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The Friendship of Science and Religion

St Peter's 13-18

The Friendship of Science and Religion

Professor Polkinghorne, 2012St Peter’s School, York, presented a public lecture by Revd Dr John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS

The Friendship of Science and Religion took place on Wednesday 14 March 2012 at 7pm in the Memorial Hall.

"Science and religion are friends because both are concerned with the search for truth attained through motivated belief. They ask different questions (science, How?; religion, Why?) but their answers must be consonance and so there is interaction between them. Science tells religion about the nature and history of the physical universe, including its evolving character, and religion can take the insights of science and set them within a deeper context of understanding, as when it sees the wonderful order of the universe as reflecting the divine Mind of its Creator."


The Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne was born in Weston-super-Mare, England on 16 October 1930. He began his studies in science, specifically physics. He earned both an M.A. and a Ph.D. at Trinity College Cambridge, where he was elected a fellow in 1954 and studied under Paul Dirac, focusing on particle physics. In 1956 he was appointed Lecturer in Mathematical Physics at the University of Edinburgh and returned to Cambridge as Lecturer two years later, where he was promoted to professor in 1968. His career changed when in 1979 he resigned as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge to pursue theological studies. After training at Westcott House, in Cambridge, he became a priest in the Church of England in 1982. He served two years as a parish priest in Bristol and then worked as a vicar in Kent, before he returned to academia in 1986 to become Dean of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He was then named President of Queens’ College in Cambridge from 1989 until he retired in 1996. He is currently a Fellow (and former President) of Queens’ College, Cambridge and a Canon Theologian of Liverpool Cathedral. He has three children.

His distinguished accomplishments include being elected Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1974 and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1997. He was awarded the Templeton Prize for Science and Religion (2002).  The following is an extract from the citation:

John C Polkinghorne is a mathematical physicist and Anglican priest whose treatment of theology as a natural science invigorated the search for interface between science and religion and made him a leading figure in this emerging field. Dr Polkinghorne resigned a prestigious position as Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of Cambridge in 1979 to pursue theological studies, becoming a priest in 1982. Since then, his extensive writings and lectures have consistently applied scientific habits to Christianity, resulting in a modern and compelling, new exploration of the faith. His approach to the fundamentals of Christian orthodoxy creation, using the habits of a rigorous scientific mind have brought him international recognition as a unique voice for understanding the Bible as well as evolving doctrine.

He was awarded a von Humboldt Foundation Award (1999) and is the founding president of the International Society for Science and Religion and one of the founders of the Society of Ordained Scientists.

He is internationally recognised for his contribution to the study of theology and science, and he has published several books that combine his two areas of expertise: theological inquiry and scientific investigation.