In his Lent Lectures (scroll down for the text) the Reverend Professor Alister McGrath reflects on the relationship between natural sciences, faith and religion. He talks about the wonders of scientific discovery and where it has led us. Ultimately, he says, science is neutral. The good that has been done with scientific progress is as much down to human nature as is the evil it has been used for.
But McGrath captures perhaps a more profound point in this quote by the famous philosopher of science Karl Popper: "Science doesn't make assertions about ultimate questions - about the riddles of existence." Science has shed light on many of the mechanisms that surround and even compose us - we have a much better understanding of our body and brain thanks to science, we can talk about climate change because, among other things, we understand our own atmosphere, and our explorations go far beyond the reach of the solar system. However, it has not (yet?) been able to answer the ultimate questions human beings tend to ask themselves: 'Why am I here?', 'What is the purpose of all this?'.
Could an inability to answer such questions be the cause of the human need for religion? In part one of the BBC Radio 4 programme 'God on my mind', Matthew Taylor goes on a journey to discover why so many of us feel the need for a higher power to make sense out of our being. He concludes that "religion depends on its own ability to change and adapt".