A Relational Framework for Science and Faith

© Svilen Milev, efffective.com
© Svilen Milev, efffective.com

What if science can best be described in relational terms? It would certainly open up more opportunities for a dialogue with faith. At a gathering of scientists who are Christians in Cambridge last year, Harvey McMahon gave some reasons why this approach might work. In this final guest post in the God in the Lab series, he explains his thinking.

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Life in the Lab: Experiments, Beauty, and Making Sense of the World

The most fun part of life in the lab is doing experiments, because only then do you get to find out new things. In today’s videos, neurobiologist Harvey McMahon explains what he enjoys most about scientific research, and how his faith and work affect each other.

For more, read God in the Lab: How Science Enhances Faith (Monarch, 2015).

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Surprised by Science

Today’s post is the second in a bi-weekly series of podcasts that began with an interview with John Polkinghorne. This week I interview Harvey McMahon, a lab head at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge about life in the lab for a Christian.

You can buy a copy of God in the Lab for £6 at the Faraday Institute online shop. For more information, please go to godinthelab.org or the Lion Hudson website.

The Human Side of Science

How can a scientist who is also a person of faith communicate their experiences of working in a lab? In this video five scientists express how science has helped their faith to grow.

In a further series of videos, I explain my motivations behind writing God in the lab (Monarch, Jan 2015), and describe my favourite parts Continue reading

The Motivations of Scientists: Harvey McMahon

Start them young! © Horton Web Design, HortonGroup.com
Start them young! © Horton Web Design, HortonGroup.com

People are attracted to science for a variety of reasons. These might include fascination, the satisfaction of meeting a challenge or the privilege of discovery, as well as more mundane factors such as the opportunity to work with your hands or have a very varied schedule. Inspiring and supportive family or teachers also play a large part in developing our curiosity about the natural world.

Harvey McMahon, a neurobiologist at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, is interested in how things work. Of course he wants to understand disease processes, but when I interviewed him he explained that “when you operate at the level of molecules you need to focus on smaller details most of the time”. There is also pride in good craftsmanship. At a day-to-day level, biology is often Continue reading

Questioning

Bensik Imeri, www.sxc.hu
© Bensik Imeri, http://www.sxc.hu

When I was a PhD student in Edinburgh I went to a church that was located conveniently next to a number of good pubs. A bunch of us used to pile into one of these establishments after the Sunday evening service. The ensuing conversation ranged from ‘Who are you?’ (it was a big church), to discussions of the sermon we had just heard and other more philosophical issues. One evening I sat next to a photography student, and when I introduced myself as a PhD student in genetics she said something along the lines of, ‘All those facts and figures are not for me, I’m an arts student.’  Rather than just moving on, which would have been infinitely easier, I tried to explain why I thought science was interesting. I think I won, but you can judge for yourself.

We started out by talking about textbooks. No matter how well written one of these tomes might be or how lavish its illustrations, it’s unlikely to make it onto anyone’s bedside table unless it’s exam time. I pointed out that textbooks have their place – a student has to get up to speed in their chosen field – but by the very nature of science they’re out of date before they’re printed. Continue reading

Surprised by Science

Traces within – © Dr Lizzie Burns 2009
Traces within – © Dr Lizzie Burns 2009

One thing I always try to do on this blog is explain what it’s actually like to do science: the fun parts, the challenges, and the mundane – in other words, the human side of science, and particularly biological science.  To back up my ramblings with some perspective from someone who’s spent longer in the lab than I did, I recently interviewed Harvey McMahon. He runs a very successful lab at the prestigious MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. McMahon studies the brain, and has spent time looking at the mechanisms behind the incredibly fast communication between brain cells, or neurones. He has also spoken at the Faraday Institute recently (see previous posts).

We get to hear about the discoveries of scientists in the news, but we don’t often get to find out how those discoveries are made. Like all professions, the every day is very unglamorous. In science there is more than enough interest and excitement to keep people coming back to work day after day, putting in the hours in the evenings and at weekends.

I was interested to find out McMahon’s views on science: what makes good research, what makes a good lab tick, and how is it possible to learn anything new in biology? Continue reading