Earlier this year, as a practical theologian, I was given the opportunity of presenting at a meeting hosted by the American Geophysical Union. I laid out the case for a close collaboration between theology and geoscience. After my brief presentation, enough interest was kindled for me to be invited to enlarge on my case, since in the words of one delegate, “We as geophysicists have never felt comfortable that theology can contribute anything to our science.” I enlarged on my case, and as I did so I felt encouraged to feel a previous ice age beginning to melt: the ‘ice age’ of science and faith being in conflict. Continue reading
Since 2012, the research agency Ipsos/ MORI has been conducting surveys into, what they have dubbed, the perils of perception. This explores the difference between people’s perception of something and its reality. For example, people in the UK overestimate prison population, knife crime, and unemployment but underestimate the impact of climate change and the level of sexual harassment.
Ipsos/ MORI does not ask about people’s perception of science and religion, in part because there is no ‘reality’ figure, such as official measures of unemployment or prison population, to compare it against. Nevertheless, the data in this report suggest that this topic does suffer from the peril of misperception. More people think that there is a general antagonism between science and religion than feeling strongly about it themselves… Continue reading
What Nature taketh away, Nature giveth. Two days of endless rain once again swell the river…which, when it abates, leaves a stranded tide of thousands of edible hazelnuts.
I have noticed that I have again accorded nature a capital letter. What lies beyond the window pane is not anything as neutral or insipid as the ‘environment’. The more time I spend outside…the more certain I become that the living system around me is self-conscious, architected, immense and, ultimately, a verbally ineffable spiritual reality. One can harmonize with Nature – Pan, Creation, Spirit, Mother Earth, call it what you will – but only on its terms. Little Lewis-Stempel, Big God.
I don’t think nature is a person, but all the same John Lewis-Stempel’s experience resonates with me. In his book ‘The Wild Life’ (Black Swan, 2009) he describes how he spent a year living off the land he and his family bought in west Wales, eating only things he foraged, caught or shot in forty acres of rough farmland. This involved spending most of his days outdoors, and as his senses sharpened he tuned into his surroundings – and also into something spiritual. Continue reading
My day-to-day work as a research scientist involves looking down microscopes at developing organisms, reading papers about the latest discoveries in developmental biology and meeting colleagues and collaborators to discuss new ideas. It is a job that I love!
It is also a job that I find closely aligned with my values and vocation as a Christian. However, this is a more of a general feeling that I have, rather than something that I have thought about directly. Indeed, although I sense that my scientific and faith journeys are somehow intertwined, they rarely overlap directly. Continue reading
When you think back to your science lessons at school, what did they feel like?
The chances are that some people loved them, but most didn’t. Bits of school science may have been fun but too many people have only a muddled memory of lots of things they had to learn by heart, livened up with the occasional bit of practical work.
Recent efforts at reforming school science are concentrating on the notion of the ‘Big Ideas of Science’. With changes to the curriculum, the hope is that students won’t drown in the detail but will have a clear idea of what they are learning and why. Continue reading
I have an intense memory of my first lengthy conversation with an artist (also a professor of fine art at my then home university of Leeds) about our respective experiences of bringing to light new work in art and in science. He spoke of his first experimental attempts to realize an original conception, of the confrontation of his ideas with the felt constraints of material—of paint and photographic print, of the necessary reformulation of the original concept, of the repeat of these frustrated assays not once but many times. I found that I could tell the story of almost any programme of scientific research I had experienced in almost precisely the same terms. Continue reading
Will the argri-tech revolution have the same impact that the green revolution of the 1950’s and 60’s had on farming? Will it help us into a more sustainable and more healthy way of living? As well as improving crop yields, a high-tech approach to farming promises might help farmers take better care of the environment. For example, small autonomous tractors and other equipment could do less damage to the soil and make better use of steep or oddly-shaped fields, or help in areas where only some patches of the soil needs fertiliser or water.
For some farmers, the idea of letting robots loose on the crops might sound like the beginning of the end, Continue reading