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The 2018 E.T.S. Walton Lecture on Science and Religion is:

Are Natural Disasters Acts of God?


Prof. Robert White

Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion
University of Cambridge


Tuesday 20 March 2018
19:30, Room W5, West Wing, Main Quadrangle, University College Cork

Wednesday 21 March 2018
19:30, MacNeill Lecture Theatre, Hamilton Building, Trinity College Dublin

Thursday 22 March 2018
19:30, Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, University Street, Belfast


Abstract. We live in a world that God declared to be "very good". Earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions, and the processes that drive them, help make a fertile world that is rich in life. These same processes may kill many thousands of people at a stroke. Natural disasters challenge us about the relationship between the creator, his creation and humans made “in his image”. Professor White will describe the causes of natural disasters and how they are exacerbated or even caused by human actions. He wil discuss what the Scriptures say about natural disasters specifically using the responses to disaster of three biblical figures: Joseph, Job and Jesus.

The Christian Gospel is shot through with hope not just for the present but also for the future. The Christian perspective recognises the brokenness of this world, but also God’s sovereignty over it and his ultimate plans for a new creation. Professor White will explore how the Christian hope should drive us to work for better scientific understanding of disasters, to build resilience to disaster among vulnerable communities, and to strive to remove the unjust disparities in wealth and resources that mean the poor and disadvantaged often suffer the most.


Robert White is Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge (since 1989) and Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994. He recently received the Gold Medal for a lifetime of distinguished achievement in solid Earth geophysics from the Royal Astronomical Society.

He leads a research group investigating the Earth’s dynamic crust: in particular the way in which enormous volumes of volcanic rock are produced when continents and oceans rift apart, and the movement of molten rock under active volcanoes. He has organised many overseas fieldwork projects and supervised over 50 PhD students at Cambridge, many of whom are now prominent in academia, industry, government and education. His work at sea has taken him to the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and his research group is currently investigating the internal structure of volcanoes in Iceland. His scientific work is published in over 350 papers and articles.

He has (co)authored and edited several books on religion and science, including:
Nick Spencer and Robert White: Christianity, Climate Change and Sustainable Living (SPCK 2007)
Robert S. White (editor): Creation in Crisis: Christian Perspectives on Sustainability (SPCK 2009)
Jonathan A. Moo and Robert S. White: Hope in an Age of Despair: The Gospel and the Future of Life on Earth (Inter-Varsity Press 2013)
Robert S. White: Who is to Blame? Disasters, Nature and Acts of God (Oxford: Lion Hudson 2014)

More information about Robert White can be found on his personal webpage.


All three lectures are open to the public and are free. To reserve a seat please contact:
Dr. Peter van der Burgt, email peter.vanderburgt AT mu.ie, tel. (+353) 01 - 708 3782.

Download a poster.

If you are attending one of the lectures, we are kindly asking you to consider making a voluntary donation of €5 / £5 on the evening towards the cost of organising these lectures.

The 2018 Walton Lecture is organised by Christians in Science Ireland in collaboration with the UCC Christian Union and the TCD Christian Union.


The E. T. S. Walton Lectures on Science and Religion

The E. T. S. Walton Lectures on Science and Religion (Walton Lectures in brief) are a series of lectures on currents topics related to science and religion, suitable to an audience of academics and informed lay persons. Each year a speaker, who is a scientist, philosopher, or theologian of international reputation, will be invited to give a lecture, which will be held in one or more locations on the island of Ireland.

The Walton Lectures are named after physicist and Nobel laureate the late Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton. Walton's work as a scientist and his Christian commitment are well documented in the biography written by V. J. McBrierty: Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton, The Irish Scientist, 1903-1995 (Trinity College Dublin, 2003). Walton was strongly committed to the Methodist faith, and following the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 jointly to himself and John Cockroft, he spoke on science and religion to audiences in Ireland, the United States, and Sweden. The award to Walton is to date the only Irish Nobel prize in science.

The Walton Lectures are organised by Christians in Science Ireland.



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