When Autumn Arrives Early: Parasites and the kingdom of God

saint-gervais-les-bains_fg22Autumn comes late to Cambridgeshire, but the horse chestnuts drop their leaves long before any other tree has begun to change its colour. Often the cause is the Continue reading

Guest Post: When is a person?

baby-605588_1920At what point in human development can we recognise the presence of another person like us?  It’s an age-old question which cannot be avoided, and I’ve been interested in the recent discussion about this on this blog.  Each one of us comes to this question from a different perspective, so I would like to offer some reflections from the perspective of a baby doctor. As a neonatologist I have cared for many tiny and fragile babies, some as small as 22 weeks of gestation and weighing less than 500g. Continue reading

Freewill and the Brain: Choices, Constraints, and Community

Cropped from Two-dimensional brain. Copyright: Radu Jianu/Brown University

Have you ever had that slightly disturbing experience of arriving at work and realising that you have very little recollection of how you got there? The human brain contains around 100 billion nerve cells[1], each of which makes multiple connections. This biological hardware is used to integrate signals from our own bodies and surroundings, as well as our memories and predictions for the future. Most brain activity actually happens without our being aware of it – our consciousness only needs to get involved when the outcome is not determined. In other words, the more routine our actions become the less we need to think about it. Continue reading

What is a Person?

Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

How would you know that a person was a person, if they didn’t come in human form? This is one of the questions that David Lahti, Professor of Biology at Queens College in New York, asked in his lecture on Biology and Personhood at the Faraday Institute this summer. As I said in last week’s post, this isn’t the sort of thing that bothers most people every day. But to appreciate the full wonder of what it means to be human, to interact with intelligent animals, or take part in ethical debates, personhood needs to be defined. This subject is a minefield, but as someone with qualifications in both biology and philosophy, Lahti was well equipped to navigate it. Here are just some of the thoughts that he shared.  Continue reading

The Evolutionary Roots of Human Moral Freedom

Pixabay – CC0 Public Domain

One of our strongest intuitions is that we are in control of our own beliefs and actions. For the philosopher and biologist David Lahti, this freedom is real but imperfect. Rounding off our series on the Faraday summer course, this is the first of two posts on Lahti’s work on different aspects of being human. Continue reading

What does social science bring to the science and religion discussion? A conversation with Faraday Institute researcher, Caroline Tee

Books by Jules Hawk. Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

How can we understand some of the social and cultural factors that influence our attitudes to science and religion? This is one of the questions that social anthropologist Caroline Tee is asking as she begins to study the ways in which Christian and Muslim scientists interpret their scriptures. In this month’s podcast (transcript below) Ruth Bancewicz met up with Caroline at the Faraday Institute, to catch up with the latest on her research and find out what motivates her in her research. Continue reading

What Scientists Believe

Biochemistry laboratory By Masur (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
5.8 billion people in the world today are religious, which is nearly 84% of the global population. That figure suggests that it’s fairly likely that at least some of the 4.2 million science and engineering workers around the globe might be religious in some way. Historians, philosophers and theologians tend to say that science and religion don’t have to be in conflict, but sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists see plenty of evidence that in the public imagination the conflict is very much alive. These are just some of the reasons why sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund wanted to study Religion Among Scientists in International Contexts (RASIC), a project that ran from 2012-2015. At the Faraday Institute course this summer, she presented some of the results, and reflected on what they mean for society. Continue reading