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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 145 - April 2018

 

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April 2018 Newsletter No. 145
What a beautiful start to the Easter season here at the Faraday Institute. Our research is being shared through talks, courses and colloquia. This month's newsletter showcases some of these; our overseas course in Malta which engaged with a diverse group, the "Reading is Believing" colloquium presenting some unique and important academic papers, as well as a moving and informative weekend short course on "Disasters, Resilience and Faith."
'Reading is Believing? Sacred Texts in a Scientific Age'
 
The academic colloquium 'Reading is Believing? Sacred Texts in a Scientific Age' was held in the stunning surroundings of Clare College, Cambridge from 26-28 March 2018. It brought together scholars of the Qur'an and the Bible for two days of lively discussion around the theme of sacred texts and their relationship to scientific modernity. Seventeen paper presenters came from Dubai, Germany, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Turkey, and the USA, as well as the UK. Keynote lectures were delivered by Dr Mark Harris (Edinburgh), on the theology of the Biblical flood narrative, and Prof Salman Hameed (Hampshire College, USA), on the role of the Qur'an in the acceptance and rejection of human evolution. Themes that emerged from the colloquium included: scripture's engagement with biological and environmental ethics; the special status of humankind in scripture; epistemological questions connected to contemporary Biblical and Qur'anic hermeneutics and modern science; and the impact of scientific culture on local readings of sacred texts. There are plans to publish the conference proceedings, and the organisers will make details known here in due course.

The IQSA (International Qur'anic Studies Association) also wrote a report that you can read here

Picture: Participants eating together at Clare College
Faraday Course in Malta
 
The Faraday Institute has been pleased to collaborate with the University of Malta in organising a course on science and religion in the delightful and serene setting of the Mount St Joseph Retreat House at Mosta in Malta. Three speakers sponsored by the Faraday Institute (Drs Rodney Holder, Mark Harris and James Hannam) were joined by seven Maltese academics to deliver an exciting programme of talks. The course began and ended with two excellent theological talks, one on ‘Science and Religion - Clash of World Views?’ by Prof. Louis Caruana SJ and the other on ‘Homo Technologicus’ by Dr Nadia Delicata. In between, topics ranged from religious practices in Neolithic Malta, including a visit to the spectacular 6000 year old Temple at Hagar Qim (Prof. Frank Ventura), through discussion of Biblical archaeology and miracle stories (Prof. Anthony Frendo and Dr Harris) and the history of science and religion (Dr Hannam), to hot topics of modern debate such as cosmology, artificial intelligence, the environmental crisis and genomics (Dr Holder, and Profs Alexei Dingli, Patrick Schembri and Alex Felice). A highlight was a gala reception at the Palace of the Archbishop of Malta in Valetta, where His Grace Archbishop Scicluna welcomed us and spoke of the common search for truth in both science and religion. Following this we went out on to the streets to join the festivities and religious processions celebrating the launch of Valetta as European Capital of Culture 2018. Our thanks go to Drs Charles Bonello, Pauline Dimech and Martin Musumeci for organising a superb course and giving us such a rich experience.

Picture: Some of the participants from the course. 
Faraday CiS Termly Public Lecture

17:30 – 19:00
16 May 2018


Prof. Sir Colin Humphreys

Science and the Reliability of the Bible

McCrum Lecture Theatre, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
Research Seminar Series 
 
We are looking forward to our next seminar series starting in May

1 May
The Search for Meaning Amidst Cosmic Annihilation, Transhumanism and the Last Judgment. 
Dr Michael Burdett
(Oxford University)

15 May
Science and Miracles: Perspectives from Christianity and Islam
Dr Hilary Marlow &
Dr Caroline Tee
(The Faraday Institute)

29 May
Faith and Neuroscience: Friend or Foe?
Revd Prof. Alasdair Coles
(University of Cambridge)

Our seminars are held at 13:00 on alternate Tuesdays during full term in St Edmund’s College. A free sandwich lunch and drinks are served from 12:30 onwards. All are welcome.
Faraday Bursaries
Wish to attend a Faraday course but need some assistance? Click here to see if you qualify for a bursary. 
Can't make our events in person, don't worry, all of our seminars, talks, lectures and public festivals are available on the Multimedia part of our website. We have over 600 talks for you to watch or listen to at your convenience. 
Read about Russell Cowburn's Work in his guest blog "Not a Clock Maker - Randomness and Order in Science and Faith"
Read an extract from Denis Alexander's forthcoming book "Is There Purpose in Biology? The cost of existence and the God of love"

Professor Sam Berry – A personal memory

 

Much has been written about dear R J (Sam) Berry who died last month at the age of 83. I first met Sam almost 25 years ago when I was the Adminstrator of A Rocha, Christians in Conservation and he was a kindly, yet authorative, grandpa and giant always with a twinkle in his eye.  I knew the stature of his academic work and always respected his incredible mind but it is his human touch, his phenomenal memory and kindness which stands out for me. Our paths crossed again when I took up this position and I have a handwritten note on the board above my desk which says “Thank you for your TLC – Sam”.   I shall always remember him with great affection and when we caught up at an Advisory Board Meeting he wanted to know about my husband and family and we laughed together about why he (still) detested mosquitoes and their existence would be a question for his Heavenly Father one day!

Sam has spoken for the Faraday Institute on several occasions over the last decade and his Faraday Paper is available to download.  His style was always popular with our hearers. We sell several of the many books he wrote and edited on our bookstall at events, in fact I have just purchased “True Scientists, True Faith” as a baptism gift for a student scientist friend of mine

His contribution to our work and reputation will live on. We are thankful that he is now “with Christ which is far better” and we are so grateful to have known him and for his support of our work.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family.

Rachel Simonson

Faraday Administrator

 
Disasters, Faith and Resilience
 
Over the weekend 13-15 April the Faraday Institute brought together a unique mix of ‘disaster specialists’ ranging from Christian theologians and scientists to disaster first responders and survivors who together brought the full range of perspective on natural disasters. The formal talks and subsequent discussion led to a number of important questions which the participants were left to ponder.
 
Bob White (University of Cambridge) set the scene by reminding the conference that the processes which underlie many natural disasters are ‘normal’ Earth processes, designed to rejuvenate and refresh the planetary surface, and should in this sense be considered good. In support of this view he and other speakers made the point that many so called ‘natural’ disasters actually have a significant human element in their causation.
 
Theologians Jonathan Moo (Whitworth University, USA) and Roger Abbott (Faraday Institute) emphasised the goodness of God’s creation. Jonathan developed this theme to show how God’s purposes in his good creation were frustrated in the relational breakdown between God and humankind. Thus, as already noted, human society is often complicit in what we call natural disasters.  However, Roger challenged us to consider how the sometimes abstract concept of God’s goodness sits with the experience of disaster survivors. Christopher Ash (Tyndale House, Cambridge) emphasised a perspective taken from the book of Job in thinking about the cause of natural disasters in which evil powers exist under the control of a sovereign God. 

The most poignant part of the weekend were the stories of those who were on the ground responding to disaster and of those who were the survivors. Amy Donovan (Cambridge) spoke about her social survey work on the volcanic island of Montserrat amongst people who had lost everything during a protracted series of volcanic eruptions. She emphasised the way in which the islander’s Christian beliefs had sustained them. Linda Mobula is a doctor with USAID who spoke about her work in the Ebola crisis in West Africa and in the cholera epidemic in Haiti. She emphasised the way in which many of the deaths that occurred were preventable and that it was the world’s poor who suffered disproportionately during such disasters. Pastor Luc Honorat came from Haiti to address this conference and he spoke passionately about his experiences during the Haitian earthquake of 2010 and his role in the aftermath, in disaster relief in his community, particularly looking after orphaned children. Ken Taylor, a pastor and theological College professor from New Orleans, spoke about his experience of Hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans in 2005. He and his family evacuated from the city but in the ensuing flood lost everything, his church had to be bulldozed and his seminary suffered tens of millions of dollars worth of damage. John Mosey (Lancaster) spoke movingly about the loss of his daughter in the Pan Am plane disaster over Lockerbie in 1988, but his particular theme was that of forgiveness. 

Overall a weekend with many things to ponder and consider. The main sessions were recorded and will be available in the coming months. 
Upcoming Events

Faraday CiS Termly Public Lecture
17:30 – 19:00 16 May 2018
Prof. Sir Colin Humphreys
Science and the Reliability of the Bible
McCrum Lecture Theatre, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Summer Course: Science, Faith and Human Flourishing
1-6 July 2018
Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge

This year's summer course "Science, Faith and Human Flourishing" addresses a number of big questions that have enormous impact on how we understand the world around us and how we learn to flourish in a changing environment. What is the nature of the physical universe? How do human beings grow spiritually and morally, even in extreme circumstances? What is the nature of religious experience? How does the impact of robotics and AI technologies affect our understanding of what it means to be human? How do religious scientists relate their scientific understanding to their scriptures and traditions? What does it mean to talk of purpose in biology and how is this relevant to ordinary believers? In this five-day course, we will explore the relationship between science and religion from a variety of perspectives – scientific, historical, theological and philosophical. A team of world-renowned speakers from a range of disciplines will contribute to the dialogue from their own experience and expertise in the keynote lectures. Additional workshops on a range of topics will enable us to explore specific scientific topics in more depth. There will be the opportunity to explore Cambridge's scientific heritage through a number of guided tours.

Please book before 31 May. 
Faraday "Out and About" - Where will we be? 

The Faraday Team are busy out presenting to many audiences and a range of places, here is a selection of where some of the team will be in the next month: 

On 3 May Denis Alexander, Simon Conway Morris and Russell Cowburn will be travelling to East Asia for our first Faraday Course in Hong Kong and Workshop in Singapore. There will be two public lectures in Hong Kong followed by a two-day residential course and a day workshop in Singapore.

Keith Fox will be at the following: 
12 May : Dorset humanists : Debate: Is theism or atheism the best explanation for everything? Moordown Community Centre - Bournemouth

Beth Singler will be taking part in the following: 

24 April Things Unseen Podcast on the topic of Science Fiction and Religion
What does Science Fiction tell us about attitudes in society? It so often deals with the same big questions that religion does… what happens when we die, are we alone in the Universe, is there some truth beyond our current understanding, what makes us human. It’s a window into our dreams. Things Unseen explores the relationship between Science Fiction and faith.  Comedian and author Natalie Haynes hosts.

1 May A Meet Up entitled "Collusion Seminar: Mixing Realities" hosted by Anglia Ruskin University. 

3 May A workshop on AI Narratives at the Royal Society as a part of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence’s AI Narratives project, which Beth is collaborating on.

 
Faraday "Out & About" - What have we been up to? 

Denis Alexander's latest book 'Genes, Determinism and God' [CUP, 2017] has received a 'Special Mention' in the annual PROSE Awards (Professional and Scholarly Excellence) that are presented by the Association of American Publishers' Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division.

Denis also spoke on science and faith at an IFES Graduates Conference held in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland over the Easter week-end. Denis shared that a highlight was that "the 7.00 a.m. Easter Day service held outside in a blizzard was a special experience!"

Joe Tennant and Alasdair Coles  presented research at a CamBrain event and participated on a panel on "The Believing Brain: Neuroscience of Religion."
 
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