CFI events at Oxford Literary Festival next week

Thursday, March 18, 2010
What Sort of Faith Schools Are Acceptable, If Any? Stephen Law vs Peter Stanford

Wed March 24th, 6pm. Main Hall, Christ Church.

Do faith schools help build communities, or divide them? Do they educate, or indoctrinate? Do they raise principled moral citizens, or dangerous moral sheep? Should a school that discriminates against staff and pupils on the basis of faith receive state funding?

Peter Stanford is a former editor of the Catholic Herald, and an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. His biographies have included Lord Longford, C Day-Lewis, Bronwen Astor and the Devil. His latest book, The Extra Mile: The 21st-century Pilgrim, is published in March. Peter had two children at faith schools and is a foundation governor of one.

Stephen Law is a philosopher and the author of a book on faith schools called The War for Children's Minds. Stephen will argue that the state funding of faith schools should be abolished, and that every child at every school should be reminded regularly that religious belief is something each one of them is free to accept or reject. Indeed, Stephen is not convinced faith schools should be permitted at all.

Simon Singh – Trick or Treatment?

Blue Boar 6pm. Thursday 25th March.

Simon Singh is the science author responsible for a string of best-sellers that include Big Bang, Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book. In his latest book, Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial, Singh and his co-author Professor Edzard Ernst subjects a number of alternative medicines to critical scrutiny, investigating what works and what doesn’t. Singh is currently being sued by the British Chiropractic Association for questioning the evidence behind some chiropractic treatments. This has become a landmark legal case, of huge importance to the scientific community, many of whom (e.g. Richard Dawkins) believe English libel law has now become a threat to open scientific debate. Singh will be discussing the significance of this ongoing legal case, now being widely reported in the media.

Ben Goldacre

Sat 27th Garden Marquee, 2pm.

Ben Goldacre is the award winning writer, broadcaster, and medical doctor who writes the weekly Bad Science column in the Guardian. Goldacre is widely known for his scathing, satirical attacks on medical quacks, health scares, mumbo-jumbo and pseudo-science, and his book Bad Science has become a best-seller. His approach is passionate, charming, funny and merciless. While investigating television nutritionist Gillian McKeith's membership of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants, Goldacre bought a "certified professional membership" on behalf of his deceased cat, Henrietta, from the same institution for $60.

Does Science Reveal The Mind of God? Polkinghorne vs Papineau

Friday 26th March. 2pm, Garden Marquee.

After a distinguished career, John Polkinghorne retired as a Professor of Physics to study for Church of England Ministry, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He is the author of several books arguing that science is not in conflict with religion. Polkinghorne suggests that God is the answer to the question of "why is there something rather than nothing?" and that "theism explains more than a reductionist atheism can ever address." David Papineau is Professor of Philosophy at King’s College London, one of the country’s foremost philosophers and atheists, and the author of the excellent philosophy primer, Philosophy: Essential Tools For Critical Thought. Debate chaired by Stephen Law (Provost, Centre for Inquiry UK).

Richard Wiseman – Science of The Weird

Sunday 27th Blue Boar, 4pm.

An introduction to the science of the weird - from psychic powers to fire walking. Prof Richard Wiseman has gained an international reputation for research into quirky areas of psychology, including deception, humour, luck and the paranormal. He is also a trained magician, providing wonderfully entertaining and interactive events that help audiences sharpen their thinking and observational skills and spot more easily when someone may be trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Prof Wiseman is author of The Luck Factor – a best selling book exploring the lives and minds of lucky people.

To book tickets go to