When I left the full-time practice of science and turned my collar round to become a clergyman, my life changed in all sorts of ways. One important thing did not change, however, for, in both my careers, I have been concerned with the search for truth.
Religion is not just a technique for keeping our spirits up, a pious anaesthetic to dull some of the pain of real life. The central religious question is the question of truth. Of course, religion can sustain us in life, or at the approach of death, but it can only do so if it is about the way things really are. Some of the people I know who seem to me to be the most clear-eyed and unflinching in their engagement with reality are monks and nuns, people following the religious life of prayerful awareness. Continue reading →
The Egyptian, Babylonian, Indian, Polynesian, Chinese, and Meso-American cultures all built up complex and sophisticated systems for making sense of the natural world as they understood it within the context of their environments. … “Nature” was not conceived of as having an independent existence, but was, rather, an expression of many fickle deities in action, and could suddenly change at the failure of a sacrifice or the omission of a ritual. Continue reading →
At some level we fear technology and its power over us. But the church can’t be content to merely offer warnings—we also need to call out the good in technology… we need to remember that technology, in the sense of it being something useful created through the application of science, has been part of humankind for quite a while. It finds its way into the Scripture early when Tubal-Cain “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22) and continues throughout its pages. In fact, the church and technology have enjoyed a long and often positive history… Continue reading →
When we are faced with issues of climate change, habitat loss, global population increase and the resulting demands for resources and waste management, the question is not just how to respond, but why? In her lecture at the Faraday summer course, Biblical Dr Hilary Marlow described three ways people answer the question “Why care for the Earth?” Continue reading →
How will developments in AI and robotics change the way we think about what it means to be human? This was the question that Professor John Wyatt, a medical doctor with a long involvement the discussion about what it means to be human, asked in his lecture at the Faraday Institute summer course this month, which I’ll summarise here. Continue reading →
Where can we go to find out what is true? At the Faraday Summer course last week, the Dutch philosopher Professor René van Woudenberg explained why science cannot be relied upon as the only source of truth in the world. In a sense, he said, this type of argument is ‘kicking at an open door’. Philosophers have known that we need more than science as a source of knowledge for a long time, but it’s worth talking about because many people don’t know the door is open! Science is a great source of knowledge, but it has a number of limitations. Continue reading →
The simple act of buying a coffee and a croissant in a coffee shop rests on a massive chain of cooperation dating back thousands of years. There was the growing and processing of raw materials, sourcing and supplying them, manufacturing products, setting up a business, training staff, and so on. Perhaps the most important links in this chain were the people who shared their knowledge about all those processes across the globe, and over many generations.
Humans are unusually cooperative, but other living organisms also play the same game. In Supercooperators: Evolution, Altruism and Human behaviour, or Why we need each other to succeed, the biological mathematician Martin Nowak, and his cooperating co-author the science journalist Roger Highfield, explain how this process works. Continue reading →