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Re-Assembling Reality

We teach a course at HKU on science and religion, which unpacks how science and religion relate to each other. We unpick many of the assumptions about science and about religion which typically crop up, and argue that there is a better way to approach the topic. We look at such questions as What is science? What is religion? What is true? What is real? What is knowledge? What are persons? What is life? and How then shall we live? Here we provide the course material in blog form and (for HKU members) as video lectures.
 

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Mike Brownnutt has background in experimental physics, having spent many years developing scalable architectures for quantum computers. He also has a degree in theology, in which he looked at how faith is understood in the context of science and of Christian religion. Since 2015 he has worked at the University of Hong Kong, where he is Associate Director of the Faith and Science Collaborative Research Forum.
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David Palmer’s interdisciplinary research sits at the intersection of sociology and anthropology, and is informed by scholarly traditions in history, religious studies and Sinology. He leads the Asian Religious Connections research cluster at the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Reassembling reality: 

A new frame for science, religion, and society 

Where’s the boundary between science and religion?
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Where’s the boundary between science and religion?

It's not where you think..

Two lists
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Two lists

The frame that shapes (and corrupts) our thinking.

Acupuncture: Science? Religion? Both? Neither?
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Acupuncture: Science? Religion? Both? Neither?

Questioning everything we thought we knew about both science and religion.

Packing and Unpacking Religion
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Packing and Unpacking Religion

Why we can’t agree on whether Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism are religions.

Is there even such a thing as religion?
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Is there even such a thing as religion?

It’s not about belief, it’s about relationships.

The Enlightenment Vision of science
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The Enlightenment Vision of science

This is what is at stake.

Science and method
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Science and method

What would happen if scientists followed the scientific method?

Can science be objective?
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Can science be objective?

(Spoilers: No, it cannot.)

Science: universal or useful?
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Science: universal or useful?

It can't be both.

True for you but not for me? That’s just your opinion!
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True for you but not for me? That’s just your opinion!

Thinking about claims that are not universal or not objective.

Contesting truth
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Contesting truth

Why can't we all agree about science?

Epistemic communities
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Epistemic communities

Where collective knowledge is generated

Truth you can see, and truth you cannot
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Truth you can see, and truth you cannot

Understanding science's relation to the unseen.

Truth: more than facts
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Truth: more than facts

More things need to be true than we usually realise.

Getting information: reason and observation
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Getting information: reason and observation

When knowledge is reasonable or sensible.

Getting information: revelation
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Getting information: revelation

When knowledge is faithful.

Ways of putting information together
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Ways of putting information together

Do we build theories or weave them?

Can we trust our conclusions?
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Can we trust our conclusions?

If you brain was lying to you, how could you tell?

But is it real?
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But is it real?

What does the question even mean?

How do you separate real from unreal?
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How do you separate real from unreal?

Naturalism, materialism, physicalism, and disappointment.

Does the universe care what we think?
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Does the universe care what we think?

Considering ontological realism.

Can we know what the world is like?
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Can we know what the world is like?

Considering epistemic realism.

Do we mean what we say?
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Do we mean what we say?

Considering semantic realism.

Can we trust our experience?
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Can we trust our experience?

Considering subjective realism.

What are signs pointing to?
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What are signs pointing to?

Considering symbolic realism.

Being more than one sort of realist
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Being more than one sort of realist

And possibly less than all sorts of realist.

Am I an object or a person?
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Am I an object or a person?

Will you make me into one or the other?

Treating non-humans as persons
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Treating non-humans as persons

It works. But is it more than that?

Non-human and para-human persons
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Non-human and para-human persons

We'll call them "nephesh".

How do you relate to nephesh?
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How do you relate to nephesh?

As a stranger? enemy? servant? lover?

Are nephesh real?
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Are nephesh real?

Or are they a useful fiction?

What is life?
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What is life?

Bios, anima, psyche or zoe?

Vitalism
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Vitalism

Biology tells us about life, but not how to live.

Models: Does Elon Musk exist?
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Models: Does Elon Musk exist?

What pet elephants teach us about the stock market.

Free will, divine action, and Elon Musk
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Free will, divine action, and Elon Musk

Taking a fresh look at some age-old problems.

Modelling social life
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Modelling social life

The map isn't the territory.

Religious models of society
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Religious models of society

Where they overlap with - or differ from - social science.

A place for virtue
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A place for virtue

Science as a virtuous practice.

A place for not knowing
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A place for not knowing

The necessity of living with ignorance.

A place for commitment
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A place for commitment

The need to risk it all on what you cannot know.