Science vs miracles – my debate on BBC Radio with an ex-astrophysicist theologian and a Lourdes miracle board doctor

On Sunday I debated science versus miracles with Professor David Wilkinson, former astrophysicist now theologian, and Dr Michael Moran, one of the medical investigation committee for miracles at Lourdes. This was on William Crawley’s last episode as host of Sunday Sequence on BBC Radio Ulster.

Among other things, I raised the offer by Pope Benedict of free indulgences to vulnerable people who visited Lourdes, and the choices that we have to make on those issues where science and faith are telling us contradictory things.

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  1. Its interesting how your religious opponents placed such emphasis on evidence. But they still see faith without evidence is still seen as a virtue – we can all be ‘doubting thomas’ if we like but faith in the absence of (or even better – contradictory) evidence is seen as ‘better.’ You did a really good job in laying out the contradiction between evidence based view and faith based though, especially considering the nature of your 2 opponents and so little airtime.

  2. Michael,

    You have the patience of a saint 😉 to remain calm against a dismal barrage of pleading: the evidence isn’t very good, it doesn’t all make sense, but I like the fairy tale, so I’ll believe it anyway. Not to mention the fatuous claim “I don’t understand this bit of science, but I have faith that X, Y and Z know what they’re talking about. This is just the same as believing in the resurrection of Jesus.”

    I notice that they completely avoided answering your question about the ethics of offering indulgences to pilgrims.

  3. I’ll try to find time to write an analysis of this some time.

    The blurring of roles and switching of hats between astrophysicist/theologian and medical doctor/miracle checker is at the heart of the problem of discussing anything with them.

    Also, if I had half an hour with either one of them it might be easier to disentangle some of the ideas they merge together.

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