As a child Rosalind Picard, a Professor of Computer Science at MIT, was encouraged by a neighbour to read the Bible – starting with the book of Proverbs. She expected to encounter fantastical stories, but found it profoundly wise. She went on to read the whole Bible, and found herself changing in response to what she read. Later she described that time as “an experience of being spoken to. When you enter into a conversation with somebody, if you’re willing to truly listen, then you are also open to being truly changed.” Rosalind enjoyed being made to think. She began to question her assumptions about Christianity, and although it was a long time before she became a Christian herself, that journey started for her with the Bible.
For a Christian, the Bible is God’s word to us; it tells us about God’s character and creative purposes, how he has related to people in the past, and his promises for the future. Science is a specific way of studying the world, exploring the physical properties of things – a wonderful way to explore God’s creation. With this in mind, if the Bible and science seem to be contradicting each other, surely we have made a mistake in interpreting one or the other? Continue reading →
To risk sounding like a smart aleck seven-year-old, technically speaking you can only prove things mathematically. If you need to know that one plus one equals two, don’t go to a chemistry lab. The natural sciences deal with objects and forces that can be observed and measured. Scientists look at the evidence from their experiments and try to come up with a way of thinking about the material world that makes sense.
For example, if I travel around my local area and see nothing but brown cows, then I could try out the statement that “all cows are brown”. I couldn’t prove that all cows are brown. I could never rule out the existence of a different-coloured cow somewhere in the world. Scientific knowledge is always provisional. Continue reading →
One place where my faith has helped me with my science is that it has made me fearless. I take it literally when the Bible says ‘Fear only God.’ I’m not going to fear what all my colleagues are going to think of me. Before God all of the most intimidating professors really aren’t intimidating at all. With this perspective all fear of people vanishes. As a child I was quite nervous in front of people, detested public speaking and would weasel out of any public appearance, especially the weekly show-and-tell time at school. I would hide the object my Mom made me bring so I wouldn’t have to stand up in front of class and talk. I would have cowered in the presence of the Nobel prize-winners, CEOs, rock stars, You Tube luminaries, heads of state and other people that I have the pleasure to meet regularly these days. What brought about this change in me? Continue reading →
I spent last weekend at Lee Abbey, Devon. The theme of the weekend was ‘Science & Faith in a Secular Age’, with the Exeter-based molecular biologist John Bryant as the main speaker (I managed to sneak in as a workshop leader). We spent most of Saturday morning thinking about how science has been misused to further a secularist agenda, and how much more awe inspiring the real picture is – using Job 38 and John 1 as a basis for that reflection.
What struck me in particular was the warden David Rowe’s talk on Sunday. He started from the same Bible passages and asked, ‘How does God manage to communicate with us without obliterating us?’. If God created on the scale of the universe, how could he possibly be in the room with us without turning us into dust and ashes? Continue reading →
It’s not a typo, it definitely is ‘affective‘ computing. Rosalind Picard runs a research group at the MIT Media Lab that looks into ways in which computers can interpret and respond to human emotions. She visited the Faraday Institute this week to give a lecture on ‘Playing God? Towards machines that deny their maker’ (watch/listen online). Besides describing some fun and no doubt very useful new technology, such as a sociable robot called Kismet, there was plenty of food for thought. Continue reading →