The Poetry and Music of Science (2019)
Professor Tom McLeish
What human qualities are needed to make scientific discoveries, and which to make great art? Many would point to ‘imagination’ and ‘creativity’ in the second case but not the first. This book challenges the assumption that doing science is in any sense less creative than art, music or fictional writing and poetry, and treads a historical and contemporary path through common territories of the creative process.
The methodological process called the ‘scientific method’ tells us how to test ideas when we have had them, but not how to arrive at hypotheses in the first place. Hearing the stories that scientists and artists tell about their projects reveals commonalities: the desire for a goal, the experience of frustration and failure, the incubation of the problem, moments of sudden insight, and the experience of the beautiful or sublime.
Selected themes weave the practice of science and art together: visual thinking and metaphor, the transcendence of music and mathematics, the contemporary rise of the English novel and experimental science, and the role of aesthetics and desire in the creative process. Artists and scientists make salient comparisons: Defoe and Boyle; Emmerson and Humboldt, Monet and Einstein, Schumann and Hadamard. The book draws on medieval philosophy at many points as the product of the last age that spent time in inner contemplation of the mystery of how something is mentally brought out from nothing. Taking the phenomenon of the rainbow as an example, the principles of creativity within constraint point to the scientific imagination as a parallel of poetry.
Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (2017)
Revd Professor David Wilkinson
If the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe is just around the corner, what would be the consequences for religion? Would it represent another major conflict between science and religion, even leading to the death of faith? Some would suggest that the discovery of any suggestion of extraterrestrial life would have a greater impact than even the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions.
It is now over 50 years since the first modern scientific papers were published on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Yet the religious implications of this search and possible discovery have never been systematically addressed in the scientific or theological arena. SETI is now entering its most important era of scientific development. New observation techniques are leading to the discovery of extra-solar planets daily, and the Kepler mission has already collected over 1000 planetary candidates. This deluge of data is transforming the scientific and popular view of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Earth-like planets outside of our solar system can now be identified and searched for signs of life.
Now is a crucial time to assess the scientific and theological questions behind this search. This book sets out the scientific arguments undergirding SETI, with particular attention to the uncertainties in arguments and the strength of the data already assembled. It assesses not only the discovery of planets but other areas such as the Fermi paradox, the origin and evolution of intelligent life, and current SETI strategies. In all of this it reflects on how these questions are shaped by history and pop culture and their relationship with religion, especially Christian theology. It is argued that theologians need to take seriously SETI and to examine some central doctrines such as creation, incarnation, revelation, and salvation in the light of the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
Let There Be Science! (2017)
Professor Tom McLeish and David Hutchings
Why is it that science has consistently thrived wherever the Christian faith can be found? Why is it that so many great scientists – past and present – attribute their motivation and their discoveries, at least partially, to their Christian beliefs? Why are the age-old writings of the Bible so full of questions about natural phenomena? And, perhaps most importantly of all, why is all this virtually unknown to the general public?
Too often, it would seem, science has been presented to the outside world as a robotic, detached, unemotional enterprise. Too often, Christianity is dismissed as being an ancient superstition. In reality, neither is the case. Science is a deeply human activity, and Christianity is deeply reasonable. Perhaps this is why, from ancient times right up to today, many individuals have been profoundly committed to both – and have helped us to understand more and more about the extraordinary world that we live in. As authors Tom McLeish and David Hutchings examine the story of science, and look at the part that Christianity has played, they uncover a powerful underlying reason for doing science in the first place. In example after example, ranging from 4000 BC to the present day, they show that thinking with a Christian worldview has been intimately involved with, and sometimes even directly responsible for, some of the biggest leaps forward ever made. Ultimately, they portray a biblical God who loves Science – and a Science that truly needs God.
Faith and Wisdom in Science (2016)
Professor Tom McLeish
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.
When I Pray What Does God Do? (2015)
Revd Professor David Wilkinson
The question of how, and whether, God answers prayer has been intellectually shaped by the rise of science, the problem of evil and the nature of the biblical records. Scientist and theologian David Wilkinson shares his own struggles with the question of how God answers prayer.
Science does not rule out God acting in the universe in surprising ways; the Bible shows a God who acts in the world in response to people’s prayers. Yet there is always a mystery about the nature and outcome of prayer, not least in the experience of unanswered prayer.
The author shares his struggles with praying in the midst of his wife’s long-term illness. What we believe affects how we pray.
God is neither a slot machine, nor an indulgent parent, nor a divine dictator, nor a ruler in absentia. How does God work in a world of science? Why doesn’t He answer more often? Has God acted in history? How did Jesus pray? How, in a world governed by law and grace, should we pray?