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Faraday Institute Newsletter No. 81 - October 2012


1 - 3 Faraday staff changes
4 Seminar programme
5 Faraday public lecture
6 November Reception for Scientists
7 Uses and Abuses of Biology Essay Competition
8 Review of the September God And Genetics Course
9 January course details
10 Test of FAITH activities
11 Staff activities – Bob White
12 Staff activities –Denis Alexander
13 Staff Activities – Rodney Holder
14 Staff activities – Diana Beech
15 LASAR website
16 LASAR news

1. The 1st of October sees the appointment of Professor Bob White FRS as the new Director and Professor Meric Srokosz as the new Associate Director. These appointments take place as Dr Denis Alexander retires as Director, after nearly seven years in his role as the head of the Institute. Dr Alexander will continue to work with The Faraday Institute as Principal Investigator of the Uses and Abuses Biology Grants Programme, as well as in a research project entitled ‘Genes, Determinism and God’, the theme of his forthcoming Gifford Lectures to take place at St. Andrew’s University on 3-7 December 2012. Dr Alexander was appointed a fellow of the College in 1997 and has now become an Emeritus Fellow. We would like to thank Dr Alexander for this work in establishing The Faraday Institute and so successfully expanding its activities over his period as Director.

2. Bob White has been Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge since 1989, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994. Prof. White is also a Fellow of St Edmund's College and a co-founder with Denis Alexander of The Faraday Institute. He leads a research group investigating the Earth’s dynamic crust, and his scientific work is published in over 300 papers and articles.

3. Meric Srokosz is Professor of Physical Oceanography at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton and Science Co-ordinator of the NERC Rapid Climate Change (RAPID) and follow-on RAPID-WATCH programmes. RAPID is looking at “fast” (decadal timescale) climate changes with a focus on the role of the Atlantic. His job in RAPID involves interactions with government and policy makers, nationally and internationally. In addition to a B.Sc. and a Ph.D. in mathematics, Prof. Srokosz has a BA in Theology. He has been a Faraday Associate since 2008.

4. October is a busy month in Cambridge with the start of term. The first Faraday Research Seminar of this term will be given by Dr Elizabeth Boyle, Fellow of St Edmund’s College, on Tuesday 9th October in the Garden Seminar Room of St. Edmund’s College at 1.00 p.m. with the title ‘Intersections between religion and science in early medieval Ireland’. On Tuesday 23rd October, also in the Garden Seminar Room at 1.00p.m., Prof Richard Bauckham will give a seminar on ‘Ecological hope in crisis?’ A full list of this term’s seminars may be found at

5. This term’s Faraday Public Lecture is to be given by Prof. Ian Hutchinson, Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on the topic ‘Scientism: How Much Faith Should We Put in Science?’ on Monday 15th October at 5.30 p.m. in the McCrum Theatre at Corpus Christi College [accessed down the passage-way to the right of the Eagle pub as you face it]. There will be a reception and book stall afterwards with an opportunity to chat to the speaker. This event is free and does not require booking.

6. If you are in the Cambridge area within the scientific community, please note this date for your diary: Monday, 19th November. The Faraday Institute warmly invites all those who self-identify as Christians within the Cambridge scientific community, be they in university departments, research institutes or in local companies, to a reception at 6.00 p.m. in the Guild Hall, Cambridge. For further details and to register go to:

7. The Uses and Abuses of Biology Prize Essay Competition has just closed (dead-line for essay submissions was 30th September). Aimed at those aged 30 or younger, there are three prizes for first, second and third place, worth £1000, £500, and £250, respectively. Decisions will be made and prizes awarded by 25th December. For further details see

8. The past month has again been a busy period for Faraday activities. The ‘God and Genetics’ Course took place at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, 14-16 September. There was a fine range of talks on this fascinating topic, by Dr. Robert Asher, Prof. John Bryant, Dr. Helen Firth, Prof. Frances Flinter, Prof. Keith Fox, Dr. Stephen Freeland, Prof. Sir Brian Heap FRS and Dr. David Lahti, delivered to a diverse group of delegates from 9 different countries.

9. The next course, to be held 9-11 Jan 2013, will be ‘An Introduction to Science and Religion’. This course is intended mainly for students of the Cambridge Theological Federation, but with a few places available to similar delegates from elsewhere (see A course with the same title, but aimed primarily at scientists, is in preparation for 22-24 March 2013.

10. The Test of FAITH team has been promoting our new material, Science and Christianity: An Introductory Course for Homeschoolers. Abigail McFarthing, the writer of this course, has been busy contacting homeschool groups, and also contributed an article to the BioLogos forum Science and the Sacred: If you know any homeschoolers or homeschool groups please pass the information about this free self-study material on to them. Details and e-flier are available at For larger organisations that might welcome a review copy and free DVD please send contact details to

11. The Director spoke, along with Prof John Bryant, another long-standing friend of The Faraday Institute, at Lee Abbey on a week-long course on ‘Science and Faith: Friends not Foes’. An enthusiastic group of delegates spent the week discussing the whole gamut of topics from evolution and genetic engineering to climate change and natural disasters. As usual this also raised many issues related to personal experiences, with numerous discussions taking place over coffee, cake and hot chocolate.

12. The retiring Director, Denis Alexander, gave the Walcher Lecture on Sep 22nd entitled ‘Genes, Determinism and God’ at Malvern Priory and then preached the following day to a congregation of around 600, including 400 pupils from Malvern College (once attended by C.S.Lewis) on ‘Science and Faith – the View Both Ways’.

13. Dr Rodney Holder attended the ISSR conference at the Evangelische Akademie, Loccum, near Hannover, on the topic ‘Human Nature and Embodied Cognition. Later in the month he gave a talk entitled ‘Science and Faith – Friends or Foes?’ at Buckhurst Hill Church, Essex, where he also preached on ‘Big Bang, Big God’.

14. On 20th September, Dr Diana Beech spoke at the 2012 ‘Naturejobs Career Expo’ at the Business Design Centre, London, on the topic of ‘The European Research Area: What’s in it for researchers?’ Responding to questions posed by representatives from the European Commission in a live interview, Dr Beech spoke publicly about the direct impacts of European policy on scientists and researchers in the EU today, and identified the main challenges and the important barriers to achieving researcher satisfaction in the current political climate.

15. LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion) news: the Faraday Schools website now has a new unit addressing the question 'Why do natural disasters happen if a loving God created the world?'  It includes video interviews with Prof Bob White, Director of The Faraday Institute and Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Much of the footage was filmed at the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge during a workshop for 15 year-old students (UK school year 10) from St Bede's School. See: 

16. 'Robots, God, Free Will and a Big Bang' was a one-day event on Tuesday 25th September for teenagers at the University of Reading, exploring the 'Big questions' of life. It was attended by 300 teenagers, teachers and trainee teachers, with speakers that included Prof Kevin Warwick inventor of the Rat Brain robot, Peter Hancock, Bishop in the Church of England, Jay Lakhani, Head of the Hindu Academy, Education Director for the Hindu Council UK and Dr Stephen Law, philosopher and editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK. The day included workshops in which students built their own robots, and a Panel Discussion chaired by Prof Mary James, President of the British Educational Research Association. The day was filmed for BBC Breakfast. The LASAR team is planning two further events. For more details, see or email Dr Berry Billingsley,

Bob White  Meric Srokosz
[Director]  [Associate Director]