EVENT REVIEW: Tom McLeish and David Hutchings: Let There Be Science

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7th October

Palace Green Library

Review by Megan Goundry

This event saw leading physicists Tom McLeish and David Hutchings explore the idea that religion and science cannot coexist. Presenting the key points in their book, ‘Let There Be Science’ they immediately elucidated their views that both religion and science can co-exist, setting the foundations for an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.

In the queue to enter the room, the audience were discussing the topic animatedly- as one tends to with such an interesting subject. Inside, chatter was replaced with thoughtful silence as they listened to the speakers.

The speakers built upon the audience’s interest when outlining who the book was aimed for, in a light-hearted and engaging way; ‘This book is for anyone in these three categories- which is hopefully everyone: Your physics is getting in the way; What the b******* is a theist doing in that job? Or as an innocent bystander’. These answers set the tone for the evening, which encouraged audience questions and pertinent answers.

The first idea explored, and question answered, was how science and religion relate to one another. The idea that science can mean something different to individuals was addressed: ‘Science the monster-maker, science the saviour’. Tom and David proceeded to explore how these different interpretations could interact with religion, but still concluded that the two were not mutually exclusive.

It was Tom who then explored the joys that are shared by science and religion. This was met well by the audience due to the personal way in which he delivered his view. As both a physicist and a Christian, the subject was something he understood well; ‘The first joy is discovering and understanding the universe for the first time’.

Perhaps the most poignant exploration of the evening, Tom and David spent considerable time contemplating the role of questioning in science and religion. It was during this topic that the audience were the most responsive to the thought-provoking way in which the speakers presented their views. Several interesting interpretations were made when the speakers addressed the idea that the creation story and scientific theories are the direct opposite of each other. One was that there are hundreds of creation stories in the Bible, and each one was written for the people at that particular time. The second was that regardless of whether one believes that the universe was made by God or not, the two ideas are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It was this interpretation that led to the most memorable point of the evening: ‘The Bible is not a scientific textbook; it is a book that urges us to take up science’.

The event was a fantastic hour of contemplation, debating and questioning guided by two dedicated Christians and physicists – and who better to lead such a discussion?

Cuckoo Review is an arts journalism programme for young writers aged 15-23. Through the Cuckoo Reviewers in Residence programme at Durham Book Festival, young people have reviewed festival events and books, and have interviewed featured authors. For more information about Cuckoo Review visit