Building A Universe

Our ‘Building a Universe’ conference will take place at St. John’s College, Durham on the 14-16 September 2021. An online option is available.

The conference will provide tools for understanding the latest in scientific cosmology and applying that knowledge to preaching, mission, and ministry. Presentations and discussion with world-leading scientists will inform participants about up-to-the minute research on cosmology. Prominent historians and theologians will put this knowledge into broader context, addressing narratives of humanity’s place in the cosmos including popular ideas about space, time, origins, and human significance.

We have many years of experience bringing together bishops and other senior leaders to hear from experts and to discuss with one another how we celebrate and share our faith in light of science-engaged theology.

Participants will hear from and engage with a number of exciting guests, including:

Prof Carlos Frenk, CBE, FRS – Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics and Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham University; IOP Dirac Medal recipient in 2020 for work on dark matter

Professor Lord Martin Rees, Ph.D., OM, FRS – Astronomer Royal, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, and former President of the Royal Society

Prof Christine Done – Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Durham University; member of the Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy

Prof Tom McLeish, FRS, FRSC – Inaugural Professor of Natural Philosophy in the Department of Physics, University of York; expert in soft matter physics and popular author on science and faith; Co-Project Director, ECLAS

Revd Dr Lucas Mix – Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, Exploration, and Scientific Innovation, Kluge Center; expert in societal implications of astrobiology

Revd Prof David Wilkinson, FRAS – Professor of Theology and Principal of St John’s College, Durham University; expert in cosmology and theology; Project Director, ECLAS

Dr Jennifer Wiseman – Senior Project Scientist for the NASA Hubble Space Telescope; Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (AAAS DoSER)

This conference is an invitation-only event for senior church leaders.

 

Programme for in-person conference

Tuesday 14 September 

Arrive by 12pm for lunch
1.30pm Introductory remarks from Revd Prof David Wilkinson, ECLAS Project Director
2pm ‘Ordered Universe: Challenging Popular Misconceptions of Pre-Modern Cosmology’, Prof Giles Gaspar
2.30pm Christianity, Islam, and Cosmology
3pm Discussion
4pm Key Themes in Thinking About Creation (Prof Tom McLeish)
5.15pm Evensong at Durham Cathedral
6pm Dinner
7pm Conversation with Prof Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

Wednesday 15 September

Travel to the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics – Institute for Computational Cosmology

9am The Origin of Cosmic Structure and the Universality of the Laws of Physics, Prof Carlos Frenk
10am Tour of Ogden Centre and refreshments
11am Short presentations from early career physicists
11.30am Black holes, Einstein’s Gravity and Rocket Science, Prof Chris Done

1pm Lunch at St John’s College

2.15pm Science, Faith, Vocation, and Working with the Public, Dr Jennifer Wiseman
3.15pm Are we Alone in the Cosmos? Revd Prof David Wilkinson
3.45pm Cosmology, Evolution and Eschatology, Revd Dr Lucas Mix

5.15pm Evensong at Durham Cathedral
6.30pm Dinner
7.30pm Conversation and Q&A with Revd Dr Lucas Mix, Prof Giles Gaspar and other guest speakers.

Thursday 16 September

9am Research Round-Up: What do Bishops Really Think About Science? (Drs Thoko Kamwendo, Franziska Kohlt, Alex Fry)
9.30am Changing the Story: Science for Seminaries (Theodora Hawksley), Scientists in Congregations (Despina Katsidou) and Cosmology in the Media (Helen Billam)
10am Break
10.30am Bringing Cosmology into Worship, Bishop Richard Cheetham
11am How Do We Deal With Six-Day Creationism? Revd Prof David Wilkinson
11.30am Preaching the Universe, Prof Tom McLeish

12pm Lunch and departures

 

Programme for online conference

Due to the nature of online conferences we have kept as much of the content and networking as we can while building in more breaks. The programme largely follows that of the in-person conference and will be a mix of live-streamed and pre-recorded material. All online attendees will be able to ask questions of speakers and there will be opportunities for discussion with other attendees.

Tuesday 14 September

Session 1: Historical Context

1.30pm Welcome and introductory remarks from Revd Prof David Wilkinson
2pm ‘Ordered Universe: Challenging Popular Misconceptions of Pre-Modern Cosmology’, Prof Giles Gaspar
2.30pm Christianity, Islam, and Cosmology 
3pm Break
3.30pm Small group discussions
4pm Key Themes in Thinking About Creation, Prof Tom McLeish
5-7pm Break
7pm Optional – Conversation with Prof Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal 

 

Wednesday 15 September

Session 2: Contemporary Cosmology

9am The Origin of Cosmic Structure and the Universality of the Laws of Physics, Prof Carlos Frenk
10am Pre-recorded tour of the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics
10.40am Break
11am Short presentations from early career physicists
11.30am Black holes, Einstein’s Gravity and Rocket Science, Prof Chris Done
12.30pm Break

Session 3: Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence 

2.15pm Science, Faith, Vocation, and Working with the Public, Dr Jennifer Wiseman
3.15pm  Are we Alone in the Cosmos? Revd Prof David Wilkinson
3.45pm Cosmology, Evolution and Eschatology, Revd Dr Lucas Mix
4.15-7pm Break
7pm Optional – Conversation and Q&A with Revd Dr Lucas Mix, Prof Giles Gaspar and other guests.

 

Thursday 16 September

Session 4: Preaching, Apologetics, Mission, and Worship

9am Research Round-Up: What do Bishops Really Think About Science? (Drs Thoko Kamwendo, Franziska Kohlt, Alex Fry)
9.30am Changing the Story: Science for Seminaries (Theodora Hawksley), Scientists in Congregations (Despina Katsidou) and Cosmology in the Media (Helen Billam)
10am Break
10.30am Bringing Cosmology into Worship, Bishop Richard Cheetham
11am How Do We Deal With Six-Day Creationism? Revd Prof David Wilkinson
11.30am Preaching the Universe, Prof Tom McLeish
12pm Closing remarks.

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Video Resources

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Building A Universe overview
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