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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 33 - October 2008

We are poised to start the new Michaelmas Term with an interesting series of activities. Our first Faraday Research Seminar of the term will be on Tuesday 14th October when Prof. Robin Gill (University of Kent) will be speaking about the ‘Ethics of Human Enhancement’, a very hot topic just at present. Then on 28th October we have Dr Peter Bussey (Glasgow University) speaking on ‘Does quantum mechanics have any relevance for religious belief?’ As usual seminars will be at 1.00 p.m. in the Garden Seminar Room, St. Edmund’s College, and will be preceded by a (free) buffet lunch in the same venue at 12.30 p.m. The full Seminar Schedule can be found at www.faraday-institute.org.


Another advance date for those who live in the Cambridge area: our CiS-Faraday Public Lecture this term will be given by Prof. Sarah Coakley who has recently moved to Cambridge from Harvard to take up the Norris-Hulse Chair of Divinity. Over the past few years Prof. Coakley has been collaborating with Prof. Martin Nowak at Harvard on the question of the evolution of cooperativity and her lecture is therefore entitled ‘God, Providence, and the Evolutionary Phenomenon of Cooperation’. The lecture will be held in the Queen’s Lecture Theatre at Emmanuel College at 5.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 18th November (see www.faraday-institute.org for further details).


A final reminder also that The Faraday Course entitled ‘Science and Religion for Church Leaders’, also intended for those training for ministry or with lay leadership roles, will take place Nov 4-6th (on-line registration at: www.faraday-institute.org).  The speakers will be Prof. John Bryant (genetic manipulation and stem cells); Dr Allan Chapman (History); Prof. Darrel Falk (evolution); Prof. Richard Hess (interpreting Genesis); Revd Dr Rodney Holder (Is the universe designed?); Prof. Colin Humphreys (miracles); and the Revd Dr John Polkjinghorne KBE FRS (universe in Trinitarian perspective). This is a great line-up of speakers and topics and promises to be an excellent Course. If you are in the appropriate category for this Course, or know someone who is, then please register as soon as possible as time is short.


The Faraday church science-faith resources project being organised by Dr Ruth Bancewicz is well under way.  The aim is to provide useful educational materials to churches on science-faith issues. A three part documentary entitled ‘Test of Faith’ is almost complete, and the team at the Faraday Institute are in the process of writing a course to accompany it. Trials of the course have already begun, with ten UK and ten US groups taking part. A website giving details of the project and a trailer of the documentary was launched this past month at www.testoffaith.com.


The public discussion on science and religion in the UK at least during the past month has lacked academic finesse. This is a pity. But one positive spin-off at least has been increased public awareness that there is a discussion to be had, and we continue to seek to raise the level of discussion in the public domain. Contributions by Faraday Staff over the past month have included a Radio 4 interview with our Course Director, a comment-is-free on-line Guardian article by the Director [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/12/religion.evolution?gusrc=rss&feed=science] and a letter by the Director on the Correspondence page of tomorrow’s Issue of Nature (2nd Oct Issue).


A further spin-off from the rather fraught media-fuelled discussion is that more people attend public meetings. The Director was in debate with Prof. Steve Fuller (Prof. of Sociology at Warwick University) at the Lichfield Literary Festival last Saturday on the subject of Intelligent Design, a sell-out ticketed event. The debate was followed by book-signing for ‘Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose?’ at present once more at press for its second printing (although the Faraday Institute still has a stock of the first printing at the heavily reduced price of £6/copy plus p&p – order on-line).


Meanwhile the Course Director gave a public lecture entitled ‘God, the Multiverse, and Everything’ at Glenstal Abbey, Co. Limerick, as part of a series under the auspices of the Sophia Europa Project and funded by the Metanexus Institute. He also spoke about the Large Hadron Collider in a Radio Cambridgeshire interview. Next week the Director is giving a Seminar at the National University of Singapore, and then in Beijing.

Denis Alexander     Bob White
[Director, Faraday Institute]   [Associate Director]