Genetics, God and the Future of Humanity

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Scientists have had a remarkable technique available to them in the last few years. A new editing system called CRISPR-Cas (biologists like acronyms as much as anyone) has made it possible to accurately change the genetic code – like guiding a pair of scissors to exactly the right spot in a text.

This technology has been used to heal genetic disease in children, such as Daniel who suffered from Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome. Cells were taken from his bone marrow and cultured in the lab, the faulty genes were replaced, and the ‘healed’ cells were put back into his body. Daniel has not suffered from the severe asthma and inability to fight infections that afflicted his older brother, and he is now alive and well aged 18. Continue reading

Guest Post: Believing the Unbelievable?

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Rocky Chang, Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies

 Shakespeare

A common objection to Christianity is that it simply isn’t believable. The virgin birth, the resurrection, the feeding of the five thousand – it’s just all rather improbable isn’t it, if not downright impossible. The question I’m going to consider in this blog post is “Does the truth have to seem believable?”, looking at examples from modern science. Continue reading

Book Preview: A Reckless God?

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The claim of biblical theism is that the world in which we find ourselves is not eternally self-sufficient: it has a maker, on whom it depends not just for some initial impulse long ago, but for its daily continuance now.

This is strange language to modern ears. The world we know seems very stable, reasonably law-abiding (in the non-human domain at least) and not at all obviously in need of any divine power to keep it going. Over the past 200 years and more, we have become accustomed to thinking of it as a mechanism, intricate perhaps beyond the grasp of human understanding, but still something self-running and self-contained. Continue reading

Guest Post: Being a Christian in Science

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For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed finding out how things worked and exploring the world of nature. An avid reader of science books even at primary school, I rapidly progressed to experimenting with my chemistry set in the cellar of my parents’ house and even made my own fireworks!  As I went on to study science for my A levels and then at University, I never felt a conflict between the world of science and my Christian faith; rather I found my wonder of God as creator increasing the more my scientific studies revealed.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a church fellowship that supported and encouraged me in my developing scientific career and enabled me to flourish both as a Christian and as a scientist. But not all Christian scientists have been so fortunate, and I have known several lose their faith because living as a Christian in the scientific workplace can be tough.  Others have found it hard to admit to their colleagues that they are a follower of Jesus.  My reason for writing this blog is not to pass judgement but to explore the reasons for this. I will stress the importance of the support and encouragement of the church in helping Christian scientists be open about their faith in the workplace and suggest some practical advice gleaned from my own experience. Continue reading

Book Preview: Feel the sun on your face

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There may be sunny days in the winter, but the sun’s rays are weak, spread over a larger area. As our half of the earth is tilted away, so we see the sun at a lower angle. As the angle of our planet shifts, and we begin to tilt back towards the sun, the sun’s rays intensify, giving them more power over a smaller area, and the sun climbs higher in the sky.

There comes a day in the spring when the sun is out and you feel it warming your face, or soaking through your sleeves. You suddenly remember feeling this before, after the winter has almost erased all memory of a warm sun. Continue reading

Humility, Hope and Holiness: A Christian psychologist explores character strengths

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When Roger Bretherton worked as a clinical psychologist he would ask the question, “What skill is missing here?” What does this patient need to develop so they can, for example, be kinder to themselves – or to other people? These character strengths and virtues are now his chosen field now that he is a Principal Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln.

Roger is interested in three main areas. He spends time exploring the methodologies and measurements that help a psychologist understand people at a human level. He is also engaged at a theological level, and trained as an existential psychotherapist. This combination of theology and psychology is a growing trend, especially in the US, where a number of educational institutions will encourage students to pursue studies in both and teach them how to integrate the two (for example, at Fuller Theological Seminary where the regular Faraday speaker Justin Barret is based). Finally, he is interested in the pragmatic – what works, or is useful to people. Continue reading

Guest Post: The Great Divide? Science, faith, and the humanities

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Over the last few years, I’ve become interested in the Great Divide (which I don’t believe in) between science and religion, and I have tried to do my bit as a bishop in building some better bridges in the churches for which I’ve had responsibility. The Faraday Institute in Cambridge and the Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science based at Durham have both been really helpful partners in the task, and this blog gives me the chance to say hooray and thank you to them both – and mention a great hero of mine.

Speaking at a recent Faraday event for local church leaders, I was struck though by another Divide. When I asked for a show of hands, I found that nearly half the participants had a further degree in science, and a those who had stopped studying science after GC(S)E’s like me were much in the minority. On reflection, the activists in both the Cambridge and Durham groups tend to be scientists too.

So where are all the humanities folk like me? Were they like me expected to “drop” science after their GC(S)Es? Have they been warned off by all the popular rhetoric of conflict? Do they lack confidence in the face of often technical subjects? Or is it easier just to leave science in its box and get on with life in ours? Continue reading