School of Divinity

Science and Religion

Mondays 4.10 to 5.30pm in the Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Theatre and on Zoom

All are welcome. For enquiries, please contact Dr Simeon Xu. Email

Seminar Recordings can be found on Media Hopper Create

Semester 2: Spring 2023

Date Speaker Topic

16 January

(Rainy Hall)


Science and Religion Community New Year Reception

23 January

(Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Theatre)

Dr David de Pomerai (Honorary Fellow, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)

'Worrying At an Old Bone? Why Rewrite What Is Already In Print?'

The linkage between global warming and evolution is obvious from past mass extinctions, in most of which climate change played a crucial role. How the current climate crisis plays out depends on human behaviour, which in turn reflects our underlying belief systems. Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’ has led to an impasse and left us without God, so finding the will to seek a different path is crucial. With Sallie McFague, I argue that Christians should strive to follow the example of Jesus Christ far more literally than has been customary for 1500+ years – especially by embracing restraint and by service to the disadvantaged –and the environment.

30 January

(Baillie Room)

Mr Edward DeLaquil (PhD Candidate in Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh)

Journal Club

Simon Kittle. “God is (Probably) a Cause among Causes: Why the Primary/Secondary Cause Distinction Doesn’t Help in Developing Noninterventionist Accounts of Special Divine Action.” Theology and Science 20, no. 2 (2022): 247-262.

6 February

(Baillie Room)

Dr Peter Jordan (Director of Grants and Research at Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford (SCIO))

'Divine Immanence and Teleological History: John Templeton’s Support for Science and Religion'

Investor turned philanthropist John Templeton (1912-2008) is widely known for financing projects in a wide variety of areas through his three philanthropic organizations. As has often been recognised, his support has particularly helped the field of science and religion to grow and consolidate. What has been less well understood are his reasons for supporting science and religion activities. In this paper I draw on a series of journal articles Templeton co-authored with chemist Robert Herrmann in the 1980s, as well as several books he wrote between 1981 and the early 2000s, to reconstruct his thinking about science and religion. Templeton, it turns out, wants to bring science and religion together for a range of reasons, but behind several of his arguments lie two key commitments. The first is to a specific theological picture of God’s relationship to and action within creation, one informed by his lifelong exposure to Unity Christianity, a tradition that forms part of the New Thought movement. The second is to a teleological understanding of the history of science, one that Templeton interprets theologically in ways that reinforce his Unity-informed views of the God-creation relation and God’s action within the world. Taken together, Templeton’s view of God’s relationship to the created order, along with his reading of the history of science, would have given him considerable confidence that future investment in science and religion activities will yield significant returns.

13 February

(Baillie Room)

Ms Marie Prins (MSc Student in Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh)

Journal Club

Konsa, Kurmo. “Technology Creating a New Human: The Alchemical Roots of Transhumanist Ideas.” Folklore (Tartu, Estonia) 81, no. 81 (2021): 15–32.

20 February   Flexible Learning Week


Prof. Mark Harris (Professor of Natural Science and Theology and Director of Postgraduate Studies, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)

Dr Bethany Sollereder (Lecturer in Science and Religion, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)

The Whole School Seminar: 'God and the Book of Nature'


  • Dr Michael Fuller (Lecturer in Science and Religion & Science and Religion MSc Programme Director, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)
  • Dr Simeon Ximian Xu (Kenneth and Isabel Morrison Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Theology and AI Ethics, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)

6 March

(Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Theatre)

Dr Stephen Goundrey-Smith (Associate Tutor in Christian Ethics, Cuddesdon, Gloucester & Hereford)

'Still Human? Transhumanism & Christian Hope in the Twenty-First Century'

Transhumanist biomedical technologies have the potential to radically change human capabilities and experience. However, many Christians theologians are rightly wary of transhumanist technology. The main ethical issue may be summarised thus: how far can we change human life before we are no longer the people we should be? In this seminar, I explore whether humanity could use the kind of future biomedical technologies that would transform society and still be human according to Christian ethical principles. I will compare some potential future biotechnologies in the twenty-first century with two medical advances that have been transformative for society in the twentieth century, the contraceptive pill and SSRI (Prozac) antidepressants. The church has engaged ethically with these previous developments largely with Thomistic natural law. I will show that, in future, a thoroughgoing theological ethical evaluation will involve considerations concerning autonomy, embodiment and the imago Dei, as well as nature.

13 March

(Baillie Room)

Mr Scott Udall (MSc Student in Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh)

Journal Club

Letheby, Chris. “Psychedelics and Meditation: A Neurophilosophical Perspective.” In Routledge Handbook on the Philosophy of Meditation, edited by Rick Repetti, 209-23. London, UK: Routledge, 2022.

20 March

(Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Theatre)

Mr Andrej Zeman (PhD Candidate in Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh)

'An Infinite Variety of Readings: Divine Action in William Paley's Natural Theology'

William Paley is perhaps the most famous natural theologian, known for his watch analogy. But what was his view of divine action (DA)? I will argue in my paper that this presents a genuine puzzle, and its solution is open to multiple interpretations. I will show that this plurality of possible readings is reflected in many of the 19th-century texts that mention Paley and offer an interpreted view of his DA. I will illustrate how these different readings fit amidst the ongoing discussion on the “right view” of DA in the 19th-century Britain and America. If this basic outlook is correct, it will raise some key questions and implications for the past as well as present view of Paley’s DA, which will be briefly mentioned and explored.

27 March

(Baillie Room)

Dr Bethany Sollereder (Lecturer in Science and Religion, University of Edinburgh)

Journal Club

Article for discussion: TBC

3 April

(Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Theatre)

Professor Neil Messer (Professor of Theology, University of Winchester & President, Society for the Study of Christian Ethics)

How can genetics and neuroscience inform Christian ethical reflection on gender identity?

This paper will explore the contribution that scientific understandings can make to Christian ethical reflection on gender identity, incongruence, and dysphoria. The paper will begin with an overview of current genetic and neuroscientific research on gender identity. It will then explore how (if at all) this scientific knowledge and understanding might inform a Protestant Christian theological and ethical response to transgender identity and experience. Three specific contributions of scientific understandings will be proposed: (1) to destabilize theological/ethical arguments that rely, explicitly or implicitly, on dubious empirical claims about transgender identities; (2) to raise questions about the biblical texts that should inform Christian reflection about gender identity and how those texts should be read; (3) contribute to an understanding of what it means to flourish as human creatures with diverse gender identities. Thus, the paper will offer both a contribution to Christian ethical reflection on gender identity and a case study in how science can properly inform Christian ethics.

Semester 1: Autumn 2022

Date Speaker Topic

26 September

(Baillie Room)

Professor Mark Harris (University of Edinburgh)

Session 1, Journal Club

Followed by the Science & Religion Community Reception

3 October

Dr Bethany Sollereder (University of Edinburgh)

'Climate Change Is Here: Now What?'

The world is changing—and more change is already locked in. What happens if we look over the cliff-edge of climate change? This talk thinks about the theological and social implications if we are already past the climate tipping point and headed for a new world of ever-warming climactic norms.

(Joint Seminar with Theology & Ethics, Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Room and on Zoom)

10 October

(Baillie Room)

Dr Michael Fuller (University of Edinburgh

Session 2, Journal Club

17 October

(Baillie Room)

Dr Atoosa Kasirzadeh (Chancellor’s Fellow, Philosophy Department, University of Edinburgh)

'Algorithmic Fairness and Structural Injustice: Insights from Feminist Political Philosophy'

Data-driven predictive algorithms are widely used to automate and guide high-stake decision making such as bail and parole recommendation, medical resource distribution, and mortgage allocation. Nevertheless, harmful outcomes biased against vulnerable groups have been reported. The growing research field known as 'algorithmic fairness' aims to mitigate these harmful biases. Its primary methodology consists in proposing mathematical metrics to address the social harms resulting from an algorithm's biased outputs. The metrics are typically motivated by -- or substantively rooted in -- ideals of distributive justice, as formulated by political and legal philosophers. The perspectives of feminist political philosophers on social justice, by contrast, have been largely neglected. Some feminist philosophers have criticized the local scope of the paradigm of distributive justice and have proposed corrective amendments to surmount its limitations. The present paper brings some key insights of feminist political philosophy to algorithmic fairness. The paper has three goals. First, I show that algorithmic fairness does not accommodate structural injustices in its current scope. Second, I defend the relevance of structural injustices -- as pioneered in the contemporary philosophical literature by Iris Marion Young -- to algorithmic fairness. Third, I take some steps in developing the paradigm of ‘responsible algorithmic fairness’ to correct for errors in the current scope and implementation of algorithmic fairness. I close by some reflections of directions for future research.

(In case students would like to read the paper in advance, please find access to the opensource version of the paper)

Algorithmic Fairness and Structural Injustice: Insights from Feminist Political Philosophy

24 October

(Baillie Room)


Session 3, Journal Club

7 November

(Baillie Room)

  Session 4, Journal Club

14 November

(Baillie Room)

Mr Edward Delaquil (PhD candidate, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh)

'Introducing a Signpost Theory of Truth for Science and Theology'

This presentation is an introduction to a signpost theory of truth which is inspired by the philosophy of science known as constructive empiricism and the theology of Aquinas. I provide a summary of a signpost theory of truth, argue for the importance of empiricism, and apply a signpost theory of truth to the truth of doctrine. I will then examine the example of the doctrine of creation and big bang cosmology. Ultimately, I conclude that a signpost theory of truth provides the theoretical tools for articulating a unity of truth that avoids conflicts between the sciences and theology.

21 November

(Baillie Room)

  Session 5, Journal Club
28 November

Professor Shannon Vallor (Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and AI, University of Edinburgh)

'Machine Fantasies and Futures: AI Through the Looking Glass'

In this work I explore and critique how our futures with AI, in particular our speculative futures with artificial general intelligence, are currently imagined in popular media, philosophical, and scientific discourse. Drawing upon two works of fiction from the year 1871 (Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass and Butler’s Erewhon), I analyze our contemporary fantasies of AGI as ‘looking glass’ illusions that actually gaze backward, rather than forward into new and more humane possibilities with AI.

5 December

(Baillie Room)

  Session 6, Journal Club