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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 10 - October 2006

Faraday Institute staff have had a busy month speaking at various engagements in different countries. The Course Director, Rodney Holder,  spoke as part of a panel launching a new book by Prof. Paul Davies called The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? at Imperial College. So many registered for the launch that a new venue was arranged and in the end around 600 people listened to the panel discussion on a topic that continues to fascinate. Dr Holder also gave a talk at Durham University entitled 'God, the Multiverse and Everything'. Meanwhile the Director, Denis Alexander, gave the annual Pascal Lecture at Westmont College, California, on 'Science and Faith in Dialogue in the 21st Century', and also spent a couple of hours with Robert Kuhn in Los Angeles filming for the PBS TV series 'Closer to Truth' (those interested in this series, which includes science/religion panel discussions, can view videostreams at: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/closertotruth/).  Later in the month Dr Alexander lectured in Belgium at Brussels and Leuven on science and religion topics. The Associate Director, Bob White, also spoke this month to a group of businessmen on 'A Christian Perspective on Deep Time and Eternity', and to a full house of lively Cambridge undergraduates on 'Science and Christianity: friends or foes?' - no lack of searching questions after the talk.

Although the main aim of these newsletters is to highlight the activities of the Faraday Institute, it is perhaps worth mentioning that some staff members spend some or nearly all of their time in active scientific research, and we see no difference between the standards and academic rigour that are essential for scientific research output in comparison with academic output in the field of science and religion. Bob White's research group has published a paper in Nature this summer reporting how they have imaged molten rock under the floor of the Pacific Ocean, and have a forthcoming paper in Science ('Imaging the pulsing Iceland plume') which shows that the deep mantle under the earth's crust has been pulsing in temperature over the past 50 million years, causing concomitant cycles of uplift and subsidence over the whole of the North Atlantic region, including Britain, and possible major global climatic changes as it may have periodically switched off the flow of the Gulf Stream. For those interested in cancer research and new potential avenues for therapy, look out for Denis Alexander's forthcoming paper in the journal Plos Biology ('DNA Damage-induced Bcl-xL Deamidation is Mediated by NHE-1 Antiport Regulated Intracellular pH') describing a novel pathway leading from DNA damage to apoptosis. Members of the Faraday Institute also continue to serve in their professions: Bob White, for example has recently been elected to the Council of The Geological Society of London, the world's oldest such society.

Prof. Roger Trigg gave us a good start to this term's new Faraday Research Seminar series with a talk on 'Science and Religion in the Public Domain' (go to Seminars.php for the MP3 file of this seminar). Yesterday Dr Roger Barker, from the Brain Repair Unit of the Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine, gave a broad-ranging seminar on the ethical and theological complexities of working in the field of stem cells in relation to brain repair, particularly Parkinson's Disease. It is good to have seminars on ethical issues from those who are involved in tackling the questions at a practical level in their daily research and clinical environments.
 Our main public lecture this term will be given by Dr Graeme Finlay (Auckland University, New Zealand) on "Human Genetics and the Image of God" at 5.30 p.m. Tuesday, November 7th, in the Queen's Lecture Theatre, Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Dr Finlay has research interests in both the field of DNA repair and cancer research, as well as comparative primate genomics. Refreshments and an extensive bookstall will be available as usual after the lecture.

We are looking forward to the third of our Faraday Short Courses which starts next week, this time 'Science and Religion for Church Leaders'. Given the lack of accurate information about the topic provided by the media, it is very important that those with influence in religious communities should be kept well informed of the latest scientific advances, and of the current mainstream academic thinking concerning science-faith interactions.

Best wishes

Denis Alexander [Director, Faraday Institute]   

Bob White [Associate Director]