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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 63 - April 2011

This month has seen the launch of the UK tour of the Faraday Institute sponsored play on Isaac Newton (‘Let Newton Be!’) written by Craig Baxter, produced by Patrick Morris and performed by the Menagerie Theatre Company. Slightly tweaked since its original performances in 2009, the play was performed three times to full houses in Cambridge at the new Howard Theatre at Downing College. Other performances have taken place at Colchester, Rugby School, Grantham and Glasgow, the UK tour culminating in a performance at the Royal Society on 28th March. This show was followed by a fascinating panel discussion with Lord Martin Rees FRS, Prof. Robert Iliffe, Prof. John Barrow FRS and Prof. John Hedley Brooke.  The tour has already led to several very positive reviews of the play, for example in The Times Higher ( and in Physics World ( Let Newton Be! will be filmed professionally this week-end to generate a DVD that will eventually be marketed as part of a guide-book on Newton and the play. The North American tour of the play starts on 13th April with a performance in Toronto. The full details of the tour are available on the Faraday web-site (

A good crowd came along for the Panel Discussion on 26th March on ‘Human Enhancement – How Far Should We Go?’ held as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. The complete spectrum of views was present on the panel leading to an interesting and engaging discussion that was filmed and will be going up on line shortly.

The Faraday Multimedia Folder continues to expand with more fascinating on-line lectures going up at regular intervals. One of the latest lectures to go up on line is ‘Exoplanets, Life and Human Significance’ by the NASA astronomer Jennifer Wiseman.  Our lectures and seminars are also posted on the University of Cambridge web-site at where there is a convenient list of outputs that also provides the number of down-loads to date for each item. For example, it is interesting to note that Prof. Peter Clarke’s seminar on ‘Brain Determinism and Free-will’ given this past term on 8th Feb has already been watched 1880 times from this site alone.

A first-time venture for the Faraday Institute was to run a course as part of the programme of Cambridge University’s Institute for Continuing the beautiful surroundings of Madingley Hall. The enthusiastic delegates heard talks from the Revd Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, Dr James Hannam, Dr Denis Alexander, Revd Dr Rodney Holder and Prof. Bob White FRS, in addition to which there was a good take-up of an optional trip into Cambridge to see a performance of ‘Let Newton Be!’ at Downing College.

Our big event for this month is the ‘The Georges Lemaître Anniversary Conference’ to be held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Thursday 7th April – Sunday 10th April, 2011. Lord Martin Rees FRS will be giving the opening talk on the Thursday evening. All talks will be filmed so for those unable to attend in person, eventually there will be an opportunity to join in the conference on-line.

A date for the diary is our first Faraday Research Seminar for next term which will be given by Prof. Nidhal Guessoum [American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates] on the topic ‘Science and Religion in Islam Today – a Critical Survey’on 3rd May at 1.00 p.m. in the Garden Seminar Room of St. Edmund’s College. As usual the seminar will be preceded by a light buffet lunch at 12.30 p.m.

The Test of Faith project continues to gain momentum, with a homeschool resource project that has recently started in collaboration with the American Scientific Affiliation. A Test of Faith event will be held at the Pentecost Festival in London on Wednesday 8th June, with the Revd Dr Alasdair Coles speaking on ‘God and the Brain: What neuroscience can teach us about people and God’ (details to follow). The Test of Faith website has recently been updated, with the latest addition being an article from Dr Ted Davis:

This month the LASAR team carried out two workshops to support secondary school learners who are looking at the relationships between science and religion. At Wallingford School in Oxford, they explored the natures of science and religion with the help of fingerprint expert, Susan Davis and specialist in religious education, Paul Hopkins. At Down House and particularly, in Darwin's greenhouse, pupils from Bancroft's School in Essex worked with science specialist, Dr Paul Davies and Dr Dawn Sanders of The Charles Darwin Trust to find out more about the way Darwin understood the natural world.

Our collaboration with the British Council to develop the ‘Science and Belief’ strand of the ‘Belief in Dialogue’ programme continues apace, and on 29th March the British Council held a Symposium in collaboration with the British Academy. This included a panel discussion on the subject of ‘Belief and Modernity: Behaviours and Intellectual Traditions’ featuring, amongst others, Simon Conway Morris FRS, Salman Hameed, John Hedley Brooke and John Polkinghorne FRS.

The next major event in this programme is the conference ‘Belief in Dialogue: Science, Culture and Modernity’, 21st-23rd June 2011, at the American University of Sharjah, UAE. This conference aims to foster closer intra, inter and extra faith dialogue on matters of common cultural interest including belief and the place and significance of the sciences in various worldviews. Calls for abstracts and for student participation are now open. Further details are available on the ISSR (International Society for Science and Religion) website at

This past month the Director gave a lecture in the Biology Faculty of Madrid University on ‘Science and Faith – From Darwin to Dawkins’, gave three talks to a science-faith conference held near Madrid, a lecture to 300 people at the University of Hull and a talk on science and faith as part of a Lent Talk series at St. Luke’s Parish of Chelsea in London. The Associate Director gave a lecture to around 250 people at the University of Lincoln on ‘Climate Change: the Scientific, Ethical and Moral Issues’ and a further lecture to 400 at the University of Southampton as part of a CiS lecture series. The Course Director gave a talk entitled ‘Prayer and the Laws of Science’ to the Worcester Bible and Science Group, and a further talk organised by the Chaplain to University Staff entitled ‘My Science - My Faith’ as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. The Test of Faith Project Leader Ruth Bancewicz spoke in schools in Llandudno, Warrington and Worcester.

Denis Alexander Bob White

[Director]  [Associate Director]