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