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Author: Barney Leith

Science, religion & a dispassionate search for knowledge

Science, religion & a dispassionate search for knowledge

The tone of the recent attacks (see here and here) on Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal for having accepted the Templeton Prize might seem to indicate a certain lack of detachment on the part of those who are disparaging the eminent theoretical astrophysicist. In comments made last year, Richard Dawkins referred to Lord Rees, an atheist, as “a compliant Quisling” because, according to Dawkins, he is “a fervent ‘believer in belief’”. This is, to say the least of it, intemperate…

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Barney Leith Blog #10b: Science, Religion and Human Reality

Barney Leith Blog #10b: Science, Religion and Human Reality

This is the second of a two part series on human reality. Neuroscience – the latest fashion What’s fashionable now? How about neuroscience? Brain-scanning technology is now advanced enough to allow scientists to observe changes in blood flow to different parts of the brain under varying conditions. So it would be rather easy to suppose that we can identify mind and consciousness with brain functioning. However, this can take us from science to “scientism”, as retired physician and clinical neuroscientist…

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Barney Leith Blog #10a: Science, Religion and Human Reality

Barney Leith Blog #10a: Science, Religion and Human Reality

This is the first of a two part series on human reality. Exeter, October 1966, and my first lecture in the introduction to psychology course. I’d just started my first undergraduate year at Exeter University and I’d managed to locate the premises of the psychology department, which were, for some reason, down in the town rather than up on the hill with the rest of the campus. “What do you know about psychology?” The meshing of the lecturer’s black polo-necked…

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Barney Leith Blog #9b: Chaplaincy: A Meeting Point for Religion and Science?

Barney Leith Blog #9b: Chaplaincy: A Meeting Point for Religion and Science?

This is the 2nd and final part of a two part series on chaplaincy. Last week I began to look at chaplaincy in the UK’s publicly funded National Health Service (NHS) as a profession that brings religion and science together in particularly interesting and challenging ways. The NHS requires the treatments it offers to be based on evidence of efficacy, a requirement that presses in on chaplaincy. It is clear that chaplaincy has moved far from the stereotype of a…

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Barney Leith Blog #9a: Chaplaincy: A Meeting Point for Religion and Science?

Barney Leith Blog #9a: Chaplaincy: A Meeting Point for Religion and Science?

Can the efficacy of a profession that focuses on spiritual care be measured in any way? I have a particular interest in one such profession, that of healthcare chaplain. I should say at this point that I am not, and never have been, a chaplain. However, I have represented the UK Bahá’í community’s governing body, the National Spiritual Assembly, on one of the UK’s healthcare chaplaincy bodies, the Multi Faith Group for Healthcare Chaplaincy (MFGHC), since its establishment in 2002…

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Barney Leith Blog #8: Diversity or Unity or Both?

Barney Leith Blog #8: Diversity or Unity or Both?

For some years I chaired a public policy group called the Religion and Belief Consultative Group on Equality, Diversity and Human Rights (RBCG). The group comprised representatives of the major churches and non-Christian faiths, the Inter Faith Network for the UK (IFN), a few faith-based social action organisations, and two atheist organisations – the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the National Secular Society (NSS). Religion & Belief Consultative Group The RBCG came into being at a time when the UK…

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Barney Leith Blog #7b: “Explaining Near Death Experiences – Should Science & Religion Cooperate?”

Barney Leith Blog #7b: “Explaining Near Death Experiences – Should Science & Religion Cooperate?”

The modern tradition of equating death with an ensuing nothingness can be abandoned. For there is no reason to believe that human death severs the quality of the oneness in the universe. – Larry Dossey, MD … continued from last week … Stirring up the angular gyrus Out-of-body experiences (OBE) are distinct from NDEs, although people often report having OBEs as part of their near death experiences. Back in 2002, University of Geneva Hospital neurologist Dr Olaf Blanke accidentally gave…

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Barney Leith Blog #7a: “Explaining Near Death Experiences – Should Science & Religion Cooperate?”

Barney Leith Blog #7a: “Explaining Near Death Experiences – Should Science & Religion Cooperate?”

The modern tradition of equating death with an ensuing nothingness can be abandoned. For there is no reason to believe that human death severs the quality of the oneness in the universe. – Larry Dossey, MD “Dad, I had a dream last night.” I was driving my thirteen-year-old son home from school sometime in the mid-1980s. “Tell me about it,” I said. “I dreamt I was looking down at myself in bed,” he said. “And then I started to go…

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Barney Leith Blog #6: “The Religion and Science of Compassion”

Barney Leith Blog #6: “The Religion and Science of Compassion”

Are we ineluctably selfish, as the excesses of the consumer culture and the brouhaha over bankers’ bonuses suggest? Are the neo-Darwinists and positivists, such as Richard Dawkins, correct in claiming that competitiveness and conflict are fundamental and ineradicable drivers of human behaviour? Does science “prove” that we humans are always selfish even when we are behaving apparently altruistically? Or is there any evidence for altruism transcending our “red in tooth and claw” nature? Compassion & the Golden Rule For millennia…

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Barney Leith Blog #5: “The Role of Doubt & Questioning in Science & Religion”

Barney Leith Blog #5: “The Role of Doubt & Questioning in Science & Religion”

I beseech in you, the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken With these words mathematician Jacob Bronowski concluded the 11th part – on the theme of “Knowledge or Certainty” – of his momentous 1970s BBC TV series, The Ascent of Man, with this quote from a letter Oliver Cromwell wrote to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in August 1650 In the closing sequence Bronowski crouched by a pond at Auschwitz into which had…

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