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Season 2010 Episode 0216

The Legacy of Robert Boyle: Then and Now

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The Legacy of Robert Boyle: Then and Now
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The revival of the Boyle Lectures in recent years has focused attention, as Boyle would have wished, on the relations between a culture of science and the plausibility of religious claims. Much of course has changed since Boyle in his Will endowed the original lecture series, but there remain certain parallels between his own time and ours. In the Preface to his book The Christian Virtuoso, Boyle observed the 'great and deplorable growth of irreligion, especially among those that aspired to pass for wits and several of them too for philosophers.' On the other side were their opponents, who by virtue of 'well-meaning but ill-informed zeal, had brought many good men to think that religion and philosophy were incompatible.'The consequence, in Boyle's words, was that libertines thought a scientific virtuoso ought not to be a Christian and the others that he could not be a true one. This lecture is an attempt to introduce and revisit Boyle himself, who sought to mend this situation. Known to many only as the originator of a 'law' governing the behavior of gases, Boyle repays closer study as one who thought deeply about the meaning of the word 'nature' and the reality of a spirit world.The lecture suggests that while many of the assumptions underpinning his natural theology would have to be regarded as obsolete, some of his arguments for the compatibility of theism with the sciences had a depth that enabled them to survive in subsequent religious rhetoric. After noting the longevity and diversity of appeals to 'design' in nature, Professor Hedley Brooke considers what remains valuable in Boyle's legacy today.For transcript and download versions of this lecture, please visit the event's page on the Gresham College website: The Legacy of Robert Boyle - Then and Nowmoreless

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