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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 51 - April 2010

Coming up this month is the Faraday Public Lecture by Prof. Bill Newsome of Stanford University School of Medicine on ‘God, Brain and Mind’.  It will be at 5.30 pm on Tuesday 27 April in the Howard Theatre, Downing College. As usual, the lecture will be followed by a question time, then free refreshments and the opportunity to browse a book stall where everything is at reduced price, as well as to meet informally with the lecturer.

The Faraday Summer Courses are always popular but for some reason this year’s Course (July 11-17) is filling up faster than ever – so if you wish to secure a place it would be good to apply as soon as possible (on-line at www.faraday-institute.org).

Before then comes our first Faraday Course in Ireland, to be held in Dublin from June 25-27, and on-line registration is open for that Course as well 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.

Another Cambridge Science Festival has come and gone, and overall has attracted more people than ever to come to Cambridge and absorb some of the University’s passion for science. The Faraday Institute was happy to play a small part in this by hosting two panel discussions: one a fascinating discussion on biodiversity, and the other a panel addressing questions from the audience on science and religion following a showing of the Test of Faith film.

The Faraday Teachers’ Course was a great success. The teachers were treated to high calibre lectures on science and religion for their own personal development; they were presented with a range of resources from four different projects (including the Faraday Institute’s own LASAR and Test of Faith projects) for use in the classroom; and they were given two brilliant sessions on the ‘Perspectives in Science’ material for the Extended Project at AS Level.

The Test of Faith project has recently been “on tour” in the UK. Feedback so far has been very positive. The remaining events are Sheffield (21 April, speaker Dr Denis Alexander), Glasgow (27 April, speaker Revd Dr Dominic Smart) and London (19 May, speaker Dr Ard Louis). All events start at 7.30pm, and further details are available on http://www.testoffaith.com/tour/. Dr Ruth Bancewicz, the Test of Faith Project Leader, has also spoken in two schools this month, including a local Cambridge primary school. Finally, do take a look at the Test of Faith website (www.testoffaith.com) for the latest resources that have been added over the last few weeks.

Did you know that atheists are more intelligent than others? Well that was the recent claim in a psychology journal, in which the author tried to link this apparent finding to a theory drawn from evolutionary psychology. But often it’s not the data that are in doubt, so much as their interpretation, and in the Issues folder on the Faraday web-site you can find the Director’s critique of the paper, an article published in this week’s Church Times.

Thinking of brains, you might also be interested to know that a new Faraday Paper (No 16) has recently been posted in the Faraday Papers folder on our web-site. In this Paper, entitled ‘Nothing But a Pack of Neurons?’, the Oxford neuroscientist Dr Stuart Judge presents a view of the brain which takes the findings of neuroscience very seriously, but equally finds that these are in no necessary contradiction with notions of free-will and human identity. As with all our Faraday Papers, it is available for free down-load. Translations of other Papers continue, including Russian, Thai and Japanese.

The LASAR Project (Learning about Science and Religion) is pleased to report that its first set of new materials for pupils and their teachers has been loaded onto the FaradaySchools.com website. It’s a chance for Year 7s to explore the nature of science and how the Universe began. There are web-pages for students to browse and also Power Points and videos that can be shown on the Interactive Whiteboard. FaradaySchools.com is the website produced by the LASAR research team for schools. LASAR is seeking to discover how secondary school pupils think about science and religion. An article on the project appeared in the February issue of ‘Education in Science’, a journal produced by The Association for Science Education. If you would like to receive the LASAR newsletter which will be coming out once a term, email the Principle Investigator, Dr Berry Billingsley at berry@sciwhy.com

This month the Director was interviewed on a live chat-show in the popular Talk Radio 702 South African programme ‘Believe it or Not’ and on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on the subject of our biodiversity panel at the Cambridge Science Festival. He also gave talks on science and faith in Southwold (Lent Lecture series) and at Leicester University. The Course Director appears in ‘God: new evidence’, a DVD produced by the Christian media organisation Focus. The videos can also be viewed at the website www.focus.org.uk.

Denis Alexander   Bob White

[Director]              [Associate Director]