Awe, Wonder and Beauty in Science: a route to God – or not?

Prof John Bryant in conversation with Dr Ruth Bancewicz (Senior Research Associate of the Faraday Institute, Cambridge) and Prof Timothy Lenton (University of Exeter)
Thursday 23 March 2017
Exeter Cathedral

Please watch the video of the conversation, and read on for more information about the event and how to continue the conversation.

Our event in week three took place in the Cathedral and was a conversation between Dr Ruth Bancewicz and Professor Tim Lenton, guided by Professor John Bryant. All three have expressed in different ways their passions for science and an appreciation of the beauty of the intricate ways in which the world works. In many scientists this leads to deep sense of awe and wonder. However there remains a question of whether this also leads us to think of wider questions, for example about whether we find in awe and wonder a route to think about God. Our two main participants, Dr Bancewicz and Prof Lenton, differ in their views about this and engaged in an open discussion around these ideas.

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There is a discussion of the video on Youtube.

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Who’s who?

John BryantJohn Bryant was Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Exeter and for five years was also Head of Biosciences. He is now Professor Emeritus. His research was mainly focused on the biochemistry of DNA and genes.

John was a Visiting Research Associate at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA from 1992-1997 and Visiting Professor of Molecular Biology at West Virginia State University, USA from 1999-2007. He is a Past-President of the Society for Experimental Biology and a former Chair of Christians in Science. In 1995/96 John and (now Dame) Suzi Leather introduced at Exeter the first UK university Bioethics course for Bioscience students. Since 2002 he has been (with Dr Chris Willmott, University of Leicester) the advisor on Bioethics to the Higher Education Academy.

He is well-known as a speaker, writer and broadcaster on science, bioethics and on the science & religion debate. The latter has included contributing to The Faraday Institute’s multi-media resource "Test of FAITH". In his spare time John enjoys sport, bird-watching and the ‘great outdoors’.

On Common Ground

John is one of the Course Directors. He participated in the panel "Are Scientists Playing God?" on 16 March, and the conversation "Awe, Wonder and Beauty in Science – a route to God?" on 23 March.

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Ruth BancewiczRuth is a Senior Research Associate at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, working on the positive interaction between science and faith.

After studying Genetics at Aberdeen University, she completed a PhD at Edinburgh University, based at the MRC Human Genetics Unit. During this time she also worked at the Edinburgh Science Festival, developing and delivering hands-on science activities.

She spent two years as a part-time postdoctoral researcher at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, Edinburgh University, while also working as the Development Officer for Christians in Science - a post she held for three years, before moving full-time to the Faraday Institute to develop the "Test of FAITH" resources, the first of which were launched in 2009. Ruth is a trustee of Christians in Science.

On Common Ground

Ruth participated in the conversation "Awe, Wonder and Beauty in Science – a route to God?" on 23 March.

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Timothy LentonTim Lenton is Professor of Climate Change and Earth System Science at the University of Exeter. Reading James Lovelock’s books on Gaia ignited his passion for studying the Earth as a whole system. He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge followed by a PhD at the University of East Anglia (UEA). After holding posts at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and then at UEA, he came to Exeter in 2011.

He and his group are focusing on understanding the ‘revolutions that made the Earth’, on developing an evolutionary model of the marine ecosystem, and on early warning of climate tipping points. He is fascinated by the coupled evolution of the planet and of life thereon.

He received a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2004; a European Geosciences Union Outstanding Young Scientist Award 2006; the British Association Charles Lyell Award Lecture, also in 2006; the Geological Society of London William Smith Fund 2008; and also in 2008, the Times Higher Education Award for Research Project of the Year for his work on identifying tipping points in climate change.

On Common Ground

Tim participated in the conversation "Awe, Wonder and Beauty in Science – a route to God?" on 23 March.

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