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Latest PréCiS – Winter 2022

This edition includes

  • Joint First 2021 Student Essays by Christopher West and Geoffrey Butler
  • Oliver Barclay Lecture- nomination is open
  • Local Group News

We hope you enjoy reading it – click here

 

 

 

Attending COP26 – report by Steph Bevan (CiS Development Officer)

Official Video by COP26 – Voices from the COP26 Green Zone: Faith, Religion and Beliefs.

It has now been several weeks since the final conversations were had at COP26. Since returning from our exhibit on the 9th November, we have had a number of questions about the event. Was it worthwhile? Was it a success? Here are a few of our thoughts on how it went……….

Christians in Science, The Faraday Institute and the John Ray Initiative were present in the Green Zone of the COP26 conference. This space was made available for charities, businesses and community groups to exhibit and showcase their role in tackling the climate crisis. Being a part of this space was a real encouragement to delegates from around the world to hear what people are already practically and physically doing to make a difference. On our stand, we were able to direct attendees to valuable resources on how the church can and should respond to the climate crisis. We had some encouraging conversations with attendees, including those from different faiths and no faith at all.

Many of our conversations turned to the fear and distrust that some religious groups can have with scientists over climate change and more recently, vaccine uptake. We found that there was a particular interest in some religious groups who are sceptical that there even is a climate crisis, and if there is, that the problem can simply be resolved with prayer. Delegates were glad to hear of our presence in this conversation and our resources to equip others to broach these topics with their own communities.

We were delighted that over the course of the 2-week conference, there were representatives from many other science and faith organisations, including A Rocha, Eco Church, Eco Synagogue, Faith for the Climate and Climate Sunday. Highlights of these groups and their involvement at COP26 can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p69DPNJB54Y This joined up approach and recognition of faith communities’ involvement in the solution was very welcome and worthwhile.

The other parts of COP26 were the policies and promises put in place at an international level. There were certainly mixed emotions regarding how successful and meaningful these commitments were. The Glasgow Climate Pact focusses on reducing emissions, helping those already impacted by climate change, enabling countries to deliver on their climate goals and working together to deliver even greater action. The full pact can be found here: https://ukcop26.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/COP26-Presidency-Outcomes-The-Climate-Pact.pdf

Overall, we found the entire event rewarding and encouraging but have left still reflective on the need for more action from all walks of life. Finally, we must extend a HUGE thank you to Murdo McDonald who was also present on our exhibition stand for the entire day.

CiS Update – Dec 2021

Enjoy reading the  CiS December Update.

Inside the Update we have details on:-

  • Oliver Barclay Lecture 2022
  • Upcoming CiS Events
  • Other News
  • Other Events
  • Prayer Focus
  • Book list – books published by CiS members this year.

From the team here at CiS, we wish you a safe and joyous Christmas.

Nominations for the Christians in Science Oliver Barclay Lecture 2022

                                

Nominations are open –

Christians in Science sponsors an annual “Oliver Barclay Lecture” in memory of Dr Oliver Barclay who was the driving force behind the establishment of The Research Scientists Christian Fellowship, the predecessor of CiS, and who was keen to encourage the next generation of effective communicators on Science and Faith.

The lecture is awarded to a promising young individual, usually under the age of 35, who has demonstrated an ability to communicate effectively on issues relating to Science and Faith. The chosen individual, who will normally be an active UK-based scientist, will present a short lecture on the topic of their choice at the annual Autumn Conference. We hope they will also present their lecture the following year, at the Connect and Spring Conferences. He/she will receive travel expenses for each conference where they give the lecture, and one honorarium equivalent in value to that given to other established conference speakers.

CiS members are invited to nominate an early career scientist for the annual award with a closing date of midnight 31st March 2022.

Additionally, if you would like to be considered for this lectureship, (self-nomination) please contact [email protected] to discuss further.

Nomination Criteria

  • Prior to submission, the nominator should ensure that the nominee is available to attend the CiS Autumn Conference (usually during October or early in November). If circumstances prevent an in-person conference, the lecture will be pre-recorded as was done for the 2020 conference.
  • The nominator must also ensure that 2 referees will send an assessment of the candidate’s suitability for the award by 14th April 2022.
  • Nominations should be sent to the Executive Officer together with:-
    • the nomination letter should include the reasons why you are nominating this candidate.
    • an up to date curriculum vitae of the nominee
    • details of the two referees
    • and a video of the nominee, speaking for 5 minutes on a Science and Religion topic of the nominee’s choice. Due to the probable size of the video, please send either an unlisted YouTube link or a via a file-sharing site such as or similar to Dropbox or Google Drive. (The total length of the video should not be longer than 5 ½ mins)

Nominations, and any requests for further information, should be sent to Mary Browett, CiS Executive Officer ([email protected])

Nominations will be considered in April by a selection committee appointed by the CiS Executive Committee, and a recommendation made to the Trustees.

Books published by CiS Members – 2021

Books published this year by CiS members:-

 

A scent of water.  Adventures in faith and science

Author: Jim Parratt

Purchase from: Sanctusmedia.com

Cost: £15

Content: “The strength of a memoir is its personal nature; we are here allowed to share some of the story of a fascinating life. It is always an encouragement to learn more of how God called an individual to committed discipleship. Jim Parratt shows here how he responded to Jesus’ call, ‘Follow me’, and how this became the defining quality of all the years that followed. This is a story not only to read, but to re-read, gaining more each time!” Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith

 

Ramified Natural Theology in Science and Religion: Moving on from Natural Theology

Author: Rodney Holder

Purchase from: The Faraday Institute on-line shop

Cost: £84

Content: In like manner to arguments of natural theology for the existence of God, reason and evidence are used in ramified natural theology to argue for the truth of specifically Christian claims.

 

 

 

 Why is there Suffering? Pick Your Own Theological Expedition

Author: Dr Bethany Sollereder

Purchase from: Blackwells or order through your local Christian book shop

Cost: about £11.00

Content: Explores the tangled theology of suffering through a light-hearted, self-guided exploration through multiple choices. The reader is asked to make a theological decision every few pages and is directed to the next appropriate step of their theological journey.

 

 

John Stott on Creation Care

Author: By R. J. (Sam) Berry, Laura Yoder

Purchase from: IVP books

Cost: £14.99

Content: Discover John Stott’s writings on creation care, brought together for the first time in this definitive collection for the global church. This brilliant anthology demonstrates both Stott’s passion for the environment and its place in Christian discipleship.

 

 

Of Popes and Unicorns

Author: David Hutchings and James C. Ungureanu

Purchase from: Oxford University Press

Cost: £25.99

Content: Science, Christianity, and How the Conflict Thesis Fooled the World. This is the story of John Draper, Andrew White, and the conflict thesis: a centuries-old misconception that religion and science are at odds with one another.

 

 

 

Wonders of the Living World: Curiosity, awe, and the meaning of life

Author: Ruth M Bancewicz, illustrated by Danny Allison

Purchase from: https://www.faraday.cam.ac.uk/shop/

Cost: £11

Content: Accompanied by videos, articles, sessions for adult small groups and school lesson plans, at https://wondersofthelivingworld.org

 

 

 

Human Flourishing

Author: Andrew Briggs and Michael J. Reiss

Purchase from: Oxford University Press

Cost: £25

Content: An examination of what is meant by human flourishing and what it has to offer for those seeking truth, meaning and purpose in their lives. Balances spiritual and scientific wisdom to provide insights into areas such as relationships, financial stability, religion, technology and work-life balance. Takes a novel approach which draws on evidence from psychology, sociology, philosophy and theology, among others.

Oct 2021 – Celebrating Black Christian Scientists

This article is written by Omololu Fagunwa and was first published on https://www.faraday.cam.ac.uk/churches/church-resources/posts/celebrating-black-scientists/

Omololu Fagunwa is a Christian faith scholar and microbiologist. At the University of Huddersfield, his PhD research focuses on understanding the roles of gut microbes (especially bacteria) in health and disease, and how they help us in environment and creation care. He passionately engages in and encourages scientific endeavours to the glory of God and benefit of his creation. Since he attended the Faraday Summer Course in 2018, he has been actively involved in this subject: speaking in churches, writing posters and hosting the Called Scientist program on social media. He had attended CiS conferences and he is the lead at Huddersfield.

In honour of Black History Month, I remember and celebrate the powerful works of God in and through the lives of influential black people. From enslaved Christians and abolitionists to civil rights figures, and now to George Kinoti, a zoologist and enthusiast of science-faith for development; Robert Selvendran, a chemist and evangel of science and Christian theology; and Donna Auguste, a systems engineer and supporter of black people in STEM.

 

Black History Month: Celebrating Black Christian Scientists

Origen, one of the greatest Bible scholars and early church fathers, was a North African who advocated for the coherence of science and faith. During his time, Origen admonished fellow Christians to appreciate medical science – that the efforts of medical doctors are not in vain, even when there is healing from a disease by divine intervention. In modern times I have come across some black people who, like Origen, are devoted to both science and Christian faith, often in scientific conferences, and sometimes in church or social events. In celebration of black history month, and as a black Christian scientist myself, I am motivated to write about three scientists – a zoologist, a chemist, and a systems engineer.

The first is George K. Kinoti, a Kenyan and graduate of Makerere University, Uganda. He obtained his PhD in parasitology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. During his lifetime, he spoke and wrote on a number of issues about Christian faith. This distinguished parasitologist and professor of zoology was popular for his books titled ‘Hope for Africa and what the Christian can do’ (1994) and ‘Vision for a bright Africa’ (1997) because they call upon the church and every African to work for peace and prosperity of Africa. Kinoti’s engagements in the 1980s may perhaps qualify him as an unsung black hero in science and Christian faith dialogue.

At the 1985 joint meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation and Christians in Science, he spoke on how Western researchers and scientists could help developing countries. He argued that Christians had already invested considerable resources for evangelism, childhood and pastoral education and medical care, but the evident need for scientific education, research and development were neglected. Kinoti envisioned that the ASA and CiS would work with African Christians both to solve long-term economic and health problems and to present an effective witness in Africa to the wholeness of the Christian approach to life. He wanted partnership between Western Christians and their African counterparts in order to engage in research and development. He dreamed of a major independent Christian research facility in Nairobi that would be staffed by both African and visiting international scientists. Today, with an operational Science-Faith organisation called the Christian and Scientific Association of Kenya, and few other interested individuals of African descent, that dream may soon come true. Indeed, the life and work of Kinoti portrays that local challenges demand a local solution – be it socioeconomic or scientific.

Next, let me introduce you to Robert Selvendran, a distinguished scientist and plant cell researcher of Sri Lankan origin. On top of his scholarly distinction, he was a church leader in Norwich. He argued that science at its deepest level is essentially a religious activity, which plays its own special role in unfolding the nature and purpose of God.

When Selvendran passed away in May 2018, the Quadram Institutes, a specialist food and health research centre in Norwich, UK made the following statement: “He published over 120 papers during his career, earning an ISI Highly Cited Researcher Award and in 1994 he was awarded the Food Group Senior Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  Robbie was a deeply religious person, and in his retirement, he devoted his life to Christian work, travelling widely around the world to talk on science and Christian theology, as well as supporting local Christian groups.”

Selvenrdan’s long reflection on the scientific and Christian views of the world found them to be complementary. “Together, both types of truth give a fuller and more meaningful picture of life, of the world, and indeed of the universe. More importantly for me, they enhance the meaning of eternal life in God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, whom to know is life indeed.”

For Selvendran, the thrill and exhilaration of his scientific discoveries was nothing compared to the truth and light to be discovered in Jesus Christ. Throughout his life he shared the excitement he found in science, which increased his awareness of the physical world. As a practising Christian he also shared the even greater joy and certainty of redeemed life in Jesus Christ, which increased his awareness of God’s purposes for humanity and the world at large.

Lastly, here comes Donna Auguste, an African-American systems engineer, businesswoman and philanthropist. Auguste was the co-founder and CEO of Freshwater Software, and is now CEO of Auguste Research Group. Despite her many successes in the business world, Auguste returned to academia for her PhD because of concern about the declining numbers of ethnic minorities employed in STEM fields.

Auguste began to have passion for science at the age of four. She was fond of using a screwdriver to disassemble home appliances and then put them together again. Raised by her single mum, she often attended science fairs in town. The 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing encouraged her into STEM, and she went on to study electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Auguste’s own experience as a successful engineer and entrepreneur in technology fuels her passion and enthusiasm in introducing young students of colour to STEM.

In an interview with GlobalMindED, Auguste’s advice to young black people was to “learn what is their source of strength and connect deeply to that source.” I find Auguste’s advice to be profound – how can one stay more energised than by relying on and affirming God as the source of strength and a deep connection with him on a daily basis? Just like Auguste, I find God to be a dependable source of strength in both times of scientific success and struggles. A pertinent question Auguste asked at the end of her interview was, “What is your source of strength?”

 

 

Video – Church Affliation

We have a wonderful new Church Affiliation video available for you to share.

 

It is also available on our CiS YouTube channel.

 

Video – Christians in Science: Who are we? 

We have a wonderful new video about  “CiS: who we are” available for you to share.

It is also available on our CiS YouTube channel.

Remembering John Polkinghorne (16 October 1930 – 9 March 2021)

Sadly Revd Canon Dr John Polkinghorne KBE FRS passed away in Cambridge in March 2021, aged 90. A number of CiS members and friends share their memories of John:-

I was sad to hear of the death of John Polkinghorne because he had had such a wonderful and effective life that many will miss. I new John in a slightly different way to many other members because when I became a vicar in Bristol in 1984 I inherited John as my curate. He had left trained and become ordained with the long term purpose of seeking a ministry that helped people understand the compatibility of both modern scientific understanding and his firm Christian faith not as two separate areas but as one human experience. To become a full clergyman and to earth his theology John served as a curate in a largely working class parish in inner Bristol. I took over as Vicar there for the last year of this curacy before he moved to a small parish in Kent and began writing his series of books that many of us have appreciated. I found him a very humble man with a good pastoral heart. At our first staff meeting he said he had been invited as a fellow of the Royal Society to speak at an international conference in the South of France but had said he would have to wait for the arrival of his new boss before he could accept! His warmth of personality and the medical problems he was suffering at the time endeared him to parishioners as he engaged at a very human level. He found it a great opportunity to hone his skills in expressing complicated ideas in ways ordinary people could understand.  

He was an inspiration to me as a former chemist and I went on in my ministry to run courses in my parishes on issues of science and faith and the spirituality that could embrace both.So many seemed ignorant of both Christian understanding and current scientific  thought. In retirement I have concentrated on helping youth leaders understand how they can answer the questions of young people about science and faith. I shall continue to treasure both the privilege and inspiration I derived from getting to know John.

Terry Baillie

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For me as a young scientist, Sir Prof. Rev. John Polkinghorne provided “proof” that there was no contradiction between being a respected scientist and a christian. His intelligence, his sincerity and the ability to communicate both at once left a lasting impression on me. He was undoubtedly a leading light of his generation, but also worked hard to ensure that the flame would be passed onto the next.

Jona Foster

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Sad news but a man of gentleness and integrity with great hope. I have found his thoughts on eschatology from a scientific perspective really helpful, and not many others have engaged with that. I attended a lecture of his at the Sheffield Theological Society in the early nineties which got me going in my thinking around Science and Faith.

David Jeans

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John was our Reader at Holy Trinity Cambridge in the 1970s, while still Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University. His sermons were a model of spiritual warmth and intellectual rigour, with a remarkable humility and transparency in sharing himself and the quest for truth. He later proved to be a winsome and compelling evangelist with his ‘bottom-up’ thinking about God in an age which has difficulty contemplating the transcendent. His first foray into writing on Science and Faith, ‘The Way The World Is’ (SPCK Triangle, 1983) was a game-changer in bridging the perceived gap between the two, and hailed by the Church Times reviewer David L Edwards as one of his best books of the year.

Andy Knowles

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I had read some of his books but never had the chance to meet him. Lots to discuss in glory.

Albert Ong

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He was a wonderful man and I went to hear him speak. He was a great scientist, and portrayed his love of Christ to many as well. He will be missed.

Tony

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From a personal perspective, John Polkinghorne has been my hero since I first read a book by him when I was a teenager. When first met him as an undergraduate student I was amazed by the respectful way he talked with me, despite my lack of experience compared to his. Every time I have been privileged to have met him, I have been impressed, not only by his wisdom but also by his grace. He has done so much for our community of scientists who are Christians and I thank God for his life & work. I am sure that the legacy he leaves us with in his writings and videos will continue to inspire generations to come.

Rhoda Hawkins

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John Polkinghorne has been a constant in my working life and instrumental to how I think about the relationships between science and religion. I’m only one of thousands who have been impressed and affected by his work. I’m also in a very crowded club of people who have benefitted from attending John’s talks.

John Polkinghorne was knighted in 1997 for distinguished service to science, religion, learning, and medical ethics. He has also received the Templeton prize. After working in physics for a very long time (25 years) John then became a Priest. John said that the aim of his intellectual explorations – as a physicist and as a priest – was to bring these parts together – without compartmentalism.

I work in education and you will find John’s name on BBC Bitesize as well as in numerous curriculum documents and on exam specifications. I think John’s ideas are so loved and widely shared in education not only because they are inspirational and significant but also because his writing is engaging and accessible.

John talked about fine tuning and he painted pictures with words about what would happen if the stars were all a bit too big or too small. He described physics and theology as ‘cousins’ and said of their relationship that there are still some puzzles left to be solved. When John talked about science and about God, it was with wonder and mystery and excitement and delight.

John said that his favourite quotes included this one by Bernard Lonergan: ‘God is the all sufficient explanation, the eternal rapture glimpsed in every Archimedean cry of eureka’.

John said about this quote that, “The search for understanding, which is so natural to a scientist is, in the end, the search for God. That is how religion will continue to flourish in this Age of Science.”

Thank you John.

Prof Berry Billingsley 

 

 

 

A Christian response to COVID-vaccine doubts

Paul Ewart and Mirjam Schilling

As Christians we express our love for God by showing love to our neighbour and, as Christ taught us in his famous parable of the Good Samaritan, “our neighbour” means anyone we meet, irrespective of their relationship to us. Clearly, loving our neighbour includes not putting them at risk of harm, and we are being told that an important way of protecting those in our community, as well as ourselves, during the current Coronavirus pandemic, is to be vaccinated. Three questions have, however, been circulating that seem to undermine this advice. Is it real? Is it safe? Is it right?

The first question doubts the reality of the pandemic by suggesting that either the pandemic is a hoax or there is a conspiracy to inject the world’s population with some kind of microscopic tracking device in order to control people. Such bizarre ideas spreading on social media, entirely without evidence or rational foundation, are readily debunked by going to trusted and competent advisors. In any case, most of us know the reality of Covid, having had a relative or friend affected by the disease. As Christians we have a responsibility to seek and tell the truth.

The second questions the safety of the vaccine by raising concerns about the speed of its development and possible side-effects. The fact that effective vaccines have been developed within one year of the appearance of the coronavirus is indeed remarkable, but the work did not begin just when this virus was first detected in December 2019. Scientists have been studying viruses and how to produce vaccines for many years and the basic technologies had already been developed so that researchers were ready to apply them once the nature of the coronavirus was analysed. Nonetheless, the scientists, medics and others who produced the vaccines and ensured they were tested properly have done a remarkable job and deserve our thanks and praise for their dedication and hard work. It has also been a cause of thanksgiving that the vaccines have been proven to be remarkably free of adverse side-effects. As vaccines are meant to teach our immune system about a real infection, the aim is to stimulate the immune system to recognise and respond to the Covid virus. This can cause, for some people, a few mild symptoms that for many will go unnoticed and, only extremely rarely, people who are highly allergic (and therefore have an alerted immune system) might have more severe symptoms. No medication can ever be completely 100% free of risk since humanity is so diverse and rare reactions can happen. The key, however, is in understanding the relative risk compared both to other risks we take every day and compared to the benefits to ourselves and others. It is not 100% safe to travel by air or in a car and yet most of us take such risks without much thought. We take medicines such as paracetamol or aspirin in spite of the fact that there is a very small risk to our health by taking them. The COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be safe in the same way as other vaccinations and health treatments and protect from the much bigger risk of a real infection with the virus. Therefore, anyone who is worried can be reassured that it is safe to be vaccinated. If anyone is concerned about a specific precondition that they have, their GP will be able to advise them on their personal risk.

The third question – is it right? – is more complicated and involves our individual conscience. The problem has been raised by claims that the development of the vaccines involved the use of tissue from an aborted human embryo, in either the production or the testing. How should a Christian, or anyone concerned about the morality of abortion, decide whether or not to use something derived from a morally debatable action? It is important, first, to be clear about some facts. No tissue from embryos is used in the production of any of the current vaccines. What happened was that some tissue from a single embryo, aborted for unknown reasons, over 50 years ago was used to create a “cell line”. This process creates a source of new, but not entirely identical, cells that can go on replicating almost indefinitely. All biomedical research depends on cell lines that mimic the biological reality in our own cells. Most of these cell lines were made from cancer cells that originate from real patients, only very few cell lines were once made from an aborted embryo. Nevertheless, all of these cell lines still are an extremely valuable and indispensable resource. Most medicines, vaccines and even potential cures for cancer could not have been developed without such cell lines. The question is therefore, is it morally acceptable to benefit from an act that one may believe to have been immoral? The abortion issue is complex and Christians, in good conscience, can take different and opposing views. For those who are willing to approve abortion in some circumstances, such as to save the life of the woman bearing the embryo, then using some of the tissue to achieve a good end, may be entirely acceptable.  Others, who believe all abortions are immoral, face a more complex decision. In some ways the problem may be a choice of the lesser of two evils. In other ways, it involves deciding to what extent we can isolate ourselves from the world which engages in all sorts of immorality. Should we, for example, object to the use of chemotherapy to treat cancer because its effects were discovered from the use of poison gas developed to kill people? Would it be right to deny the treatment to a loved one or any other “neighbour” because of how it was obtained? It must surely be the loving thing to do to bring good out of a particular circumstance without, in general, using the end to justify the means.

No two moral issues are identical and the issue for Christians concerned about the abortion issue, in respect of the vaccine, is how to decide between two principles. The first is Christ’s call to love and protect “our neighbour” and the second is to respect life in all its stages of development. We cannot change the past nor completely isolate ourselves from a world of people so affected by sin. We can, however, choose the better outcome for those for whom we are now responsible – the vulnerable elderly, those with underlying health conditions and others most at risk from COVID-19. This directs us to encourage Christians to take the vaccine for the greater good. Ultimately, however, the choice is a matter for our individual conscience before God, let us pray that we make the right choice.

Professor Paul Ewart is professor of physics at Oxford University and Chairman of Christians in Science.

Dr Mirjam Schilling is a research scientist in virology at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford

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