Welcome to our new blog. We are a group of academic staff and students at the University of Edinburgh who are dedicated to exploring the interaction between science and religion in all its various forms. To this end, we are in the first year of a new postgraduate course – the MSc in Science and Religion – one of the world’s very few advanced courses in the subject. All of us hope to inform, to engage, and to challenge in this totally new venture. I can honestly say that I am discovering, as we go along, that there is much more to Science and Religion than first met my eye.
Since there are very few boundaries in the field, other than those innovatively sketched out by great scholars such as Ian Barbour, Arthur Peacocke, and John Polkinghorne, we have discovered that, while the old chestnuts of the field are fascinating – e.g. Genesis versus evolution, or divine action versus natural law – there are equally fascinating new dimensions opening-up. We are exploring some of these through new courses in issues such as the ethics of climate change, or the ways in which the science/religion debate has been played out in some of the greatest works of creative literature.
In future posts, I expect that we’ll grapple openly with some of these new dimensions, as well as the old chestnuts. At the moment, we’re working our way through one of the core courses in the MSc – Cosmos, cell, and Creator – which looks at modern areas of dialogue and debate between science and religion such as cosmology, evolution, and study of human consciousness. Our class discussions have been less explicitly theological than I had first expected, partly because we keep coming up against the question – what is reality really? I don’t expect we’ll come to any firm conclusion on this. But it’s interesting to note that it goes hand-in-hand with the growing realisation that scientific and theological understanding is provisional and tentative in nearly every area we examine. There’s a sense in which theology, which ironically has a more accessible (common sense?) view of reality than modern science to some degree, provides comfort. But it’s true to say that they both have different ways of looking at reality, and the clearest view comes at their point of intersection, an idea which those who assume science has made religion obsolete may find surprising to hear.