Big Bang and religion mixed in Cern debate

 
An image of data recorded at Cern during experiments is search of the Higgs boson (c) Cern The discovery of a "Higgs-like particle" preceded this religious and scientific meeting

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Some of Europe's most prominent scientists have opened a debate with philosophers and theologians over the origins of everything.

The event, in Geneva, Switzerland, is described as a search for "common ground" between religion and science over how the Universe began.

It will focus on the Big Bang theory.

The conference was called by Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in the wake of its Higgs boson discovery.

Cern is the home of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator, situated beneath the French-Swiss border region near Geneva.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili explains what the Higgs boson is and why its discovery is so important

The first speaker at the conference was Andrew Pinsent, research director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford University.

He said that science risked "trying to turn society into a machine" if it did not engage with religion and philosophy.

"Science in isolation is great for producing stuff, but not so good for producing ideas," he told the BBC.

"Einstein began by asking the kinds of questions that a child would ask, like what would it be like to ride on a beam of light."

That, Dr Pinsent said, was what science should return to.

Prof Rolf Heuer, director of Cern, explained that the Higgs results provided a "deeper insight and understanding of the moments after the Big Bang".

Start Quote

We might find new ways of talking to each other about the beginning of the world”

End Quote Canon Dr Gary Wilton Meeting organiser

He added that he hoped, by the end of the conference, that delegates from very different backgrounds would be able to "start to discuss the origin of our Universe".

Co-organiser Canon Dr Gary Wilton, the Archbishop of Canterbury's representative in Brussels, said that the Higgs particle "raised lots of questions [about the origins of the Universe] that scientists alone can't answer".

"They need to explore them with theologians and philosophers," he added.

Heated debate

The organisers are expecting some disagreements during the three-day event.

For example, one of the speakers, Prof John Lennox from Oxford University, has been an outspoken critic of atheist scientists in the past.

Most recently, he took issue with Prof Stephen Hawking's assertion that God did not create the Universe.

In an article in the Daily Mail, he said that he was certain that Prof Hawking was wrong.

Prof Lennox wrote: "When Hawking argues, in support of his theory of spontaneous creation, that it was only necessary for 'the blue touch paper' to be lit to 'set the universe going', the question must be: where did this blue touch paper come from? And who lit it, if not God?"

Dr Wilton, though, said he was hopeful that "scientists, theologians and philosophers alike might gain fresh insights from each other's disciplines".

The Big Bang

"This is such an exciting conference," he told the BBC.

"It is the first time Cern has invited theologians and philosophers to debate with them.

"But by the end... we might find new ways of understanding our own positions.

"We might even find new ways of talking to each other about the beginning of the world."

The conference is being organised by Wilton Park, an agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

 

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  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 15.

    "It's called faith because it's not knowledge" ~ Christopher Hitchens

    Sums it up perfectly. Most if not all of the claims made by scripture have been disproved, we know that Earth is not flat and was made AFTER The Sun and Stars not before like Genesis claims ( Gen 1:2 ,Gen 1:3) The Bible also claims Earth is flat and non moving, we know otherwise.The Bible is wrong, it's not accurate at all.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 21.

    The problem is shown by Wilton's comment above - Who lit the blue touch paper, if not God?

    The moment there's a gap science has not yet defined, religionists will say "That's God." Everything beyond the limits of certain knowledge will be claimed for God. Until the limits are advanced again, of course. And again. But still, the gaps will be claimed for God.

    There's no place for reason in that.

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 19.

    Science findings are always open to free debate, varied interpretation and hypotheses, and will inevitably change over time as new discoveries are made. Religious beliefs are not - with the possible exception when new findings leave them open to ridicule (though creationists fail even that criteria). Religions will never change their stance - so what's the point in this?

  • rate this
    +21

    Comment number 4.

    Oh dear, somebody seems to have forgotten the destruction of the Library of Alexandria by a mob of religious zealots, and the numerous discoveries suppressed as heresy by the church. Both of these are thought to have set humanity back by as much as 1,000 years. NO religion please, we're THINKING.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 11.

    Prof Lennox wrote: "When Hawking argues, in support of his theory of spontaneous creation, that it was only necessary for 'the blue touch paper' to be lit to 'set the universe going', the question must be: where did this blue touch paper come from? And who lit it, if not God?"

    So who created God?

 

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