The following discussion, which has been substantially edited, took place on the evening of the lecture.
Robert S. White: The Judaeo-Christian attitude to the world in which we live is unique amongst the world's major religions in the stress it places on the importance of the material world. This underpins our understanding of the relationship between God (the Creator), the universe (his creation), and ourselves (his creatures). God himself pronounced that his creation was good and was pleasing to him (Genesis ch. 1 v.31). When God sent his son, Jesus, to Earth in the Incarnation, `the Word became flesh and dwelt among us' (John ch. 1 v.14). There can be few stronger statements from God about his attitude to the material world than this; that he chose to take a material body in order to reach us and to bring us back into relationship with himself. A deep respect for matter is embedded in the Christian religion.
In the light of this, it is a sine qua non that religious folk should be leading the effort to find ways to use the riches of what we are pleased to call the natural world, for the benefit of humankind. It means that Christians should be at the forefront of the development of methods of sustainable development, of the equitable distribution of resources to alleviate poverty and suffering, and of the kind of care for the environment that takes seriously the threat of global climate change and the effect that our actions may have on those (inevitably poorer) peoples least able to cope with it: in the worse cases that will mean the death of many tens to hundreds of millions of people from starvation, floods, rapid climate change and the like; even in the mildest scenarios it may mean hundreds of millions of people having to leave their homelands and becoming refugees, with all the loss of family and ethnic ties, of dignity, and of health and well- being that accompanies that.
Too often in the past Christians have ignored the religious, ethical and social demands that practical care for the environment carries with it, in favour of an over-emphasis on the purely spiritual. The issue of global climate change is one on which Christians should be taking a lead, with immense opportunities both to fulfil God's command to us to be good stewards of his creation, to proclaim the reality of God's presence in his created world, and to display the kind of response to the needs of other people that God himself would have us make. It is hugely encouraging to see scientists from a truly global range of nationalities, backgrounds, races and beliefs working together on bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to address these issues. And, if I may say so, it is also a great encouragement and example to the rest of us to see the dedication to this work, stemming from deeply held Christian convictions, of our speaker tonight, the chairman of the IPCC, Sir John Houghton.
Brian Heap: In recent years while I have been involved heavily with the Royal Society and its programme on sustainable consumption, I have become particularly interested in Nobel economist and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, Professor Amartya Sen and his writings on famine and poverty. Consumption is very relevant to John Houghton's presentation because the issue of global climate change is not just a question of population growth: it's a question of how we consume resources and whether we can continue to produce and consume at the rate that is common for food, energy and many materials. Amartya Sen's plenary lecture at the InterAcademy Panel's Conference on Transition to Sustainability held last year in Tokyo drew attention to Condorcet, the French mathematician and Enlightenment thinker, who in 1795 was one of the first to express the hope that people will reason their way into achieving technical progress as well as behavioural adjustments to achieve the following: "A very small amount of ground will be able to produce a great quantity of supplies, greater utility of higher quality, more goods will be obtained from a smaller outlay, manufacture of articles will be achieved with less wastage in raw materials and will make better use of them". This was really a masterful summary of the idea of sustainable consumption, the idea that science might well enable us to do things in a more efficient way. John Houghton's lecture touched on several of these points.
This raises questions about the ownership of knowledge, the fairness of distribution of that information, public acceptability of new ideas, the risks that are associated with these advances and so on. We have a great tradition from many sources to help us to think through some of these aspects, and our current Templeton Grant is for the purpose of exploring this interface, not just between science and Christianity, although a number of us are particularly interested in that aspect, but with the broader context of religion and our relationship with each other in terms of justice and equity.
One of the issues with which we are faced relates to how we are should respond to the crisis in global climate change that John has described tonight. Amartya Sen has proposed that it will require much more local and national dialogue to decide how a good life should look and to modify behaviour accordingly. That is going to be a huge challenge in this new century. How we are going to use resources in a more effective and efficient way largely comes down to the behavioural issue and many of us shy away from that reality.
Many people are wildly excited about the ideal of sustainable development as something that is tremendously desirable, but when you start to say that the core of sustainable development is a strategy of sustainable consumption then the enthusiasm evaporates. It is very attractive to talk about sustainable development in a theoretical way, but to be challenged to change one's lifestyle so that those in less developed countries might improve theirs is a different matter. It really means examining some of the tough issues that are presented to us in the Christian gospel, such as when Jesus speaks about selling what you have and giving it to the poor so that you will enjoy treasure in heaven. Most of us say that we will come to that challenge on another occasion.
With this brief introduction to our discussion of global climate change we will need to consider not only population growth and the extent to which we are over-consuming resources but also our behavioural response to the challenges raised by John's lecture.
Euan Nisbet: Searching the Natural World - a Zimbabwe perspective: Science and Christianity should not act against each other. Science is knowledge: by Science I mean `searching for knowledge in nature'. Knowledge is a tool, and with tools we can do good or evil. But knowledge is also one of the faces of truth. Can the search for truth be in conflict with Christian belief? - surely not, as Christianity tells us to look for truth. And where should we look? - where we may find it, whether in the heavens (Psalm 19) or in Greek insight.
Many of the 19th century physicists saw the study of the natural world as a Christian duty. In the Old Testament Job challenges us to search out Nature. In the New Testament, St. Paul chooses to quote Aratus (Acts 17:28), author of one of the greatest science texts of the classical world. Those of the Victorian scientists who were also Christian have been derided for their belief in `progress', but if you have been brought up without heat, light or water, maybe progress looks a bit more special. I spent a considerable part of my childhood without electricity, doing my homework by candlelight; without running water, washing in water heated by the stove; without a flush toilet. Such a life may be romantic to us, but to live in such conditions is not easy. It cannot be bad that life `nasty, brutish, and short' has been extended and made more comfortable by science.
Today, in 2001, Science helps in another way, by warning us of dangers to come as we change our planet, and perhaps it gives us the tools to face that danger. But our response depends on our ethical insight. We can choose to do nothing - after all, planetary change is unlikely to hurt us personally, while action may be costly. Or we can act to make things better for the next generation and for our neighbours on this world. Science cannot advise here, only inform.
Science in a poor nation: As a member of the Zimbabwe Scientific Association, I have an unusual perception of the conflicts over the role of science. The official ideology of Zimbabwe since 1980 has been so- called "scientific" socialism. Science is supposedly God. In Zimbabwe this is now mostly sham, hiding nothing but corruption - whited sepulchres - but in the later days of the Soviet Union there were millions who believed the doctrine. What has it brought? The history of the Soviet state speaks for itself. In Zimbabwe we have a country in economic collapse, without democracy, two or three million people with a fatal disease. There are some extremely brave people there who are trying to think what would we do to reconstruct the nation, when - we hope - the opposition party gains power. Many of these people are deeply Christian, very deeply Christian; but there are many good people among them who are not - a brave Jewish judge, some very courageous atheists. Moreover, parts of the Christian church seemingly act against good, and strongly defend the corruption and injustice. The church speaks with two voices.
In Zimbabwe, some scientists are more old fashioned, less cynical than is typical of the west at the start of the 21st Century. They are thinking beyond the present regime in Zimbabwe. They have that old-fashioned abstraction: Hope. There is a realisation that only economic wealth can alleviate the misery. Until people are fed, clothed and housed, there is little chance they will be at peace with themselves and their environment; perhaps paradoxically to 21st century western thought, the quest for wealth can itself bring peace. But wealth will only come with knowledge, and wealth can only bring peace if it is not the real goal, but simply a route to the goal that people should be happier.
Zimbabwe needs to meet the challenge of growth in wealth and in human enjoyment of life in a sustainable way. If possible this growth should come with proper land use and without sharply increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. There is a chance to observe the mistakes of Europe and the US and do better. The inspiration behind much of the opposition in Zimbabwe is biblical, deeply biblical, and many see the challenge in ethical terms. The means to the end do matter.
Making decisions in the rich nations: While the honest good folk struggle in Zimbabwe, they are thinking through the problems of how a country becomes a democracy. Here in the UK we may have forgotten how difficult it is to begin to be tolerant of other opinions. Yet this is basic to modern science - that we accept critical peer review. Perhaps it is not accident that the seeds of peer-review in science and the seeds of the idea of loyal opposition came from the same Westminster assembly. Milton was a member of Galileo's academy of lynxes - the far-sighted ones. Milton's Areopagitica, the great foundation essay of press freedom that takes its title from Acts 17:22, would have been read by his friends who founded the Royal Society.
In Zimbabwe the conflict is direct. In the rich and lazy democracies we have many gods - wealth is one, and the voter is another. The voter supposedly licenses science, paying for it to search for new wealth or new benefits. Cancer will be cured, because the voter says it will. This is different from the older curiosity-driven idea of Christian (and humanist) science, done for its own worth.
One of the best images of a voter is Homer Simpson. It may not be fashionable in the UK chattering classes to sink so low as to watch The Simpsons, but Homer is actually a wonderful guy. Selfish, brutish, and a slob: he has his moments. But inside Homer is a decision-making power, and a sense of the fall of humanity: an ability to recognise that he might be wrong. The Law is somewhere there in his heart. When finally Homer can be persuaded of his error, then things are done well. But it takes an awful lot of persuasion, which of course is the American problem dealing with issues such as climate change in a much more direct democracy than the UK. In the UK, parliament simply acts, taking little account of the feelings of the average Homer. In the US, where the Senate has to ratify any treaty by a two-thirds vote, and there are 50 separate legal systems, Homer has to be persuaded. The President presides; he does not rule. Capital punishment under a democrat President is an example. The proportion of those who find it abhorrent (as I do: we could by mistake find ourselves in Pilate's position) is similar in the US and UK, but while an execution is unthinkable in the UK, in many US jurisdictions it is routine. Just as in science, it takes much time and persuasion to make acceptable a new insight like plate tectonics, so in dealing with capital punishment or climate change, the US voter has to be persuaded. Perhaps the voter is a god, but the Law is not yet well written on the voter's heart.
The challenge of wonder: In the debates in Job, there are challenges, scientific challenges. God asks: have you gone to the springs of the oceans - we have, recently. Have you seen the storehouses of the snow? Anyone lucky enough to have gone to Spitsbergen or Greenland, or to have looked at a global climate model, has seen them. These questions in Job are challenges, not put-downs. We can choose to read them as contempt: "look, little man, do you realise how insignificant you are" but they are surely challenges. God is actually asking us to think about these questions - "do you know the laws of the heavens? In Job 12:8 we are told to "speak to the earth and it will teach you". Perhaps research on Climate Change is a duty! We should have some sort of dialogue with the earth and that's a biblical commandment - well it's from one of Job's comforters. These challenges are things we need to think about very hard.
The Psalms have a marvellous sense of wonder and poetry that we may lose today. The word `poetry' comes from `building': a poet is very close to a builder. Science is a building too: a carefully constructed tower that, unlike the tower of Babel, may slowly be reaching heavenwards. But today we disregard poetry and science, both. One of our major modern poets (whatever you think of him, he is a great poet), had his 60th birthday recently. Did we celebrate? On BBC1 that day, we had "The Weakest Link". On BBC2, what did we have? we had "The Weakest Link" again. On ITV we had "Survivor". Only BBC Knowledge managed to remember Bob Dylan. In other words, our society has rejected anything to do with insight, whether it's in the arts or in science.
This shows in the church too. One of the casualties of liturgical reform in both the Anglican church and my own church, the Presbyterian, is that the Psalms have been tossed out. The old songs of the synagogue have finally been evicted after 3000 years. These are the works of poetry and science that teach us our place in creation. Only a few decades ago, we had Psalms in their rightful place at the start of worship. Nowadays in the Anglican Church you hardly ever hear a psalm unless it comes up as a reading. We throw out great wealth here. Consider Psalm 19, which explores the heavens with the unique insight of faith, or Psalm 104 which may date to Akhenaten. It is a brave or foolish generation that dispenses with them. Is there a place for Science in Christianity?
The New Testament attitude to Science is clear. St. Paul takes this up in two science citations. One is Epimenides. Paul cites him twice: "in whom we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28), and "all Cretans are liars" (Titus 1:12). Epimenides, who was a founder of the democratic constitution and behind the statue to the unknown god, was Cretan - in other words some propositions are true but cannot be proven. This is fundamental maths - Goedel. God cannot allow proof of his existence in the natural world otherwise there would not be any room for faith, and equally there would be no room for freedom. Thus there can be no proof unless you have the eye of faith, when you can then see the proof everywhere (as in Psalm 19).
Paul's other citation is the most important science textbook of the time (Acts 17: 28). This is not by Pythagoras or Archimedes or Aristotle but by Aratus. The work, Phaenomena is the foundation of modern astronomy and meteorology. It is observational science - the title resonates in the ear of any scientist. Where do we get our knowledge of the Galaxy? - via Aratus. Whence Cirrus clouds? Luke Howard based his clouds on Virgil and Virgil based his Georgics on Aratus: it's a very direct link. Paul is quoting a meteorology text: what better incentive is there to study the climate?
There is the lovely old legend that when St. Paul landed at Pozzuoli he wept at the tomb of Virgil. It's a legend, but it may be true. Now why is Paul quoting a scientist in Acts 17:28? What's the context? The context is Paul saying "seek God out and perhaps you'll find him". And then he quotes a scientist. Is there a message there, that we should be concerned about observational natural science? Aratus was a natural scientist in the modern sense. He observed and he said firmly that we must observe, to check for ourselves.
Speaking to the Earth: The message to Job is that we should look at all life, and at the physical world. The covenant in the Old Testament, Noah's covenant, was a covenant of the rainbow, which really has an enormous amount of atmospheric physics and chemistry in it. That rainbow is a symbol of everything in the atmosphere. You don't get that sort of rainbow in Venus - Noah's covenant is for us here on Earth.
To return to Zimbabwe: we have a country that's suffering in an extreme way because of human greed and selfishness. Zimbabwe has people of faith and courage and hope. It may cure its internal ills. It will then suffer in a very different way because of global activity. Climate change is something beyond Zimbabwe's control. It is caused by the rich west. Yet there is a realisation that, given equal opportunity, Zimbabweans would probably have done the same or worse.
A new Zimbabwe may be able to contribute in some way to the response to climate change. It will need to cooperate with and to persuade Homer Simpson in the northern hemisphere to change his ways. It may have to do that by example, shaming Homer into behaving better. In fact the Zimbabwean opposition has good listeners: it has the ears of the Bush administration. Just possibly the challenge of global change may actually be one of the things that will bring us together. We're told that we're not tested past our limits and we're also told that never again will the ground be cursed because of man. The IPCC process is an example of this. There are very few things in human history that are quite so cooperative. Therefore this might be one of those tests that we have to pass as a species.
Alan Cook: May I make two observations? The first is that it has long seemed to me that one of the implications of the Incarnation is that we are meant to use all our abilities and gifts as human beings for the glory of God, and in particular to think about things in a serious way. The idea that Christians can get away without thinking about or understanding how the world is, how it was created, as we believe, by God, what it's structure and matter are, seems to me to be wholly inappropriate for a Christian person. That is why I think that there is no incompatibility, but quite the reverse, in being both a scientist and a Christian. I believe we have a duty to think about and to understand the natural world.
The other point is rather different. Euan Nisbet mentioned the Psalms, and for quite a different reason I have been looking at the numbers of places in the Old and New Testaments where something is said about the natural world, in particular about cosmology. There are extraordinarily few places, almost none in the New Testament, and not many in the Old Testament. Discounting the Hexaemeron myths, almost all references are in Job and more particularly in the Psalms; I think this is very important for the English consciousness of the natural world as God's creation, and, as John Houghton said in his lecture, as a garden. I was very struck by that metaphor that he used: I think one finds it in people of the seventeenth century and that they absorbed it from Psalms. You can do a very simple calculation. As Euan said you do not so often hear the Psalms now - but if you were a reasonably good Anglican Christian in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and went to church more or less every Sunday, perhaps twice, you would hear all the Psalms in the course of the year every 7 or 8 or 9 months. Think what that means for a person of about 40 who was considering the relation of God and the natural world. He would have heard many times phrases such as "He hath made the round world so sure that it cannot be moved" (Psalm 93), and other quotations from the Psalms which tell you that the world was made by God, was round, and was fixed with the stars going round it, and so on: Aristotelian images that of course reappear in the hymns of Addison and others (e.g. from Psalm 19). The idea that God created the world and that he made it as it is, that it is a beautiful place and that we are here to enjoy it, is one that you would get more clearly from the Psalms than from anywhere else and I am sure that the Psalms had a great influence on people like Ray and Boyle. Now alas, as Euan says, we have had liturgical reform and the Psalms are downgraded and we only hear what is in them if we deliberately read them outside the offices. Of course the philosophy and cosmology of the Psalms, whether Aristotelian as in my quotation or neo-platonic elsewhere, are long out of date. Nonetheless the Psalms have in the past helped to instill in people's subconsciousness just as much as explicitly, the idea of the world as God's creation, which He sustains, that we should study and enjoy and cultivate as a garden. We may find it hard to change attitudes to the environment by lecturing, whether from a pulpit or from a lecture room desk, but we may do so by trying to propagate the vision of the world that John showed us this evening, of the garden. In this, Chelsea week, we might to look to develop that vision more fully.
Additional comment by Alan Cook: The image of the garden implies deep issues. A garden is, almost by definition, an artificial creation. All gardens are the result of human design, they are the realisations of abstract and often highly intellectual and mathematical conceptions, of as it were Platonic ideas of what a garden should be. Many incorporate inanimate artefacts as well as living plants. The plants themselves are usually very carefully selected according to rigorous criteria - there are many available plants but very few are chosen. Almost all the chosen plants are created by human skill. When created, a garden has to be maintained, by tilling, fertilising, and above all by pruning, discarding and replacing Adam and Eve had to till the Garden of Eden. According to the myth, God placed the plants and animals in the Garden of Eden for the use of mankind (and Psalm 8). That notion, that the whole living creation was designed for the use of mankind, was held strongly by people such as John Ray in the middle of the seventeenth century, the age of the so-called scientific revolution. Some went to great lengths to demonstrate that fleas and lice and other such unattractive creatures, did in fact have a beneficent contribution to the human condition. To Ray and his contemporaries the value of the created world was not purely utilitarian, it afforded mankind visions of beauty and through the wonders of creation, some vision of God. Those are very much themes of the Psalms. Johann Hevelius, the venerable astronomer of Danzig, a fellow of the Royal Society, placed on the frontispiece of his Selenographia the words of Psalm 111: 'Magna opera Jehovae exposita omnibus qui delectantur iis' ('Great are the works of the Lord, pondered over by all who delight in them'). James Clerk Maxwell placed the same Latin text over the gateway to his Cavendish Laboratory in Free School Lane, Cambridge and you may see the English version over the new laboratory on Madingley Road.
The image of the garden evokes a further issue that was much in the minds of thinkers of the seventeenth century - did God leave the world to itself to behave mechanically according to its own autonomous internal schemes, or did God intervene from time to time to control and change it from outside? Descartes promoted the former, mechanistic view, and was followed by Boyle. The neo-platonists, in particular the Cambridge Platonists such as More and Cudworth, had the idea of a plastic nature like clay in the hands of God. Gardens contain innumerable plants that were not in the Garden of Eden - how have they come about? While almost all, and in particular the great families, have arisen through evolution and natural selection, that is through internal autonomous mechanisms of biology, others, so far within limited ranges, have come about by deliberate human manipulation of those mechanisms. Nowadays most people would see no place for God as the potter who supplements the internal autonomy of biology and human manipulation.
The image of the garden thus implies deep questions of theology that should have far- reaching consequences for policies about the environment. When God created the world did He do so in such a way that men and women would necessarily come into being? And if so, was the rest of creation designed to be for the benefit and use of mankind? Or has it just happened to turn out that way as the result of essentially chaotic processes of biology? Design or blind chance in the evolution of the natural world and mankind's place in it? Is the created world perfect as it is, or are we allowed to modify its components just as we modify it by creating gardens? Genetic modification goes back many millennia, for both plants and animals; today the changes can be immeasurably more rapid. Does that entail a difference of kind, and does it not make it far more difficult to assimilate the economic and political and social consequences of those changes? May it not be that the theological issue is not so much whether genetic modification is or is not permissible in itself, but rather the consequential problems of rapid change for human societies and individuals?
Climatic change and global warming put similar questions. We well know that climate has changed over millennia without human intervention, and that human society has adapted to those changes by changing ways of life, by migration and otherwise. Mostly the changes have been very slow and so hardly noticeable to individuals. There have also been rare violent ephemeral changes, mainly brought about by great volcanic eruptions. Now, if the predictions are correct, we are about to see changes that will be smaller than those over millennia, yet taking place so rapidly that such effects as large scale displacements of populations may be seen in two or three generations instead of over centuries. The greater speed of change may lead to effects of different kind.
Christians today have to reconsider the implications of the fundamental scriptural and incarnational foundations of their beliefs for the place and behaviour of mankind in the natural world. That may involve going back to some of the issues that exercised people like Boyle and Ray in the seventeenth century, but with the understanding of biology and physical science that we have today. St Augustine's observation (somewhat modified), that when we speak of God's creation, the creation of which we speak must be that revealed and described by science, is as relevant as ever. It carries the implication that theologians in particular and Christians in general must make the intellectual effort to understand molecular biology and meteorology and other rapidly developing sciences and technologies that affect our place and behaviour in the world, if they are to draw realistic conclusions from our fundamental beliefs.
Brian Heap: Yes, thank you, I wonder whether we draw from that, as has been hinted earlier, that we have now moved to a situation where that position has been rather abdicated to the Green Movement and is now in the hands of others.
David Macdonald: This leads on from the point that Euan made about the sense of wonder. I guess that most of us round this table are in the earth or environmental sciences because of that sense of wonder, the personal feeling that it really was a worthwhile thing to find out how the planet works. I think that this can become corrupted into what one might call charitably a pseudo-religion, a sort of Gaian hypothesis, which underpins a lot of the more serious Green thinking. Linking this into what was being said in the lecture about the quantification of misery, it is clear that there is a situation to be managed.
Now if you actually take a Gaian view, the planet will be fine. Those of us who know anything about the Cretaceous know that there won't be a runaway greenhouse effect, that somehow the planet will regulate itself. This regulation would primarily be by sea-level rise. Most of the UK's refining capacity (and I would guess 90 to 95% of the world's refining capacity) is within 5 metres of sea level; every single Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant in the planet is at sea level; a very modest sea level rise would destroy our industrial capability. Therefore you could actually take a rather hardline view that global change would be disastrous for industry and do nothing: just carry on and the planet will right itself. But I think if we approach things in a Christian way we actually have to think about the people who will be affected. We have to consider the misery that will be produced as we try to reduce greenhouse gas production and we therefore we have a duty, in however small a way, to try and face up to the situation and manage it in the best way we can. We might not see where the end point is within our lifetime but we have to make the small increments that will set us on the path, and never forget that sense of wonder along the way.
Tim Russ: It is very difficult to deny ourselves once something is part of our habitual world, unless there is some sort of higher integration going on, which is yet more attractive, a greater good. For example someone said to me "I'm not getting a dog, it ties you down" and I said "In this day and age, with excessive travel, it is good to be tied down". Having a dog would be an example of what I mean by higher integration. In the case of the whole ecology though you appear to be looking for an enormous shift in the general mentality which identifies consumerism with the good life. You are looking for a sort of conversion, "ecological conversion". Another problem is that if you look at things historically you find that at various times there has been an expert such as Malthus, and if the world had followed Malthus, the possible future of humanity would have been greatly restricted. The restrictions on population in China today show that such a possibility is not just an abstract threat. There is an observable tendency for expertise in some narrow field, say early biological forms, to cause a rush to judgement about say, the nature and destiny of Man, and the procedure is flawed. The fact of many scientists in a Lemming-like solidarity following the same process does not inspire confidence in the critical mind.
Sir John, you spoke about degrees of certainty and I am curious as to what they would be. Certainty is something absolute and one is either certain or one is not. If one is not certain one has more research to do before you form a judgment. Certainty refers to a state of mind where the evidence is so much in that one knows without doubt what the case is. Probability then does not belong to judgement but it may properly belong to the content of one's judgement. So it is a true judgement that with a flawless dice the probability of throwing a six is one-sixth. Practical men and governments have to act on probabilities so it is helpful to them to give a probability content to one's analysis of a situation. "We are certain that there is a high degree of probability that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming." To use the word certain is, pace Karl Popper, to move beyond empirical science and its revisability: it signifies that the judgment in the mind corresponds exactly with what is the case in reality. When such a judgment is prudently reached one expect governments and indeed everyone to respond. My impression is such certainty belongs rather to micro than to macro ecological reality because of the complexity of the latter.
John Pyle: May I follow that? In case you don't know me I'm John Pyle of the Department of Chemistry here. I was in John Houghton's department in Oxford a very long time ago; in fact John, I think, taught me to grow tomatoes in a greenhouse that we had on the roof of the department. You'll remember that, John, so it brings in the gardening analogy. I sometimes describe myself as from a working class Lancashire Catholic background and that's nothing, I think, if not pragmatic; pragmatism is essential in this problem. It seems to me axiomatic that with a problem like the one that we're talking about today, there has to be some kind of economic and resource redistribution. If there isn't a redistribution then there isn't a solution. But how do you persuade people that there should be some kind of redistribution? I think the graph that John showed giving C02 emissions per capita versus time was extremely worrying in many ways. It shows that we can't carry on as at present but also shows how difficult it is to convince people generally that there is a problem.
I think it's essential to come back to this issue of uncertainty which is, I think, incredibly important for us as scientists here. I would like to ask John to respond to the issue, because I know from talking to many people that the IPCC process has a great record of being honest in saying that there are things that we know scientifically and there are things that we are unsure about in terms of the climate's response to an increase in C02. So there is an uncertainty, and I think we as scientists understand what uncertainty means, but I think that the general public does not understand what uncertainty means. Within the last week I was at another talk about climate change and someone in the audience said "Well, you scientists are uncertain about what's going on so why should we do anything?". The IPCC has tried extremely hard to quantify the phrases that it uses about uncertainty in terms of, for example, whether we say we are `quite confident', `very confident' and so on, with these phrases meaning something specific and quantitative. I think that message has got through to the scientific community, but do not think that it has got through to a wider community. Until that happens, we as scientists will not be capable yet of persuading the population, through the political process, that more has got to be done.
Simon Mitton: Timothy Russ mentioned Malthus: Dr. Malthus was at Jesus College just down the road. Something that is very strikingly different from Malthus' time is the collectivization of science. The IPCC is an embodiment of the collectivization of science with ultimately thousands and thousands of people responsible for the inputs - the IPCC and its conclusions are not the output of one scholar as was the Malthusian outputs, so I make that point. My second point is something completely different. In terms of educating the non-scientific community, how are we going to educate and stimulate official Christian leaders? How do we get to a situation where on "Thought for the Day" we have a bishop speaking about issues of Global Change, or how do we get the Pope to speak out on these issues?
Peter Liss: Malthus has been mentioned and commented on somewhat negatively. However, he was right to the extent that the rise in the human population over the last few centuries has placed a tremendous strain on the earth's resources. Environmental impact is the product of number of people and an integral measure of their individual impacts on the planet's resources. Both terms of the product are set to increase in the coming decades, only the extent of their increases is uncertain. Per capita impact will rise as developing countries pursue economic growth, and it is clear that strenuous efforts must be made to share best technology and innovation globally in order to limit it. The questions of population growth and its `artificial' control are difficult ones, especially in view of their important moral and ethical dimensions. Education and economic well being (as we have in most European countries with their stable or declining populations) potentially provide a long-term solution. However, it is unlikely that we can wait for this process to apply globally, and present national policies to limit population growth will need to be followed through and probably enhanced. This is a difficult situation for those with an ethical objection to birth control. It may be that such ambivalence over purposeful population control is part of the reason why western religions have tended to have rather little to say on global environmental matters. However, whether religious or otherwise, we all have an important responsibility to address the issue so that both terms in the product discussed above are properly considered and acted on.
Derek Burke: May I make a couple of brief comments? One is about the difficulty about making policy decisions in the face of serious uncertainty and here I disagree with Tim. My example is the decision to go public about the risk to humans from New Variant CJD. The decision to go public was made by a small group, including the Prime Minister, and would lead to the destruction of the British beef industry at a point when I think there were about seven or eight deaths in the UK, and where the evidence of transmission from cattle to humans was not really certain. My point is that politicians have often to make political decisions before certainty is secure, because the risks of not making the decision escalate dramatically after that. So our problem is how to persuade the politicians that they should make decisions now, which are uncomfortable, rather than make decisions later when it may be very uncomfortable. I was very taken with John Houghton's beginnings of quantification of the costs of decisions now and decisions later. I have some experience of working with politicians: they are very hard-headed people who deal with problems uppermost in their in-tray and whose aim is to survive for five years. We have to be aware of and live with that. But if we could show them that by taking modest political decisions now, they could avoid very difficult decisions later when they still hope to be in power - this current government is looking for a third term - then I think we have some possibility of movement.
My second point is about the political significance of the green movement. I've had a good deal to do with the Green movement for the last few years, and not always very successfully. But actually the Green movement here might be our best ally. The Green movement is not going to get MPs into the House of Commons, but they are the articulation of a position which the other parties cannot lose, so the more we feed real information to the Greens, not the sort of pseudo-information that destroyed the GM food debate, the more we feed real information to the Greens, the more they will then enable the major parties to deal with these issues. So I'm arguing really for quantification of action now versus action later and of making this information public, so that the major political parties will take action in order to keep the Greens out of power.
Chris Hope: Can I follow up the point about quantification? It links in with the point made earlier about distribution, because I was also taken with John's calculations which showed that the impacts in many countries that are already rich would be something over 1 percent of GDP and the impacts in countries that are poor at the moment would be 2-5% of GDP, and the costs of doing something about the issue might be less than 1% of GDP. We are beginning to get some of this kind of this quantification now and it needs to be taken a step further, because of course even if you take the costs of doing something now and spend something less than 1% of GDP on it, it doesn't mean that all the impacts will disappear. We're already committed to quite a lot of impacts now so you have to make a slightly more complicated calculation than John was able to give this afternoon. And the distributional problem is one that's been made even worse, I think, by our new knowledge about the science and particularly the science of sulphates and how they might be masking some of the warming, particularly in some parts of the world. Because if you look at somewhere like China and you want to ask China to do something about this issue and to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases, first of all it's very difficult to argue that they should be doing anything for the sake of the rest of the world - a lot of the benefits of any cutbacks that they might make would not be felt in China which is a poor country already, the benefits would be felt in America and in Europe and therefore it's very hard to make that argument. But if we add on to that what we now know about sulphates and say that if China were itself to cut back its greenhouse gases, it would also be cutting back its emissions of sulphates and not only would China not get a lot of benefits from the cutting back of greenhouse gases, it would probably make the situation worse inside that region of the world - it would actually make China warmer if it were to cut back its greenhouse gases than if it were not do so because it would also be cutting back its sulphates, then it really looks very difficult for us to say that we must get China on board. And yet we know that we have to get China on board, and we also have to get India on board if we're going to tackle this issue seriously over the next 20, 50 or 100 years. So it comes back immediately to what can we do for poorer countries. We cannot expect them to take this action under their own steam, we have to have the redistribution because it's going it's going to make the situation worse for them, and we as rich countries can't possibly expect and ask them in their situation to make their own climate worse so that we can carry on living the lifestyle that we are enjoying at the moment.
Chris Rapley: Perhaps I could add another point to this bit of the debate. There are very influential economists who argue that the best thing to do in terms of these environmental problems is to keep your foot hard on the economic accelerator to generate enough wealth that you can then clean up the Thames and what have you afterwards. This is a failure of the imagination and a failure of understanding of the finite limits of the planet, and I think this is the problem. After all the escape from the Malthusian trap where Malthus proposed that we were in trouble was in fact because we had not reached the finite limits of the planet. Well we all know how we escaped that time and it may be that one can squeeze a little more out of the planet yet and support a population of 10 billion people living in our sort of lifestyle - I doubt it, but it may be possible. But it does seem to me that as individuals, whether we're scientists or politicians, it's extremely difficult to imagine that we have finally bumped up against this finite limit of the planet. This is something that has not happened in the past and we're not used to thinking in those terms.
Recently I visited Biosphere II, which is a plastic bubble in the desert. One of the things that impressed me there was that in the public concourse they had all sorts of scientific displays. They had a very simple one which was for the children, so it was a set of computer screens, low down so kids could play with it, and it took them through their day in a nice cartoony way, where a child started in the morning by brushing its teeth and it calculated if the child left the tap running or not essentially what its ecological footprint was at the end of the day and showed - did it eat strawberries that were imported from the other side of the world, did it go on a holiday somewhere else and it just brought it back at a personal level that each action you took throughout the day had a global consequence and one that is often ill-considered - I think this is a point that was made earlier. My bottom line is that education and making people more aware of the consequences of their actions has to be at least part of the solution.
Judith Bunbury: I would like to add to that. I think it is imperative to work on a governmental level on the large scale, but speaking as a consumer I find I'm quite frustrated. I use low energy light bulbs, have an organic garden, buy organic vegetables, but I don't know what my ecological footprint is and I hear conflicting information. In a sense if I had a directory that said the size of footprint for this cup of coffee is such an amount, I would be much more motivated to take a personal responsibility for my ecological impact. I think if that could be propagated to a larger part of the population, albeit perhaps the middle classes, that would make a significant difference.
John Houghton: This discussion has raised all sorts of very interesting issues. Talking about ecological footprints, I remember being in Cambridge a few years ago at a meeting concerned with how the media present environmental issues more effectively and more accurately. At the dinner at King's College that followed, the menu had all sorts of numbers on it. We tried to guess what the numbers represented. In fact, they were the distances in miles that each item of food had travelled in order to get to our dinner. The numbers varied from 0.5, the potatoes, to about 12,500, the Kiwi fruits. There were few numbers that were less than a few thousand. Most of the food had actually come from the other side of the world. That had a big impression on me. Do we ever consider the energy and transport costs of getting our food to us that we buy in the supermarkets or elsewhere? Defining this particular ecological footprint might be a good place to start.
But there are even bigger issues to which reference has also been made. Some of our food is produced as cash crops in some of the poorest countries of the world. Linked with that is the most obscene fact I know - that we are getting richer while they in the poorest countries are getting poorer. The flow of money in the world is in general from the poor to the rich. The Old Testament prophets spoke with vehemence against that sort of inequity - they warn that it brings down awful judgment. The way we do our trade, the way world trade is organized, the way in which the world economy works, all tend to exacerbate the flow of money from the poorer to the richer.
But, what can we do about it? It's hard to know because, you say, "When I buy beans from Zimbabwe, am I not helping them? I don't actually know whether I am or not". The answer, if we can find it, is linked to many other issues, for instance those of world debt, or of sustainable consumption that has already been mentioned. Are we locked into a world system that is immoral at its core and is seriously going in the wrong direction? If so, that is very frightening.
It is so easy to have a blinkered view of many of these issues. John Gummer illustrates this as he describes the response to his speeches on the issue of global warming, which he delivers so eloquently, especially in the United States. People there often argue back to him that the real problem we face is not that of global warming, it's the problem of population and its growth in the developing world. John Gummer replies by agreeing that population is a big problem but that it's the growth of population in the US that is the biggest problem. They are very surprised by that and ask him what he means. He replies that every child born in the US is equivalent to 114 children born in Bangladesh because the resources used by the American child are 114 times the resources used by a child in Bangladesh. Therefore the problem is not the growth of the population in Bangladesh, it is the growth of population in the United States.
Yesterday, I was at a conference at Ridley Hall in Cambridge on Business and the Environment run as part of their programme which links business and ethics, especially considering what a Christian approach to business might entail. One of the issues raised was that of globalization, which is linked to the other issues we've been addressing. One of the challenging features of globalization is the escalating growth of multinationals - some multinationals are now bigger in economic size and power than many countries in the developing world. Many of the really big companies strive to behave quite ethically, but nevertheless they are driven by money. Should there be more controls on them? If so, how? That is going to become an increasingly important issue.
Let me come back to climate change and the way in which scientists have taken on board their particular responsibility. When I began with the IPCC in 1988, our first meeting of 50-100 scientists discussed how we should address the issue of climate change. We all agreed that it was a big issue of importance for all nations. If, therefore, we were going to create a scientific message of relevance for the world, then the world's scientists had to be thoroughly involved. But then there was the problem of how certain we were about the message. Although the basic science was reasonably well understood, many of the scientists present felt that the range of uncertainty was still too large for us to say anything too definite, or even to say anything at all.
At that time I was heading the Met Office. Every day we put out weather forecasts. Now when forecasters stand up in front of the television audience and say, "Here is the forecast for tomorrow" they cannot go on to say, "I'm really sorry I am very unsure what the weather is going to be so I cannot give you any guidance at all, Goodnight!" That's just not on - their instructions are that they must say what they think is the most likely weather; they must tell the most likely story. And further, if there is a chance, even some low chance of really severe weather that would be very disruptive, they must also explain that, explaining too as far as possible how certain or uncertain they are. The public is used to weather forecasts, they know the uncertainty in weather forecasts, but nevertheless they find them useful because they're much better than no information at all. In fact, commercial companies will pay good money to receive the best possible weather information to put into their planning.
I used this example to try to explain to the group of IPCC scientists the responsibility we had to convey the best possible information. "Although we are uncertain about some of the science," I explained, "as a group we know more than anyone else and therefore must tell what we know. If we do not there are many people out there who know very little, who do not feel inhibited and who will convey false information. Also because, unlike weather forecasts, the public have no experience of climate forecasts, we must also carefully explain the uncertainty in our forecasts." I think this example helped our discussion. Everyone agreed to try to explain what we know and what we do not know about climate change and the IPCC process began to evolve.
The most difficult part of the IPCC process has been the exposition of uncertainty -Tim Russ referred to that earlier. Except in cases where there are data that can be treated statistically, quantifying uncertainty has been difficult. Because words can be interpreted in different ways by different people, we have been under pressure to use numbers rather than words. In our latest report we use `likelies' and `very likelies' with footnotes to explain the range of percentage probabilities they represent. Something that has been hard to get over to the public over the years is that significant climate change is very likely, although we are unsure of the details, and that an outcome with no change to the climate is very unlikely.
Colin Russell: Where historical precedents are considered it is worth noting that concern for the environment (though not by that name) came long before 1960 and, in various forms, can be dated back for at least several centuries. After the semi-mystical views of a divine, or at least living, universe were submerged in the Scientific Revolution much emphasis in science came in the utilitarian notion of the earth etc being for our good. Nevertheless numerous writers sounded out an additional note of responsible stewardship. This was particularly interesting in those very authors who espoused natural theology (which was highly utilitarian). William Derham in the 18th century argued both for an admiration of the works of the Creator partly because his work was so well suited to man, but also urged that we should be stewards of all that we have been given. He was far from alone in this.
In the 19th century, theologically-inspired stewardship was much less obvious. This may well have been because the Darwinian and geological controversies focussed on the "wrong" issues in Genesis (like literal "days" etc.), without stressing the mandate for humans to manage the earth in a God-like manner. Others in the polluting industries were fairly cavalier in their attitudes to the earth, but some remarkable exceptions exist, especially in the chemical sector. In the 20th century there was again a wide range of ecological attitudes. Those who did seek to defend the environment did so for a variety of reasons: political (as in post-war USA), pragmatic, aesthetic and also theological. In this matter history can merely point to the complexities of reactions, and stress that, among the motives, were clear examples of an ideological trigger. Probably for that reason a strong Christian emphasis on our responsibility before God is much less likely to be rejected out of hand than might have been the case 60 years ago.
John Houghton: China was mentioned during the discussion. China is a very interesting country, it is the biggest country in the world and has an enormous population. I've seen their Met service grow from something from the Dark Ages to one of the most modern in the world. Zou Jing Meng, the director of the Met service during the 1980s and 90s, was a highly competent meteorologist. He also was a friend of Li Peng, they were at school together, so he got everything he wanted, including the latest computers. They have also built a Climate Research Centre modelled on the Hadley Centre in the UK that has carried out some excellent studies of climate change in China. They are very aware of the climate change issue: they suffer seriously from droughts, floods and storms. They also know about pollution; they have enormous amounts of very sulphurous coal; they suffer from cities with very bad air pollution and in some parts of China from acid rain. Green movements now exist in China addressing some of these problems. Also, one cannot help but be impressed by Chinese technical, scientific and economic growth.
Another very interesting thing about China is the growth of the Christian church there. A recent official count of the number of Christians in China, in official Christian churches, is 11 million. Many, though, are not in official churches, there are many unofficial churches. That 11 million can perhaps be multiplied by 5 to get an estimate of at least 50 million for the total number of Christians in China, perhaps 5 % of the population. In parts of China 30% are Christian. Perhaps 6000 are becoming Christians every day. It's an indigenous evangelical Christian movement that has very little or no connection with the outside world. One of the reasons for this growth seems to be the disillusionment they experienced after the cultural revolution which was meant to destroy religion in China, whereas in fact it resulted in exactly the opposite. Christians would also describe it as a work of the Holy Spirit. It will be very interesting to see how this new Christian presence in China influences their future as China is growing so rapidly in other ways, especially technically and economically and heads in due course to be perhaps the world's largest economy.
Christian churches in the west have not shown a lot of interest in the environment in the past and many Christians still do not see the environment as relevant to their faith. But it is an important Christian theme. Creation, Incarnation and Resurrection are central to Christian theology. Incarnation, Resurrection, Salvation and Redemption cannot be separated from Creation because all these themes were worked out on the stage of this world. Jesus came as a human being. He is our central figure and his incarnation and resurrection are vital to the whole of our Christian faith. There's a big story here, a big world view which provides the context for our environmental concern. It is a view whose facets all hold together and provides for me something very important and vital.
In my work for the IPCC I've seen people get together on environmental issues and of course they're not all Christians by any means, they are from different religions and backgrounds or with no religion at all. But humans made in the image of God are able to be creative and act responsibly regarding the world in which they been placed. But we still have a flaw that prevents us from doing it right or from taking action when we should. I can remember being at a seminar celebrating the 1900th anniversary of the writing of the Book of Revelation; the seminar was entitled "Revelation and the Environment". The hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Church who had set up the seminar had gathered a very eclectic group, politicians, media people, environmentalists, theologians and scientists. John, the Metropolitan of Pergamon, who was one of the seminar's leaders, kept reminding us that "not to look after the earth is a sin". David Bellamy chaired a group to draw up seven principles resulting from the discussions. The principle they put first was "not to look after the earth is a sin". It was something that struck a chord with everyone, whether Christian or not. We're doing things wrong or we are talking a lot and doing nothing. The idea that we are accountable for the way we care for creation is one that can really make us feel uncomfortable.
Yesterday, at the Ridley Hall seminar I mentioned earlier, the Bishop of Carlisle gave a lecture on the environment and the Christian faith. He was talking very largely about the foot and mouth crisis - he's been in Carlisle six months and most of his time had been concerned with that crisis that has been particularly bad in Cumbria. He went on to preach a sermon for Ascension Day and talked particularly about the fear of the Lord, the fact that we've lost reverence in our society and that reverence for God is no longer there. Associated with reverence is the idea of accountability. Earlier this evening, some have mentioned the awe felt by scientists as they investigate some of the wonders of creation. But to be accountable means being accountable to someone. Because people know little about God, many don't even know who Jesus was, the idea of being accountable to God has largely been lost in our modern society. To me being accountable is an important part of the whole business of being a Christian; it includes being accountable for the environment.
In the Old Testament, the fear of the Lord is linked with "wisdom". "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). "Wisdom" in the Old Testament describes a God- fearing and pragmatic approach to real life problems. Wisdom is also personified and in the New Testament is attached particularly to Jesus. We can find wisdom in Him, indeed He is the wisdom. At the heart of our Christian faith is the idea of God being there, providing wisdom for us, walking with us in the garden, as he did in Genesis with Adam and Eve, helping us with these enormous problems that we face of global warming, of globalisation, the rich/poor divide, population growth and so on. Seemingly impossible problems, nevertheless there is not just us - not just me trying to run part of the IPCC or something else in a small way - there's something much bigger than we can bring to it, very much bigger, because God is there too with all his concern for his creation, working along with us. Those who are not Christians or particularly religious, when presented with really big problems, often feel forces outside themselves which lay hold on them. There's a tremendous challenge for all of us - and excitement - in facing what has to be done to care for the Earth.
Brian Heap: Thank you very much, and that's a very good note for us to finish on. I couldn't help reflecting in these last moments on an article I read in the New York Review of Books by Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Laureate. He gave a lecture - he thought it was a very lucid lecture on particle physics - and somebody came up to him afterwards and said "Well, of course, science does not explain things - it just describes them". The article is called "Can Science Explain Everything? Can Science Explain Anything?" I commend it to you.
Thank you again, John, for your wonderful contribution to our discussion after an outstanding lecture. The occasion has been extremely helpful to all of us. Thank you in particular for your reflections on your personal experience of working with IPCC - it's set a marvellous model for how to approach complex systems and we greatly appreciate everything that you were able to share with us tonight.
Discussion Participants at the Templeton Lecture given by Sir John Houghton, 26th May 2001
Dr. Bryan Bache is a soil scientist, and former member of St Edmund's College. He is interested in development and environmental issues, including research on acid rain effects, and has recently taught environmental science to Geography students at Cambridge.
Dr. Judith Bunbury is a geologist with a special interest in archaeological sites. Her current interest is in ancient mines and quarries in the deserts of Egypt. Egypt has been mined since prehistoric times and recent studies of the Gebel-al-asr area in the Sahara desert suggest that climate change was a strong influence on the ways in which the sites were used during different periods.
Prof. Derek Burke is former Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, President of Christians in Science and a specialist advisor to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.
Sir Alan Cook FRS, foreign fellow Academia dei Lincei, Rome, Jacksonian Professor of Natural Philosophy emeritus, former master of Selwyn College. Physicist with particular interests in geophysics and astrophysics. Now pursuing the history of science, and edits the Notes and Records of the Royal Society. Has written on the nature of science and theology and relations between them and is beginning to look at those relations historically in the late seventeenth century. Has published biography of Edmond Halley.
Sir Brian Heap CBE, FRS is Master of St. Edmund's College, Cambridge and Vice-President and Foreign Secretary of The Royal Society, the UK's Academy of Science. He is an endocrine physiologist.
Dr. C.W. Hope is a University Senior Lecturer interested in the use of numerical information for public policy. For the last ten years he has been developing and using an Integrated Assessment model of climate change.
Sir John Houghton CBE, FRS is Co-chair of the Scientific Assessment Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and was formerly Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office. Sir John writes and lectures widely on the relationship between Christian faith and environmental concerns.
Dr. Roderic (Rod) L. Jones is currently Reader in Atmospheric Science in the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at the Department of Chemistry, Cambridge. His scientific interests focus on the development of instruments for investigating the earth's atmosphere, and on their use in studies of atmospheric chemistry and climate change.
Prof. Peter Liss is in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia. An environmental chemist, he is past Chair of the Scientific Committee of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme. His research interests are in the importance of air-sea exchange of gases for atmospheric properties and global biogeochemical cycling.
Prof. David Macdonald is Professor of Petroleum Geology at the University of Aberdeen. He studies tectonics and sedimentation and is particularly interested in the history of environmental change in the polar regions.
Dr Simon Mitton is Director of science publishing at Cambridge University Press. He started the climate change list at CUP, which is the publisher for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Prof. Euan Nisbet is an earth scientist at Royal Holloway, Univ. of London, whose interests include both the early history of the Earth and modern atmospheric methane. Using rocks from field areas in Zimbabwe and Canada, he is trying to reconstruct the early history of the biosphere. His atmospheric interests include monitoring methane isotopes in the Atlantic background, and the study of emissions from Russia and sub-Saharan Africa. He is an elder of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
Prof. John Pyle is Professor of Atmospheric Science in the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at the Department of Chemistry, Cambridge. His research interests lie in atmospheric modelling, including studies of global change issues including stratospheric ozone depletion and the changing oxidising capacity of the troposphere.
Prof. Chris Rapley is Director of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Prior to this he was Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and was previously Professor of Remote Sensing and Associate Director of University College London's Mullard Space Science Laboratory. He has been a Principal Investigator on both NASA and European Space Agency satellite missions, and is currently a Vice President of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR), a member of the European Polar Board Executive, a member of the European Space Agency's Earth Science Advisory Council, and a UK delegate to the European Science Foundation's Governing Council.
The Very Rev Canon Timothy Russ is a secular priest with an interest in epistemology and the movement to make the study of man in his use of responsible freedom in some sense "scientific".
Prof. Colin A. Russell is Emeritus and Visiting Research Professor in the History of Science at the Open University, UK, and Senior Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge. He has been Chairman and then President of Christians in Science. His writings on science and theology include the 1993 Templeton Lectures at Cambridge published as "The Earth, Humanity and God", London, 1994.
Prof. Robert (Bob) S. White FRS is Professor of Geophysics at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of St. Edmund's College, Cambridge and on the committee of Christians in Science. He studies volcanoes and earthquakes, and the structure of the earth resulting from plate tectonic motions.