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Research seminars

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion Research Seminars are held at 1.00 p.m. on alternate Tuesdays in the Garden Room, Library Building, St. Edmundís College. A free light buffet lunch and drinks are served from 12.30 p.m. onwards. All are welcome.

The Garden Room is on the ground floor of the Library Building which is located in the far left-hand corner as you enter the College grounds. The free buffet lunch is served there.

Lent term

"The trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12) What does it mean to say that creation praises the Creator?

Dr Mark Harris

Tuesday January 20, 2015

Garden Room, Library Building
St Edmund's College
Mount Pleasant
Cambridge
CB3 0BN

Abstract

"The trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Is.55:12). There are many such texts in the Bible (especially the Psalms and Isaiah) that describe elements of creation praising the Creator. How should we interpret them? Two alternatives lie immediately to hand: 1. The text is a poetic metaphor that actually refers to our human joy at perceiving the created wonder of the trees, etc. 2. The text captures something inherent in the non-human world, a theological quality that animates all created entities, whether they are capable of consciousness or not. Quite apart from the historical difficulty of knowing what the prophet/psalmist believed about these matters, it becomes apparent that neither solution is ideal from the perspective of developing a modern ecotheology. For while the first reveals a degree of anthropocentrism, the second might be seen to verge upon 'primitive animism'. Therefore, another solution must be found, one that is both scientifically sustainable and theologically helpful. Searching for a solution touches on issues at the heart of the science-religion dialogue, such as the controverted question of human uniqueness, and the theological meaning of suffering and natural evil. This talk will explore the main problems, and put forward some pointers towards a theology of nature that might be able to address them.


 

Faithful to Science: the role of science in religion

Andrew Steane

Tuesday February 3, 2015

Garden Room, Library Building
St Edmund's College
Mount Pleasant
Cambridge
CB3 0BN

Charles Raven (1885-1964): Professor of Divinity and Promoter of Science

Dr Ian Randall

Tuesday February 17, 2015

Garden Room, Library Building
St Edmund's College
Mount Pleasant
Cambridge
CB3 0BN

Abstract

Charles Raven (1885-1964) was an outstanding Anglican theologian and preacher of the first half of the twentieth century. In 1904 Raven began what was to be a long (though intermittent) association with Cambridge University, having gained an open classical scholarship at Gonville and Caius College. In 1910 Raven became Lecturer in Divinity, Fellow and Dean of Emmanuel College. From 1914 to 1932 his work included military chaplaincy during the First World War, Anglican parish ministry in Surrey, and eight years at Liverpool Cathedral. In 1932 Raven was elected Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge and he remained in that post until retirement in 1950. He was also Master of Christ’s College from 1939 to 1950. Raven was a sought-after lecturer and a prolific writer, whose many books engaged with his wide-ranging interests. He was particularly known for his contribution to the area of science and faith. His convictions about this are summed up in a book he produced in 1936, Evolution and the Christian Concept of God. Speaking of God working in the world, he wrote: ‘For myself I believe that the scientific movement and its research into the evolutionary process are a contribution of quite priceless value to religion.’ In this talk I will look at Raven’s life, his approach to issues of science and faith, and his conviction that developing a thoughtful understanding of science was one of the crucial tasks of the Christian community.

Appropriating Religion for Science in Brian Cox's "Wonders"

Dr Felicity Mellor

Tuesday March 3, 2015

Garden Room, Library Building
St Edmund's College
Mount Pleasant
Cambridge
CB3 0BN

Abstract

The 2011 BBC series Wonders of the Universe, presented by celebrity physicist Professor Brian Cox, reached a UK audience almost as large as those of popular soap operas. As the title of the series makes clear, the show drew on a discourse of wonder and the evocation of the sublime. Yet in attempting to engage a mass audience, the series also sought to construe the cosmos on a human scale. To do so, it made explicit reference to religion, both in terms of repeatedly depicting sites of religious practice and in terms of reconfiguring concepts normally assigned to religious or spiritual discourse as matters addressed by science. Ironically, the desire for spectacular images resulted in a visual preoccupation with earthly scenes, and the wish to draw cosmology into the human realm resulted in recourse to the spiritual realm. Writing in the 1980s, scholar of rhetoric Thomas Lessl argued that Carl Sagan’s television series Cosmos presented science as a “holy movement”. In this talk I will revisit Lessl’s argument to compare Wonders and Cosmos. I will argue that whilst Wonders similarly appropriated a religious register, it did so in a way that lacked the impassioned politics of Sagan’s Cosmos. Where Sagan stressed values, Cox devalued. As a consequence, Wonders’ appropriation of religion in the name of science served to reduce both to empty spectacle.


Further information about the Speakers may be obtained by clicking on the speaker's name above.