Outreach Canada Website
/Monday, April 4, 2022
Science and Scientism
Dr. Ard Louis, Theoretical Physics at Oxford University
Science is perhaps the most successful endeavour that human beings have ever engaged in. It is tempting to think that it should also answer the big questions of life, such as why we are here and whether there is a purpose to life. Such hopes give impetus to modern versions of secularism. At the same time a fully fleshed out scientism, the idea that only science brings us reliable knowledge about the world, remains unpopular in the academy, in part because it hollows out these existential questions. I will argue that it is not hard to see that neither science, nor any conceivable advance of science, can answer such existential questions. Nevertheless, implicit versions of scientism remain surprisingly influential in the academic world. What can and should we do about this?
Ard Louis is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology at the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics. He also writes and speaks widely on science and faith, for which in 2013 he was elected a member of the International Society for Science and Religion. He recently made the 4-part documentary Why Are We Here with David Malone and appeared in The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, giving him an Erdős–Bacon number of 6.