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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 15 - March 2007

 

This has been a busy month for Faraday Institute activities, but before looking back over the month, let's look forward to some future events. The most immediate event (by the end of this week if not before) will be the posting of the first 13 Faraday Papers on our web-site. These are brief (4-page) introductory overviews of various topics relating to science-religion interactions written by experts in the field. The Appendix below contains the list of this initial batch of Papers for those interested. All will be available as pdfs for free down-load from www.faraday-institute.org. They will also be available in 2-colour print copies and can be ordered from the on-line Shop at the nominal sum of £1.50 + p & p for 10 copies (minimum order 10 copies). The Papers are intended for a broad non-specialist readership and represent a significant contribution to the public understanding of science and religion.  Interest has already been expressed by those who wish to use them as discussion starters in schools, undergraduate courses, church groups etc.

Dr John van Wyhe, Director of ‘The Complete Works of Charles Darwin’ project at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities here in Cambridge (http://darwin-online.org.uk/ - this new site has already received 27m hits!), has been in the news recently with his publication of an article undermining the suggestion that Darwin was afraid to publish the Origin of Species due to fears about the reactions it might receive (van Wyhe’s alternative hypothesis: ‘Darwin was too busy to publish earlier’). Dr van Wyhe will be tackling a further topic in Darwin’s biography at the opening Seminar in the next Faraday Research Seminar series on 24th April in his talk ‘Darwin’s Loss of Faith’. It is interesting to note the way in which many ‘facts’ about Darwin’s life are being undermined as new letters and materials are published and examined by scholars. For the great majority receiving this letter who are unable to come to the Seminar in person, it will be available on-line soon after.

The past month has seen a well-attended and high-profile debate between Sir Brian Heap FRS (Cambridge, formerly Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society) and Dr William Hurlbut (Stanford, advisor on bioethics to the US President), chaired by Sir Martin Evans, FRS (Director of the Cardiff School of Biosciences, who originally described stem cells in a paper in Nature in 1981). The panel discussion was also enlivened by the presence of Baroness Onora O’Neill, President of the British Academy. The Dinner-Discussion held at St. Edmund’s College that followed the lecture involved some of the leading figures from the Cambridge stem cell research community, and as always the transcript of this Discussion will eventually be posted on the Faraday web-site.

On 17th March Michaelhouse, Cambridge, was packed for a lively multifaith panel discussion on science and religion with Prof. John Durant from MIT in the Chair and some excellent questions from the floor. It was a good experience to have a civil public exchange of views on the subject between those of any faith or none. This event took place as part of the Cambridge Science Festival, and the Director was on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire the Sunday before, highlighting the event and fielding questions about science and faith.

We have also just completed the fifth in our series of Short Courses, this time entitled ‘Science and Religion in Schools’. Most of the delegates at this over-subscribed course were school teachers, interested in better teaching of the subject in the school context. One of the speakers was Dr John Taylor, Head of Physics at Rugby School, who gave an interesting presentation on ‘Perspectives in Science: a new venture in history, philosophy and ethics of science in post-16 education’, a great new contribution to the school curriculum shortly to be published. Further resources for teachers in the science-religion are being built up at http://www.thewonderproject.co.uk/ and are available also at: http://www.srsp.net/new/index.html.

The ‘God and Physics’ Faraday Course (May 18-20) is filling up fast – book now whilst places are still available! The Summer Course also is open for registration, together with several other Courses later in the year – full details are on-line at www.faraday-instutute.org.

This has been a busy month of lecturing for several Faraday Staff members. The Director has been in Canada for a week lecturing on science and religion in universities on the west coast, including the University of British Columbia (Vancouver) and the University of Northern British Columbia (in Prince George, where moose and bears wander in on to the campus from the surrounding forest). The Course Director, Rodney Holder, spoke at St Gregory's Catholic Science College on ‘God and the Big Bang’. Meanwhile back in Cambridge Jonathan Moo presented a paper at the Senior New Testament Seminar in the University entitled ‘Romans 8.19-22 and Isaiah's Cosmic Covenant’. The range of topics covered by Faraday Staff is nothing if not eclectic.

Best wishes

Denis Alexander                                                           Bob White

            [Director, Faraday Institute]                              [Associate Director]

APPENDIX

THE FARADAY PAPERS

Faraday Paper No 1:

‘The Science and Religion Debate – an Introduction’.

Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS

Faraday Paper No 2:

‘Does science need religion?’

Prof. Roger Trigg

Faraday Paper No 3:

‘Models Relating Science and Religion’

Dr Denis R. Alexander

Faraday Paper No 4:

‘The Anthropic Principle and the Science-Religion Debate’.

Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS

Faraday Paper No 5:

‘Why care for the Environment?’

Sir John Houghton FRS

Faraday Paper No 6:

‘Reductionism: Help or Hindrance in Science and Religion?’

Michael Poole

Faraday Paper No 7:

‘Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering’

Prof. John Bryant

Faraday Paper No 8:

‘Geology and the Age of the Earth’.

Prof. Robert White FRS

Faraday Paper No 9:

‘Has Science killed God? Richard Dawkins on Science and Religion’

Prof. Alister McGrath

Faraday Paper No 10:

‘Is the Universe Designed?’

Dr. Rodney Holder

Faraday Paper No 11:

‘Interpreting Genesis in the 21st Century’

Revd Dr Ernest Lucas

Faraday Paper No 12:

‘Creation and Evolution, not Creation or Evolution’

Prof. R.J. Berry

Faraday Paper No 13:

‘Science and faith in the life of Michael Faraday’

Prof. Colin Russell