Science and Belief

Symmetry or fine-tuning?

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Hydrogen_Density_Plots wikipedia public domain cropped

Why is there so much symmetry in nature? I shared some examples in an earlier post, and questioned whether there was a link between these and the ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe. I asked Francesca Day, a PhD student at the University of Oxford, if she could investigate. Francesca’s own work is on the astrophysical signatures of dark radiation, and here she explains why she thinks symmetry might lead to a more wonderful explanation of the universe than the mystery of fine-tuning.

Many argue that if the laws of physics had been just slightly different, life – or at least life as we know it – would not have been possible in the universe. The fundamental laws and parameters of physics seem to have conspired so as to make the formation of life possible. To many it seems as if science is pointing to a designer of the universe who set all these parameters just right for us – as if science is pointing the way to God. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

July 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

Models

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Last week the Faraday Institute’s annual summer course was held in Cambridge, and we played host to sixteen lecturers and forty-six delegates from all over the world. The lectures will be posted on the Faraday website in the coming weeks, but here is a taster.

The first lecture was from Professor Tom McLeish, a physicist whose work I have described here before, and who is no stranger to posing interesting questions. McLeish’s task was to set the scene for the week, exploring the relationship between science and religion. He spent much of the time looking at two questions: ‘What is science?’ and ‘What is religion?’

The main point of his talk was that the problem with the Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

July 17, 2014 at 10:00 am

This Fertile World

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Earth from Apollo 17, NASA, 1976

Earth from Apollo 17, NASA, 1976

‘Planet Earth is astonishingly fruitful’, says Robert White, Professor of Geophysics at Cambridge University and Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. White is often asked why God would allow natural disasters to happen. He has laid out his answer in a new book Who is to Blame? Disasters, Nature and Acts of God. Part of his response is to begin by explaining the science behind the fertility of the Earth, and I share it here with permission of the author.

Without a measure of natural global warming, without earthquakes, without volcanoes, without floods the world would be sterile and humans could not live here. But paradoxically, many of the processes that make it possible for humans to live on earth are the same as those that Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

July 10, 2014 at 10:00 am

Reimagining Job

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Orion Nebula, NASA, ESA, M. Robberto & Hubble Orion Treasury Project Team

Orion Nebula, NASA, ESA, M. Robberto & Hubble Orion Treasury Project Team

I recently got together with some scientists and theologians to study part of Job. The final few chapters (38-42) of this book are a description of God’s role in creating and sustaining the universe and everything in it: the Sun and stars, Earth and sea, weather and wild animals. Stars move in their courses, weather changes and animals behave in their different ways. We didn’t make any of these things ourselves [1] and we have very little control over them, even with today’s scientific knowledge.

But are we any less awe-struck because we now understand how some of these processes work? If so, how can we identify with the Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

July 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

A Virtuous Circle?

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Scientists and policymakers discuss values in science  © photo used with permission.

Scientists and policymakers discuss values in science
© photo used with permission.

Scientists in Europe are concerned about values. A massive new research and innovation programme called Horizon 2020 was rolled out last December, with the first round of grants being awarded this summer. A number of people have been raising questions about some of the ethics behind this effort, and in November last year they came together at a workshop on “The Value(s) of Science”.

Horizon 2020 is the second biggest source of non-military funding for scientists after the US National Institutes of Health. It already includes allowances for legal or ethical differences in each country, accountability structures to prevent academic fraud and plagiarism, a ban on the creation of embryos purely for research purposes, and many other ethical guidelines.

Professor John Wood, Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and chair of the Christians in Science board of trustees, felt that other values needed to be included in the mix Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

June 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

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Life in the Lab – and the Church

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Gustavo in the lab

Gustavo in the lab

Gustavo Assi is a Naval Architect and Ocean Engineer at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Here he explains how his faith is relevant to his work, and how he tries to bring scientific conversations to the church (part 1 here.)

In the same way that faith brings purpose to my research and helps me to think about difficult issues, my research brings colour to my faith. It brings the same kind of pleasure and awe that I feel when I am worshipping in my church with a choir and orchestra playing. It’s so colourful, so rich, so enjoyable, and it helps me appreciate that God is there being worshipped! The same thing happens when I am working in the lab, and it makes Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

June 19, 2014 at 10:00 am

Life in the Lab – Ocean Engineering

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SONY DSCWhat does life in the lab look like for someone in Brazil? Gustavo Assi completed his PhD at Imperial College, London, then returned to Brazil to start his own research group. While in the UK, Gustavo joined Christians in Science, and he is currently involved in setting up a similar group in Brazil (details here).

I’m a lecturer in Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering at the University of São Paulo, which is the largest University in Brazil. I’m also on the leadership team of a Presbyterian church in São Paulo, where I spend time teaching both adults and teenagers.

I’m an experimental hydrodynamicist, so I work in the lab and get my hands in the water, understanding and analysing natural phenomena. I also have to be very practical, coming up with engineering solutions that are useful for people, and address current problems Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

June 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

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