Brain Pickings

BBC on Science vs. Religion: The End of God?

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What falling apples have to do with transcendence, politics and The God Helmet.

Throughout history, humanity has pitted science and religion against each other. In The End of God?: A Horizon Guide to Science and Religion, a new BBC4 documentary released immediately after the Pope’s visit to the UK, British historian Thomas Dixon makes a compelling case not only for the parallel existence of both but also for evidence of each in the other.

From the condemnation of Galileo by the Catholic Church in 17th-century Italy to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider, Dixon delves into decades worth of original footage from the BBC archives to examine the complex relationship between science and religion, from the political structures that underlie society’s understanding of both to how and why the placebo effect works to the neuroscience underpinnings of the belief in God.

Though the program is no longer available on BBC’s iPlayer and has been yanked from YouTube for copyright violations (bespeaking the tragic Catch-22 of such issues), you can catch it here:

Behind Galileo’s downfall were two questions that are central to the whole story of science and religion: Who owns knowledge, and what makes one source of knowledge more reliable than another?”

In 1987, the highest court in America ruled that teaching creationism was unconstitutional. It violated the required separation of church and state. Creationism was banned from the science curriculum. But despite the ban, creationism hasn’t gone away. Since the 1980′s, polls have found that nearly half of all Americans believe God created humans, just as it says in the Bible.”

Both Newton and Einstein saw a divine beauty in the clarity and order of mathematical laws. Understanding the workings of the universe, they believed, was like looking into the mind of God. But in the last 100 years, this beautiful simplicity has been shattered by an explosion of scientific discovery. And now the divine beauty of the Newtonian clockwork universe and even the classical physics of Einstein have been obscured by bewildering complexity.”

If this subject intrigues you, we highly recommend the deeply compelling God, the Universe and Everything Else by three of the greatest minds of our time: Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Artur C. Clarke.

And for a lighter, more artistic take on the creationism vs. evolution debate, you may enjoy Duelity, a wonderful split-screen animation we featured some time ago exploring both sides of the story in a visually captivating way.

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