When tectonic plates of knowledge collide 1

September 30, 2010

"The dogma delusion" (23 September) clearly shows that the main clashes that generate "science vs religion" headlines are between simplistic forms of science and simplistic interpretations of religion. But some aspects of science - for example, the theory of relativity, which treats the future as fixed and denies that we can ever agree on what counts as now (simultaneity) - also clash with our humanistic traditions. If the future is fixed, personal aspirations to "make a difference" by pursuing reform, love, honour, responsibility and the like are all in vain.

There is also a clash between the theory of natural selection and mathematics. The official line is that a theory is not scientific unless it already is, or can be turned into, a mathematical model. But such models are timeless: nothing that is not deducible from their axioms ever happens in them. So it is inconceivable that Darwin's theory could ever be turned into a mathematical model.

These are just two ways in which the tectonic plates of modern knowledge are in collision. Stephen Hawking recently said that "philosophy is dead", but surely we need it to tackle these contradictions.

Chris Ormell, Editor, Prospero London.

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