Gene Editing: Could You be a Superhero?

superhero woman -534120_1920 Pixabay Alan9187 copy
Allan9187, Pixabay

I recently learned that the DNA testing company Orig3n offers what they describe as a ‘fun DNA test’ claiming to be able to provide information on an individual’s strength, intelligence and speed. I love superhero movies, perhaps partly because they tap into my own wish to be able to achieve everything extremely well at lightening speed. Alas, even without a DNA test I already know from hard experience I cannot be super-anything. Even with gene modification, the chances of making me stronger, faster and more intelligent may be pretty slim. Continue reading

Tackling difficult questions

ark noah -3548007_1920 Jeff Jacobs pixabay copy
Jeff Jacobs, Pixabay

As I write, Noah’s ark has arrived for a three month stay in Ipswich docks. A half size replica of the vessel described in the Bible, this floating art exhibition will no doubt stir up some discussion and result in some emails in my inbox over the next few months!

Christians often hold different views on certain issues. Some will hold their opinions on particular issues very passionately, and you may do too. So how can we tackle these issues well? How should we express what we think, or work alongside others who hold very different opinions on topics that matter to us? Continue reading

Book preview – God, Stephen Hawking and the Multiverse: What Hawking said, and why it matters

globes multiple -73397_1920 Gerd Altmann pixabay copy
© Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

Paddling his canoe into the North Sea in 2002, John Darwin was undeniably alive. Six years later, as he sat in the back of a prison van, the same applied. It is his status in between these two events that is the more unusual (and less obvious) one. During that interven­ing period, as his struggling family would tearfully recount, he was really not in a good way at all – he was dead.

Although the wreckage of his canoe washed up the day after his death, Darwin’s body was never recovered. His adult sons were heartbroken at the loss of their father, but took a modicum of com­fort from knowing that their mother, Anne, had not quite lost everything. She received thousands of pounds of life insurance pay-outs, and the policy paid off her mortgage too. Even the darkest of clouds, it would seem, could still have a silvery lining. Continue reading

Merry Christmas!

Thank you to all our readers in 2019. To round off the year, here is a reminder that Spring is just around the corner! Many thanks to Alice Jackson, who is External Communications Officer at The Faraday Institute, for these beautiful photos.

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© Alice Jackson

Guest Post: Can humans be special in an age of AI?

artificial-intelligence-2167835_1280 Pixabay Gerd Altmann copy
© Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

“There is an entity that cannot be defeated”, pronounced the former Go world champion, Lee Sedol, in his recent announcement of retirement from the sport, a board game that is popular in South Korea and China. The entity he refers to is AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence (AI) that in 2016 defeated, for the first time ever, a top-ranked Go player, winning 4 games to 1.

For AI, this was a momentous achievement due to the complexity of Go compared to other board games such as Chess, where computers have been able to defeat grandmasters since 1997. Go had evaded researchers due to two problems: the number of possible moves a player can make (an average of 250 moves compared to Chess’s 35) and in evaluating the strength of a board position in a computer program. Continue reading

When Jesus Was an Embryo

Embryo mouse days 1 to 4 Dr M. Zernicka-Goetz, Gurdon Institute Wellcome images
Mouse embryo, days 1 to 4 © Dr M. Zernicka-Goetz, Gurdon Institute. Wellcome images

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)

“He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil 2:7)

As one who has used some of the techniques of developmental biology, I have a rather different perspective on Advent to most people. Long before that famous journey to Bethlehem, before Mary was accused of adultery, and before Joseph married his pregnant betrothed, Jesus became an embryo. Read more

Book Preview: Wild Advent – Breathe Like a Baby Dragon

Landscape
© Jack Corn, Wikimedia

This is surely something that nobody ever grows out of? I can remember as a child, walking to school on a frosty winter morning, and being thrilled at how I could puff out clouds. If you were to pass me in the street as I dash back from the school run, or run up the high street to my choir on a Wednesday evening, you may well spot me still puffing out clouds as I go. In my head, I’m still a baby dragon. I never did quite graduate to breathing fire, but breathing out clouds of smoke (or water vapour) is still almost a superpower, I reckon. Continue reading