Guest Post: Genetics, Bioethics and the Beatles

dna-fingerprint-1-1163530-1278x903 Flavio Takemoto freeimages crop
© Flavio Takemoto, free images

Nearly the whole of my research career took place in the present ‘golden age’ for the study of DNA, genes and genomes. At the end of the 1960s scientists had indicated how useful it would be to be able to isolate individual genes in order to study their structure and function. That wish was fulfilled in the spin-offs from the invention in the early 1970s, of genetic modification (genetic engineering), a scientific milestone that marked the start of this golden age.

By the end of the 20thcentury experiments were being done, that thirty years earlier were not even dreamed of. This was certainly true in my research group’s work on the biochemistry and genetics of DNA replication, giving us the real privilege of uncovering some of the beautifully complex and intricate mechanisms used by cells in ‘managing’ and copying their genetic material. Continue reading

Guest Post: The Story the Universe Tells

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Hubble Ultra Deep Field, by NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

I like to joke that I built a loft conversion on our house so that I could get an uninterrupted view of the sunset across the city’s rooftops from the large windows we installed. Expensive sunsets! In actual fact, the roof windows have enabled me to enjoy the delights of the sky at night more than at sundown (when I’m normally ferrying children to bed). After breastfeeding my daughter in the night, I’ll gaze at the stars for a few moments before heading back to bed. However grumpy I am about having got up, those few moments of starlit wonder reassure me that there is a much bigger picture than this interrupted night. The stars speak of a greater plan and purpose by their simple majesty. Continue reading

Book Preview: Am I Just My Brain?

mind brain-544404_640 John Hain pixabay copy
John Hain, Pixabay

I will never forget the day I saw a human brain removed from a corpse. At that moment, I was already very familiar with the human brain, having spent years imaging and studying it. Yet, this experience was different altogether.

A group of us, dressed in green robes, wearing blue plastic shoes, were in a dissection room in a medical school. The  icy formality matched the cold air of the surroundings. The pungent smell of formaldehyde, used to preserve human tissue, filled our nostrils. The body of an older woman lay on the bench before us. Continue reading

Sustainability Pledge: Why the environment is my problem

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© Felix’s Endless Journey, Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

When Dellarobia Turnbow, an Appalachian farm worker, encountered millions of butterflies in the woods behind her house, she first thought the trees were on fire but not burning up—and that this was a sign for her to stop making a bad decision. She had been wrestling with an unhappy marriage, life on an unproductive farm, and bringing up two kids on an almost non-existent income. Her overwrought mind couldn’t quite take in what was in front of her eyes. When she persuaded her busy family to take a walk up the mountain, the reality of what they were all seeing eventually sank in. Continue reading

Guest Post: Celebrating Easter…and Moon Walk Sunday?

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Apollo 15, NASA

At the start of my Easter sermon (April 21st) this year, I intend to show a brief but hilarious video about the first manned moon landing by Armstrong and Aldrin on Apollo 11. I’ll explain more about this clip later but one reason why it’s a good one for my Easter 2019 talk is that July 20th this year is the 50thanniversary of Apollo 11’s historic lunar landing. In fact, I’m suggesting that as many churches as possible might mark this Golden Jubilee by making Sunday July 21st‘Moon Walk Sunday’. Continue reading

Guest Post: Called to Care for the Oceans

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Humanity is affecting the ocean in profound ways. In this post, I will briefly explore two of those impacts from the perspective of a professional oceanographer. First, the effects of human use of fossils fuels leading to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and so to global (including ocean) warming; and second, human disposal of plastics in the ocean. The importance of the latter was highlighted by David Attenborough in the BBC’s “Blue Planet II” in the autumn of 2017, leading to an increased public awareness of this issue. However, both issues have been of concern to oceanographers for many years. Continue reading

Book Preview: John Ortberg – Boiling Kettles and Remodeled Apes

tea-place-1154699-1278x855 Juan Vasquez freeimages crop

Does science disprove our faith?We might start thinking about this by considering the question of whether science is the only reliable way to acquire knowledge. Science has great prestige in our day, so this is a really important question. Are there any other kinds of knowledge besides scientific knowledge? The short answer is yes, and if we don’t recognize that, it limits the knowledge we have to live by. Because science has made such amazing progress in certain fields like medicine and technology, some people claim that the scientific method, or empirical verification, is the only way to reliable knowledge. That would mean there is no such thing as moral, spiritual or personal knowledge. This view that the scientific method is the only reliable way to knowledge is sometimes called scientism. Continue reading