In the previous post we looked at Rowan Williams’ contributions to the Science Faith discussion as Archbishop of Canterbury.  In this post we draw attention to the contributions of another major faith leader in the UK, that of Dr. Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.  He also happens to be stepping down from his role this year and so it seems appropriate to draw attention to some of his interactions on these issues.

Here is a nice little video of Sacks interviewing three prominent non-believing scientists (including Richard Dawkins) to see if they would agree that Science and Faith can have some kind of partnership.

He has recently published a book on the subject  (paperback came out in 2012): The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning.  This looks like an interesting and worthwhile read that I hope to get around to at some point.


In relation to the book here are also a link to an audio of a lecture given at Princeton, a recording of a conversation with Norman Swan, and a video recording of a conversation with Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

Rowan_WilliamsPhoto credit: Marcin Mazur

As Dr. Rowan Williams steps down as Archbishop of Canterbury it worth drawing attention to his reflections and contributions to Science and Faith interactions/issues during his time as Archbishop.  The Archbishop of Canterbury website is very good and contains a database of all Rowan Williams’ sermons, talks, interviews, publications etc during his time in the job.  There really is a wealth of useful material here.  Helpfully the contributions have been tagged according to category and so we can pull up all those that relate to Science, see link below:

Rowan Williams’ dialogue with Richard Dawkins can be found here, but for me the highlight is this excellent lecture and the question and answer session that followed.  Much to ponder, here are some quotes:

“Scientific research seeks to identify the causes of particular phenomena and clusters of phenomena, including of course that remarkable cluster of phenomena which is the observable universe as we now know it. Faith states, not as a matter of explanation but as matter of trust, that any form of energy whatsoever, at any stage of the history of the universe, depends upon the free initiative of God.

“religious faith can and ought to support and encourage science: science as a practice, with an impressive morality and spirituality, a commendation of attention and humility, the setting aside of self very frequently in the context of addressing the most painful vulnerabilities of the human world; a practice that trains selfless, even contemplative approaches to the world.”

Note that materials related to Rowan Williams are now stored on an archive site as Justin Webly takes over as Archbishop.

Dr. Rowan Williams (104th Archbishop of Canterbury)

Justin Welby (soon to be (current!) Archbishop of Canterbury)

I caught two things in the media today that are germane to topics discussed in this blog so I shall share them:

Firstly, a short debate, between an Oxford chemistry Professor Peter Atkins and philosopher Mary Midgley.  Peter Atkins who has released a new book (On Being: A Scientist’s Exploration of the Great Questions of Existence), In my opinion, makes the most ridiculous claims, such as “Every real question, like, where did the universe come from, where is it going, and how is it getting there – there is nothing of that nature that science cannot illuminate,”.  Mary Midgley rightly questions such imperialistic attitudes as unintelligible.  Catch the audio recording and BBC news article from this link.

Secondly, an opinion piece from The Times Higher Education with a Scientist claiming true fulfilment is achievable only through the humanities.  Here’s an interesting quote:

“If Einstein had not written down E=mc2, another scientist would one day have done so, he claimed, but no one else could have written Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.”

Read the short article in full here.

There is a news feature on the Templeton Foundation in the current addition of Nature entitled Religion: Faith in science.  Here is the link for those that are interested.

The John Templeton Foundation is a philanthropic organization that funds inter-disciplinary research about human purpose and ultimate reality.  This is their mission (in their own words):

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. We support research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. We encourage civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights.

Our vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies our support for open-minded inquiry and our hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

They also present the Templeton Prize, an annual award that honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.  See a previous post here.

I’ve just come across this new (December 2010) broadcasting series which I thought I would share as it looks like a valuable resource.  Michael Dowd has conducted 38 interviews with a a diverse range of thought leaders broadly around the topic of evolution and Christianity.  The participates include Nobel and Templeton prize winners.

I haven’t yet had the chance to listen to many of them, but I particularly enjoyed the conversation with Charles H. Townes who is 95 years old.  Charles Townes won the Nobel prize in 1964 for contributions to fundamental work in quantum electronics leading to the development of the maser and laser and the Templeton prize in 2005 for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities.

Evolutionary Christianity can be accessed free from and there is also a podcast feed.