Public Lectures and Seminars

2018 Walton Lecture: Are Natural Disasters Acts of God?

Are natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions acts of God? How does this fit with the Christian belief in a God who is good?

Abstract. We live in a world that God declared to be "very good". Earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions, and the processes that drive them, help make a fertile world that is rich in life. These same processes may kill many thousands of people at a stroke. Natural disasters challenge us about the relationship between the creator, his creation and humans made “in his image”. Professor White will describe the causes of natural disasters and how they are exacerbated or even caused by human actions. He wil discuss what the Scriptures say about natural disasters specifically using the responses to disaster of three biblical figures: Joseph, Job and Jesus. The Christian Gospel is shot through with hope not just for the present but also for the future. The Christian perspective recognises the brokenness of this world, but also God’s sovereignty over it and his ultimate plans for a new creation. Professor White will explore how the Christian hope should drive us to work for better scientific understanding of disasters, to build resilience to disaster among vulnerable communities, and to strive to remove the unjust disparities in wealth and resources that mean the poor and disadvantaged often suffer the most. Robert White is Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge (since 1989) and Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1994.

He recently received the Gold Medal for a lifetime of distinguished achievement in solid Earth geophysics from the Royal Astronomical Society. He leads a research group investigating the Earth’s dynamic crust: in particular the way in which enormous volumes of volcanic rock are produced when continents and oceans rift apart, and the movement of molten rock under active volcanoes. He has organised many overseas fieldwork projects and supervised over 50 PhD students at Cambridge, many of whom are now prominent in academia, industry, government and education. His work at sea has taken him to the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and his research group is currently investigating the internal structure of volcanoes in Iceland. His scientific work is published in over 350 papers and articles. More information about Robert White can be found on his personal webpage: The lecture is free and open to the public.

Category: Public Lectures and Seminars:
Time: 7:30pm – 9:30pm
Location: West Wing Room W5, Main Quadrangle
Target Audience: All welcome
Admission Price: € Free
Contact: Frank Peters
085 723 2601

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