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Can science and religion co-exist? York Festival of Ideas explodes myths of conflict between religion, science and medicine.

Posted on 6 June 2014

Four major international academics will gather together in York on 18 June to debunk the notion that science and religion are constantly at war.

The Nature of Religion, Science and Health, in partnership with the Centre for Global Health Histories and St Peter’s School, York will see Chris Collingwood, Canon at York Minister, Harvard University’s Erez Manela and Dr Tara Alberts from the University of York debate long-held myths, and explore why notions of nature, environmental improvement, human well-being and health can often be affected in dramatically different ways by oppositional ideologies.

Academics Peter Harrison, Ron Numbers and Janet Golden and will also join the panel, chaired by Ruth Gledhill, The Times’ Religious Correspondent.

For more than 100 years there has been a popular view that conflict has raged between the religious establishment and the scientific community. Popular myths that still abound include:

  • The Church tried to continue to argue that the world was flat and tried to imprison scientists who proved it was round
  • Pope Callistus excommunicated Halley’s comet
  • The Church tried to ban ‘zero’
  • The Church tried to ban human dissection

Debate around such myths will underpin the event, in addition to further discussions exploring whether the reformation caused changes in the ways the Bible was interpreted, how the natural sciences were presented, and the complex ways in which religion was entwined with the enlightenment.

Looking towards the future, the panel will explore questions such as ‘how have hopes for divine intervention during treatment and the search for solace in religion amongst grieving families influenced their engagement with science?’, ‘can contemporary medicine profitably accommodate religiosity in its pursuit of good health?’ and ‘how can we locate the role of religion within science and medicine in a modernising world?’.

The event will take place at St Peter’s School, York, from 5.45pm to 8.15pm on Wednesday 18 June. Tickets are free and available from  / tel: 01904 527300.

Further information:

  • Speakers taking part in The Nature of Religion, Science and Health include: Professor Peter Harrison, University of Queensland, Professor Ron Numbers, University of Madison-Wisconsin, Professor Janet Golden, Rutgers University, Dr Tara Alberts, University of York, Professor Erez Manela, Harvard University, Canon Chris Collingwood, York Minster, and Chair Ruth Gledhill, The Times
  • For more information on the event visit:
  • The fourth annual York Festival of Ideas features over 140 inspiring, varied and mostly free events taking place across the city and the University of York campus between 12 and 22 June around the theme of ‘order and chaos’. To see the full programme and to book tickets visit:

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