A Bucket of Frogs: Curiosity, Wonder, and the Theology of Science

2485082563_e5a94ebb66_b
Tadpole by Evan Murphy. Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

When I was three, I knocked a bucket of tadpoles all over on the patio. I remember the incident very clearly, so it must have been a relatively stressful one. It all happened Continue reading

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

What is a Person?

photo-montage-577022_1920
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

human-995558_1920
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 Scientists Believe

Biochemistry_laboratory_MPI-CBG-panorama
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

Blood and Bones: Learning from the dinosaurs

444895248_919cf9cc74_o
Dinosaur Museum by Andrew & Becky Livesey. Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dinosaurs are often relegated to museums and kids’ t-shirts, but they are far more significant for us today than their comic-book versions might suggest. The next featured speaker in our series from the Faraday summer course is Mary Higby Schweitzer, a molecular palaeontologist from North Carolina State University. Schweitzer started out in education, studying speech therapy and qualifying as a high school science teacher, but began a second career when she went back to university as a PhD student in palaeontology. Since then, she has found herself asking questions that others have often ignored. What happens if you look for organic molecules inside dinosaur bones? What structures are preserved? What can we learn from them? Continue reading

White for Harvest: The art and science of microbes

field-918534_1920

“Look at the yeast fields, for they are already white for harvest!”, wrote Dr Maria Eugenia Inda, one of the winners of the American Society for Microbiology ‘Agar Art’ contest. I’m not sure she meant anything more than to pick up a quote remembered from the Bible and subvert it for a scientific message – the “Harvest Season” of yeast knowledge – but it made me think. Continue reading