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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 55 - August 2010

This month has seen one of the highlights of the year in the Faraday calendar of events – the one week Summer Course, this year entitled ‘Science and Faith: Past and Present Perspectives’. Each day of the course focussed on a different theme, ranging from historical and philosophical interactions between science and religion, through physics, biology and neuroscience to ethical challenges posed by modern science. As ever we had an international cast of speakers, and an international set of delegates, this time representing 16 countries. Appreciation of the course can be gauged from such delegates’ comments in their feed-back forms as ‘The highlight of my summer’, ‘A wonderful week’, ‘Excellent organisation’, ‘Excellent lectures’, ‘The course was overall excellent, informative, entertaining and had a relaxed and friendly atmosphere’, ‘I loved the course very much, and I do hope that I come back’. We look forward to welcoming more delegates in 2011 for one of these Summer courses – not to be missed!

The international flavour in the Institute’s activities continues to grow. The past month has seen the first Faraday Paper to be posted in Japanese – Faraday Paper Number 2 now posted on the Faraday web-site for free down-load like all the other Papers (go to www.faraday-institute.org and click on Faraday Papers).

The past month has seen a wide selection of conferences and workshops on science and religion taking place in different parts of the world. An important event was the conference entitled ‘God and Physics’ organised jointly by the International Society for Science and Religion and the Ian Ramsey Centre which took place in Oxford to mark the 80th Birthday of one of our Advisory Board members, the Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS. Many notable figures in the science-religion dialogue of the past few decades were there to celebrate Dr Polkinghorne’s pioneering achievements and to further the discussion in the many areas opened up by his work. Plenary lectures were given by Professors Bob Russell, Ian Barbour, Philip Clayton, Michael Welker, Keith Ward, Nancy Cartwright and Dr Nicholas Saunders, and finally Dr Polkinghorne himself. The Faraday Institute Course Director, the Revd Dr Rodney Holder, gave a short paper entitled ‘Natural Theology: A Comparison of the Approaches of John Polkinghorne, Alister McGrath and Richard Swinburne’.

The Test of Faith resources continue to grow, with the latest addition being a series of interview clips from Professor Ian Hutchinson, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT: http://www.testoffaith.com/resources/subCategories.aspx?sub=true&id=13. Dr Bancewicz, the Test of Faith project leader, has also started a regular personal blog, at http://scienceandbelief.wordpress.com/.

The Learning About Science And Religion (LASAR Project) continues working on the mass of data gathered over the past school year. The teaching of science and religious education in schools is a frequent topic for discussion in the Press. Keith Taber from the Faculty of Education at Cambridge University, a collaborator on the LASAR project, has written an article entitled ‘What students really think about God’ for The Guardian's ‘Comment Is Free’ web-site: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/jul/29/science-religion-education.

The summer months provide a welcome opportunity to catch up with writing projects. The Director has recently completed a book MS with the working title ‘The Language of Genetics – an Introduction’ which is due to be published by the Templeton Foundation Press next Spring.

The summer months are also the time when geophysicists get away for their fieldwork and the Associate Director has been continuing long-term seismic monitoring with his research group of several active volcanoes in Iceland to improve our ability to predict the movement of molten rock beneath them and their likely future behaviour. Considering the disruption to millions of people’s lives from the not unexpected and actually rather modest eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in April this year, this is something that could be of benefit to many.

Denis Alexander Bob White

[Director]           [Associate Director]