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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 47 - December 2009

Amidst the plethora of anniversaries during the year 2009, it might have been easy to miss that of the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth in 1509. It was therefore appropriate that our last two Faraday Research seminars of this term tackled topics of relevance to Calvin and his theology. Prof. Paul Ewart from Oxford spoke on ‘The Necessity of Chance: Randomness, Purpose and the Sovereignty of God’ and Prof. Alister McGrath on the topic ‘Calvin's Contributions to the Emergence of Modern Science’. As Prof. McGrath pointed out, it was Calvin’s particular way of handling Scripture that was important in allowing natural philosophy to pursue its exploration of God’s universe without being distracted by the idea that the Bible was given to teach science. As Calvin wrote in his Commentary on Genesis, remarking on Chapter 1: “Nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere.”

Unfortunately Prof. Rosalind Picard was unable to give her CiS – Faraday Lecture this term due to illness, but the lecture has been rearranged for Nov 2nd 2010. Since the time was too short to let everyone know about the cancellation of the lecture, the new Test of Faith documentary was shown to those who showed up on the day.

The new play on the life of Sir Isaac Newton entitled ‘Let Newton Be!’ continues to receive good reviews, and the latest one-page and very enthusiastic review published in the leading scientific journal Science is available from the News section of the Faraday web-site at Plans are now being made for UK and US tours for the play during the first half of November 2010. If any recipient of this letter in either Europe or the USA is particularly interested in seeing the play come to their university, then please contact the Institute Director on We are particularly interested in taking the play to universities that have their own university theatre.

The first instalment of the free on-line Test of Faith youth material was launched on 20th November, and was introduced to a wide audience of youth workers at a packed seminar at the annual Christian ‘Youthwork’ conference in Eastbourne on 21st November. The new material consists of sessions for 11-14s and 14-18s in church and parachurch youth groups. It uses appropriate clips from the Test of Faith documentary as well as games and other activities for young people. The final part of the youth material will be released on-line in December. Go to for details. Also in November, Test of Faith taster sessions were given at the ‘God and Darwinian Evolution’ conference in Oxford at the King’s Conference Centre, and at a workshop for church leaders and scientists in New York organised by BioLogos. 

The 2010 Faraday Course Programme now has all its dates arranged and the speakers are being finalised for Courses happening later next year (see website for details). As usual A3 Posters will be printed giving details of all Courses, and if you would like one or more of these sent to you, please contact Mrs Polly Stanton at: The first courses made available for applications on our website are ‘Science, Religion and the Environment’ for the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges, but also offering a few places to ordinands from other Colleges round the country who would like to come; and ‘Science and Religion in Schools’ for school teachers (especially science, RE and philosophy). Each course will give appropriate resources for those ‘at the coal face’, as well as cutting-edge education from top-class speakers on the current state of play in science-religion interactions.

With the November 24th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859, this has been another busy month for the Faraday Staff in giving talks, although not of course exclusively about Darwin! The Director’s talks on Darwin and evolution included a Waldensian Church Conference in Genova, and day conferences held at Manchester Grammar School, at the King’s Conference Centre in Oxford, the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester, and the Society for Ecumenical Studies in Cambridge. Further talks on the same theme were given to various churches from the Diocese of Ely, which this year is marking its 900th birthday, and to a group of politicians and others in Westminster at an event organised by the Westminster Forum.

The Course Director Dr Rodney Holder spoke in a series on science and religion at Darwin’s old College, Christ’s, Cambridge, on ‘One universe or many?’ and at All Saints Church, Cottenham, on ‘God and the Big Bang’ as part of the Ely Diocese 900th anniversary celebrations.

With the Copenhagen conference of heads of state to discuss climate change starting, environmental issues are high on the radar of many people.  Associate Director Bob White gave talks on this topic recently in Bath and St Ives.

If you are looking for last minute Christmas presents why not browse the Faraday shop where everything is sold at discount prices. And if you live in North America, or have friends there, the book by Nick Spencer and Bob White has been re-written for the North American context with the aid of Ginny Vroblesky and is published this month as  ‘Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living’, available from

Denis Alexander  Bob White
[Director]    [Associate Director]