Cambridge conference review

On the flight home, I spent some time reflecting on what made the Faraday Institute conference such an enjoyable and educational experience. I think the central point is that in the attempt to investigate whether modern scientific findings are consistent with a religious worldview (or not), theologians and theistic philosophers focus on the interesting findings science has thrown up – more so than many philosophers of science, who seem to spend a lot of time philosophizing about the scientific method and how much we really know, and not enough time trying of making sense of the strange science that we do already ‘know’. (This is the point I’m trying to make in my article on the theology of the Big Bang in this month’s issue of Physics World).

Other more practical reasons for the success of the conference were

1. Fantastic environment – hard to beat Cambridge on this, particularly when everyone is staying in the same college
2. Interdisciplinary nature- since the subject matter spanned science, history of science, philosophy and theology, none of the talks were too specialised – the bugbear of most scientific conferences
3. All the talks were by world class people, well used to giving public talks on their subject – a treat for anyone interested in the communication of science.
4. Each speaker kept good time, leaving 30 minutes of question/answer session after each talk. Ths definitely made for good audience participation, not to mention the panel discussion every evening.
5. All the talks were in the same venue, a nice small conference room, holding about 50.
6. No parallel sessions – since everyone was at the same talk, it made for great discussions over dinner.
7.Good panel discussions every day, after dinner

St Edmund’s college, Cambridge

Coffee-time outside the conference room

L-R: Cosmologist Paul Shellard, particle physicist John Polkinghorne, philosopher Dean Zimmerman and theologian and physicist Rodney Holder responding to questions during a panel discussion

In summary, I’ve decided the best type of conference is a small, residential conference of an interdisciplinary nature! (It helps if it’s in Cambridge – Ed)

Update: apologies to Christoffer, I haven’t figured out how to upload all the photos onto one webpage yet


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8 responses to “Cambridge conference review

  1. Claire Tuttlebee

    You forgot point 8- the high calibre and distinguished nature of the delegates…

  2. cormac

    Absolutely right Claire, how could I forget this important point. Apologies to all delegates.
    Actually, like a character from LOST, I’ve been wondering how we were selected – some mysterious theistic process, which will one day be revealed?

  3. Christoffer

    Hi Cormac!

    Dont worry about not posting all the photos on one website!

    (I hope you didnt mean ALL the photos which would be a couple of hundred, would it not? Would look a bit silly on a weblog and is probably also impossible! =)

    I am very impressed with your review of the conference!

    One reflection I would like to add about Ernest Lucas exegesis of the first chapters of Genesis is that it wasn’t merely about literal vs non-literal interpretations of the text, but about what the text actually is about. And from my perspective that’s what’s most exciting. =) That it does differ from a literalist interpretation is interesting (in our context), but is not the main point of the text. The meaning of any non-literal text is not in their “not-being-literal” (although that is a basic prerequisite to understand it).

    I look forward to keep a conversation going!


  4. Samuel

    Hey Christoff!

    Still around Edingburgh or kicked off to Sweden?

    i do wonder how a bunch of us came to be there… indeed cormac has done a very fine job in summing up the conference proceedings for us.

  5. cormac

    Hi Christoff/Sam, thanks for the comments!
    I was hoping to put the photos on a single webpage, so people could scroll through them. The problem is that each is very large (2 MB)and needs to be cropped individually….I’m at a music festival at the moment but I’ll have another go when I get home…

  6. samuel

    instead of cropping, i suggest opening with paint and then saving it again as jpg file. reduces the size by fourth. of course there are other ways of reducing the size… and my suggestion may not be a good one…

    music festival sounds fun… enjoy!

  7. cormac

    That sounds like a good solution Sam, I’ll try as soon as I’m reunited with my laptop! The music festival is great, despite appalling weather…

  8. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!