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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 29 - June 2008


A highlight of the past month has been the public lectures held in London at which about 500 people in total were exposed, many clearly for the first time, to a rigorous albeit accessible overview of the science-religion debate. Presented by Prof. Alister McGrath and Prof. Bob White FRS, and held at University College and the Cass Business School, the lectures ranged from an introductory overview of the topic, to a discussion of the impact of global warming, and a critique of the views of Prof. Richard Dawkins. In parallel, Berry Billingsley, previously with the BBC, presented entertaining Workshops for children on the wonders of science, ably assisted by Prof. Colin Humphreys from Cambridge, who introduced the children to some of the weirder properties of materials.

Although Faraday Staff members regularly lecture in many parts of the world, we have not until now organised many such events outside of Cambridge. Now in our third year of operation, the emphasis will change somewhat during the coming year. Our ‘core public activities’ of seminars, lectures and courses, will carry on as usual in Cambridge, but in addition we are planning some courses in other countries, and other ‘special events’ like the lectures in London are also possible.

This coming month will see a cluster of Faraday activities. Those living in the Cambridge area are welcome to this term’s public lecture, which this time will take the form of a discussion between Prof. Richard Swinburne [Emeritus Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion, University of Oxford] and Prof. Colin Howson [Professor of the Philosophy of Science, London School of Economics] on the topic ‘Simplicity and Complexity – God, Science and Dawkins’. Interlocutors will include the Revd Dr Rodney Holder [The Faraday Institute], Prof. Michael Welker [Professor of Theology, Heidelberg University] and the Revd Dr Patrick Richmond [previously Dean of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge]. The discussion will centre on the question raised by Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The God Delusion’: "Does postulating God as cause and sustainer of the universe provide a simple explanation for the existence of a complex universe?"

The month will also see our final Research Seminar of the term when Prof. Nicolaas Rupke will speak at 1.00 p.m. in the Garden Seminar Room of St. Edmund’s College on the topic: ‘Animal Behaviour and Human Morality in Historical Perspective’.

There is an excellent line-up of speakers for the Faraday Course on ‘Science, Religion and the Environment’ over the weekend 27-29 June, including Prof. Sir John Houghton FRS, Dr Marie Connett Porceddu, Prof. Calvin DeWitt, Prof. Richard Bauckham, Prof. Douglas Moo, Dr René Padilla and Prof Bob White FRS. Bookings can still be made for the day conference on 25th June in Cambridge on ‘The Root Causes of Unsustainability’ that the John Ray Initiative and the Faraday Institute are running jointly, when many of the speakers from the Faraday Course will also be presenting.

There is still time to register for the Faraday Summer Course to be held 20-26 July 2008. This year the Course will last for just one week and once again an impressive ensemble of speakers will be available to tackle the overview topic: ‘From the Big Bang to the Brain: Current Issues in Science and Religion’. As usual full details may be found at (Course Folder), Speakers include: Prof. Peter Harrison, Prof. Ernan McMullin, Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, Dr Katherine Blundell, Prof. Simon Conway Morris FRS, Prof. Peter Clarke and Prof. Joel Green. 

This month’s talks by Faraday Staff have included Rodney Holder speaking on ‘Science and Faith - Friends or Foes?’ in the Truthquest seminar series in Brighton and Dr Hilary Marlow speaking on ‘Therefore the Land Mourns: Environmental justice and the 8th century prophets’ at a conference in Sheffield.

Denis Alexander                                                       Bob White

[Director, Faraday Institute]                          [Associate Director]