The 2nd Ockham Debate: Does Physics Imply Atheism?

Date: Monday 23 May 2022
Time: 17:15 - 19:00
TS Eliot Theatre, Merton College

Or Is Physics the New Deism?

Theist and theoretical physicist Professor Ard Louis will defend the compatibility of religion and physics; atheist and philosopher of science Professor Simon Saunders will take the contrary view; mathematician and agnostic Professor Minhyong Kim, Director, ICMS - International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, Edinburgh, will moderate the debate.


Is theism compatible with the scientific outlook? Is it compatible with physics? Richard Dawkins has famously argued that religion depends on faith, and that faith has no place in science. But is it true that religion depends on faith - or might it be an expression of humility? And is it true that faith has no place in physics and mathematics? We can at best obtain relative consistency proofs of one body of mathematics with respect to another: is it not an article of faith that mathematics as a whole is consistent? There is no experimental evidence in favour of string theory: is it not an article of faith among physicists that it is nevertheless the correct way forward? Or it may be that the question of faith is not what distinguishes the scientific outlook from the religious. If there is yet an important difference between them, does it follow that they are rivals? Is physics the new deism, arbiter on our ultimate origins and our ultimate destiny, in competition with theism?

The Ockham Lecture Series

The Merton College Physics Lecture (the Ockham, or Occam, Lecture, so named in honour of one of the greatest—if unattested—alumni of the College and of his philosophical principle of intellectual discipline) started in 2009 and is held once a term. It is organised by the physics tutors of the College to promote both intellectual curiosity and social cohesion of the Merton Physics community.

Attendance is by invitation: All Merton physicists (and sympathisers!) belonging to the three Common Rooms (JCR, MCR and SCR) are invited, as are the Old Members. Their guests are also accommodated, space permitting.