About Mark Harris

Dr Mark Harris is the course manager of the master's programme in Science and Religion at the University of Edinburgh. He is especially interested in areas of physics which have direct impact on religious belief, and vice versa. His main research topics are the interpretation of miracles and of creation.

Boyle Lecture 2018 – ‘Apocalypses Now’

The Boyle Lectures have been running (with some hiatuses) since 1692, when they were founded in honour of Robert Boyle, the pioneering chemist. I was invited to give the 2018 Boyle Lecture in London, which I delivered on 7 February 2018. It was a fantastic occasion, delivered to the packed-out church of St Mary-le-bow, and with Prof John Hedley Brooke providing a thought-provoking response. My lecture captured the last 10 years or so of my thought on the troublesome relationship between scientists and biblical scholars on big miracles texts such as the Plagues of Egypt. The text follows here: –

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Mental Wellbeing, Neuroscience and Religion

‘Mental Wellbeing, Neuroscience and Religion’ was the title of our annual Science and Religion Forum conference this year, held at Lincoln (31 August – 2 September). Some 55 people attended to hear and debate how practice and theory in mental health relates to the science-and-religion field. Here are my closing reflections at the end of the conference.

SRF 2017, Bishop Grossetest University, Lincoln

Closing reflections, 2 Sep 2017

This will be quite a personal reflection, but that seems appropriate in this particular conference where many of the talks have focussed on the inner, subjective life, its wellbeing and the role of science in investigating and promoting mental health. Those of you who are regulars at this conference will realise how different the tone of this conference has been compared with many of our previous meetings. For this reason, rather than doing a blow-by-blow summary of each speaker, I really will just offer my own overview without mentioning any names. Continue reading

New textbook – ‘Philosophy, Science and Religion for Everyone’

Routledge has just published Philosophy, Science and Religion for Everyone, the new textbook for our MOOC in Philosophy, Science, and Religion, edited by myself and Duncan Pritchard, and authored by many of the course tutors and lecturers. It’s available from the Routledge website, or from Amazon, but as a taster, here’s the text of the Introduction: –

Introduction (Mark Harris and Duncan Pritchard)

The science-and-religion discourse is so significant that it’s hardly possible to live in the Western world and not hold an opinion on it. The discourse is, however, almost universally construed in terms of a ‘debate’, and a debate that’s characterised by ‘conflict’ above all. The fact that the discourse underlies some highly-volatile social and political disagreements adds fuel to the fire (and these disagreements are especially live in North America, especially concerning climate change, the place of ‘evolution versus creation’ in high school education, and in bioethics concerning ‘pro-life versus pro-choice’). Arguably, there’s too much heat, and little light in these disagreements. Adding philosophy to the mix (‘Philosophy, Science, and Religion’), this book takes the view that the science-and-religion debate can move beyond hostility, to become a major force behind a new kind of intellectual enlightenment in modern culture. Continue reading

Geology, naturalism, and the problem of miracles

My blog posts have become rather rare events over the last year, while I work on a book project on the ‘rare event’ in science (especially geology) and its implications for the prevailing view of naturalism in philosophy and theology, and especially for the problem of how to define miracle. In order to work through my argument, I gave a seminar paper on this to our Theology and Ethics seminar at New College in Edinburgh. Here’s the text of my paper (warning: it’s over 6,000 words).

Title: ‘The Stone the Builders Rejected’: Geology, Naturalism, and the Problem of Miracles

I should warn you at the outset that this paper contains very little theology, and even less ethics. I want to explore how the natural sciences can be used to explore the theology of miracle, so starting from the science end of the science-theology conversation. I should emphasise that I’m condensing an ongoing book project into one paper here, hoping to get a sense of whether the argument holds together. It means that I’ll need to apply a very broad brush, and skip over the interesting details and debates. So I’d be interested in your comments afterwards.

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The Catch-22 of Science and Religion

731px-b-25_of_catch-22_fame_making_a_low_pass_at_elmendorf_7674536434Last night I spoke at a debate organised by the British Science Association about science and religion, entitled ‘What do Science and Religion have to offer each other in the 21st Century?’ I’m often asked to speak at events like this, and I’ve increasingly begun to feel that, as well as providing an opportunity to introduce audiences to the richness and complexities of the field, it comes with a certain cost to that same field. In short, there’s a Catch-22. Here’s the text of my talk, where I attempt to explain – Continue reading

The Bible and Human Origins – 2

The Faraday Institute at Cambridge have finished editing the second lecture I gave at their summer course (July 2016), which Ruth Bancewizc has already blogged about (see previous post). Here is a link to the talk – “The Bible and Human Origins.”


(Pleae forgive my slip of the tongue about 12 minutes in, where I say that “the man” (i.e. Adam) created “the woman” (i.e. Eve). Of course, I meant that God created her, but was thinking too far ahead…)

Here’s a potted summary –
  • I focus on two of the most famous texts in the Bible – the creations stories of Genesis in ch.1 (the six days of creation, followed by God’s day of rest), and chaps. 2-3 (Adam and Eve). Both of these stories have achieved a degree of notoriety because of debates around creationism, and the question of whether we should take modern science into account when we read them.
  • I look particulary at the “image of God” phrase in Gen.1, and then the whole complex of scientific and theological debates that surround the idea of “the Fall” in Gen.3.

Are there limits to science?

“Are there limits to science?” – this was the title of the recent Science and Religion Forum 2016 conference, where diverse subjects around naturalism, and the limitations of science (and religion) were aired by some of the leading experts in the area. As the Conference Secretary, I was asked to deliver some closing reflections. Here is what I said –

I want to say a special thanks to all the speakers – as can happen with these kinds of conferences organised around a central question, sometimes a diversity of answers leads to an emergent consensus, and I think that’s definitely happened here.

“Are there limits to science?” Yes and no. That seems to be the gist of what I’ve gleaned from this conference, with a particular weight falling on the yes, there are limits. Continue reading