Science and Belief

A Cross-Shaped Universe: Reflections of a Christian Physicist

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© Mark Neuburger, freeimages.com

© Mark Neuburger, freeimages.com

If faith informs how we do science (see last week’s post), how does science inform faith? Wilson Poon is Professor of condensed matter physics at the University of Edinburgh, and has thought deeply about this question. His scientific work is on the organised behaviour of different physical and biological systems, especially colloidal particles and motile bacteria. In this week’s guest post, Wilson explores what it means for him to look for God’s presence in the laboratory.

Psalm 19 says that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God.’ Nevertheless, scientists make daily progress in understanding the heavens above and the earth below without recourse to God. Thus, Psalm 19 is perhaps too easy a starting point for a laboratory spirituality today. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

November 27, 2014 at 10:44 am

Earthworms and Orchids: Why the founders of modern science cultivated virtue

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© Alfred Borchard, www.freeimages.com

© Alfred Borchard, http://www.freeimages.com

I met a man at a conference this year who said he has spent his whole life studying. I have no idea how he funds his insatiable appetite for new knowledge, but it seems he has spent his days going from one topic to the other, modelling himself as a renaissance man. He told me stories of people in 1970’s Germany who spent ten to fifteen years on a single undergraduate degree, often taking just one class at a time. For him, learning was of such value that it was worth approach it steadily and patiently, as a means in itself. I find this attitude a bit extreme, but it’s an interesting way of looking at life!

I recognised this perspective when I heard Richard Bellon, Assistant Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of History and the Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University, speak recently on values in the scientific community. Bellon has been studying Victorian scientists, or – as he says on his website – ‘obsessing about men with muttonchops who obsessed over the sex lives of plants’. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

November 20, 2014 at 10:00 am

Beauty, awe and vulnerability: The sea and Scripture

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© Karin Lindstrom, freeimages.com

© Karin Lindstrom, freeimages.com

My father loves sailing and anything to do with the sea, so I grew up hearing him joke from time to time, ‘I’m a bit worried about going to heaven, because the Bible says there will be no sea!’ I think the part he was referring to was Revelation 21, ‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more.’ Of course my dad knows that the writer of Revelation was using metaphor to describe the future, but his quips have left me thinking about what the sea meant for people at that time.

Meric Srokosz, the Associate Director of the Faraday Institute, shares my father’s interest in what the Bible has to say about the sea. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

November 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

Peering into the Brain

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© Cecilia Picco, www.freeimages.com

© Cecilia Picco, http://www.freeimages.com

If Christians are called to “love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5), then what happens when neurological disease strikes? Dr Clare Redfern is running a project with neurologist Revd Dr Alasdair Coles, based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the Faraday Institute. They are investigating whether degenerative diseases within the brain, in particular Parkinson’s Disease, affect people’s religious faith and spirituality. In this month’s guest post, Clare describes some of her work.

Parkinson’s Disease is well known as a disorder that produces physical features such as tremor, slowed movements and speech. The degeneration of neuronal networks in the brain also frequently produces emotional and cognitive effects. We are looking at how people with Parkinson’s Disease think and feel about faith and religious belief. If they are believers, might they lose interest in prayer or worship? Does God seem more distant, or possibly closer?

In reviewing the work of others in this field, I have been Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

November 6, 2014 at 10:00 am

Two Ways to Truth

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Photo from Test of FAITH. © The Faraday Institute

Photo from Test of FAITH. © The Faraday Institute

Many of us have looked up at the night sky and felt a sense of awe and wonder before the universe. This experience made Revd Dr Rodney Holder, former Course Director at the Faraday Institute, want to be an astronomer from about the age of seven. Here, he reflects on his work as an astrophysicist and how that connects with his faith.

Nowadays, because there is so much light pollution in Britain, I most often get that feeling of awe and wonder when I’m on holiday. A few years ago my wife and I were in Croatia, staying in a small hamlet, and on balmy nights we sat out on our balcony and gazed up at the sky, counting shooting stars. On another holiday we were in Peru, high up in the Andes, when we saw the night sky of the Southern hemisphere in all its glory for the first time.

The writer of the Psalms must have Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

October 30, 2014 at 10:00 am

Biology and Belief

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© Coffy Motiondesign, www.coffy.net

© Coffy Motiondesign, http://www.coffy.net

What do people in the UK think about biology in the light of faith? I have already mentioned a survey of UK biologist’s beliefs, but last month the results of another survey were released. Dr Amy Unsworth of the Faraday Institute has been studying the general population, and the results are even more surprising.1

A nationally-representative YouGov survey of 2116 people in Britain reveals that the vast majority of people either accept or don’t feel strongly either way about a number of key findings of modern science: that plants and animals have evolved from earlier life forms (97%), that humans have evolved from non-human life forms (93.2%), or that the earth is billions of years old (96%). 24.5% of people said that they had become more accepting of evolution over the years.

Amongst regular worshippers (those who attend religious services once Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

October 23, 2014 at 10:00 am

Posted in biology, evolution, sociology

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Reflections of a Cancer Biologist

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© Philippa Darbre

© Philippa Darbre

Last week I mentioned that a large proportion of biologists believe in God, so it’s time to hear from one of those people. Philippa Darbre is an Associate Professor in Oncology at the University of Reading. She began her career with a degree in biochemistry from Birmingham and then a PhD from Cambridge. After 5 years at the Molecular Medicine Institute, Oxford, and 9 at Cancer Research UK, she joined the University of Reading in 1991. Philippa begins her own story of of relating science to faith with a verse from Psalm 8.

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them?

At its essence, science is about observing the world around us, and exploring how it works, or, in my case in cancer research, trying to understand how things can go wrong. The beauty of the night sky is Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ruth Bancewicz

October 16, 2014 at 10:00 am

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