How Can a Christian be a Scientist?

scientist-2141259_1920 pixabay luvqs copy
luvqs, Pixabay

I used to ask this question as a student. It took me a while to get to know the University staff who were Christians. I was aware of pressing ethical issues and controversial questions about science and the Bible; I knew science was a demanding career that might compete with church commitments; I knew some high-profile scientists were hostile to Christian faith. I wondered, who could make it in the world of science and still hold onto their faith? Continue reading

Book Preview: Rosalind Picard – Thinking technology, Thinking Faith

anatomy-1751201_640 Pixabay Gordon Johnson
Gordon Johnson, Pixabay

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

Life in the Lab – and the Church

Gustavo Assi in the lab. ©  Gustavo Assi
Gustavo Assi in the lab. © Gustavo Assi

Gustavo Assi is a Naval Architect and Ocean Engineer at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Here he explains how his faith is relevant to his work, and how he tries to bring scientific conversations to the church (part 1 here.)

In the same way that faith brings purpose to my research and helps me to think about difficult issues, my research brings colour to my faith. It brings the same kind of pleasure and awe that I feel when I am worshipping in my church with a choir and orchestra playing. It’s so colourful, so rich, so enjoyable, and it helps me appreciate that God is there being worshipped! The same thing happens when I am working in the lab, and it makes Continue reading

An International Dialogue

Michel Meynsbrughen, http://www.sxc.hu/
© Michel Meynsbrughen, http://www.sxc.hu/

This week’s post was first published on the BioLogos forum. I was invited to write something about my experience of science and faith internationally. So far, we have launched the Test of Faith resources in the UK, US, and Brazil, and they are being published in a number of other countries where we have set up collaborations with local groups. I have found that although each country has its own particular issues, there are a number of commonalities between Christians in this area.

Christianity is an international movement. Denominations, mission movements, and well-known writers or speakers can share new ideas quickly, and even more so today with air travel and the internet. For Evangelicals, Young Earth Creationism has travelled around the globe, but the other views that Christians hold have not always been explained. Discussions like the ones that are held at at BioLogos are not available in every language, so people may be uninformed about the different biblical perspectives on Genesis.

Continue reading

Why I am a Christian

Chris Wittwer, http://www.sxc.hu/
© Chris Wittwer, http://www.sxc.hu/

When describing her own Christian faith, Rosalind Picard, a Professor at the MIT Media Lab, said that ‘I know some people will assume I have lost my marbles…I also know that if they move beyond such superficial characterisations and ask hard questions, the ones about real meaning and purpose, that they will see more of what I see.’ That is how I feel in trying to describe my own faith. I’ve already given some hints about what I believe in previous blogs[1], but I thought it would be good to spell it out a bit more.

How can a scientist be a Christian? W.K. Clifford, a mathematician and philosopher at University College London in the nineteenth century, said that ‘it is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence’. I agree with Clifford, although Continue reading

And now for something more personal…

‘What do you do?’ is a question that I sometimes dread. My job is either a conversation stopper or a conversation starter, depending on who’s asking…

I work at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge. After my postgraduate studies in genetics I started working as a research scientist in a lab in Edinburgh. I was preparing for a move to the US to work on Parkinson’s Disease in fruit flies (as you do), but a few months into my job in Edinburgh I had a change of mind. I had been finding myself gravitating away from the lab bench, towards my desk, and realised that my passion was more for communicating science than doing experiments.

I found a new niche working for Christians in Science. This is an amazing group that draws together Christians working in all areas of science – academia, industry, and teaching, as well as students and non-scientists who are simply interested in science-faith issues. I discovered a depth of thinking about the interaction between science and faith that I hadn’t encountered before. I was challenged to confront some difficult topics – such as human evolution, use of stem cells and climate change – head on. I also met people who modelled for me how debates on sensitive issues can be conducted with grace.

It was while I was working for Christians in Science that we realised that many non-scientists in churches were looking for resources to help them think through the relationship between science and Christianity. At the time we didn’t have much to give them apart from books and academic papers. When the Faraday Institute started up in Cambridge I wanted to be part of the action, and was offered the opportunity to work on a project dedicated to developing accessible resources for churches, schools, youth groups – any context where science and faith is an issue.

Test of Faith is a collection of resources, born out of the desire to equip people to think through the challenges that science can throw at people of faith. At times the conflict is only imagined and much of what needs to be done is ‘myth busting’ or telling the stories of scientists who are Christians. But there are also some real issues that need to be discussed, such as ethics, the environment, the interpretation of Genesis, or discoveries in brain research. I’ve found it enormously helpful to have the opportunity to speak to the experts in these fields, bounce ideas off theologians and biblical scholars, and have tried to share that experience with the people of all ages who make up the Test of Faith audience.

Now that we’ve completed the Test of Faith materials I often travel around speaking to audiences in churches, schools and universities. It’s exciting to be able to challenge some of the assumptions that cause people to think that a Christian scientist must be a deeply divided, confused person. The one message that I hope people will go away with is that science and faith are friends, not foes.

One of the main things that I hope to do through this work is to encourage and equip the scientists and future scientists who will be at the front edge of ‘culture making’ in their various spheres.

This article was reproduced from the Everything Conference website, with permission.

Affective Computing

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