Posted by: gcarkner | October 5, 2016

Durham University Biophysicist Tom McLeish @ UBC Early November

Graduate and Faculty Christian Forum Announces

its November Feature Presentation



Durham University

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (2008-14)

Professor in the  Department of Physics

Professor in the  Department of Chemistry

Member of the  Biophysical Sciences Institute

Member of the  Centre for Materials Physics

Member of the  Durham Centre for Soft Matter (DCSM)

Member in the  Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies


Investigating the Deep Structure of Modern Science: the Search for Wisdom

Wednesday, November 2 @ 4:00 p.m., Woodward (IRC) Room 6, UBC



Tom McLeish takes a scientist’s reading of a historical series of texts (the oldest is the celebrated nature poem from the ancient Middle-Eastern ‘wisdom’ text – the Book of Job) describing the search for understanding of nature.  He makes the case for science as a deeply human, social 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 these medieval, patristic, classical and Biblical sources, this narrative approach challenges much of the current ‘science and religion’ debate as operating with the wrong assumptions and in the wrong space. It also 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 that remain highly relevant today. McLeish suggests that deriving a human narrative for science in this way can transform the way political discussions of ‘troubled technologies’ are framed, the way we approach science in education and the media, and reframe the modes in which faith traditions engage with science.


Tom McLeish is a very accomplished prize-winning biophysics professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (2008-2014) at the highly ranked University of Durham in the UK. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.  He served as Vice-President of Science and Innovation in the Institute of Physics 2012-2015, and is currently chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee. Tom did a first degree in physics and PhD (1987) in polymer physics at Cambridge University.  A lectureship at Sheffield University in complex fluid physics was followed by 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 program 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.  He has been a Reader in the Anglican Church since 1993, in the dioceses of Ripon and York. In 2014, he published an important book called Faith and Wisdom in Science (Oxford University Press).


Tom McLeish’s scientific research over the last 25 years has contributed to the formation of the new field of ‘soft matter physics’. Interdisciplinary work with chemists, chemical engineers and biologists has sought to connect molecular structure and behaviour with emergent material or biological properties. He has also worked intensively with industrial researchers developing molecular design tools for new polymeric (plastic) materials, leading large national and international programs, with personal contributions mostly theoretical. Throughout he has also maintained an interest in public engagement with science, science policy and public values including the underlying, but often hidden, public narratives of science. He has been especially interested in the potential for theological narratives to inform debates in science and technology, both explicitly and implicitly.


Support and Sponsorship Gratitude to: Oikodome Foundation, Canadian Science & Christian Affiliation, Templeton Foundation, UBC Murrin Fund, Regent College

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