Book Preview: Science and Humanity – reconfiguring the public understanding of science

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Pixabay

It is time to shake off a widely believed but mistaken idea of what science is and how it interacts with human life in the round.

For a long time now it has been the habit of science writers to present their discipline as if it was the be-all and end-all of knowledge, and everything else follows in its wake. Particle physicists have written about their forthcoming ‘theory of everything’ as if it amounted to the final word on the nature of reality, the very ‘mind of God’…The same fundamental error is promoted by neuroscientists who, waxing lyrical over wonderful magnetic images of the living human brain, have declared or implied that all the functioning of the brain is about to be laid open, with no input from the arts and humanities required.  Continue reading

Ascension Day Guest Post. Restoring Creation: a Christian perspective on rewilding

© Alias 0591, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Galloping wild horses, cranes soaring overhead, beavers splashing in rivers and the howl of wolves echoing through the forest: this is a vision that has led to an explosion of interest in the topic of rewilding. George Monbiot arguably brought rewilding into the public sphere through his 2013 book Feral, capitalising on an unspoken yearning in our society to reconnect with nature. An impressionable biology undergraduate at the time, I recall feeling a thrill (yes, I’m a nerd!) as Monbiot set out a radical new vision for conservation. Fast forward to 2019, and rewilding is an integral component of ever-increasing concerns surrounding environmental sustainability; a recent petition calling for the restoration of British nature has, to date, attracted nearly 100,000 signatures.

So, what is rewilding, and how can I respond as a Christian? Is there a richer theological message from rewilding than simply environmental stewardship; a reconciliation between human beings and God’s creation that points us towards the ultimate restoration to come? Continue reading

Guest Post: Seeking the Mind of God

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The Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, by Richard Marriott, Pixabay

God found me very late in life. I had walked out of church at the age of 14, because it didn’t make sense. We arrived back from Kenya in time for me to join the local school for O-levels, and I became committed to studying science from then on. I read Natural Sciences (Physics) at Cambridge, then came to Jodrell Bank (University of Manchester) to do my PhD in Radio Astronomy. I not only found a PhD, but also a husband at Jodrell, and went with him to Caltech when he got a postdoctoral position there.

After some visa negotiations, Caltech also found funding for me, and I started doing optical astronomy with the big telescopes at Palomar. When we returned to the UK 3 years later, I obtained more funding to work on computational astrophysics, building n-body models of galaxies to see how the stars moved to make up the shapes we see. 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?

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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

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