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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 50 - March 2010

Three forthcoming events deserve special mention this month for those living in the Cambridge area. The first is the Faraday Research Seminar to be held on Tuesday 9th March to be given by Prof. Jan Boersema on the topic ‘Sustainable Development – Is Religion Relevant?’ Prof. Boersema, from the Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije University, Amsterdam, is currently on sabbatical with The Faraday Institute whilst he writes a book on the ecology of Easter Island.

The second event that needs highlighting for this month is the Panel Discussion entitled ‘Biodiversity and Spirituality’ which will take place on Saturday, March 13th, at 2.30 p.m. in Mill Lane Lecture Room 3, as part of the Cambridge Science Festival, which this year has ‘biodiversity’ as its main theme. Chaired by the Faraday Associate Director, Prof. Robert White FRS [Professor of Geophysics, Cambridge University], the Panel of experts will consist of Prof. R. J. Berry [Emeritus Professor of Genetics, University College London; former President of the British Ecological Society]; Dr Barney Dickson [Head of Programme, Climate Change and Biodiversity, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge]; Dr Hilary Marlow [Lecturer in Old Testament Theology, Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University, a Director of the John Ray Initiative and formerly with A Rocha conservation organisation]; and Dr. Simon N. Stuart [Chair, Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature]. The focus of this event will be interactions between the Panel and the audience, so this promises to be an interesting and informative event. It will be followed by refreshments and opportunity to browse a bookstall. Entry is free, and all are welcome.

The third event is also part of the Cambridge Science Festival and will take place on 20th March at 3pm, Mill Lane Lecture Room 3. There will be a showing of the first episode of the award-winning documentary 'Test of Faith' followed by a discussion panel featuring Revd Dr John Polkinghorne [particle physicist and theologian], Revd Dr Alasdair Coles [neuroscientist and clinical immunologist] and Dr Ruth Bancewicz [geneticist and Test of Faith project leader]. Free refreshments and a bookstall will be available afterwards. Entry is free, and all are welcome.

The Director and Course Director have recently returned from helping out with two Courses on Science and Religion held in India, both organised by alumni from our own Faraday Courses held in Cambridge. The Course in Bangalore, entitled ‘One Reality – Two Windows’, was organised by Dr Paul Joshua, a professor on the faculty of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies, and attracted a broad range of scientists and students from the Bangalore area and beyond. Most of the speakers were from the local area, and included Dr John Bosco Lourdusamy from the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, Dr. J. Srinivasan from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore (one of India’s leading experts on the subject of global warming), Dr Abraham Verghese from the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research in Bangalore, Dr Mathew Chandrankunnel from Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore, and Dr Rajeev Gowda from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Besides the two visitors from the Faraday Institute, the other speaker from overseas was Dr Richard Hess, Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary, who spoke on the early chapters of Genesis in their Near Eastern cultural and linguistic context.

In Delhi the Course, organised by Samuel Vaiphei and Azhoni Krichena, was entitled ‘Breaking Barriers’ and the delegates were mainly graduates from the Delhi area, though also included some very senior scientists from different Indian Institutes of Science. Apart from the three overseas visitors, lectures were also given by Prof. Ken Gnanakan, Chancellor of William Carey University, an environmentalist and theologian; Dr David Koilpillai, Professor of Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science in Chennai; and the Revd Dr Valson Thampu, Principal of St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. In this Course, as in the one held in Bangalore, all lectures were filmed in order to generate DVD and other resource materials in the field of science and religion. Two books were also prepared for the Course in Delhi in special local editions.

The Director also gave a lecture at the Union Bible Seminary in Pune, south of Mumbai, and the Principal kindly rearranged the schedule for the day to allow the whole student body to attend. The lecture was followed by an extensive time of questions and discussion which continued on over lunch.

The Faraday Institute has no intention to establish any kind of permanent presence overseas in terms of Faraday Course programmes. However, we are very pleased to collaborate and help with such local initiatives as appropriate, especially with the hope and expectation that these initial events will lead on to other similar types of Course in different areas in the future. From June 25-27 there will be a Faraday Course held in Dublin, and on-line registration is now open for that Course on our web-site at www.faraday-institute.org. Speakers include Dr Denis Alexander, Revd Dr Rodney Holder, Prof. David Livingstone, Prof. Ernan McMullin, Dr Donal O’Mathuna, Prof. Bob White and Prof. Stephen Williams.

Registration for the ‘Science and Religion in Schools’ Course later this month is now formally closed, although any late applications may be received providing they are sent in using the on-line registration system very soon. It should also be pointed out that the Summer Course is filling up very fast this year, so early registration is recommended to avoid disappointment. Likewise those who wish to apply for a bursary to attend this popular Course should do so as soon as possible.

The past month has seen a busy series of events, including the well attended Faraday lecture on the ‘Religious Influences in the Founding of the Royal Society’ given by Prof. Peter Harrison, and two Faraday Research Seminars given by Dr Jonathan Topham and Dr Lydia Jaeger. As usual, all these events are posted on-line and can be listened to by going to the Multimedia Folder at www.faraday-institute.org.

This past month has also seen this term’s bioethics session organised by The Faraday Institute for the science graduate and medical students of Cambridge University. This time the topic was on the ethical issues involved in transplantation and the speakers were Mr Keith Rigg, transplant surgeon and President of the British Transplantation Society; Mr Paul Gibbs, Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Surgeon in the Cambridge University Department of Surgery; and Prof. Janet Radcliffe Richards, Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Oxford and Distinguished Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. The talks stimulated a lively discussion and it was good to have present in the audience senior medics such as Sir Roy Calne, one of the pioneers of modern transplant surgery who began his research on organ transplantation in 1959 at the Royal Free Hospital, and who described the first effective immunosuppression for experimental kidney transplantation.

The Test of Faith tour has got off to a flying start with the first two events being held at Manchester and at Durham. The Director spoke at the well-attended Durham event which was held at St. John’s College. Ten events altogether with a lecture and screening of sections from the Test of Faith documentary are being held at Bible Colleges and Theology departments around the country. Speakers include Dr Denis Alexander, Dr Ard Louis, Prof. Keith Fox, Prof. John Bryant and Rev Dominic Smart. The tour locations are Aberdeen, Bristol, Durham, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Middlesex, Nottingham, Sheffield, and St Andrews. The tour is aimed primarily for those involved in church leadership at any level, but others who are interested in the subject are also very welcome. Further information can be found at: http://www.testoffaith.com/tour/.

Back in Cambridge, Bob White gave a talk on ‘Has Science Disproved Christianity?’ to a packed hall, where the lively question session lasted as long as the initial talk. Another of his planned talks in Basingstoke on ‘A Christian Response to Global Warming’ had to be postponed until April because the heavy snowfall disrupted travel…


Denis Alexander Bob White
[Director]  [Associate Director]