Anglican Bishops assembles A-Team to combat Dawkins; I pity da fool


Canterbury, England (ENI). The Anglican bishop of London, Richard Chartres, is to host a study day at St Paul’s Cathedral in the British capital to help clergy counter the influence of the scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins. A keynote speaker will be John Cornwell, the author of “Darwin’s Angel”, whose subtitle is, “An angelic riposte to ‘The God Delusion'”. Cornwell will advise clergy on how to respond to the claims of Dawkins at a time when the apparent polarisation between religion and science raises many questions for people of faith.

Schedule of events

“Oh, no, don’t go in there! What if Dawkins’ evil questions make you think about what you believe? Dear God, no!” What’s wrong with people learning to think for themselves and find their own answers, o wise clergy?

From the schedule:

11.05 am God Without the Gaps

One consequence of the current science and religion debate is that it makes theology appear reactive and defensive. Professor Keith Ward has for many years worked on developing a scientifically literate approach to theology. Today he goes beyond the ‘God of the gaps’ to explore a positive theological approach to science and its role in Christian formation.

Theology without resorting to “God of the gaps”? I’d honestly like to hear Professor Ward’s argument. Although, with him presumably being a professor of theology, I have no choice but to assume there’d be a laundry list of mental contortions on display. I’ve really encountered nothing but when reading or hearing theological arguments, even from those considered the “best” in their field. I suppose when your field can be summed up as “proving the unprovable” or “preaching to the converted in such a way as to flatter their intelligence & justifying their blind faith in an unsupportable idea” you’re not exactly starting in the fastest car on the grid.

2.00pm The Gospel according to Luke (Skywalker)?

Science plays an important part in fuelling our imagination though literature, films and television. In this session David Wilkinson, the author of The Power of the Force: The Spirituality of the Star Wars Films considers practical ways for clergy to communicate the Gospel using science fact and fiction in preaching and teaching. The session includes Q&A.

Well, first let me put on my giant nerd pants and say Star Wars isn’t science fiction. Space opera, science fantasy, a common swashbuckling pirate narrative transposed to space, really long commercials for toys, yes (especially the new ones), but not science fiction. Asimov, Banks, Clarke: these are true science fiction.

Nevertheless, this section would also be very interesting to see. Especially considering the recent Star Wars prequels, in which those Jedis or Sith Lords strong in the previously-referred-to-as-mystical “energy field” – the Force – now are revealed to simply be bursting with biochemicals known as “midichlorians”. Young Anakin Skywalker’s midichlorians were indeed “off the charts” which is seemingly the reason it was so hard for his master, Obi-Wan, to control him. So, instead of having a very strong bond with the energy field which binds everything in the Universe together, it now seems young Annie is reduced to being hyperactive & moody (& whiny – oh god the whining!) because of a gland problem. Maybe it was George W. Lucas’s attempt to inject the “fiction” with a bit more “science”.

So, the clergy is going to attempt to use the Force to combat Dawkins (and, presumably, all his little secular wizards).

Interesting as this segment might be, it still amounts to using fiction to justify fiction.

3.30pm Eureka! Science in liturgy

How can we bring science alive as a part of Christian liturgy, and the Gospel alive in the light of scientific understanding? In this session Lucy Winkett, Precentor of St Paul’s Cathedral and David Wilkinson discuss practical ways in which the awe and wonder inspired by the natural world can be expressed in Christian worship.

How indeed? How to inject the facts of the universe into mythology? How to tint reality with fable? How about not doing that at all and just enjoying nature for its own sake? What is exactly so wrong with the awe and wonder of the natural world that you can’t simply enjoy it for what it is?

What I’d like to know is, are these guys going express awe over such wonders of nature such as HIV, ebola and ovarian cancer in Christian worship? Truly these are marvels of creation; tiny self-replicators able to spread rapidly and follow their design ruthlessly, often with proud, strong, intelligent humans standing by helplessly. Or are such inconvenient facts of life to be ignored? Really, if you’re going to use nature’s awesomeness as a way to exalt the Great One, you’re only doing half a job if you just concentrate on little kitties and baby giggles and waterfalls.