page.

Previously, the lecture has been held at Prior Park College. They were unable to host it this year and so it was held on the University campus, at the ecumenical chaplaincy. It had been well publicised and there was a good mixture of students, university staff and local people.

One questioner raised a most interesting point about the nature of science itself. When I was talking to him afterwards, he recommended to me Mary Midgeley's "The Myths We Live By." With a strong caveat about summarising such a thesis, the idea, if I understand it correctly, is that we live by various myths, or ways of interpreting the world. Science is just one of those and has no greater claim to hard or absolute truth about the world than any other.

My lecture addressed the work of Richard Dawkins at various points. I agree with his scientific outlook and his description of natural selection but disagree that this leads to atheism. My thesis is that science leads us to God.

The questioner characterised Dawkins (and me) as wrongly "deterministic" about the natural world. I did feel rather as though I had an exposed flank that was very effectively attacked. In my answer, I concluded that we were in quite profound disagreement about the nature of science. However, I do need to read up on this as it is the kind of thesis that could become very popular. Dawkins addresses it with characteristic vigour and I may find that I am once again in agreement with him.

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