On the outskirts of the city of Rome, you will find networks of tunnels dug nearly 70 feet underground. If you have the courage to descend the stone stairs, you will find something even more surprising: some of the first recognisably Christian burial sites in the world. In these catacombs, Christians of the first several centuries buried their dead. The Roman persecutions meant the Christians needed secretive places for burials; only then could they avoid desecration. But the most surprising thing about these ancient tombs is that Continue reading →
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 →
The more capable a person is of feeling awe, the more likely they are to understand the true nature of science. When Helen De Cruz, senior lecturer in Philosopher at Oxford Brookes University, spoke at the Faraday Institute last month, she explained the research that has shown awe moves us to see beyond ourselves, and give us a sense of smallness and humility. We often feel overawed when we are trying to take in something our minds cannot fully grasp. Awe-inspiring experiences, such as seeing a beautiful nature documentary, help us to become more aware of the gaps in our knowledge and want to learn more. It can be hard to accept new scientific theories when you have lived with the same paradigm for years. Emotions such as awe, wonder or curiosity can help shift our attitudes and make us look at the world in different ways. Awe is good for science.
De Cruz also said that the more a person is capable of feeling awe, the more likely they are to feel a sense of oneness and spirituality, to believe in a creator God, or have spiritual experiences. Awe makes us less reliant on stereotypes and mental clichés. We are less likely to take things for granted, accept easy answers, or be open to ambiguity and new ideas. Awe is good for religion. Continue reading →
We’ve probably all experienced the scenario of the irritatingly good teacher. You ask a perfectly straightforward question, but instead of a straightforward answer you receive a much harder question in return. This is good teaching, but it’s Continue reading →
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 happens when scientists team up with full-time philosophers? This is something that Professor Jeff Schloss has been doing for the last twenty years, exploring questions about altruism, morality and human uniqueness. Continue reading →
I have often written about beauty here, and Francesca Day mentioned it last week, but without defining the word itself. William Edgar is a musician and theologian based at Westminster Theological Seminary, and in his lecture Beauty Reconsidered he gave a history of the concept of beauty and proposed a form of aesthetics that I think will resonate with the ideals of many Christians working in the sciences.
In the 1960s, it was said anyone who pronounced something ‘beautiful’ was trying to exert power over it. That power was rejected, and the concept of beauty went into hibernation – at least in academic circles in Europe and North America.
It’s impossible, however, to suppress our sense of beauty. In the 1990s, philosophers started Continue reading →