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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 57 - October 2010

Faraday Institute Newsletter No 57 (October 2010)

The new Cambridge University Term has now started and with it a whole series of new Faraday events that we will summarise here for the benefit of those living in the Cambridge area. As always, nearly all events will be filmed and available on-line from the Faraday website shortly after:

• On Tuesday Oct 12th at 1.00 p.m. the first Faraday Research Seminar of the new series with the title ‘Neuronal Imaging of the Religious Brain’ will be given by the Revd Dr Alasdair Coles [Department of Medicine, Cambridge University] in the Garden Room at St. Edmund’s College, preceded by a free buffet lunch at 12.30 p.m. Dr Coles is one of a rare species: an ordained and active minister in the Anglican Church who also runs a successful biomedical research group, as well as carrying out clinical duties. If you would like a colour poster of all this term’s seminars to put up in a particular venue, then please contact our Events Manager, Zoe Binns, at Alternatively the poster may be down- loaded from the Faraday website at:

• On Tuesday Oct 26th the next seminar in this series will be given at the same time and place by Dr Tim Mawson [Oxford University] on ‘A Philosopher's Perspective on Anthropic Fine Tuning’.
• On 29th and 30th October, as part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, there will be two performances of the one-actor play entitled ‘Darwin’s Tree’ at 8.00 p.m. in the McCrum Theatre (behind the Eagle Pub) which is part of Corpus Christi College. Written by Murray Watts, the play, in which Andrew Harrison plays Darwin, explores Darwin's life and his questions about himself, science, suffering and God. Launched at Westminster Abbey last year as part of the Darwin Anniversary Year, the play has achieved widespread critical acclaim and is not to be missed. Tickets cost £10 (£5 for students and senior citizens) including a complimentary drink. Booking is available on-line at the Faraday website and early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment (the theatre is not that large).

• On Tuesday 2nd November the first public lecture of the term entitled ‘Playing God?: Toward Machines that Deny Their Maker’ will be given by Prof. Rosalind Picard, Head of the Affective Computing Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Laboratory, at 5.30 pm  in the Queen's Lecture Theatre at Emmanuel College. Entrance free with an opportunity afterwards to meet the lecturer and browse a bookstall over complimentary refreshments.

• On Friday 19th November the second public lecture of term will take the form of a Public Discussion between the literary writer and critic Prof. Terry Eagleton and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, on the subject ‘Responses to the New Atheism’. This will be held at 5.30 p.m. in Great St Mary’s Church.  Definitely an event not to be missed!

The past month has seen an excellent Faraday Course for an enthusiastic group of 30 Church Leaders. As usual we had a distinguished group of speakers including Prof. John Bryant (Science-Religion Dialogue in the 20th Century and Genetic Engineering), Revd Dr Rodney Holder (Is the Universe Designed?), Prof. John Wyatt (What does it Mean to be a Person?), Dr Alasdair Coles (Imaging the Religious Brain), Dr James Hannam (Science and Christianity: An Historical Sketch), Revd Dr John Weaver (Theological Approach to Climate Change), and Revd Dr Dave Bookless (Earthing Theology: Caring for Creation in Urban and Rural Contexts). As for other Faraday events, talks will be posted shortly on the website for free on-line downoad. Details of the next Faraday Short Course, which is mainly for ordinands from the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges, but with a limited number of places open to those from elsewhere, are now available on the website:

The Learning About Science and Religion (LASAR) project under the leadership of Dr Berry Billingsley (Faculty of Education, Reading University) continues to make progress in its research. The LASAR research team presented early findings regarding pupils’ and teachers’ thinking about science and religion at two conferences over the summer. The first presentation was at a conference for Science tutors organised by the Association for Science Education. The paper was well received and the lengthy discussion that followed provided considerable useful feedback. The second presentation was a paper given at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) entitled ‘Teachers' perspectives on collaborative teaching about the ‘Big Questions' in secondary schools: The silent treatment.’ BERA highlighted our research in a one page feature article in ‘Research Intelligence’, their magazine for members. Further details and a copy of the paper from BERA can be found at the LASAR research website,

The past month has seen a minor media storm connected with the publication of a new book by Prof. Stephen Hawking. As a result of The Times front-page story on Sep. 2nd headed 'Hawking: God did not create Universe' the Course Director Dr Rodney Holder, our resident expert in this field, gave 10 media interviews: BBC Radio 4 PM programme, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 Sunday Programme, Channel 4 (for website), Premier Christian Radio (2 interviews), TWR Radio, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, AM640 Toronto Radio, and BBC Radio Bristol (debating with Nikolai Segura). Dr Holder also wrote a number of articles for the media and Board member Prof. Eric Priest wrote for The Guardian. Another Board member, Prof. Alister McGrath was interviewed on ITV News at Ten, and the Director was quoted on the topic on the CNN web-site [36 million daily visits].

As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, the Test of Faith DVD, book and course materials are now on sale in the USA from Discounts are available for multiple orders (contact for details). Also new from the Test of Faith project is the 'Celebrating God's Creation' church service material, that was developed in partnership with the Bible Society UK. This resource includes a sermon outline, ideas for prayers, liturgy and songs, videos, PowerPoint and all-age/children's activities. 'Celebrating God's Creation' is available to download free from:

Denis Alexander Bob White
[Director]  [Associate Director]