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 →
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 →
Nearly the whole of my research career took place in the present ‘golden age’ for the study of DNA, genes and genomes. At the end of the 1960s scientists had indicated how useful it would be to be able to isolate individual genes in order to study their structure and function. That wish was fulfilled in the spin-offs from the invention in the early 1970s, of genetic modification (genetic engineering), a scientific milestone that marked the start of this golden age.
By the end of the 20thcentury experiments were being done, that thirty years earlier were not even dreamed of. This was certainly true in my research group’s work on the biochemistry and genetics of DNA replication, giving us the real privilege of uncovering some of the beautifully complex and intricate mechanisms used by cells in ‘managing’ and copying their genetic material. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
When Dellarobia Turnbow, an Appalachian farm worker, encountered millions of butterflies in the woods behind her house, she first thought the trees were on fire but not burning up—and that this was a sign for her to stop making a bad decision. She had been wrestling with an unhappy marriage, life on an unproductive farm, and bringing up two kids on an almost non-existent income. Her overwrought mind couldn’t quite take in what was in front of her eyes. When she persuaded her busy family to take a walk up the mountain, the reality of what they were all seeing eventually sank in. Continue reading →
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 →