Welcome to Philosophical Investigations
My blog reflects on last week's Science and Religion conference. Why not join us at a student conference this year: on Feb 6th we will be in Oxford and Feb 7th in London with an excellent programme: Professor Ward is on stunning form! Other conferences in Newcastle, Taunton, and Norwich: click here for details and here for a review of our first in this series.
We are completing the series of coursebooks just out so that you can supplement your reading with discussions of the harder parts of the syllabus, pitched just right to get a top grade. Why not order some for your library?
blog this week: Science and Religion
New coursebooks on Miracles, Arguments for God, Plato and Aristotle, Free Will and Determinism, War and Peace, Life and Death are now available. Revision Guides and How to Get an A Grade (for OCR board only) also available. There have been some generously good reviews - one email described How to Get an A Grade as "simply superb"! You can also buy discounted book bundles.
Here are all the lesson plans now loaded in the site - with more coming shortly all with the same interactive, multiple intelligences, "let's read culture" philosophy! I have also loaded Youtube starter activities and suggested pop songs to go with ethics lessons - why not make this subject the coolest in the country?
Science and Religion
I have just returned from a brilliant day conference looking at Science and Religion which is by common consent a challenging part of the AS course to teach. I think there are a number of reasons why this summer students scored significantly lower on the irreducible complexity question at OCR - not least our own lack of confidence on the science part. For this reason I am revamping the Science and Religion section of the site. Please go to the new weblinks page to see where I’ve got so far! Here are two possible reasons for those low summer scores.
Reason 1: We need to spend more time developing a view of science which is true to what scientist are doing. Alister McGrath (Science and Religion) reminds us that “science” as an idea is difficult to define as it has so many branches and disciplines. However I would argue that the scientific view must include a view of falsification - that which cannot be falsified cannot be scientific. Notice, however, that this is falsification in principle, not necessarily instant falsification in practice.
Take the big bang theory. Clearly we can’t apply a direct observational test to this cosmic moment, but we can work backwards from traces of the event present in observations of the universe - for example, patterns of temperature difference. It may be that when the giant supertelescope Lord Rees mentioned is built, with its 45 foot diameter lens, we will be able to make observations which shed further light on these origins. If so, perhaps the theory might have to be modified as new data falsifies elements of the old theory.
Science proceeds, in other words by a process of theory - evidence - prediction - evidence - modification - new theory. The concept of theory in science is not a static one - nor is it claiming to be “complete”.
In religion we don’t use “theory” in this way. As Flew and others have pointed out in their parables (click here for the gardener parable), when religious believers encounter “facts” they change the God concept or the dogma to accommodate this. So the Creation of the world in Genesis has moved from six literal days to six epochs of time to a much broader theological metaphor for divine intention and power. The theory here is simply an untestable belief or an unfalsifiable explanation. This doesn't mean it's unreasonable as an explanation for wonder and mystery of a Camargue sunset!
My conclusion: you cannot teach this subject area without first establishing the meaning of scientific theory through understanding falsification. Failure to do so leads to confusion and nonsense. But, and I’m grateful to someone for pointing this out yesterday: falsification is an A2 concept and Science ad Religion is taught at AS. Wherever it is in the syllabus, I think we should teach it first. Click below to read more....Add a comment