Fraser Watts, lecturer in science and religion at Cambridge University, this week accused two leading biologists, Francis Crick and Richard Dawkins, of using "ideologically-motivated reductionist science to cut the mystery about people down to size".
Dr Watts, a psychologist and Anglican clergyman, said, during a public lecture on "Are science and religion in conflict?": "I want to distinguish good science from irrelevant ideology. I have nothing against serious science."
He thought it "strange" that Dr Dawkins, a sociobiologist, had grafted an "anti-religious pitch" on to work which argues that "people are "nothing but" mechanisms for the survival of their genes".
And Francis Crick, the Nobel-prizewinning founding father of modern molecular biology stands accused of "biological reductionism in earnest" for proposing that each one of us is "nothing but a pack of neurons", a view advanced in his recent book, The Astonishing Hypothesis.
Dr Watts says Professor Crick assumes that "everything psychological, including consciousness and personality, can be completely explained by the nervous system to the extent that they can be discarded as independent realities. Talking about personality then becomes at best just shorthand for talking about the nervous system."
Professor Crick, at the Salk Institute at San Diego, declined to comment. Dr Dawkins said: "Do Cambridge lecturers usually find it necessary to advertise highlights of their forthcoming lectures by sending out press releases?"