Latest update: July 12, 2009

6th International Philosophy, Science & Theology Festival

the meeting place for enquiring minds

Grafton, Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia, 27 June to 1 July 2009
LDI President Jan Visser was an invited speaker at the above Festival, alongside Matthew Colless, Pamela Wells, Ian and Ruth Gawler, Michael Northcott, Howie Firth, Norman Habel, and others.
Below is the abstract of Jan's intervention and a biographical note regarding the author. Abstracts and bios for the other speakers, as well as information about the program, can be found at the official Web site of the Festival.
Abstract: The Festival proclaims that “For years these three disciplines [Philosophy, Science and Theology] have belonged solely to the academic world and yet they can help us all to understand some of the most fundamental aspects of our lives.” This presentation will elaborate on and critically analyze the aforementioned assertion, specifically from the perspective of one of the fields mentioned, namely Science. While doing so, the line of thought will be underscored by references to the philosophical underpinnings of the scientific enterprise and the history of its evolution.
The power and robustness of the knowledge framework humanity has developed through science will be highlighted. Its limitations will equally be explored. It will be argued that constructive human interaction with the surrounding universe does not solely depend on insights acquired through science as we know it and that approaches to learning and being that transcend—but do not throw out—the traditional disciplines are called for.
The connection in this regard with the history of religious experience and expression is rather arbitrary and likely less relevant when pursued from the perspective of traditional theology. In fact, some of the so-called dialogue at the interface of science and religion is seen to generate more heat than useful energy. More is needed than theology, science and philosophy if indeed humanity is to survive and take the next step in its evolution.
Dr. Jan VisserBio: Jan Visser is a theoretical physicist whose pursuits, starting as a student at the Delft University of Technology, to understand the nature of nature led him to become equally interested in understanding what it means to understand. He thus combined the study of physics with philosophy. Dr. Visser has a deep interest in and passion for the visual and plastic arts; literary expression, particularly poetry; theatrical performance; and music. As a musician he constructed replicas of some of the historical instruments he plays. He engaged in documentary filmmaking to clarify for himself and others the complexities of the enduring conflict in the Middle East ever since the creation of the State of Israel, where he was a research fellow in 1966/1967 and the simultaneous migration into exile of the majority of the inhabitants of Palestine. He worked for several decades on the African continent, a setting and work environment that inspired his ever more profound interest in how people learn. It led him to pursue a second academic career, via Florida State University, in the sciences of learning and the art of facilitating it. He developed a sense of the limited extent of the planet on which he lives by walking twice, since 1993, in two times seven years, the distance equivalent to the Earth’s perimeter at the equator. He was brought up in a religious family but does not believe in a personal god. Nonetheless, he undertook the systematic study of the great world religions as well as atheist writings as a matter of personal interest. He sees religion—when seen as a state of consciousness—as distinct from adherence to a particular belief. More detail at
Click here to access the slideshow on Not by philosophy, science and theology alone: Making sense of ourselves and our world from diverse vantage points. 
You can also listen to a podcast of the above talk. Click here to listen to the podcast of Jan Visser's talk on Not by philosophy, science and theology alone: Making sense of ourselves and our world from diverse vantage points. (As this is a 68 MB file, it will take long before you hear anything. A faster procedure normally is to right-click on the link and then choose "save target as" (or its equivalent for browsers other than Internet Explorer) and download the mp3 file to a location of your choice on your computer. You can then open the file by double-clicking on it or transfer it to an mp3 player.) 
Click here to access Significant Life Questions for the Saturday Forum. 
Click here to access the slideshow on Summing it all up: Candles shining diverse and flickering lights on a single brick. 
Click here to access an earlier paper by Jan Visser on Religion, Science and Mind
Some books worth exploring (from diverse perspectives), not already referenced in the above slideshow, are:
  • Shermer, M. (1997). Why people believe weird things: Pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.
  • Stenger, V. J. (2008). God, the failed hypothesis: How science shows that God does not exist. Amherst, NY: Prometheud Books.
  • Druyan, A. (Ed.) (2006). Carl Sagan: The varieties of scientific experience. - A personal view of the search for God. New York: The Penguin Press.
  • Kaufmann, S. A. (2008). Reinventing the sacred: A new view of science, reason and religion. New York: Basic Books.
  • Noble, D. (2006). The music of life: Biology beyond the genome. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Vilar, E. R. (2008). Is science nearing its limits? Conference convened by George Steiner. Manchester, UK: Carcanet Press Limited, co-published with Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.

 Below is a photographic impression of the Festival and its aftermath.

(These, and a couple more, photos can also be found--and downloaded from--the relevant album on the Picasa platform: Grafton trip June-July 2009.)