Conversations in Science and Faith

Thursday nights, October – December 2021
8.30pm NZ time (log in after 8.15pm) – 6.30pm Australia time
Lecture: 30 minutes + Discussion: 30 mins

Conversation 1: Thursday 7 October 2021
“Science, Narratives and Christianity”
Dr Sean Devine

The science student and the humanities students were returning to their car after a drunken party. One dropped the keys when opening the door. The humanities student fumbled around in the dark trying to find the keys, while the science student went over to the lamppost to look under the light. “Why are you looking for the keys under the lamppost?” asked the humanities student. To which the science student replied; “I cannot see anything where you are looking”
We try to make sense through story or narrative when the scientific approach is outside the light so to speak. But many current narratives are power -seeking, in conflict with the world as it is, closing the conversation. I argue a holistic Faith-science narrative, that is realistic about the human condition, and the limitations of the natural world, is essential to provide direction in a troubled world.

After obtaining a PhD in physics at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, and 3 years overseas, Sean spent 25 years as a government research scientist. After studying economics in the 1980s he moved into science management. Following his role as Executive Director of the Association of Crown Research Institutes, Sean joined Victoria University as a research fellow and taught strategy for a number of years. Recently Sean has taken a systems approach to seeing an economy as a far from equilibrium physical system sustained by energy. He is not quite retired, having had a book published by IOP in 2020.
Books include: ‘On with the Reformation! Facing Up to the Church’s Misuse of Power’

Conversation 3: Thursday 21 October 2021
“Creation is the Key: Unlocking Science and Theology”
Professor Lydia Jaeger

Academic Dean and Lecturere, Nogent Bible Institute, France
(speaking from France)

In contrast to the common practice, which separates science and theology, this talk takes the doctrine of creation as the key to map out fruitful interactions between science and theology. In particular, it asks how theologians – and the wider church – can benefit from science and what scientists can learn from theology for their professional work. Such an integrated view enables us to understand science as a gift to the church and also to consciously take advantage of theological resources in scientific practice. Although this paper mainly uses creation as the lens through which to address these questions, it also hints at contributions which the doctrines of sin and redemption offer.
Her website:

Dr Jaeger holds a permanent lectureship and is academic dean at Nogent Bible Institute (IBN) in Nogent-sur-Marne, an interdenominational evangelical Bible college near Paris. Since 2012 she has been coordinating a joint project with the French branch of IFES (GBU) to develop evangelical science-faith resources for the francophone world. Her current research interests are natural order, the epistemological and ethical implications of the doctrine of creation, the theology of science and our understanding of humankind in the light of evolutionary biology, neuroscience and philosophy.

Conversation 5: Thursday 18 November 2021
“Asking the right questions about Genesis One”
Professor Carolyn King

The ancient cosmology common to all cultures of 3000 years ago saw the universe as created by multiple deities for their own pleasures, and the human population as living in slavery and fear of them. Contrary to that, Genesis One is a masterly statement of the Hebrew belief in a world created by one, all-powerful and loving God, specifically for the benefit of human creatures capable of enjoying and caring for it. It insists that the sun, moon and stars were creatures, not gods, with specific functions designed to serve humanity. Genesis saw no need to describe the material origins of the earth, because everything was simply assumed to have been made by God. The questions we ask of the Genesis text (like, how could there be light on Day 1 when the sun didn’t appear until Day 4?) would have been pointless and incomprehensible to those for whom it was written.

If we understand Genesis as a powerful statement of the Hebrews’ rejection of that lost world of ancient, pagan cosmology, and step out of our world into theirs, we discover a liberating experience. If Genesis One is not and never was intended to explain the material origins of the universe, all the usual arguments about science versus six day creation disappear. Meanwhile, science confirms Hebrew ideas of God’s continuing upholding of creation. Physicists describe a set of fundamental forces that determine how everyday chemical reactions work, and how gravity continually restrains the relentless expansion of the universe. The strengths of these forces were set at the beginning of time, and life on earth is possible only because their ceaseless actions are exactly as they are.

Professor Carolyn (known as Kim) King is New Zealand’s foremost authority on invasive mammals and world-renowned for her contribution to ecology – especially mustelids – stoats, weasels and ferrets. She is an active Anglican, and writes regularly on the theology of Creation.
Dr King received a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in biological sciences at the 2010 Kudos Awards. She also holds the Mammal Society Medal (2005) and the NZES Award (1999); and was a Research Associate in the Department of Philosophy, Waikato University, until 2017.

Conversation 7: Thursday 4 November 2021
“Mathematics and Christianity”
Gray Manicom

“Recent Christian apologetics has had a lot to say on the relationship between Christianity and Science. However, many of the most profound scientific breakthroughs have been driven by mathematical insights and not by data or the scientific method, and this reliance on models and equations is only increasing. In this conversation we discuss some aspects of the relationship between Mathematics and Christianity, and how this may differ from the relationship between Science and Chrsitianity.”

Gray Manicom is a mathematician with interests in dynamical systems, currently completing a PhD in mathematics at the University of Auckland. Also a pianist, he loves cricket, movies and talking about ideas.

“I work in dynamical systems, on a topic called heteroclinic networks. These are networks of trajectories which describe natural phenomena and which follow cycles between certain equilibrium points. When you add noise to the system, random input from outside the system, these networks manifest interesting behaviour. In particular, you can change from one cycle to another, and the time it takes to complete cycles changes. I investigate this and its application to task-switching models of psychology.”

Conversation 9: 2 December 2021
“Science and Religion: Constructions of Conflict”
Dr. Ruth Barton

According to Galileo, God wrote the book of Nature in the language of mathematics, yet Galileo is often taken as the paradigmatic example of the conflict of science and religion. This talk will briefly discuss interpretations of Galileo’s relationship to the Church of his day, before focussing on more general interpretations claiming an essential conflict between science and religion. Examples will cover 200 years, from the Enlightenment of the 18th century to the better-known examples of the late 19th century. My aim is to identify the polarizing definitions on which such interpretations rely.

Ruth Barton is a historian of science and technology, and is an authority on the X Club, the coterie of influential Darwinians who dominated science and its culture in mid-Victorian England. Her recent book, The X Club: Power and Authority in Victorian Science (University of Chicago Press, 2018), has been described as “magisterial.” Her articles on Victorian England cover many varieties of science and religious belief and unbelief. Since retiring from the History Department at the University of Auckland she has been an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Humanities.