How does the interaction between Science and Faith enhance Human Flourishing? This was the question behind the Faraday 2018 Summer Course held at Lucy Cavendish College in Cambridge in early July. Nearly 50 participants representing 12 different nations including, the USA, South America, Africa, The Middle East, China and Europe, enjoyed a summery week jam-packed with talks, discussion groups, panel discussions and speaker interviews. The panel of speakers was almost as diverse as the participants and so in addition to speakers from the University of Cambridge and other UK Universities, we also heard from scientists, theologians and philosophers from the USA, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UAE.
The overall theme of Science Faith and Human Flourishing was taken from the Templeton World Charity Foundation grant which has funded much of the Faraday Institute research over the past three years and a number of the talks reflected the results of this research. However, daily themes explored the subject in more detail. The first day took a philosophical angle with Professors Tim O’Connor (Indiana) and René van Woudenberg (Free University, Amsterdam) exploring the limits to science and the ways we know in science and faith. Professor Ian Hutchinson (MIT) also explained the ways in which science and theology can learn from each other. The second day took the theme ‘Science, the Bible and Theology’ and was a mix of philosophy, science and history with talks on cosmology, evolutionary genetics and an overview of the place of natural theology in Christian thought. In part as a result of recent research at the Faraday Institute the third theme focussed on the brain and human identity with three related talks – ‘Is the brain hard-wired for faith’ (Professor Stephanie Clark, Switzerland), ‘The psychology of faith’ (Revd Dr Joanna Collicutt, Oxford) and ‘Could a robot ever have real human identity’ (Professor John Wyatt, UCL). A panel discussion later that day allowed the audience to draw out the speakers further on their views with a huge range of deep questions. The fourth day was more theological and sociological and looked at creation and evolution from the point of view of the Genesis text, current theological thinking and in an Islamic context. We also heard the results of a social survey on current views in the UK presented by Dr Amy Unsworth of the Faraday Institute. The final day looked at the themes of science, ethics and human flourishing and speakers considered the themes ‘Environmental ethics and the Christian faith’, ‘Religious engagement with climate change’, ‘The role of religion in response to natural disasters’ and ‘Ethical challenges to the beginning and end of life’.
There was a lighter side to the week and participants enjoyed an afternoon punting on the river, a science walk around Cambridge, a rare glimpse of Darwin’s original letters and manuscripts at the University library and a gala dinner on the Thursday night. The Faraday Schools Team displayed some of the learning materials that they have developed to engage primary school children in science and faith issues. Feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive expressing pleasure in the way in which the speakers demonstrated such enthusiasm for their subject matter and were able to explain complex and sometimes controversial topics with great clarity.
Most of the talks have been filmed and will soon appear on the Faraday Institute website
and so are freely available for a wider audience. Next year, 2019, the 14th
Faraday Institute Summer Course will be held in early July so why not book the dates in your diary now?