Exploring Science and Theology
Friday, 31 January 2020
Pupils at Bolton School Boys’ Division explored the intersection between science and faith at a God and the Big Bang Conference. Theology, science and the relationship between the two were explored through a series of thought-provoking talks and workshops organised by the God and the Big Bang project.
The conference was attended by Boys’ Division pupils in Years 10 and 11 currently taking Religious Studies (RS) for GCSE and a group of Year 9 pupils who are either on the Gifted and Talented register for RS or have already chosen to take the subject to GCSE level.
The day began with a keynote speech from Dr Matt Pritchard, a science magician and ‘Curator of Wonder’. He shared his wonder at the world through a series of optical illusions, magic tricks, examples of human engineering interacting with nature and more. After describing the Big Bang in scientific terms, he asked pupils to think about and discuss questions that might emerged from his explanation, such as: ‘If energy can’t be created or destroyed, does that mean there was something before the Big Bang?’ This led him to talk about how science can open up theological questions and answers. As an example, he successfully performed a card trick with two pupil volunteers, then asked the audience if his correct predictions were down to luck, or if he did something behind the scenes they don’t know about. He suggested that something similar might be happening to orchestrate the universe.
Finally, he talked about the joys of science and how humans are capable of wonder. He quoted Proverbs 25:2, which reads: ‘God delights in concealing things; scientists delight in discovering things.’ He said that the world is a gift from God and scientists are the ones who get to unwrap it. He also compared this to studying an artist’s work to get to know the artist: in a similar sense, science is a form of worship that allows scientists to know God better.
Dr Pritchard also led one of the thought-provoking workshop sessions that followed.
A session focused on DNA was led by Dr Suzanne Kalka, Project Coordinator for God and the Big Bang, who has a PhD in Chemical Physics from the University of Salford. Her practical session saw pupils extracting DNA from a banana while exploring the question ‘Do all living things show evidence of a creator?’ She also talked to pupils about different views on DNA and used as examples Richard Dawkins, famously an atheist who believes DNA has no creator, and Francis Collins, leader of the Human Genome Project who said: ‘Creation is awesome … DNA … is the language of God.’
The third session was led by Dr Tim Middleton, who recently completed a doctorate in Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford and is now a postgraduate student in Theology at Oxford. His workshop asked pupils to consider society’s relationships with different kinds of robots, the difficulties with artificial intelligence, and what makes something ‘smart’. He asked the question, ‘Are we okay with this?’ about a variety of different kinds of robots, from a production line assembly robot to a blessing robot called BlessU-2, and pupils had the opportunity to discuss and share their responses.
Finally, the day ended with a question and answer session chaired by Michael Harvey, during which pupils asked a range of thoughtful questions about both faith and science.
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