Professor Peter Harrison of Bond University on the Gold Coast has been appointed Chair of Science and Religion at the prestigious Oxford University in the United Kingdom.
Professor Harrison will be only the second “Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion” since the chair was endowed in 1999 by the late Dr. Andreas Idreos himself.
Dr Idreos spent much of his distinguished career working for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, where he became acutely aware that science and religion were each potentially important tools in fostering understanding between cultures.
The science and religion debate that Dr Idreos encountered during his distinguished career still rages today, particularly given such diverse developments as embryo research, cloning, genetically modified crops and others.
Professor Peter Harrison says he is looking forward to clarifying some of the misconceptions about science and religion in his new post, which he will take up in January 2007.
“Science and religion are, in my opinion, the two major cultural forces that have shaped Western culture, but there remain a lot of misconceptions about how they relate.
“There is a public notion that science and religion perpetuate conflict. The historical events of Galileo and the inquisition and the reactions to the Darwinian Revolution are regarded as typical of conflict and resistance on the part of religion to scientific advancements. This has led to a major misconception that their relationship is one of constant conflict, but I see it as far more complicated than that,” he said.
Professor Harrison says his appointment at Oxford marks “the pinnacle of my professional career”.
“I was delighted. For someone who works in the area of Science and Religion, this is really the prime position.
“People tend to think of Oxford as a closed system, but while it’s not often it happens, they’re quite open to overseas appointments,” Professor Harrison said.
It’s been a successful few months for Professor Harrison, who was also recently awarded a coveted three-year Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant of over $130,000 for his research on early modern thought, and in particular, the interplay between scientific, philosophical and religious ideas in the 16th to 19th centuries.
“It is like winning the lottery when you get them. Your research output is much more than you could ever do without them.”