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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 127 - September 2016

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September 2016 Newsletter No. 127
We hope you have had an exciting summer? Apologies for a slightly delayed newsletter this month.  As a new academic year gets underway, we hope you enjoy hearing from us again.

FARADAY SHORT COURSE

16 -18 September, Robinson College, Cambridge

 
Can machines express emotions? What would happen if robots replaced human beings? What is the future of artificial intelligence? Where do science fiction and reality overlap? These and other questions about artificial intelligence and robotics were explored at our most recent weekend course.
“Reality, Robots and Religion: Human Identity in an Age of Machines” took place on the weekend of 16-18 September. The programme was organised by one of our sub-projects on “Human identity in an age of nearly human machines”. From Friday to Sunday around thirty people listened to invited speakers, engaged in break out discussion groups, and grilled the speakers during an evening panel. Participants heard a range of fascinating talks on a variety of subjects that covered theological, sociological, anthropological and computer science perspectives on the topic of the potential of AI and robots. These were given by leading experts in the field. Thanks to those who participated and to our excellent speakers: including: Prof. Lord Martin Rees, Prof. Susan Eastman, Prof. John Wyatt, Dr Michael Burdett.
Introduction from a New Member of the Faraday Team

Alexander Massmann
Research Associate
(am2251@cam.ac.uk)
 
At the beginning of September, I joined the Faraday team as a research associate. In collaboration with Prof. Keith Fox, I am excited to explore the topic ‘Human Genome Modification and Human Dignity.’ A new method in genetics that has attracted an immense amount of attention in scholarly literature – and venture capital, too, for that matter. With a biochemical complex called CRISPR/CAS9, researchers are able to make modifications in the DNA of organisms of all kinds, including humans. The precision and the relative ease of this procedure are unprecedented. While not yet in clinical use, the method is credited with a bright future in commercial and therapeutic contexts, but even in non-medical uses such as enhancing the capabilities of a healthy human person. For ethicists, this raises a wide range of questions about both the opportunities and the limits of legitimate human interventions.
            My own background is in theology and theological ethics. I hold a Ph.D. from Heidelberg University, Germany, for a book dealing with the interaction of doctrine and ethics: a postdoctoral research project that engaged in the dialogue between evolutionary biology and the Christian doctrine of creation. I also gained a good amount of teaching experience in Germany.
            Heidelberg, it turns out, is the twin city of Cambridge, and now my wife, our little son and I have had the good fortune of living in both of these vibrant historical centres. It is exciting to be part of the Faraday Institute, and I am looking forward to meeting many in the wider circle of collaborators and supporters.
Overseas Course: Santiago, Chile
Science and Faith: Contemporary Challenges
29 Oct - 1 Nov 2016
To give the opportunity for integrated discussion on a range of topics in science and faith, which have traditionally been regarded as in conflict in the Chilean context. Details on website.
Upcoming Regional Event

November 
12 November 
Day Course (Norwich) 
Exploring Science and Religion
Research Seminar Series 
 
Our Autumn Research Seminar series will recommence on 11 October, we have four great speakers to look forward to.

11 October
"Living Forever: a worry for religious belief?"
Professor Julian Hughes  (Old Age Psychiatry) University of Bristol

25 October
"How science learns about unobservable entities" 
Professor Hasok Chang (History and Philosophy of Science) Cambridge

8 November
"Scientific and Religious Definitions of a Human: Their impact on Human Rights"
Professor John Evans (Sociology)
University of California, San Diego, USA

22 November
"Is Happiness in our Genes?"
Dr Michael Pluess, (Biological and Experimental Psychology) Queen Mary University of London
 
The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion Research Seminars are held at 1.00 p.m. on alternate Tuesdays during term in St Edmund’s College. A free light buffet lunch and drinks are served from 12.30 p.m. onwards. All are welcome.
 
Events to look forward to:

Thursday 17 November 2016
Our termly lecture this Michaelmas term is entitled “Do Scientists Believe in God? Results from an Eight Nation Study”.  It will be delivered at 5.30pm at the Howard Lecture Theatre, Downing College, Cambridge, by Professor Elaine Ecklund, Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, Rice Univeristy, Texas, and a long time collaborator of ours.  All welcome, no tickets needed.  Followed by drinks reception.

Monday 28 November
Save the date : Annual Christians in Science in Cambridge Reception.  Venue:  URC on Trumpington Street, Speaker Prof. Russell Cowburn FRS.  More details coming to website very soon.

Wednesday - Thursday 11-12 Janaury 2017
We are holding a non-residential two day workshop here at St Edmund's entitled "Science and Religion in the Local Church".  It is aimed at church leaders, lay or ordained and those in training. More details coming to website very soon.

Saturday 26 November 2016
Foundations and Freedom: Serving God in Academia Today, Day Conference in Cambridge organised by the Jubilee Centre.
Dr Ruth Bancewicz of the Faraday Institute will be speaking on "Freedom in the Sciences"


 
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