From the Dust: How the universe became fruitful for life

Star cluster. NASA, ESA & E. Sabbi (ESA:STScI) 678125main_hubble_sparkles_full_full
Two clusters of massive stars that may be in the early stages of merging. NASA, ESA & E. Sabbi (ESA/STScI)

How can a universe that seems so cold, dark, and sterile become a place where life can flourish? This is one of the questions that the astronomer Dr Jennifer Wiseman asked in her seminar at the Faraday Institute last month. In her talk, part of which I have summarised here in my own words, she explained why the cosmos can be seen as a very fruitful place – and why this idea is compatible with her own sense of  purpose for the world.

Jennifer grew up on a farm in Arkansas, where she came to know the stars in a way that those of us who have lived in light-polluted cities all our lives could never appreciate. She went Continue reading

Become Inspired, Leave Empowered #EarthOptimism

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Cropped from BLM 2016 Making a Difference National Volunteer Awards. By Bureau of Land Management. Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Is it sometimes ok to dance in the midst of mourning? Is there time to laugh, or only to weep?[1]

On Earth Day 2017 I joined a worldwide celebration of a concept not usually featured in conservation news: hope. ‘Surely this is no time for celebration?’, you may Continue reading

Crystal Clear: The evolution of the eye, part 2

“I am inclined to believe that in nearly the same way as two men have sometimes independently hit on the very same invention, so natural selection, working for the good of each being and taking advantage of analogous variations, has sometimes modified in very nearly the same manner two parts in two organic beings, which owe but little of their structure in common to inheritance from the same ancestor.”

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

To put Darwin’s statement in other words, it looks very much as if the processes of evolution have hit upon the same solution multiple times. Continue reading

Discipleship in all of life: Putting faith and science in the blender

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Cropped from Morning Prayers by Don Christner. Flickr. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

How much does the natural world feature in the average Christian’s relationship with God? Church leaders often speak about ‘discipleship’, meaning the process of learning what it is to be a Christian and putting that knowledge into practice. The question is, are discipleship and our experience of the created order – trees, water, rocks and stars – held in separate watertight boxes, or are they blended Continue reading

What Animals Teach Christians about Getting Along

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Portuguese Man o’ War By Volkan Yuksel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The deadly marine wonder, the Portuguese man o’ war, resembles a jellyfish with its beautiful blue and purple ship-shaped bladder and impressive 30-foot stinging tentacles. What may at first appear to be a single organism is actually a colony of four completely different types of polyp, working together so closely that they are not able to survive Continue reading

Imagination and Incredulity: The evolution of the eye

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“To suppose that the eye…could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet…”

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

The ‘yet’, in Darwin’s introduction to ‘Organs of Extreme perfection and complication’ is very telling. The ideas that follow this oft-quoted sentence remind me a little of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians Continue reading

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

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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