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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 71 - December 2011

A highlight of this past month’s activities has been the science and religion conference held in Madrid under the title ‘Science and Religion in the XXI Century: Dialogue or Confrontation?’, being a collaboration between The Faraday Institute and the Fundación Ramón Areces. Hosted by the Vice-President of the Association, Prof. Julio Villanueva, and organized by Prof. Emilio Chuvieco, the two-day conference was held in the Foundation’s very fine lecture theatre in central Madrid which holds 400 people. By the day before the conference was due to start, 500 people had already registered on-line to attend and at that point no further registrations were allowed. This was fortunate as the lecture theatre was full in some sessions and certainly at least 500 people attended over the two days. Local speakers included the microbiologist Cesar Nombela (previously President of the Scientific Research Council of Spain), the geographer Emilio Cuvieco and the mathematician Ignacio Sols, and overseas speakers included the evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, the astrophysicist Jennifer Wiseman, the physicist Marco Bersanelli, the historian John Hedley Brooke, the expert in perinatal neonatology John Wyatt, and the Faraday Institute Director. A book in Spanish of the conference talks is now being prepared for publication.

The past month also saw a good crowd of 300 people attending the annual Leicester diocesan lay conference on science and faith, hosted by the Bishop of Leicester. A team comprising Denis Alexander, Rodney Holder and Ruth Bancewicz from The Faraday Institute, plus Dave Bookless, Director of the environmental organization A Rocha, gave a series of lectures and workshops during the day, and the fact that more than £900 worth of books were sold from the Faraday bookstall gives some indication of the high level of interest in the topic.

A further striking feature of this past month’s Faraday events has been the large crowds attending the Faraday Research Seminars, again straining our modestly sized College Seminar Room to capacity. David Lahti’s talk on ‘The Evolution of Morality’ drew 105 people and can be viewed by clicking on the icon currently posted on the Faraday home-page (www.faraday-institute.org). In addition to his seminar Dr Lahti (from City University, New York) also gave several talks in local schools. It is a new feature of our Seminars Programme that one speaker per term will be giving schools talks during their visit to Cambridge. The final seminar of this term was given by the Revd Dr John Polkinghorne on the topic ‘A Destiny Beyond Death?’, drawing around 130 people. It is worth pointing out that Cambridge University has literally dozens of lunch-time seminars on a daily basis spread out across its faculties and research institutes, so drawing more than a hundred for a lunch-time seminar is unusual.

Each academic year the Institute organizes two workshops for students from the Cambridge Graduate Faculty of Life Sciences as part of their education in ethics. This past month saw a popular workshop entitled ‘The Ethics of Communicating Science in the Media’ at which the speakers were James Randerson, environment and science news editor at the Guardian newspaper in London, and Fiona Fox, founding Director of the Science Media Centre, also in London, which aims to help restore public trust in science by persuading more scientists to engage more effectively with the big controversial science stories that hit the headlines. Attended by 45 graduate students, the workshop effectively highlighted the many ethical issues involved in publishing science in media outlets, and there was a good level of engagement on the topic with those who came.

At the beginning of the month, the Learning About Science and Religion (LASAR) team presented a workshop at the annual UCET (Universities' Council for the Training of Teachers) conference in Leicestershire. The workshop was for teacher trainers who support teachers of science and religious education and included a showcase of videos and activities from the FaradaySchools website (www.faradayschools.com).

The Test of FAITH project continues to generate new materials and its ‘Unpacking Science & Christianity¹ adult small group course is perfect for a Lent study group, and can be run over one to six weeks. If you know anyone who is running a Lent course in 2012 please do encourage them to visit www.testoffaith.com, and the Faraday Institute shop to be found linked from the Faraday home-page (US sales from http://tinyurl.com/4xcf2td, Aust/NZ from http://tinyurl.com/d3x9svs). Further expansion of the Test of Faith materials includes a pack of material for (primarily US-based) homeschoolers. For details and to take part in the testing phase of this project, please visit: http://www.testoffaith.com/homeschool/.

Registration is now open for the 2012 Faraday Courses. Both the ‘Science, Religion and Atheism’ Course (30 March – 1 April) and the ‘God and Genetics’ course (14-16 September) promise to be very popular, and early registration is recommended.

During the past month, in addition to the Madrid and Leicester conferences, the Director spoke on science and faith at the ForumC Conference at the Free University in Amsterdam, at the Mitre Club of Bedford School and, by way of contrast, at a meeting of the Sceptics-in-a-Pub at the Maypole Pub in Cambridge. Bob White and Rodney Holder both spoke at a full Christians in Science day conference in London addressing the conference topic of ‘The Bible and Modern Science’. Rodney Holder also spoke on ‘God and the Multiverse: A Response to Stephen Hawking’ to an audience of 180 at the Southampton local Christians in Science group; and on ‘Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?’ to 50 people at the inaugural meeting of the Surrey Christians in Science local group. Dr Ruth Bancewicz took several lessons as part of the Comberton Village College RE day and Dr Clare Redfern spoke on 'A response to environmental issues for Christians and their churches' to a church group in Shelford.

 

Denis Alexander Bob White

[Director]  [Associate Director]