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Faraday Papers

The Faraday Papers provide the general reader with accessible and readable introductions to the relationship between science and religion, written by a broad range of authors who are expert in the field. The opinions expressed are those of authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Institute. Further Faraday Papers are added as they become available.

Faraday Papers are provided for free down-load and may be copied and reproduced freely for educational and non-profit purposes only, providing that no changes are made in the text. Translations into different languages will be posted at this site as they become available and offers to publish in different languages are welcomed.

Faraday Papers may be obtained in printed format by ordering on-line in minimum quantities of 10 copies per paper.

The following papers can be viewed in the Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Faraday Paper No 1:

The Science and Religion Debate - an Introduction

Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS

Science and theology have things to say to each other since both are concerned with the search for truth attained through motivated belief. Important topics for the conversation include natural theology, creation, divine providence and miracle. This paper provides a brief overview of the current status of the conversation.

Faraday Paper No 2:

Does Science Need Religion?

Prof. Roger Trigg

Must science constitute a closed system, assuming all reality is within its grasp? So far from science being autonomous, and its method defining rationality, it itself rests on major assumptions. We may take for granted the regularity and ordered nature of the physical world, and the ability of the human mind to grasp it. Yet theism can explain this by invoking the rationality of the Creator.

Faraday Paper No 3:

Models for Relating Science and Religion

Dr Denis Alexander

Interactions between science and religion are varied and complex, both historically and today. Models can be useful for making sense of the data. This paper compares four of the major types of model that have been proposed to describe science-religion interactions, highlighting their respective strengths and weaknesses. It is concluded that the model of ‘complementarity’ is most fruitful in the task of relating scientific and religious knowledge.

Faraday Paper No 4:

The Anthropic Principle and the Science and Religion Debate

Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS

Carbon-based life could only develop in a universe that was remarkably specific in its given laws of nature. Possible explanations of this fine-tuning appeal either to the conjecture of a multiverse or to the concept of creation. This paper weighs up these competing explanations.

Faraday Paper No 5:

Why care for the environment?

Prof. Sir John Houghton FRS

Global threats to the environment demand global solutions and sustainability provides the key. This paper surveys this challenge with particular reference to Global Warming, describing the perils of inaction and some strategies for addressing the problem. Those who believe in God as creator and sustainer have a powerful motivation to care for God’s earth, and to take action on behalf of the poor, those who suffer most from environmental degradation.

Faraday Paper No 6:

Reductionism: Help or Hindrance in Science and Religion?

Mr Michael Poole

Claims have been made that the natural world — the subject matter of science and its many methods — is all there is. If these allegations were substantiated, they would threaten religious beliefs. But arguments rather than assertions, however vocal and frequent, are needed. One such argument that has been offered is that the constitution of the material world can be exhaustively accounted for by ‘reducing’ its constituents into successively smaller parts until nothing is left unaccounted for. The question as to whether this reduction is a help or a hindrance to the scientific enterprise is considered, as is the question of whether this practice renders science necessarily atheistic.

Faraday Paper No 7:

Ethical Issues in Genetic Modification

Prof. John Bryant

This paper surveys the origins and present applications of the Genetic Modification of plants, animals and humans. The ethical concerns raised from both secular and religious sources are considered. It is concluded that humankind has been delegated responsible stewardship for all the earth’s resources, including DNA, and that there are strong theological motivations for using Genetic Modification wisely and for the benefit of others.

Faraday Paper No 8:

The Age of the Earth

Prof. Bob White FRS

The best estimate for the age of the material which forms the Earth is 4,566 million years, which is accurate to within a few million years. The universe is three times older, at 13,700 million years. Modern humans extend back only a few thousandths of one per cent of the age of the Earth, although living organisms have been present on Earth throughout most of its history. I discuss the scientific basis of geological dating, historical and recent views on the age of the Earth, and some theological implications that follow from the biblical and scientific evidence.

Faraday Paper No 9:

Has Science Killed God?

Prof. Alister McGrath

This paper explores the aggressively atheist reading of the natural sciences associated with Richard Dawkins, raising serious questions about its intellectual plausibility and evidential foundation. Has the former populariser of science now become little more than an anti-religious propagandist, using science in the crudest of ways to combat religion, ignoring the obvious fact that so many scientists are religious believers? Dawkins’ atheism seems to be tacked onto his science with intellectual Velcro, lacking the rigorous evidential basis that one might expect from an advocate of the scientific method.

Faraday Paper No 10:

Is the Universe Designed?

Revd Dr Rodney Holder

The universe appears to be fine-tuned so as to admit the development of life. This paper examines the evidence for fine-tuning and the chief rival explanation to design, namely the existence of a ‘multiverse’.

Faraday Paper No 11:

Interpreting Genesis in the 21st Century

Revd Dr Ernest Lucas

This paper suggests that the early chapters of Genesis should be read as a theological text expressed in symbolic stories addressed to ancient Hebrews, and not as a scientific text. When read in this way the narratives become highly relevant to us today. Far from being incompatible with the findings of modern science, Genesis provides us with a framework within which we can pursue our science and technology for the positive benefit of humankind and the rest of creation.

Faraday Paper No 12:

Creation and Evolution not Creation or Evolution

Prof. R.J. Berry FRSE

This paper argues that it is a misconception to oppose the concepts of creation and evolution. ‘Creation’ is a theological term acknowledging the dependence of all that exists upon the authorship of the Creator. ‘Evolution’ refers to our current understanding as to how God has brought biological diversity into being. Both accounts are required to do justice to what we as scientists observe.

Faraday Paper No 13:

Science and Faith in the Life of Michael Faraday

Prof. Colin Russell (deceased) FRSC

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) is one of the best known of all British scientists whose discoveries have transformed our world and who pioneered the public understanding of science in his Royal Institution lectures. He was also a person of deep religious faith, whose science was practised within a Christian world-view that shaped his attitudes and practices, a world-view which in some cases impinged more directly upon his scientific theories. This paper suggests that a ‘convergent’ rather than ‘divergent’ model best describes science and faith in the life of Michael Faraday.

Faraday Paper No 14:

Human genomics and the Image of God

Dr Graeme Finlay

The DNA we have inherited is the current edition of a text that has been transmitted to us through innumerable generations of ancestors. Unique markers in our DNA show that our ancestors were shared not only with other people, but (progressively further back in time) with other apes, primates and mammals. Our DNAtells a story that describes our biological origins during mammalian evolution, but that is not sufficient to account for our origins as persons.We are formed as persons only as we hear and assimilate stories transmitted in our families and communities. Christians believe that the story that is essential to the development of a fulfilled humanity is that which relates God’s redeeming action in Jesus Christ.

Faraday Paper No 15:

The Galileo Affair

Prof. Ernan McMullin (deceased)

The Galileo Affair long ago became the stuff of legend, defining for many a necessarily tense relationship between science and religion. It has been (and still is) the subject of charge and counter-charge. It may help, then, to outline (insofar as it is still possible) what happened in those tumultuous years. How and why did the Church become involved? And what of the famous trial?

Faraday Paper No 16:

Nothing but a pack of neurons?

Dr Stuart Judge

This paper refutes the claim that we are ‘nothing but a pack of neurons’. Furthermore, the reductionistic notion that finding neural correlates of all aspects of our conscious experience would undermine the reality of our conscious experience and agency is self-defeating: if it did so then the whole scientific world-view would collapse with it. On the other hand, the discoveries of neuroscience do raise problems for classical interactive dualism. Dual-aspect monism provides a midway position between reductionistic materialism and interactive dualism that avoids the problems of the two extremes and is compatible with theism.

Faraday Paper No 17:

The Libet experiment and its implications for conscious will

Prof. Peter Clarke (deceased)

A famous experiment of Benjamin Libet and his colleagues has been interpreted as showing that our brains initiate voluntary movements before we are aware of having decided to move, and that this calls into question the efficacy of our wills. These claims have been contested by many neuroscientists and philosophers. This paper provides an introduction to the controversy.

Faraday Paper No 18:

Science, Religion and Truth

Dr John Taylor

In this paper, the realist and relativist accounts of the nature of truth are outlined. The debate between realist and relativist interpretations of science is examined in the context of the influential work of Thomas Kuhn on scientific paradigms and revolutions. A realist account of science is defended. The question of whether objective truth can be defended as an ideal in a domain such as that of religious belief is addressed. A central objection to the relativist’s position is that the nature of disagreement about religious belief can only be understood in terms of objective truth. This opens the way for a realist interpretation of that part of religion which concerns itself with the attempt to offer a fundamental explanation for features of reality.

Faraday Paper No 19:

Natural Theology

Revd Dr Rodney Holder

Natural theology is concerned with what we can know about God purely by being human and thinking about the world, apart from any special revelation, and science has often been a resource for this discipline. In the twentieth century its validity as an enterprise of theology proper has been seriously questioned. However, if there is natural theology in the Bible, it would seem to be legitimate after all.

Faraday Paper No 20:

Miracles and Science

Dr Denis Alexander

A secular narrative assumes that scientists are not supposed to believe in miracles. However, those who established the foundations for modern science nearly all did. Furthermore, scepticism often stems from the philosopher David Hume’s definition of miracles, but his definition is very different from the biblical understanding of miracles. This paper explores these issues and concludes that it is rational for a person to believe in miracles within the biblical understanding of the term, whilst at the same time encouraging critical assessment of miraculous claims that are poorly supported by evidence.