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The Comparison Project hosts lecture on miracles and naturalism

February 22, 2018

Mark Harris, senior lecturer in science and religion at the University of Edinburgh, will deliver a free public lecture at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 8, in Drake's Olmsted Center.

The Comparison Project will present the second event of the spring semester in its ongoing two-year series on miracles. Mark Harris, senior lecturer in science and religion at the University of Edinburgh, will deliver a lecture on the intersection of science and miracles titled “Naturalism and the Problem of the Unity of Science: How Miracles Help." The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 8, in the Sussman Theater of Drake's Olmsted Center, 2875 University Ave.

Harris studied geology at Cambridge University before moving into mainstream physics in Oxford, first in a postdoc at the University of Oxford, then in a staff position at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. For about 10 years, Harris established his interests in the physics of magnetic materials. After exploring a calling to ordination in the Church of England, Harris read theology at Oxford in the early 2000s, and moved into parish ministry and university chaplaincy. In 2012, Harris constructed the University of Edinburgh's new master’s program in science and religion and has been a director of the program ever since.

Harris’s teaching and research focus on the relationship between Christian theology and the physical sciences. He is especially interested in the impact of science on modern views of the Bible, especially in thinking on miracles and divine action. Harris is in the process of working on a book project on naturalism, and the ways that historical debates on naturalism in geology provide a new way of looking at miracles.

Harris’s lecture will discuss conventional assumptions in theological and philosophical discussions of miracle that science can be adequately dealt with simply by invoking ‘the laws of nature’, such that a miracle transgresses these laws. He will talk about the shortcomings of these assumptions, arguing that there is a need to address wider underpinning concepts in the philosophy of science, including naturalism, the uniformity of nature, and the unity of science. Harris will suggest new ways forward for thinking about miracles by bringing in insights from debates in geology.

The Comparison Project enacts global philosophy of religion in the local Des Moines community. It is supported by the Drake University Center for the Humanities, Humanities Iowa, the Medbury Fund, the Drake University Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship, the Des Moines Area Religious Council, and Cultivating Compassion: The Dr. Richard Deming Foundation.

Future events in The Comparison Project’s series on miracles include:

  • Thursday, March 29: “Wonder: Miracles and the Aesthetics of Response." Richard H. Davis, Bard College. Sussman Theater.
  • Thursday, April 19: “Fatima: Examining Catholicism’s Greatest Modern Miracle." Michael O’Neill, author ofExploring the Miraculous and creator of the website com. Sussman Theater.
  • Thursday, May 10: “‘By Whose Authority?’: Polemical and Political Uses of Miracle Stories." David L. Weddle, Colorado College. Cowles Reading Room.

All events begin at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public.