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Creating a link between Theology and Science

Wednesday, 10 May 2017 11:56am

Dr Nicola Hoggard Creegan.

A new group aiming to promote thoughtful dialogue around science and theology is looking to launch at Otago.

New Zealand Christians in Science (NZCIS)/Te Kāhui Whakapono ki Nga Kaipūtaiao o Te Motu is a recently created group of scientists in both industry and academia who are Christians.

Two informal lunchtime gatherings and one public lecture have been organised on the Dunedin campus this week to promote the new group and explore how it might function here.

Facilitated by Dr Nicola Hoggard Creegan, a theologian based in Auckland, the meetings will be an opportunity to get feedback from scientists, students and theologians about what events and structures would work best at Otago, and which topics are most in need of attention.

“NZCIS is keen to have a formal presence at Otago, which is home to the oldest Theology department in the country, and to high level departments of science,” Dr Hoggard Creegan says.

She emphasises that science and theology are not mutually exclusive.

“Although the methods of science and theology are very different there is also massive overlap,” she says. “Both involve a personal aspect. And both are interested in and motivated by the big questions, such as: Who are we? Where did we come from? And is nature good?”

There is also an overlap in the dimension of awe and wonder, Dr Hoggard Creegan explains.

“Science very often invokes awe in the scientist, and this has a religious quality. Moreover, science raises important questions for theology (most notably in the arena of evolution) and faith has also often motivated scientists to study the natural world, to ease suffering and to protect the environment.”

University Chaplain Greg Hughson.

For University Chaplain Greg Hughson, who is involved in the gatherings, this topic is close to his heart.

Before studying his Bachelor of Divinity at Otago he received a Master’s in Biological Science from Waikato University.

“I am very interested in exploring issues at the interface of Science and Theology, hence my support for NZCIS,” he says.

“It would be good to have a group set up here at Otago to provide the context for important discussions at the interface of science, theology, religion and spirituality. For example, theological/spiritual/ecological care of the planet, theistic evolution, theogenethics (theological genetic ethics), nuclear physics and theology, theological and scientific responses to poverty, theological and scientific/psychological responses to violence, euthanasia, abortion and suicide.”

NZCIS has been funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc. with a grant that will seed the organisation for three years.

Come along to one of the events:

Informal lunches:
Thu 11 May, 1pm to 2pm
Arts 4C 11

Fri 12 May, 12noon to 2pm
The Upper Room Chaplaincy Lunch, Mezzanine Floor (Eastern end), University Union Building

Open lecture:
Aristotle and neuroscience: the human soul by Professor Grant Gillett
Fri 12 May, 5.15pm
Burns 2 Lecture Theatre