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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 58 - November 2010

One of the highlights of the past month has been the two Faraday Institute sponsored performances of Mr Darwin’s Tree by the actor Andrew Harrison at the McCrum Theatre, Corpus Christi College, arranged as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas. A 70 minute long single actor performance, the play spans Darwin’s life and scientific findings, and includes his musings and struggles in the area of religion [http://mrdarwinstree.com/]. It is a real tour de force that was extremely well received by the approximately 250 people who came to the two performances. The play can be performed in venues such as schools and church halls, as well as professional theatres, and is thoroughly recommended. The next performance on the current tour will be on Friday 19th November at St. John’s Wood Parish Church, NW8 7NE. Call 0207-5863864 for more information. Those who wish to arrange a performance should contact Andrew Harrison direct at: harrison.andrew@virgin.net.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 2nd November, the first public lecture of the term entitled ‘Playing God?: Toward Machines that Deny Their Maker’ will be given by Prof. Rosalind Picard, Head of the Affective Computing Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Laboratory, at 5.30 pm in the Queen's Lecture Theatre at Emmanuel College. Entrance free with an opportunity afterwards to meet the lecturer and browse a bookstall over complimentary refreshments. As always this lecture will be filmed and users of our on-line video-streamed lectures and seminars might be interested to know that these are posted not only at: www.faraday-institute.org, but also at the Cambridge University site: http://www.sms.cam.ac.uk/institution (scroll down to Faraday Institute). Taking these two sites together, it is interesting to note that these public lectures are often viewed by several thousand people worldwide in addition to those who attend in person.

Another major event this month that will also be filmed and posted on-line is a Public Discussion between the literary writer and critic Prof. Terry Eagleton and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on the subject ‘Responses to the New Atheism’. This will take place on Friday 19th November at 5.30 p.m. in Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge (the University Church). Although this is a large venue, those who wish to secure a seat are encouraged to come early as a large crowd is expected for this event. Doors will open at 4.45 p.m. Entrance is free, drinks will be served at the end and there will be a bookstall containing books by both speakers.

The Faraday Research Seminar series has got off to a flying start with up to a hundred or more in attendance. The next seminar will be on Tuesday 9th November at 1.00 p.m. when Prof. Russell Cowburn FRS will be giving a talk entitled ‘Nanotechnology, Ethics and Religion’. Prof. Cowburn has just this term joined the Dept. of Physics here at Cambridge. Then on Tuesday 23rd November Prof. David Bartholomew, Emeritus Profess of Statistics at the London School of Economics, will be speaking on ‘Victor Stenger’s Scientific Critique of Christian Belief’. This talk arises from the claim made by Prof. Victor Stenger in his recent book God, the failed hypothesis: how science shows that God does not exist, [New York: Prometheus Books (2008)], that the ‘God Hypothesis’, as he calls it, makes empirical predictions about the world which can be tested by scientific methods. Seminars take place in the Garden Seminar Room at St. Edmund’s College, preceded by a free buffet lunch at 12.30 p.m.

The Test of Faith project has won its fourth award. Executive Producer/Director of Photography John Ford collected the first prize on behalf of the project team for ‘Best use of New Media in a Christian Project’ in the Premier New Media Awards at a black-tie ceremony in London on 15th October. Project Leader Dr Ruth Bancewicz’s blog http://scienceandbelief.wordpress.com/ also reached the finals for ‘Best Newcomer Blog’. The Test of Faith tour visited Leeds in October, with a lecture by Prof. John Bryant at the Leeds University Business School, hosted by The Christian Medical Fellowship, and another at South Parade Baptist Church. The next tour date is Saturday 6th November in Stratford-upon-Avon. Details can be found at http://www.testoffaith.com/tour/.

The Director has been in the USA for a week this past month participating in a Workshop on the ‘Sanctity of Nature’ at the Fetzer Institute, and speaking at Baylor University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, on various topics relating to science and faith. Other talks in the UK were given in Loughborough, Cambridge and North London. The Associate Director spoke on the always topical subject ‘Are Natural Disasters Acts of God?’ in Harrow. The Course Director, Rodney Holder, gave the opening talk of the academic year on ‘God, the Multiverse, and Everything’, to the University of Durham Christians in Science group.

Denis Alexander Bob White
[Director]  [Associate Director]