Posted by: gcarkner | January 22, 2016

Discovery of Wisdom in Science and Theology

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Prof Tom McLeish, FInstP, FRS

Durham University

Professor in the  Department of Physics
Professor in the  Department of Chemistry
I think we have discovered an original thinker on the interface of science and Christian faith. Tom McLeish is a very accomplished prize-winning biophysics professor at Durham University. In 2014, he published a very important book called Faith and Wisdom in Science (OUP). He shows the common sentiment between the search for/love of wisdom about natural things in Job and other wisdom literature of the Bible and the history of scientific investigations. It stretches the mind and offers a new paradigm that avoids some of the traditional conflicts and narrow thinking of this discussion (on both sides).

Professor McLeish takes a fresh approach to the ‘science and religion’ debate, taking a scientist’s reading of the enigmatic and beautiful Book of Job as a centrepiece, and asking what science might ultimately be for. Rather than conflicting with faith, science can be seen as a deeply religious activity, and the current form of a deep and continuous thread in human culture.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 8.22.45 AMReview of Faith & Wisdom in Science   McLeish_Alan_Gijsbers_Review

Tom McLeish is Professor of Physics at Durham University and also chairs the Royal Society’s education committee. After a first degree in physics and PhD (1987) in polymer physics at Cambridge University, a lectureship at Sheffield University, in complex fluid physics, lead to a chair at Leeds University from 1993.

He has since won several awards both in Europe (Weissenberg Medal) and the USA (Bingham Medal) for his work on molecular rheology of polymers, and ran a large collaborative and multidisciplinary research programme in this field from 1999-2009 co-funded by EPSRC and industry.

His research interests include: (i) molecular rheology of polymeric fluids); (ii) macromolecular biological physics; (iii) issues of theology, ethics and history of science. He has published over 180 scientific papers and reviews, and is in addition regularly involved in science-communication with the public, including lectures and workshops on science and faith. In 2014 OUP published his book Faith and Wisdom in Science. He has been a Reader in the Anglican Church since 1993, in the dioceses of Ripon and York.

From 2008-2014 he served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Durham University. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2012 he was made Vice-President of Science by the Institute of Physics (IoP).

See also GCU Spring Events for Barry Pointon Lecture on April 1 The Human-Haunted Cosmos  https://ubcgcu.org/gcu-events/ 

On Faith and Wisdom in Science:

“Can you Count the Clouds?” asks the voice of God from the whirlwind in the stunningly beautiful catalogue of nature-questions from the Old Testament Book of Job. Tom McLeish takes a scientist’s reading of this ancient text as a centrepiece to make the case for science as a deeply human and ancient activity, embedded in some of the oldest stories told about human desire to understand the natural world. Drawing on stories from the modern science of chaos and uncertainty alongside medieval, patristic, classical and Biblical sources, Faith and Wisdom in Science challenges much of the current ‘science and religion’ debate as operating with the wrong assumptions and in the wrong space. Its narrative approach develops a natural critique of the cultural separation of sciences and humanities, suggesting an approach to science, or in its more ancient form natural philosophy – the ‘love of wisdom of natural things’ – that can draw on theological and cultural roots. Following the theme of pain in human confrontation with nature, it develops a ‘Theology of Science’, recognising that both scientific and theological worldviews must be ‘of’ each other, not holding separate domains. Science finds its place within an old story of participative reconciliation with a nature, of which we start ignorant and fearful, but learn to perceive and work with in wisdom. Surprisingly, science becomes a deeply religious activity. There are urgent lessons for education, the political process of decision-making on science and technology, our relationship with the global environment, and the way that both religious and secular communities alike celebrate and govern science.


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