Skip navigation to content

Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 43 - August 2009

The past month has seen here two well-attended and successful Faraday Courses, the International Society for Science and Religion Conference and the major Darwin Festival organised by Cambridge University. We are therefore grateful for August as a time for recovery, reflection and planning for the future.

The week-end Neurosciences Course was attended by 45 delegates, comprising mainly specialists in the cognitive and neuro-sciences. They were treated to 9 excellent lectures by our distinguished speakers on such topics as non-reductive physicalism, the brain as a neuronal machine, psychological science and the knowledge of God, the evolution of religious brains, and brain imaging and religious experience.

The week-long Summer Course was attended by 37 delegates from 17 different countries. As ever, we had an international cast of renowned speakers, including a number new to the Faraday Institute, and course days were variously devoted to historical and philosophical relationships between science and religion, cosmology, evolutionary biology, and bioethics. A unique feature this time was two live talks and a panel contribution over the web direct from Hawaii. An excellent overview of the Course has been provided on the blog of one of the delegates, and may be viewed at: http://coraifeartaigh.wordpress.com/.

Lectures from both recent courses will soon be available for free download from the Multimedia section of the Faraday website.

The Darwin Festival provided a wonderful feast of talks by 88 different speakers, together with a wide range of discussions, films, plays and exhibitions. Some of the science and religion aspects of the Festival have been summarised by the Director in an article in the Daily Telegraph which may be viewed at:
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/5842511/Science-and-religion-squabbling-but-loving-cousins.html
It goes without saying that the title given to the piece was chosen by the newspaper and not by its author. The Director spoke at one of the well-attended (200+) themed sessions at the Festival (‘Theology in Darwinian Context’) on the subject ‘Is Darwinism Incompatible with Purpose?’ The Faraday Institute also hosted a showing of the BBC2 documentary ‘Did Darwin Kill God?’ presented by Dr Conor Cunningham (Nottingham University) who came along to introduce the film and answer questions afterwards. About 130 people were in attendance following a very busy day of other lectures.

The formal launch of the ‘Test of Faith’ project took place at The Royal Society, London, on July 13th with over 130 people in attendance. Project leader Dr Ruth Bancewicz and documentary director/writer Mark Brickman introduced ‘Test of Faith’, followed by a viewing of episode 1 of the documentary. Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS then gave some reflections on science and religion and took questions from the floor. This was followed by a drinks reception, where some of the distinctive visual sequences from the documentary were shown.   Photographs from the evening can be found online at
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cambridge-United-Kingdom/Test-of-FAITH/91538575910?v=wall&viewas=671832834
The Test of Faith materials are already selling briskly with almost 100 orders via the Faraday web-site alone (go to the Shop Folder at www.faraday-institute.org).

Another new book is also published this month.  Entitled ‘Creation in Crisis: Christian Perspectives on Sustainability’, and edited by the Associate Director, it is the outcome of a Faraday Institute workshop with 14 invited writers. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams writes that it is ‘a first-class collection of essays, ranging from broad and profound theological reflection to the fine detail of scientific and statistical evidence.  A vital resource … it deserves a wide readership’. Pre-publication copies are available now from the Faraday web site at only £6.99 (RRP £12.99).

We are delighted to announce the award of a new three-year grant from the Templeton Foundation to the Faraday Institute. The Principal Investigator on the grant, Dr Berry Billingsley, Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Reading University, will be carrying out research on the educational development of children in schools with reference to their understanding of the relationship(s) between science and religion. The research will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Keith Taber, Senior Lecturer in Science Education in the Faculty of Education at Cambridge. Those who wish to hear more about the research may e-mail Dr Billingsley at berry@sciwhy.com to receive more details.

During the last month Bob White also spoke on a Christian response to climate change at well attended meetings in Yeovil and Cambridge and research associate Jonathan Moo read a paper entitled ‘Continuity, discontinuity and hope: the contribution of New Testament eschatology to a distinctively Christian environmental ethos’ at the Tyndale Fellowship Triennial Conference held in Cambridge.


Denis Alexander Bob White

 [Director]  [Associate Director]