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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 38 - March 2009

The February 12th  Charles Darwin Birthday celebrations passed off in a flurry of activity. Several Faraday staff members were present for the wreath-laying ceremony at Darwin’s tomb in Westminster Abbey that evening. This was followed by a book launch for Nick Spencer’s excellent new book ‘Darwin and God’ (SPCK) which focuses on Darwin’s own religious beliefs, introduced at the launch by Prof. John Hedley Brooke.
The media that week displayed an apparently unquenchable thirst for ‘Darwin’ related material, which led to involvement of Faraday staff in various radio and press interviews. Amongst these, the Director was interviewed in Darwin’s old (and newly refurbished room) at Christ’s College by Jane Little, Religion Editor for the BBC World Service, for a programme that also went out on many PBS radio stations in the US. We looked at the old wooden beams just above Darwin’s bed for any graffiti (such as “Darwin slept here”), but in vain. In a remarkable twist of chance or providence, Darwin’s room was previously occupied by Archdeacon William Paley, that champion of natural theology, who was a Fellow at Christ’s in the 19th century.
Still on a Darwin theme, the past month has seen brisk sales from our on-line Shop ( of 'Rescuing Darwin – God and evolution in Britain today’, a new 70-page report by Nick Spencer and Denis Alexander (special 65% discounted price at £3.50 plus p&p). Many have taken up the special free offer of the ‘Rescuing Darwin’ report for those who purchase a book from our on-line Faraday Shop. The Director’s book ‘Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose?’ continues to sell well and is just going into its 3rd printing.
This month sees the final in this term’s series of Faraday Research Seminars, when Prof. Mehdi Golshani from the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran will be speaking on ‘Current Issues in the Science-Religion Debate in the Islamic World’ (March 3rd, 1.00 p.m., Garden Seminar Room, St. Edmund’s College).
On Saturday March 14th the Institute is organizing a Panel Discussion on ‘God and Darwin’ as part of the Cambridge Science Festival activities to be held in the Queen’s Lecture Theatre, Emmanuel College, at 3.00 p.m. Chaired by Denis Alexander, the Panel will comprise: Prof. John Hedley Brooke [previously Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, Oxford University]; Prof. Simon Conway Morris FRS [Professor of Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the Earth Sciences Department, Cambridge University]; Prof. Michael Reiss [Professor of Science Education, Institute of Education, London]; Dr David Summers [Chair, Dept. of Genetics, Cambridge University]. This is a free, public event, and will consist mainly of Q&A between audience and panel.
Our Course Director, the Revd. Dr Rodney Holder, will also be involved in this year’s Cambridge Science Festival, giving the University Chaplaincy Science Festival Service, Sunday 15th March 6.30 pm, in Great St Mary's Church.
We congratulate the Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS and Nicholas Beale on the publication of their new book ‘Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief’ (Westminster John Knox Press). The book will receive its formal launch on 2nd March at the Royal Society at which there will be a Panel Discussion chaired by Prof. Onora O’Neill, President of the British Academy.
Forthcoming Faraday Courses are now filling up fast, but there are just a few places left for any teachers, or trainee teachers, who would still like to come on the Science and Religion in Schools Course 3-5 April 2009. Participants will hear the latest thinking in the science-religion area from top-class speakers and gain information about resources available. Teachers may be able to apply for CPD funding for this course.
We also have an excellent line-up of internationally renowned speakers for the Neurosciences and Religion course 3-5 July 2009 who will be helping us explore fundamental questions of human existence which arise out of the relationship between human consciousness and our bodily make-up and evolutionary history. The one-week Summer Course 12-18 July 2008 ‘Science and Religion in an Evolving Universe’ likewise will have a very international flavour. World experts will be lecturing on topics ranging from historical and philosophical perspectives on science and religion; the relationships between cosmology and evolutionary biology and religion; and some of the ethical issues raised by science.
As always details of the courses can be found at and registration can be carried out on-line.
The ‘Test of Faith’ resources team are making significant progress in developing materials on science and faith for churches ( These will be published in the UK by Paternoster Press later this year. Amongst these resources is a DVD called ‘Test of Faith’ – see the web-site for a trailer and more details. Anyone in the Cambridge area who would like to see an advanced preview of the film prior to its launch later this year should contact James Crocker at
The Test of Faith team also have an event which will be held as part of the Cambridge Science Festival: on Monday 16th March, at 5.30-6.30, Room 2, Mill Lane Lecture rooms. This will be a preview of part of the 'Test of Faith' documentary, and discussion with Rev Dr Alasdair Coles (Neuroscientist), Dr Nicole Maturen (Evolutionary Biologist) and Dr Lisa Goddard (Theologian).
The Hope for Planet Earth tour in which the Faraday Institute is a partner along with TEAR Fund, A Rocha, Christians in Science and the John Ray Initiative got off to an excellent start in the last week of February. There are talks at ten more venues around the country during the first two weeks of March – check out the web site at to see if there is one near you.
This has been a busy month for Faraday Staff out and about giving lectures. The Director has just returned from Canada where he gave the annual Pascal Lectures at the University of Waterloo and spoke at Wycliffe College, an Anglican graduate theological school within Toronto University. The Director also spoke for the motion ‘This House Does Not Support the Teaching of Intelligent Design in the Science Classroom’ at the Durham University Debating Society (the motion was won), and lectured in Oxford on creation and evolution. Director Bob White spoke on a Christian perspective on the age of the earth at Ripon College near Oxford and in Toft, Cambridgeshire on global climate change.

 Denis Alexander Bob White

[Director]  [Associate