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[Update - PDF of sermon added] “Scientists of Duke, be humble.”

Last Sunday Reverend Dr. Samuel Wells, Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, departed from his usual sermons on matters of faith to speak about science and religion. His motivation: the success of Gnu Atheists:

The last six years have witnessed the publication of a series of books, from a variety of authors, attacking religion with a virulence not seen for a long time. This movement has been called “The New Atheism.” It believes religion should no longer be tolerated but should be exposed, challenged and refuted at every opportunity, with a conviction founded on scientific certainty. I haven’t referred to these antagonists in sermons from this pulpit because I’ve taken the advice of my sister’s housekeeper, and reckoned that the work of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and others, was not worth the bullets. The New Atheists have said many new things and many true things, but the new things they’ve said are not true, and the true things they’ve said are not new.

Sadly, he doesn’t tell us what is either new or true.  But why does he depart from his usual homilies? One reason is the impending arrival of the most horrid of Gnu Atheists:

I’m making an exception this morning for three reasons. One is that in almost every Christian who’s been around a university like ours, there’s a lingering anxiety, maybe even dread, that perhaps science really has disproved it all. Maybe I’m talking about you. A second is that the most famous of the New Atheists, Richard Dawkins, will be giving a lecture at Duke in a month’s time. The third reason is that it’s been my habit each year on Opening Sunday to reflect with you on a major question in the life of the university. Today I want to dwell on the place of science in our common life.

Dawkins will be speaking at Duke on October 3 as part of his book tour.

... continue reading

[Update] PDF of sermon



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