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Peter Harrison is an Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. Previously he was the Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford where he also served as Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre. He has published extensively in the area of intellectual history with a focus on the philosophical, scientific and religious thought of the early modern period. He has been a Visiting Fellow at Yale and Princeton, is a founding member of the International Society for Science and Religion, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. In 2011 he delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh. Author of over 80 articles and chapters, his six books include The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge, 1998), The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion (Cambridge, 2010) and, most recently, The Territories of Science and Religion (Chicago, 2015), winner of the 2015 Aldersgate Prize.
Copernicanism and evolutionary theory are often seen to represent successive scientific assaults on the privileged status of human beings. Whereas the former demoted humans from pride of place at the centre of the cosmos, the latter established our lowly animal origins and the fact that our existence is a cosmic accident. At the same time, these discoveries (and others like them) can be incorporated into a historical narrative that places human beings on a progressive trajectory that reinstates their superiority, largely by stressing scientific and technological advances of the last few centuries. This paper explores this paradox, comparing the different versions of anthropocentrism that inform sacred history, evolutionary history, histories of science, and big history.
4.00pm Thursday 7 April 2016
Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower,
University of Queensland, St Lucia
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