Science and Belief

Faith and Ecology

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To continue my series of scientist’s life stories (part 1 here, part 2 here), this week’s post is from Sir Ghillean T Prance, a botanist and ecologist whose career has taken him to the forests of Brazil, the New York Botanical Garden and Kew Gardens. He is currently the Scientific Director of the Eden Project and a trustee of the Christian conservation group A Rocha. Prance became a Christian at university and was accepted for ordination in the Anglican Church, but decided that science was the best place to use his talents. Here, he describes how his research and his faith have complemented each other throughout his career.

I first went to the Amazon region in 1963 to study plants and to collect material for basic taxonomic work. During the first ten years of my exploration in Amazonia I was privileged to travel widely and had a wonderful opportunity to carry out research in the region, with little concern for environmental issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

April 17, 2014 at 10:00 am

Miracles

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Following the popularity of the dating of the crucifixion, this week’s post is on another aspect of Sir Colin Humphrey’s work on science and religion – his work on miracles.*  

Can a scientist believe in miracles such as the Resurrection? To understand miracles we must first understand ‘normal’ events. For scientists, normal events are described by theories and laws. Laws are well established theories which have survived many tests. Laws therefore describe the past: they do not prescribe the future (ie, predict what must happen in the future) but they do raise our expectations to a very high degree. For example, we would be astonished if Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

April 11, 2014 at 10:00 am

A God Big Enough

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Sias van Schalkwyk, http://www.sxc.hu/

Sias van Schalkwyk, http://www.sxc.hu/

This week’s post is from Sir John Houghton, former Director General of the British MET Office, and former co-chair of the scientific assessment working group of the IPCC. This post was adapted from a chapter from the book Real Science, Real Faith (Monarch, 1991)*

When people discover that I am involved with weather forecasting and also that I am a Christian, I am often asked if I believe that there is any point in praying about the weather—praying for rain, for instance, when it is badly needed. I reply that I believe it is entirely sensible and meaningful to pray about the weather as, indeed, it is to pray about other things. But I also say that my belief in the meaningfulness of prayer in no way alters my determination as a scientist to develop the very best means of weather forecasting, nor does it cause me to doubt that the behaviour of weather systems follows deterministic scientific laws.

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Written by Ruth Bancewicz

April 3, 2014 at 10:00 am

An International Dialogue

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Michel Meynsbrughen, http://www.sxc.hu/

Michel Meynsbrughen, http://www.sxc.hu/

This week’s post was first published on the BioLogos forum. I was invited to write something about my experience of science and faith internationally. So far, we have launched the Test of Faith resources in the UK, US, and Brazil, and they are being published in a number of other countries where we have set up collaborations with local groups. I have found that although each country has its own particular issues, there are a number of commonalities between Christians in this area.

Christianity is an international movement. Denominations, mission movements, and well-known writers or speakers can share new ideas quickly, and even more so today with air travel and the internet. For Evangelicals, Young Earth Creationism has travelled around the globe, but the other views that Christians hold have not always been explained. Discussions like the ones that are held at at BioLogos are not available in every language, so people may be uninformed about the different biblical perspectives on Genesis.

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Written by Ruth Bancewicz

March 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

Reflections on Mind and Matter: Should we mind & does it matter?

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Cells, stained to show the inner skeleton (green)

Cells, stained to show the inner skeleton (green)

This month’s guest post is from Rhoda Hawkins, a theoretical physicist from the University of Sheffield. Rhoda recently spoke on ‘Should we mind, and does it matter?’ at the Christians in Science student conference. Here, she asks how much Christians should be involved in discussing questions of science and faith.

Why should we engage our minds in science and religion issues? Why should we engage with the big questions of mind and matter? Firstly Christians who are scientists are whole, integrated people – body, mind and spirit – so to be true to ourselves and to God we should hold together the different aspects of who we are. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

March 20, 2014 at 10:00 am

The Mystery of the Last Supper

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Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Sir Colin Humphreys is Professor of Materials Science at Cambridge University, and his most heavily quoted paper – one in the prestigious scientific journal Nature – is on the dating of the crucifixion of Jesus. How did this come about? Humphreys is a Christian, so as he said in the book Real Science, Real Faith, he has ‘made it a particular personal interest…to try to pin down more accurately the dates of some important biblical events.’

I have written before on Humphreys’ work on the dating of the birth of Jesus, but as Easter is coming soon, it seemed a good time to talk about his death. Jesus’ crucifixion is dated around 30-33AD, but Humphreys and his astrophysicist colleague W.G. Waddington came up with the more exact date. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

March 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

Religion and Mental Health

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Jesper Noer, http://www.sxc.hu/

Jesper Noer, http://www.sxc.hu/

How do mental heath professionals understand their patients’ religious beliefs? This was the question that Professor Simon Dein asked at a seminar at the Faraday Institute this week. Dein is a consultant psychiatrist, lecturer in anthropology and medicine, and founding editor of the journal Mental Health, Religion and Culture.

Dein comes from a Jewish background. He is comfortable talking about religion, and interested in its effects on mental health. He has worked for many years with patients from a variety of faith backgrounds (Jewish, Christian, Muslim and others), and has found that a clinical method that recognises a patient’s beliefs is far more effective than a secular approach.

As a clinician, Dein didn’t make any comment on whether he thought any of his patients’ beliefs were true or not. He was honest about the fact that he doesn’t believe in God Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

March 6, 2014 at 3:33 pm

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