About

On Common Ground starts from the premise that science and religious faith are not only compatible but mutually complementary.

Through a series of four events, we want to provide the space to inform about aspects of modern science, including its applications, and discuss the relationship between science and religious belief. All are welcome – scientists, non-scientists, people of faith, atheists, or all of the above.

Our key questions are:

Can there be a mutually enhancing relationship between science and faith?

Do the findings of science challenge our faith in any way?

Can God feature in scientific discourse?

Is faith relevant in our contemporary ‘scientific world’?

Are scientists playing God? Can we use Christian ethics to evaluate the applications of science?

In current societal discourse, the secular-humanist position has become dominant; widespread attitudes to science are contributing to this dominance. Science is seen as a ‘rational’, evidence-based approach to truth, leaving no room for other approaches. Thus religious faith is becoming marginalised. Because of this, science is seen by some as an enemy of faith. Of course, this is not how it actually is.

Science is not the only way to approach truth; it is very good at doing what it is supposed to do, namely to arrive at an understanding, albeit incomplete, of how the universe works. Its findings present us with a universe that, at all levels from subatomic particles to galaxies and beyond, is, in the correct sense of the word, awesome. But there are many questions that science cannot answer and many of these are in the realm of religion. For those questions we need different methodologies and approaches.

Nevertheless, there can be a very fruitful relationship between science and faith. At stake in this relationship is the promotion of the understanding that science does not threaten our faith but can indeed enhance it. We hope that through the On Common Ground events and conversations, Christians in Exeter and wider afield will gain more confidence in holding their faith in a scientific age and discover a deeper worship of God the Creator.

The course events encompass several different formats to help us explore particular aspects of our overall theme. A talk from a well-known scientist-Christian will outline the mutual complementarity of science and religion. There will be a conversation between a scientist-Christian and a scientist who is not a religious believer. There will be two panel discussions, the first on ethics of science and medicine, held at Exeter University as a means of engaging with the scientific community. In the second, five scientist-Christians will share their journeys in faith.

We have chosen to hold the series in Lent, as a time when many people reflect on their spiritual journeys. Happily, it also coincides with British Science Week during 10-19 March.

Course Directors

Canon Anna Norman-Walker

Anna is currently the Canon Chancellor at Exeter Cathedral. She has responsibility for outreach and education and is responsible for the Holy Ground Community, which offers creative contemplative worship monthly with guest speakers addressing topics of faith, justice and the arts. Read more »

Prof John Bryant

John Bryant is Professor Emeritus of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Exeter. Throughout his career as a university-based scientist, he worked with DNA and genes, an area that raises many questions, including ethical questions. He has a very long-standing interest in the science-religion debate and has spoken and written widely on this and related topics. Read more »

Acknowledgements

Scientists in CongregationsThe Scientists in Congregations project, funded by the Templeton Foundation, provided the grant enabling On Common Ground.

Exeter CathedralExeter Cathedral is hosting three of the events and providing marketing and PR support.

University of ExeterThe University of Exeter is hosting the panel discussion on 16 March, through the auspices of the Lazenby Chaplain, Rev Chantal Mason.

Christians in ScienceThe local group of Christians in Science is co-sponsoring the panel discussion on 30 March.

We are very grateful to them all.

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