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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 66 - July 2011

Several well-attended events have taken place this past month. The first Faraday Course in Belfast was held at Union Theological College and attracted a broad range of 38 delegates from north and south of the border. The delegates were treated to a fascinating mix of lectures on science and religion from Professor David Livingstone OBE FBA (The Demise of the Conflict Model), Dr William Crawley of the BBC (A Media Perspective), Revd Dr Rodney Holder (Science and the Justification of Religious Belief), Prof. Tom Millar (Multiple Universes, One Faith?), Prof. Stephen Williams (Miracles), and Prof. Dame Ingrid Allen (The Neuroscience Correlates of Religious Belief). A highlight was Professor Livingstone in conversation with Professor Williams recollecting the late Ernan McMullin, ‘historian, philosopher, friend’. We were delighted that members of Fr McMullin’s family were able to be there for that and to stay for the gala dinner

Meanwhile in Cambridge Berry Billingsley and the LASAR [‘Learning About Science and Religion’] team organised a Day Workshop for around 30 teachers held at St. Edmund’s College. Speakers included Prof. Sir Colin Humphreys FRS, Prof. Michael Reiss and Dr Tony Stolberg. There was some good time for discussion and overall this was a successful event with plans to organise similar events for teachers in different UK cities.
In addition this month the LASAR team held a workshop at Oldfield School in Bath, working with a small team of education officers from the RSPCA. Pupils considered a range of thorny questions including whether it is morally right to test animal vaccines on other animals. The workshop was filmed and will be used to create resources for GCSE level pupils, looking at science, religion and ethics.

Meanwhile Amy Unsworth, a post doc working jointly with the British Council and The Faraday Institute, was heavily involved in helping to organise a Conference entitled ‘Belief in Dialogue – Science, Culture and Modernity’ hosted by the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The Conference drew a wide range of international speakers and delegates. A programme for the BBC Overseas Service was pre-recorded during the Conference and broadcast a few days later. The Director gave two talks, one on stem Cells, and one on evolution as part of a session restricted to student participation.

Another event this month has been the publication of the Director’s new book The Language of Genetics – an Introduction [21st June, in the UK by Darton, Longman, and Todd]. The book is now available on the Faraday on-line Shop for only £12 – the cheapest deal on the market! The well-known American evolutionary biologist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences Prof. Francisco Ayala writes that “Genetics is rightly perceived as a complex, difficult and rapidly advancing discipline. But it is a fundamental subject as we seek to understand ourselves, as well as modern medicine, agriculture, where we come from, and how human behaviour is modulated. The Language of Genetics is informative, fully up-to-date, and eminently readable. Read it, you'll enjoy it!”

This coming month our major event will be the Faraday Summer Course held at St. Edmund’s College which this year has drawn more delegates than ever. Our intention has always been to maintain our Courses at around 30 delegates in order to maximise interactions between speakers and delegates, but in practice we have let the numbers creep up as we do not wish to turn applicants away. This month it looks as if we will be closer to 60 delegates, though fortunately several of the speakers can stay throughout the week, so once again we look forward to some valuable discussion and interactions.

September’s Sustainability in Crisis conference (www.sustainability-in-crisis.org) continues to fill up. The conference will consider the problems of the interlocking crises in climate change, environmental issues and resource shortages, and in particular the role of faiths in promoting action. Prominent speakers from across various disciplines and religions include Bill McKibben of 350.org, leading Islamic environmentalist Fazlun Khalid, professor of energy policy Paul Ekins, economist Ann Pettifor who spearheaded the Jubilee 2000 campaign and Tearfund’s Elaine Storkey.

This past month the Course Director spoke at the Pentecost Festival in London on ‘God and the Multiverse: A Response to Stephen Hawking’ and at Leeds Christians in Science group on the same topic. Dr Holder was also interviewed by Spirit Radio (Irish Christian radio station) about the Belfast course, and for William Crawley’s blog on the BBC website:
www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2011/06/science_and_religion_duet_or_d.html

Denis Alexander  Bob White

[Director]              [Associate Director]