Monday August 14 2006

Space and Spirit: Why Science and Religion Together are Driving us Crazy

Margaret Wertheim

Science and religion are often viewed as two competing and utterly opposed epistemologies – one based on faith, the other on reason.

Yet both are systems that attempt to make sense of the world and of humanity’s place within a wider cosmological scheme. Religions usually posit that the material realm is just one part of a larger whole that also includes an immaterial spiritual domain, while modern science speaks only of a physical realm.

At the birth of modern science in the seventeenth century no one imagined that science was articulating the whole of reality, but increasingly, since the Enlightenment, that has been the claim. Hard line materialists today assert that any other view is philosophically naïve and psychologically childish.

In this talk, writer and commentator Margaret Wertheim will trace the history of how, with the rise of modern physics, any notion of a spiritual realm was written out of the Western world picture. Wertheim will examine the social, psychological and cultural effects of this excision and suggest that science and religion together are driving us crazy. She will suggest that indeed we need to reexamine the foundations of our epistemic framework and that we cannot find collective sanity without some acknowledgement of the resources provided by both fields.

  • Time: 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
  • Venue: Main auditorium, City Hall
  • Refreshments: There will be complimentary drinks and nibblies following the talk, and Margaret will be available to answer any questions.
  • Questions? Contact Jennifer (0408 796 357 or

Margaret Wertheim is an internationally noted science writer and commentator. She is the author of “Pythagoras’ Trousers”, a history of the relationship between physics and religion (Times Books 1995); and “The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet” (Norton 1999).Margaret’s articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Sciences, New Scientist, Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, Salon and Wired. Margaret has been a keynote speaker at the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, the International Design Conference Aspen, the “Sacred Space” conference at the Ecclesiastical Academy in Tutzing, Germany, and the annual meeting of the German Women in Physics Society.

She has written and produced a dozen television science documentaries, including the internationally award-winning series “Catalyst,” which was aimed at teenage girls; and the PBS special “Faith and Reason”. In 2003, Margaret founded the Institute For Figuring, an organization that presents lectures and exhibitions about the poetic dimensions of science and mathematics. ( She is currently working on a book, “Imagining the World,” about the role of imagination in theoretical physics.

She recently won the Excellence in Journalism Award for 2006 from the American Institute of Biological Sciences

Supported by the Australian Government as part of National Science Week.