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Secondary Event – 24th September 2014

240914(10)On September 24th 2014 over 350 secondary school students visited the University of Reading London Road campus for a day of talks and workshops run by LASAR. For more information on the individual sessions,240914(12) please see below and use the links to view a short biography about each speaker.


Who do you think you are? – Professor Mark Pagel

Professor Pagel suggests two models to explain the relationship between science and religion. One is the seesaw principle – as one side goes up the other side goes down; every time science explains something – religion goes down and explains less. Another model, he says, is the principle of wonder. The more science explains the world, the more we appreciate the world. In that model, science and religion address different questions.

Genetic Selection and Genetic Engineering – Can we make better humans? – Professor John Bryant

Modern science, from information technology to genetics, has given us great power to intervene in human life. Indeed, some have claimed that we can now improve the human species (or at least individual members of it). We will focus on the genetic features of these claims. Can we really make ‘better humans’ and, if so, should we?


From Dreams to Reality – Dr Gill Hopper and Dr Rachel King

240914(11)240914(6)Turn your vision for the building of the future into a reality with the help of a mixture of everyday materials and some very clever paint. Be inspired by the inventiveness of some astonishing designers and together we can create a new kind of cityscape.


How to clone a plant – Jane Fieldsend

240914(5)You’ll be surprised by how straightforward it is to clone a plant and even more surprised to learn how commonly cloning technology is used to support food production. In this hands-on workshop be ready to get up close and personal with some vegetables and the equipment you need to clone your own.

“But is it biology?” – Dr Keith Chappell

Developments in technology and the understanding of biology on a molecular scale have quite literally changed the way we look at organisms from viruses to great whales, and especially humans. Biology as a science is unrecognisable now compared to the subject it was even fifty years ago, let alone to the Victorians who developed it and brought the study of living things to the forefront of human knowledge. So is it still biology in the true sense of the word or has it become something different?  Have we lost something along the way?  This workshop will look at biology in its broadest sense to consider – what is biology and who decides.

Can a robot think like a human? – Professor William Harwin

240914(1)We get around in our world largely without falling over. Mostly we don’t bump into things, we avoid colliding with people in crowds, we can open doors, stack cups, catch balls. All these tasks are difficult for robots. Robots can work repetitively and in hostile conditions (think of the Mars rovers) can respond to things we can’t see, and soon may be driving us autonomously or helping us to do rehabilitation exercises. We will talk about the ways robots are currently taught or programmed, how people are much more successful at doing things in comparison and how we can learn from the way people operate to make robots more intelligent.  The question remains, can a robot think like a human and if it does, will it get bored?

Extra Sensory Deception – Dr Matt Pritchard

What can you believe? In this workshop the worlds of magic and science collide to deceive and surprise your senses. Can you discover the sneaky scientific secrets behind the surprising illusions? The show will challenge you to think creatively like both a scientist and a magician. The interactive show encourages enquiry and critical thinking, using magic tricks to inspire. Where does faith, belief and the supernatural fit in with rational science? Or are they enemies?

What makes you ‘you’ in the happiness machine? – Guy Williams

This session explores the problems of defining the self by imagining a well-known philosophical fantasy. What if we could plug into a simulator of a whole reality? Would you be ‘you’ in that second world? What is the self, anyway, and how can it be explained? This session is a chance to wrestle with fine philosophical distinctions to work out what it means to be human.

Fibonacci Flowers – Steph Bryant

This workshop focuses on the relationship between science and awe. Many think that science reduces beauty and wonder into a few scientific reactions, a genetic sequence or a boring, factual explanation. ‘Fibonacci Flowers’ challenges this concept, looking at how scientific exploration can lead to an increased amazement about the natural world. One thing is for sure, you’ll never look at flowers in quite the same way again!

All you need is science. Or is it? – Revd Mark Laynesmith

A workshop exploring relationships between science, philosophy and faith.

Interpreting unusual experience – Dr Geoff Taggart and Jay Lakhani

What has been the most amazing, uplifting and memorable event of your life and how did you make sense of it? More generally, what happens when we have an experience which falls outside our everyday ways of thinking? Using examples from religion and science fiction, we will explore the ways in which different university subject disciplines may cast light on these experiences.

What cannot be imagined cannot even be talked about – Professor Andy Kempe

But how do you use words to convey what we can imagine? When we put words to what we imagine, how sure can we be that the people we’re saying those words to will end up imagining the same as what we are? This is going to be a playful workshop in which we will explore how the limits of our world may be limited by the limits of our language.

Science and Time – Denise Balmer

The workshop provides an opportunity to discuss the formation and development over time of our planet Earth. The session will be interactive and students will put together a ‘washing line of time’, and discuss whether this is at odds with ‘religious time’ and the biblical explanation of how Earth developed.

Robotics Workshop – David Kempton

This workshop involves writing and then downloading programs to run on a small Lego Robot. Students will firstly be challenged to get the Robot to execute various geometric manoeuvres across the floor. Later, the students will be challenged to program the Robot to patrol its environment and use sensors to avoid obstacles in its path.240914(7)

© 2011 LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion)