Although biological evolution excites controversy, comparative genomics gives us a coherent view of human evolutionary history. The information in our DNA provides a record of our genetic history, linking us to other mammals, while genetic markers establish the evolution of both cancers and species. How then are humans distinct from other mammals? Can we still be described as made in the ‘image of God’?
Science has brought us medicine, technology, and unparalleled insights into the nature of our universe. Given this superb track record, should its powerful methods for gathering and organising evidence also be privileged when thinking about ultimate questions, including perhaps even the existence of God? Or is science, notwithstanding its power, poorly equipped to answer questions of meaning, value and purpose? And if so, could there be other rational ways to weigh relevant evidence?
Ard Louis is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford. He leads an interdisciplinary research group studying complex problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology.
How are we to approach the Genesis story of the origin of the world? Most are sceptical that it has anything to say in our modern scientific age, while some still insist that this ancient text should take precedence over our school science textbooks.
In this lecture Ernest Lucas helped us re-read these early chapters in their ancient context. By so doing, he showed how these stories are surprisingly relevant to us today and provide a framework within which we can pursue science for the benefit of humankind and the rest of creation.
Ernest Lucas has an MA in Chemistry from Oxford University and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Kent. He did post-doctoral research in biochemistry in the University of North Carolina and in Oxford University before studying Theology at Oxford. After ordination he was minister of Baptist Churches in Durham and Liverpool. He obtained a PhD in Oriental Studies from Liverpool University. He was Vice- Principal and tutor in Biblical Studies at Bristol Baptist College until he retired in 2012.
Our ability to analyse DNA sequences continues to grow at an amazing pace, with the genetic finger-printing of individuals, the diagnosis and prediction of genetic disease, the rapid sequencing of individual genomes and even ‘bar-code babies.’ With these abilities comes responsibility and a range of ethical dilemmas.
John Bryant is Emeritus Professor of Biosciences at the University of Exeter. He is a Past-President of the Society for Experimental Biology and a former Chair of Christians in Science. His research has focussed on DNA, genes and gene expression. He has also worked on teaching Bioethics to Bioscience students, and as an adviser to the Higher Education Academy. His recent books include Bioethics for Scientists, Introduction to Bioethics, Life in Our Hands, and Beyond Human? He is well-known as a speaker, writer and broadcaster on science, bioethics, and science & religion.
Andrew Sims is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Leeds and Past President of the Royal College of Psychiatrist. He has published and spoken widely on the interface between religious faith and mental illness.
In this talk Professor Sims examines the connection between Christian faith and psychiatry and answers the charge that not only is religion unprovable, it has a malignant effect on society and on individuals. He will show that the overwhelming evidence from psychiatric studies is that spiritual belief is beneficial to long-term well-being and does not bear the hallmarks of a psychiatric delusion.
In this lecture Dr Chapman examined the common misunderstandings about key events in science-faith relations. He exposed facts and opinions that have long been forgotten and have been supplanted by modern propaganda. His book “Slaying the Dragons” strips away layers of misunderstanding and misinterpretation and helps us to appreciate that science and religion are not the common enemies we think they are.
Alan Chapman is a historian of science and is based at Wadham College, Oxford, where he teaches the history of science in the Faculty of Modern History; his special interests are astronomy and scientific biography. He is an accomplished lecturer and presented the Channel 4 series “Gods in the Sky”.
Advances in medical science have produced many issues that are focussed around the beginning and end of life. How should healthcare professionals and society at large respond to today’s ethical challenges and opportunities? What difference does a Christian viewpoint make?
John Wyatt is Emeritus Professor of Ethics & Perinatology at University College London. He has a clinical background in the mechanisms, consequences and prevention of brain injury in critically ill newborn infants. His work is now concentrated on ethical issues raised by advances in reproductive and medical technology at the beginning of life and research ethics.
Can we explain all our behaviour and thoughts in terms of the biology and chemistry of the brain? What is free will and consciousness and does this leave any room for God?
Bill Newsome is a Christian who is well qualified to address these questions. He is Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University. He has a B.S. in physics from Stetson University and a PhD in biology from the California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on cognitive neuroscience and the neural mechanisms underlying visual perception. He investigates how we acquire sensory information about the world, how that information is processed within the brain, and how behavioural responses to that information are organized. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Does a multiverse explain the fine-tuning of our own universe? In the light of modern physics does it still make sense to speak of God as Creator? Rodney Holder will discuss the assertions made by Stephen Hawking’s in his book ‘The Grand Design’.
Dr Holder did his first degree in mathematics at Cambridge, and followed this with a DPhil in astrophysics in Oxford. He remained at Oxford for a further two years as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Astrophysics, before working for 14 years at the UK Ministry of Defence as an operational research consultant. He returned to Oxford in 1996 taking a first class degree in theology. Rodney is currently Course Director of the Faraday Institute.
Mike Clifford is Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, working in the field of appropriate technologies for developing nations. He has worked on projects producing wheelchairs suitable for rough African terrain built with locally available parts and tools, turning banana waste into burnable briquettes and using vernonia oil to produce turbine blades.
Extra links to videos from Mike Clifford:
We live in a world where the same natural processes that make it habitable can kill thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people. Natural disasters pull us up sharp and make us face head-on the hard questions of life and death. They challenge humankind’s arrogant assumption that we can control our environment. For theists they raise the hard question of how an all-powerful, all-loving God can allow such things to happen.
Bob White is Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Royal Society. He leads a research group investigating the earth’s dynamic crust. In 2006, with Denis Alexander, he founded the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.
Dr James May is a London GP and chairman of the national organisation Health Watch (www.healthwatch-uk.org), a voluntary non-profit making body whose members include doctors, lawyers, scientists, health workers and journalists. Their aims are to develop good practices in the assessment and testing of treatments and the conduct of clinical trials generally and the promotion of high standards of health care by practitioners. Dr May informs us and challenges us on how to respond to “alternative” care scientifically, philosophically and ethically, asking hard questions about evidence and responsibility. There was a lively Q&A session which was also recorded.
After studying philosophy at Cardiff (BA), Sheffield (MA) and The University of East Anglia (MPhil), Peter worked as a ‘Student Assistant’ at Holy Trinity Church Leicester for three years, before moving to Southampton to join Damaris, where he is managing editor of The Quest. Peter is author of 3 other books: The Case For God (Monarch, 1999), The Case For Angels (Paternoster, 2002) and I Wish I Could Believe In Meaning: A Response To Nihilism.
Colin Russell is Emeritus Professor of History of Science at the Open University and Research Scholar in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University. He writes, lectures and broadcasts widely on the subject of science and religion and his books include ‘Michael Faraday: Physics and Faith’ OUP, NY, 2000. Professor Russell discusses the apparent conflict between science and faith from a historical perspective and explodes some of the modern myths surrounding the subject.
Dr John Lennox is Reader in Mathematics at Oxford University and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green College, Oxford. He is particularly interested in the interface of science, philosophy and theology. As well as writing many articles and several books on mathematics and on the science-religion debate, he has also lectured widely, especially in Russia, and has engaged in public debate with Richard Dawkins.
Former Director General of the Met Office, Sir John worked on the physical basis of climate change for the IPCC from 1988 until 2002, and was part of the IPCC delegation that went to Oslo to receive the 2007 Peace Prize. A distinguished scientist, he is the author of Global Warming, the Complete Briefing.
A debate between Dr Peter May (retired GP and member of the general synod) and Dr Seyi Hotonu (SpR in Genito-Urinary medicine and author of “Contraception: a Pro-Life Guide”).
Sir John Polkinghorne FRS was Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge. Ordained in 1981 and awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize for developments in the relationship between Science and Religion in 2002, he has written many books including his latest ‘Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship’.
As well as being national Chairman of CiS John Bryant is Professor Emeritus of Cell and Molecular Biology at Exeter University, visiting Professor of Molecular Biology at West Virginia State University, immediate Past-President of the Society for Experimental Biology, and joint author with Linda Baggott la Velle and John Searle of the best selling book ‘Introduction to Bioethics’. Professor Bryant described some of the major ethical issues in bioethics and led a discussion on how a Christian should decide their response to them.
Professor McGrath presented a critique of the arguments used by Richard Dawkins in his book ‘The God Delusion’ and elsewhere, when he speaks about his atheism and his dislike of religion. With courtesy and humour he ‘challenges Dawkins on the very ground he holds most sacred – rational argument – and disarms the master’ (Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project, speaking about Dawkins’ God, one of McGrath’s books)
Two Christians taking opposite views debated and answered questions from the floor, in an atmosphere of honest enquiry. Please listen to the introduction first: it illustrates the way the event was run so that Christians could disagree but remain friends in Christ.
Dr. Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute for science and religion, addressed the historical development of the relationship between science and faith, giving a Christian perspective on today’s major issues, including evolutionary biology, design and purpose in the universe, and the place of science in society.