A Sense of Awe: science, faith and wonder
October 19, 2011 0

Be heard and not seen: Record your audio comments

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Record your own voice message in our online conversation – and it may even be included the radio program!

One of the latest additions to the social networking bag of tricks is Audioboo. It’s a way to record short comments and post them for posterity online.

If you would like post an audio comment on the topics of conversation here, just follow these instructions:

  • First set up your free Audioboo account at http://audioboo.fm
  • Then, while you are still logged in to your Audioboo account, go to the Sense of Awe page (http://audioboo.fm/asenseofawe) and record your comment. (You will need a microphone connected to your computer.)
  • Simple!

We look forward to hearing from you.

October 13, 2011 3

Feynman and beauty

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Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman is the voice beyond an evocative and thought provoking 5 min video titled Beauty which can be found via this page at The Immanent Frame. The blog post there says:

While Feynman himself was a self-acclaimed atheist, and the project itself aims to “promot[e] scientific education and scientific literacy in the general population,” watching these videos, one cannot help but become enveloped by some sort of spiritual sense of the world and its majesty.

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October 3, 2011 0

A word from my mentor

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As you might have gathered, I’m a neophyte radio freelancer working on only my third program. I’m enjoying the challenge but I don’t have years of experience or training. And some of the ropes are tricky to learn.

Margaret Coffey is an ABC old hand and my mentor at Encounter. So I asked Margaret to jot down a few thoughts on the making of a radio program. Margaret writes:

So, you’ve been following Chris’ blog and reading transcripts of interviews with eminent thinkers – and ideally you have been posting your thoughts in response. I hope you want to take up Chris’ invitation to help him plan the making of a radio program in the Encounter series. His task is not simple; there are difficult and tantalising philosophical issues to consider here.

Now, add to the mix the challenge of making a radio program. Each Radio National program brief dictates what the program maker aims to do. Although Encounter sometimes delivers straight lectures, edited and interpolated to greater or lesser degree for broadcast, it generally aims to proffer a ‘feature’ program—a program that tries to make an affective as well as an intellectual experience of radio and that therefore uses the tools radio makes available.

Making such a program is quite a different task from writing a feature article or a lecture and I think it’s especially challenging if you want to enlarge the audience’s sense of whatever it is that is at issue. That means you have to find a means of getting away from simplicities, from conventional tags that align this with that and in so doing might save you the time and effort of dealing with complexity.

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September 30, 2011 0

Of Gothic cathedrals and natural wonders

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Interviewing Nancey Murphy and Denis Alexander

Allow me to introduce two guests featuring on the coming Encounter program. One grew up on the land in North America and finds little awe in nature but wonders at Gothic cathedrals. The other, from Britain, has had his fill of cathedrals but finds the mountains awe inspiring.

Recently they shared their thoughts on such matters and others too, including how they deal with doubts about their faith; the metaphysical implications of their messy desks; and their confidence in both science and God.

Nancey Murphy is a philosopher of science and theologian from Fuller Seminary in California, and Denis Alexander, all his life a scientist, is now Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Christianity in Cambridge.

Below you will find a transcript of my lengthy interview with them at the recent Tasmanian conference. Please use the comment form, not only to comment on the content of the interview, but also to let us know what parts of the interview you think should be used for the radio program in November. Editing is imminent and we value your feedback.

Chris Mulherin: We’re at a conference at the beautiful Tamar Valley near Launceston, Tasmania. There are perhaps a hundred people here, mostly Christians professionally involved in science and technology. The conference is run by ISCAST, the Institute for the Study of Christianity in an Age of Science and Technology, and the conference theme is ‘Disenchantment—faith and science in a secular world’. I’m talking to two of the main speakers at the conference; Nancey Murphy from the United States, and Denis Alexander from the UK.

Nancey Murphy, you’re a philosopher and theologian at Fuller Theological Seminary in California, and famously, you don’t believe in the soul, although you’re a Christian. We’ll get back to the soul, but first: what led you into the philosophy of science?

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September 27, 2011 1

An interview with John Lennox

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Photo: Roland Ashby, Anglican Media

Chris Mulherin: John Lennox, you’re an Oxford mathematician but perhaps better known to the public as one of those who does public battle with Richard Dawkins and the new atheists. Recently you debated atheist philosopher Peter Singer in Melbourne. Why do you divide your time in such disparate pursuits?

John Lennox: I don’t think they’re entirely disparate pursuits, I’ve always been interested in the broader implications of science and the issue here is that people like Richard Dawkins are arguing that if you are a scientist, the only logical position you can take intellectually is atheism. And I dispute that and I quite honestly don’t like seeing science abused in that way. So I want to put across a counter-argument to the public and let the people judge.

Chris Mulherin: Let me ask you about attitudes to science in the public space. As we listen to science, as it’s portrayed in the public eye, I wonder if there’s a tension between two attitudes to science? What we might almost call absolute and relative views of science. One view perhaps represented by the so-called new atheists is very confident that science is the only grounding for truth and knowledge. Another view seen, for example, in scepticism about global warming, shows a lack of confidence and a disenchantment with science. What do you make of these two attitudes to science?

John Lennox: Well I’d call the first attitude scientism. Because it is an attitude to science that science is the only vehicle to truth. And I suppose the easy way to put it is the way Bertrand Russell formulated it: That ‘what science cannot tell us mankind cannot know.’ I’m interested in logic and Russell was a great logician but his logic failed him there. Because his statement ‘what science cannot tell us mankind cannot know’ is not a statement of science. So if it’s true, it’s false.

In other words I think we’re having an over-reach here. And really great scientists like Sir Peter Medawar were very clear — as are most scientists — on the limits of science. That’s the reason science is successful. Medawar puts it this way: that it’s very easy to check that science doesn’t tell us everything. It can’t even answer the simple questions of a child: Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? And so on.

And Einstein once said you can speak of the ethical foundations of science but you cannot speak of the scientific foundations of ethics. In other words you cannot get ethical values from science. So science is there, it’s wonderful, but we do it a disservice, as Medawar also pointed out, if we make it the sole criteria of the truth. And that’s absurd of course because science is not coextensive with rationality. If science were the only way to truth, you’d have to shut half your university departments in Sydney.

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September 23, 2011 0

A time for everything?

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There’s an old anecdote that haunts me as I rush about my life in the global fast-lane. It’s about a Western traveler in another culture, in a hurry to get to the end of the journey. One version goes like this:

In the deep jungles of Africa, a traveler was making a long trek. Local tribesmen had been engaged to carry the loads. The first day they marched rapidly and went far. The traveler had high hopes of a speedy journey. But the second morning these jungle tribesmen refused to move. For some strange reason they just sat and rested. On inquiry as to the reason for this strange behavior, the traveler was informed that they had gone too fast the first day, and that they were now waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.

In his 1999 book God for a Secular Society Jürgen Moltmann writes of the impoverishing effects of our Western battle with time:

Modern men and women are ‘always on the go’, so wherever they are, they are always pressed for time. Is it the Christian understanding of time as irreversible, and as an unstoppable ‘ever-rolling stream’, flowing out of the future into the past, that has plunged us into this shortage of time? How can we be rescued from it?

Never before did human beings have as much free time as they have today, and never did they have so little time. Time has become ‘precious’ too, because ‘time is money’. The world offers us endless possibilities, but our life-span is brief. Consequently many people fall into a panic in case they should miss out on something, and they try to step up their pace of living. The utopia of overcoming space and time by way of high-speed trains, faxes and E-mail, Internet and videos, is a modern utopia. Everywhere we want to ‘keep up’ with things – the phrase is significant in itself. We want to be omnipresent in space and simultaneous in time. That is our new God-complex.

The difference between our life-span and the possibilities offered by the world tempts us into ‘a race against time’. We want to save time, so as to get more out of life, and miss out on life in the very attempt. … We have more and more ‘contacts’ and ‘know’ a great many people.

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September 21, 2011 0

Matthew Del Nevo’s “The Work of Enchantment”

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This week another book related to our theme is being launched in Sydney. It’s by Matthew Del Nevo and called The Work of Enchantment.

Matthew lectures in Philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Sydney and his interesting thesis is that it is a lack of “enchantment” in rich, developed countries that causes soul-starved Westerners to experience mental (and sometimes physical) illness.

David Tacey will launch The Work of Enchantment on Friday night, so I asked Matthew about the book and his response to my introductory posts. (See “Initial thoughts on awe in a secular age” on this site or the longer article at ABC Religion and Ethics at “Is awe still possible in a secular age?”) Matthew writes:

I would support the claim of David Tacey from his book Re-Enchantment: The New Australian Spirituality, that there is a deep-seated tension in Australian life between artists and intellectuals:

The artists are advocating (re)enchantment from the depths of a prophetic imagination, while the intellectuals are promoting disenchantment and an ironic vision of the world.

This goes not just for Australian life, but for the rich “First World” and is linked into the disenchanting power of Big Capitalism – by which I mean commodity capitalism, in which, as Adorno first said, culture itself is commodified and sold. Education is a commodity too on this market. Nothing is sacred, everything has its price and money is the bottom line. The fiscalisation of the world.

This spells the death of art – it already has, whereby art is defined by market, and an artist is as great as his or her publicity.

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September 19, 2011 0

Enchantment of the gaps?

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In a comment on “Is awe still possible in a secular age?” (on the ABC Religion & Ethics portal) Harry Kerr offers some thoughts on teasing out the issues involved in “the enchantment debate.” He says:

I think there is room for some serious defining of terms like re/de/enchantment, awe, wonder, secular, transcendent etc., otherwise we end up talking past each other.

Most religious people would now recognise the futility of the “God of the Gaps” approach: when we can’t explain something it must be God. As science advances the gap gets smaller and smaller until we realise that even when there are things we can’t comprehend, we probably will sometime in the future.

There is also an older “enchantment of the gaps.” When people couldn’t comprehend natural phenomena such as thunder, storms, earthquakes etc, they would attribute them to some spiritual power, usually malign. For some these powers dominated the entire natural world. Humanity might be able to placate / get on the right side of them or it might not.

Most people would reject this view of “enchantment.”

The question is : Is enchantment/awe/ the experience of being “moved” an emotional reaction to natural beauty, art, music, love etc which will one day be explained by science? Or does it relate to a power beyond humanity and the known world, a power which relates to the known world and is knowable in it?  (“The beyond in our midst.”)

The word “secular” implies a closed system in which everything can or soon will be explained and understood through science and reason. In human relations the so called “free market” is proposed as a scientific reality against which there is no argument.

Most people then can acknowledge enchantment/awe etc as a dimension of human experience.

Religious people believe that the circle is not closed, that there is a reality, the nature of which is beyond our full comprehension, which is beyond yet present and active in our world. The world is a “holy place” which points beyond itself and bears witness to a deeper reality. This gives rise to awe/enchantment of a different order to the common human experience.

This awe takes hold of us and invites us into a deeper reality beyond what we see.

Thanks Harry for those thoughts.

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September 16, 2011 2

Is awe still possible? – George Levine responds

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George Levine has kindly responded to my original article which posed the question, “Is awe still possible in a secular age?” In that article I mentioned Professor Levine’s book The Joy of Secularism which contains chapters by 11 authors, including Charles Taylor. Levine’s introduction to the book explains its purpose this way:

This book was conceived from a totally secular perspective. It will explore the idea that secularism is a positive condition, not a denial of the world of spirit and of religion, but an affirmation of the world we’re living in now; that building our world on a foundation of the secular is essential to our contemporary well-being; and that such a world is capable of bringing us to the condition of “fullness” that religion has always promised.

In response to my recent article, Professor Levine writes:

I undertook my recent books, Darwin Loves You and The Joy of Secularism, because I knew without hesitation that “Awe is still possible in this secular age”; because the current strident debates (or screaming matches) between atheists and believers were making things worse – if better for book sales; and because the religious revival was threatening that separation of powers on which modern democracies are built.

With no illusions about how one might actually persuade believers, I nevertheless felt it to be critically important to affirm a secular position with something other than contempt for those who seemed to need fairy stories to make themselves feel better. Rather, it must build around a recognition of the kinds of normal human needs and longings that religion had been thought to satisfy.

Secularism is not a negation of religion, but an assertion of value, although I would hope without dogma and with energy to make things better. A sense of awe and wonder comes willy-nilly to us all, scientist, reductionist, atheist, agnostic. The question is what we do with the experience when it comes.

The sense of “fullness” that Charles Taylor describes, need not pull us relentlessly upward. It can give us a very earthly sense of connectedness to the here and now and to the rest of us, who have turned our corporeal life into human culture, and who are the only sanction we will ever need.

“Fullness” infuses all these molecules with a sense of value and breaks us from the dualisms that suggest that if we can explain what we used to think of as spiritual by the movement of neurons, those movements, of love, and generosity, and care, are somehow made worthless. Just the reverse: the miracle survives its explanation. It hasn’t been explained away but rather made more energizing and astonishing.

The Joy of Secularism was published this year by Princeton University Press and the introduction is available online as a pdf download here. James Wood reviews the book at The New Yorker here.

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September 9, 2011 0

Apostates for Evensong

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Evensong in York Minster. Photo: Allan Engelhardt Source: bit.ly/rs01Pq

One of the more colourful characters I know is Dickie Gross. Colourful in dress and metaphorically too.

The other day Dickie was waxing lyrical about Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne. A lovely thing I’m sure… except that Dickie is an atheist with a popular blog called Godless Gross. I asked him to write a post for A Sense of Awe and here’s his reply:

Awe and wonder are things this godless atheist thinks about but has no answers.  In my godless world I look with jealousy and respect at some of the attributes of faith.  One of the benefits of being able to believe is the ability to take a sacred road the numinous.

For me though, such transcendent moments are usually based on nature, music, remembrance of the dead or a combination of the three.  I am having a small one now as the rain is belting down and the power of it has momentarily transported me away from the screen to stare vacantly out the window.  It is literally awesome.

A recent blog of mine is an attempt to describe the awe that even this Jewish apostate can find in Anglican liturgy and asks the question about how this sense of awe compares with other more secular highs. Thanks for dragging us away from the mundane and the day to day.

Dick Gross’s full article can be found here.

Thanks Dickie!

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September 8, 2011 2

Brief notes: All things shining… a book review

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This morning I received a review of an interesting new book by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly. The book is All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (Free Press, 2011.) Here’s an edited excerpt from the review:

Dreyfus and Kelly open All Things Shining with a promise of no less than deliverance from the boredom, nihilism and despair that they think characteristic of our “secular age”. To accomplish this deliverance they take readers on a whirlwind tour through the history of Western thought.

The problem is the need for a middle path between two tempting, though in the authors’ view bankrupt, positions. The first is the “temptation to monotheism,” which they trace to the rise of Christianity. Monotheism promised “ultimate or final” meaning, “an ultimate truth behind everything that is”. The authors never make entirely clear what they mean by a “final” or “ultimate” account. But, as their extended discussion of Melville’s Moby Dick makes clear, they think that the possibility of such a thing disappears with monotheistic faith.

Still saddled with unsatisfiable longing for ultimate meaning, post-monotheist secularists fall prey to the second temptation, trying to create this meaning for themselves. This turns out to be merely a detour to the same ennui and despair it aimed to avoid.

The authors dismiss the possibility of an objective source of meaning — at least of “ultimate” meaning — and critique attempts to meet our yearning for one by subjective creation. But, unsurprisingly, they have difficulty locating a third possibility.

The lengthy review finishes:

The authors’ most significant mistake then is their early promise that they can address this state of mind. Baseball games are great fun and coffee is nice, but offered as antidotes to despair these things are hard to take seriously. Instead the book accomplishes the more modest goal of demonstrating that a breakdown of experienced meaning in the wake of secularism is not wholly inevitable.

The result is that the authors’ engaging reading of selections from the Western canon leaves everyone right where they were. It neither addresses the monotheist nor delivers the despairing secularist. But those fortunate enough to have the resources to invest in baseball games and coffee rituals, and the disposition not to worry too much about the “ultimate” significance of such things, will find affirmation here.

You can find the full review here.

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September 7, 2011 0

That’s awesome! But is it true?

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This post is based on the second part of an article originally published on the ABC Religion site.

In a previous piece, Initial thoughts on awe, I asked whether enchantment is still possible in a secular age.

Traditionally the sense of awe or wonder has been linked to religious or transcendental views of the universe and the human condition. But some ‘non-transcendentalists’ such as Richard Dawkins disagree – to name the most prominent protagonist of atheist awe. For them, secularisation and atheism are no bar to living in an enchanted world, a world where it is appropriate, even obligatory, to wonder, to give thanks and to look with awe upon the works of nature.

Others, such as philosopher Charles Taylor, make it clear that transcendence for them is not solely about subjective feelings but is a fact of experience that can break in upon us: “the sense that fullness is to be found in something beyond us.”

At this point the road to transcendence divides into two trails. One, exemplified by Taylor, takes the high path into the dark of the forest where all is not seen and the hidden is as real as the visible. This way involves a belief that beyond human beings lies a reality that has a significant bearing on the human condition.

This ‘high’ view of enchantment includes a recognition of mystery, of truths too deep for words, and a rejection of reductive explanations. It claims that to talk of transcendence is to make reference to the real world, but a world beyond the limits of science; to re-enchant the world is to affirm truths that science will never come to grips with. Re-enchantment then, involves an implicit claim that science does not, and will never have, the last word.

Of course, this is a belief which is unprovable in a scientific sense. It is a faith claim, whether religious or not, that there is more to human existence than can ever be revealed by the methods and ways of science as we know it today. In the words of the apostle, “we see through a glass darkly.”

The other trail takes the ‘low’ road, crossing cleared ground where all is revealed to the eye and mystery is a mumbo jumbo word for complexity; a complexity that will be revealed in due course by science and human ingenuity.

From this perspective, the sense of transcendence is reducible to subjective experience, shared by many and rooted in evolutionary history and brain function. It has no external anchor in a world beyond human physiology that would make such claims objectively true or false.

On this view the wonder of a sunset is explainable by brain states, and a preference for Mozart over Madonna is no more than a cultural and chemical construction. While the reasons for such preferences may not yet be clear, cognitive neuroscience will reveal all.

Oh, the freedom of enjoying Gilbert and Sullivan without a guilty cringe and admitting that we never did like Puccini anyway! But I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

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September 4, 2011 0

Williamstown sunrise

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The city of Melbourne from Williamstown on an iPhone. Yesterday 6.50am. Peter Mulherin.

September 2, 2011 1

Brief notes: More on wonder and “Beauty as a way to God”

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Thanks Margaret for links to a couple of pieces on wonder from Commonweal Magazine:

Joseph A. Komonchak comments on a meditation by Pope Benedict which speaks of art and transcendence. Here’s an excerpt from the Pope’s meditation which is called “On beauty as a way to God”:

Perhaps it has happened to you at one time or another — before a sculpture, a painting, a few verses of poetry or a piece of music — to have experienced deep emotion, a sense of joy, to have perceived clearly, that is, that before you there stood not only matter — a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, an ensemble of letters or a combination of sounds — but something far greater, something that “speaks,” something capable of touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul.

And Scott D. Moringiello starts off another piece:

All philosophy begins in wonder, Socrates tells us, and it is a mark of the greatest forms of human enquiry – from Homer to Heisenberg – that they increase our sense of wonder at the universe (or multiverse, if you must) and our place in it.

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September 2, 2011 0

Brief notes: CS Peirce, musement and God

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Charles Sanders Peirce ‘the father of pragmatism’ had an interesting argument for the reality of God based on what he called musement, akin to wonder or awe. The article was called A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God. One discussion of it can be found here.

 

August 31, 2011 3

Initial thoughts on awe in a secular age

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The following post is an edited part of an article originally published on the ABC Religion site.

In a Nietzschean world without God or gods, is enchantment still an option? In a world bereft of the Platonic forms of beauty and goodness, in a world where we “know” that love and wonder boil down to brain chemistry and synaptic firings, is it pure superstition to hold on to a sense of transcendence? In other words, can a secular world be re-enchanted?

The disenchantment of the world has long been a theme of thinkers who have seen the advance of science on the one hand and, on the other hand, the retirement of religion from public life; that “melancholy long withdrawing roar of the sea of faith” as Matthew Arnold describes it in Dover Beach.

Almost 100 years ago sociologist Max Weber wrote, “The fate of our times is characterised by rationalisation and intellectualisation and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world’. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life.”

In his review of The Joy of Secularism, edited by George Levine, literary critic James Wood recounts the tale of an atheist philosopher friend who tosses in bed at night fretting over the ultimate questions of meaning and purpose, and of the cosmic irrelevance of life and of love.

But despite a widespread view that awe, mystery and transcendence can only find their rightful place in a religious outlook, some avowedly non-religious people refuse to relinquish their rights on wonder.

Richard Dawkins, the New Atheist luminary, and perhaps the most extreme anti-religionist in the public eye, is adamant about his right to wonder and, yes, even to give thanks.

For Dawkins secularisation and atheism are no bar to living in an enchanted world, a world where it is appropriate, even obligatory, to wonder, to give thanks and to look with awe upon the works of nature.

As Dawkins says, “The world is anything but dull; the world is wonderful. There’s real poetry in the world. Science is the poetry of reality.” And at last year’s Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Dawkins encouraged his followers to give thanks for the ‘gift’ of life, while recognising that some find incongruity in “giving thanks in a vacuum.” Dawkins opened his talk at the convention this way:

The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact that you will ever have to confront. Don’t you dare ever get used to it. Don’t you dare ever say that life is boring, monotonous or joyless.

Dawkins’s dual quest – against religion and in favour of a scientific enchantment – sets up the traditional face-off with religion and science in opposite corners of the ring.

But others see another polarity at work. David Tacey from La Trobe University locates the line of fracture within secular culture rather than along religious/non-religious lines. In his book Re-Enchantment: The New Australian Spirituality, he claims there is a deep-seated tension in Australian life between artists and intellectuals:

The artists are advocating (re)enchantment from the depths of a prophetic imagination, while the intellectuals are promoting disenchantment and an ironic vision of the world.

The possibility of re-enchantment through the arts is explored by philosopher and Anglican priest Gordon Graham in The Re-enchantment of the World. Graham surveys the possibilities of writing or music or painting or architecture to remedy the secular problem of disenchantment. But he concludes:

The abandonment of religion, it seems, must mean the permanent disenchantment of the world, and any ambition on the part of art to remedy this is doomed to failure.

In his magisterial A Secular Age, philosopher Charles Taylor offers what is perhaps the most profound recent commentary on secularism and transcendence. Taylor talks of the “buffered self” which is desensitised to transcendent realities. In doing so he makes it clear that transcendence for him is not about merely subjective feelings but is a fact of experience that can break in upon us: “the sense that fullness is to be found in something beyond us.”

Finally, let me point you to a piece referred to us through the Sense of Awe Facebook page. Theodore Dalrymple a self-described non-theist writes in City Journal:

Few of us, especially as we grow older, are entirely comfortable with the idea that life is full of sound and fury but signifies nothing. However much philosophers tell us that it is illogical to fear death, and that at worst it is only the process of dying that we should fear, people still fear death as much as ever. In like fashion, however many times philosophers say that it is up to us ourselves … to find the meaning of life, we continue to long for a transcendent purpose immanent in existence itself, independent of our own wills. To tell us that we should not feel this longing is a bit like telling someone in the first flush of love that the object of his affections is not worthy of them. The heart hath its reasons that reason knows not of.

Your thoughts?

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August 21, 2011 13

An invitation

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Welcome to “A Sense of Awe,” a discussion about science, faith and wonder. Please look around and join the conversation.

This weekend I’ll be heading south to the cooler climes of Tasmania seeking re-enchantment. I’ll be attending a conference put on by ISCAST, a group of mostly scientists who are also Christians. The conference, which prompted the idea for a radio program, is called “Disenchantment: Faith and Science in a Secular World.”

In Tassie I will be on the look-out for ideas and material for an ABC Radio National Encounter program due to go to air in November. I wonder if you’d care to join me?

No, I can’t take you to Tasmania. But I’d love you to join the conversation as we explore the issues of disenchantment and re-enchantment. I hope we can generate an interesting dialogue and I look forward to your help as I plan the program.

In Tasmania I will be talking to the main speakers:  Nancey Murphy is a philosopher of science and theologian and Denis Alexander is a molecular biologist and directs the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge. Professor Murphy holds an unusual position for an orthodox Christian believer; she is a physicalist and rejects dualism, the idea that humans are made up of two types of substance, usually described as mind and body. So she doesn’t believe in the soul! We’ll hear more of her views down the track.

The aim of this site is to complement the Encounter program in two ways. Firstly, it is an opportunity to broaden the canvas of an audio program by engaging in discussion and exploration of the issue online both before and after the program airs.

Secondly, this forum will contribute to the program as we explore the issues and work with the material. Before A Sense of Awe (the radio program) is sealed in its digital package this blog will offer a means of contributing, not only to the discussion, but also to the final form the program takes. Perhaps all my best ideas will be overturned and the finished product will look (well, at least ‘sound’) very different to what I imagined it might.

Please note that the discussion will be strictly moderated in order to promote a respectful, serious conversation. More details of the moderation guidelines can be found on the ‘About‘ page.

So… let’s get the discussion going. Let me ask: What are the main issues concerning the relationships between science, religious faith and re-enchantment in a secular age? And what sort of discussion should I take up with Nancey and Denis when I have an hour or two with them in Tasmania this weekend?

To stimulate further thought, there is an introduction to the topic on the ABC Religion portal called “Is awe still possible in a secular age?

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