New College had been unique among theological colleges, when it established a Chair of Natural Philosophy (natural science) in 1845, a year before our present building was begun. The first Professor was the distinguished scientist, John Fleming, and for many years there was a museum of natural science in New College, to support the study of religion and science.
The new Science and Religion programme brings new voices and methodologies to a topic which intrigued the earliest generations of New College students. The offer of an online MSc and a shorter companion course MOOC brought the course to wide audience.
The MSc, led by Programme Director Professor Mark Harris, focuses aims to engage in advanced interdisciplinary study of science and religion. Highly distinctive in European universities, the programme aims to inform and engage with the debate in depth, looking at it from scientific, philosophical, historical, ethical and theological perspectives.
Professor Mark Harris
As a physicist working in a theological environment, Mark is interested in the complex ways that science and religion relate to each other.
Active in physics for many years, Mark is known (with Steve Bramwell of University College London) as the discoverer of ‘spin ice’, currently a major research area in the physics of magnetism. By the end of 2020, more than 6,000 journal articles had been published on the topic since their original discovery in 1997. But a little after this breakthrough, he also discovered theology, and began to broaden his interests beyond magnetism. After ordination as an Anglican priest, and spells in university chaplaincy at Oxford, and cathedral ministry in Edinburgh, Mark now combines his academic interests in physics and theology by running the Science and Religion programme at Edinburgh, which includes both MSc and PhD degrees.
His research interests include the relationship between the physical sciences (especially physics) and theology, and the impact of science on modern views of the Bible, especially in thinking on miracles and divine action.