2023 Spring Conference – Big Questions in Science and the Church: Part 1

Held in June at Augustine United Church, Edinburgh

Recordings of talks are available on our YouTube channel


We had a great line up of speakers on the day, including both theologians and scientists:

  • Miracles – Dr Bethany Sollereder, Lecturer in Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh
  • Why does Evolution work? – Dr Zachary Ardern, Postdoctoral Fellow, Wellcome Sanger Institute and CiS Oliver Barclay Lecturer 2022
  • What can Theology learn from Science? – Dr Joanna Leidenhag, Lecturer in Theology and Liberal Arts, University of Leeds
  • Science and the hiddenness of God: towards a kenotic theology of science – Professor Wilson Poon, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Edinburgh

Speaker Bio and Abstracts

Dr Bethany Sollereder, Lecturer in Science and Religion – Miracles

Bio: Bethany received her PhD in Theology from the University of Exeter and an MCS in interdisciplinary studies from Regent College, Vancouver. She specialises in theology concerning evolution and the problem of suffering. Her current work is about the theological possibilities and human vocation in the light of irreversible changes in ecological degradation.

She is also interested in the intersection between psychology and faith, particularly how different approaches to theology can affect people’s experience of suffering. This interest lead to the publication of “Why is There Suffering? Pick your own theological adventure” (Zondervan 2021), the first pick-your-own-ending theology book. Dr Sollereder is working on a wider research programme in what she has called “Compassionate Theodicy”.

Abstract: This talk will explore the possibility of miracles in dialogue with Process and Pentecostal theologies. These are usually seen as opposite ends of the theological spectrum–Pentecostals see God interrupting the world order “everywhere” while Process theists hold that God never acts unilaterally in an overwhelming manner in the material order. This paper asks how the Pentecostal tradition can add to both the Process discussion and to the wider Science and Theology discussion of special divine action, which has been heavily influenced by Process thought.

Dr Zachary Ardern – Why does Evolution work?

Bio: Zachary Ardern is a postdoctoral research fellow in evolutionary genomics at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, researching the origin of new genes in microbes. Prior to this he was a postdoctoral researcher in Germany for five years, and studied biology and philosophy in Auckland, New Zealand. Zachary has spoken in diverse contexts on science and Christian faith.

Abstract: Diverse lifeforms share common ancestry in deep history, according to extensive evidence. Processes of biological evolution can elegantly explain the observed data, and increasingly with intricate molecular detail. Why is it that these processes have produced such remarkable results? In this talk I will explore some ways in which questions about the foundations of evolutionary biology can open a window onto deeper issues of science and faith.

Dr Joanna Leidenhag – What can Theology learn from Science?

Bio: Dr Joanna Leidenhag is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Leeds. She has published two monographs, Minding Creation: Theological Panpsychism and the Doctrine of Creation (Bloomsbury/T&T Clark, 2021), and Science-Engaged Theology (Cambridge University Press, 2023). Her current work is on the theology of autism and neurodiversity.

Abstract: The natural and psychological sciences seem to make real discoveries about how the world works. If science and religion are kept separate, how can theology learn from these discoveries? This talk reconsiders what exactly ‘science’ and ‘religion’ refer to and argues that science is a source for theological reflection, just like Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. I’ll also give some advice for how Christians can engage with science in a way that avoids turning science into a quasi-religion itself.



Friday, 16th June 2023 (evening before the conference) 

Talking Together? Science and the Church

Hosted discussion


  • Dr Emily Messer is a primatologist and science communicator at Heriot-Watt University. Her research interests are around how learning and social behaviour interact with each other in primates.
  • Prof Mark Harris is an Anglican Priest and Professor of Natural Science and Theology at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. He originally performed research in physics and now describes himself as a theologian of science.
  • Dr Rachel Gilmour is a science communicator and tutor with a background in astronomy and astrophysics.
  • Prof Paul Ewart is a physics professor at the University of Oxford and the Chair of Christians in Science.