Guest Post: Purposeful Life – goal-oriented organisms and faith in the Creator

B0010971 Salmonella Typhimurium infection of a human epithelial cell
Salmonella infection of a human epithelial cell (cropped), by David Goulding, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Wellcome Images, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

A horde of salmonella bacteria invades a mouse’s guts. The rodent’s immune system is on the alert, but something unusual happens. A minority of the invaders throw themselves onto the mouse’s colon bugs, even though their attack is too risky and they die. Their comrades take advantage of the breach, yet they are not as aggressive themselves.[i]

The berserk salmonella “are prepared to sacrifice themselves for the greater good”, a researcher explains. “You could compare this act to Kamikaze fighter pilots of the Japanese army.” This scenario raises the question, did they do that on purpose? Of course bacteria do not have conscious intentions, but it is at least possible that in another sense there is genuine purpose in this behaviour. This is also an important point from the perspective of Christian faith, which involves belief in a purposeful divine creation. Continue reading

Book preview: Making Sense of Reality – A scientist’s journey into theology

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Everyone needs help when thinking through complicated questions. I arrived at Oxford University to study chemistry in October 1971. My wrestling with the complexities of quantum theory in my first term at Oxford was supplemented by a perhaps greater struggle. How could I reconcile my discovery of the intellectual vibrancy of the Christian faith with my love for the natural sciences? Would I have to compartmentalize my mind, holding them apart as strangers and possibly even enemies? I knew I could not tolerate such a dichotomization of my life of the mind. But what if it were the only option? What would I do then? Continue reading

Faith and Neuroscience: Wisdom, Training, and the Numinous

B0010280 Healthy human brain from a young adult, tractography
Healthy human brain from a young adult © Alfred Anwander, MPI-CBS, Wellcome Images, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

What help can people of faith receive from neuroscience? This was the question that Revd Dr Alasdair Coles asked in his lecture at the Faraday Institute last week. Alasdair works at Addenbrookes hospital, Cambridge, both as a neurologist and as a hospital chaplain. He brought both these perspectives to his talk, which I will summarise here in my own words. Continue reading

More Satisfying Answers: Taking the conversation about science & Christianity to a deeper level in New Zealand

new-zealand-lake-mountain-landscape-37650-crop.jpegSometimes science can throw in questions that seem to upend theology completely, but is that a bad thing? In the end, faith can come out of those conversations far stronger and deeper than before. I recently spoke to Dr Nicola Hoggard Creegan, a theologian with a scientific background who is now Continue reading

The Atom and the Atonement: Why we need models in science and theology

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Atoms by Cezary Borysiuk. Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

If you ask a 14 year old, an 18 year old and an undergraduate to describe an atom you will get different answers. Ask them to draw an atom, and the discrepancies become even more noticeable.  A 14 year old will have no issues producing an image like the one below. The undergraduate is likely to look at you quizzically. “Draw an atom? You must be joking!” Continue reading

What is the world for? Creation, purpose, and hope in difficult times

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Why should we explore the world? According to Jonathan Moo, a Biblical scholar who is currently based at the Faraday Institute, creation is not just valuable for what we get from it. In today’s podcast (transcript below) he explains why he believes the living world is valuable in itself. He also shares why he does not lose hope in the face of environmental problems – including yesterday’s US election result. Continue reading

Between Science and Theology: How science learns about unobservable entities

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Cropped from Hairy Dark Matter By NASA/JPL-Caltech [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1800, someone took the temperature of a rainbow. This story isn’t as strange as it sounds because that ‘someone’ was not the sort of person to look for a pot of gold, but a scientist called William Herschel.

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Lemuel Francis Abbott [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Herschel was a German musician and astronomer who became famous for discovering the planet Uranus. He built the best telescopes of his day, was funded by King George III, became a fellow of the Royal Society, first president of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was eventually knighted for his work. So why was such a sensible person taking a rainbow’s temperature? Continue reading