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Arthur Robert Peacocke

Male 1924 - 2006  (81 years)

  • Name Arthur Robert Peacocke  [1, 2, 3
    Birth 29 Nov 1924  Watford Find all individuals with events at this location   [2, 3
    Education abt 1936 - 1942  Watford Boys' Grammar School Find all individuals with events at this location   [3
    Education abt 1942 - 1948  Exeter College, Oxford Find all individuals with events at this location   [3
    Degree/Qualif. 1945  Oxford University Find all individuals with events at this location ; BA  [3
    • Chemistry, 1st class
    Degree/Qualif. 1948  Oxford University Find all individuals with events at this location ; D Phil  [3
    Occupation 1948 - 1959  Birmingham Find all individuals with events at this location ; University Lecturer  [3
    Occupation 1959 - 1973  St Peter's College, Oxford Find all individuals with events at this location ; Fellow  [3
    • later at Mansfield College
    Ordination 1971  Priest, Church of England  [3
    Occupation 1973 - 1985  Clare College, Cambridge Find all individuals with events at this location ; Dean  [3
    Occupation 1985 -  St Cross College, Oxford Find all individuals with events at this location ; Fellow  [3
    • later catechist at Exeter College and honorary chaplain and honorary canon at Christ Church Cathedral
    Decoration 1993  MBE  [1, 3
    Degree/Qualif. bef 2006  DD, DSc  [1
    Occupation bef 2006  Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford Find all individuals with events at this location ; Honorary Chaplain and Honorary Canon  [3
    Death 21 Oct 2006    [3
    • The Reverend Canon Arthur Peacocke, who died on Saturday [21 Oct 2006] aged 81, made a significant contribution to the understanding of the structure of DNA during his early career as a scientist, though he became better known, after his ordination as an Anglican priest, as a leading advocate of the proposition that the antagonism between science and religion is based on a fallacy.
      In more than 200 papers and 12 books, Peacocke argued that the divine principle is behind all aspects of existence. He proposed a theory, known as "critical realism", which holds that both science and theology aim to depict reality and must be subject to critical scrutiny; and that Scripture, Church and religious tradition cannot be held to be self-authenticating.
      "The search for intelligibility that characterises science and the search for meaning that characterises religion are two necessary intertwined strands of the human enterprise and are not opposed," Peacocke wrote. He believed that, in the modern age, any theology is doomed unless it incorporates the scientific perspective into its "bloodstream".
      Thus he argued that Darwinian evolution, far from being a threat to Christian theology, offers a chance to develop it further. His scientific researches convinced him of the astonishing regularity of the universe, from the microscopic to the astronomic.
      The processes of evolution, he believed, are consistent with an all-knowing, all-powerful God who exists through all time, sets natural laws and knows what the results will be. The implication is that progress in scientific understanding reveals God's actions and purposes, and that all scientific propositions are consistent with religious ones.
      As for the problem of evil, Peacocke argued that it is necessary for organisms to die for others to enter the world. Thus pain, suffering and death are necessary evils in a universe which provides the environment for beings capable of having a relationship with God.
      In 1985 Peacocke founded, and became the first director of, the Ian Ramsey Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religious Beliefs in Relation to the Sciences and Medicine, part of Oxford University's Theology faculty; and the following year he established the Society of Ordained Scientists (SOSc), an ecumenical international organisation which he served as warden from 1987 to 1992.
      In 2001 Peacocke won the £700,000 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, established by the billionaire philanthropist Sir John Templeton to recognise people who have shown originality in advancing man's understanding of God and the role of spirituality in people's lives.
      Peacocke was convinced that, in the debate between science and religion, the Church of England had a special role due to its historic inheritance of catholic order, evangelical commitment and openness to new ideas. This had enabled it to provide a unique forum for open discussion: "One fruit of this, not generally realised but evoking admiration (not to say astonishment) in the informed of other churches, is the exceptionally large number of qualified scientists to be found in its ordained ministry," he observed.
      Through helping to reconcile scientific and religious perspectives, Peacocke believed, the Anglican church was providing a service which could be crucial for the survival of the Christian faith in any form in the new millennium.
      The son of a butcher, Arthur Robert Peacocke was born at Watford on November 29 1924. From Watford Boys' Grammar School, he won a scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford, where he read Chemistry, graduating with a First. After completing a doctorate, in 1948 Peacocke became a lecturer in chemistry and then senior lecturer in biophysical chemistry at Birmingham University.
      After Crick and Watson announced their discovery of the structure of DNA in their famous paper in the scientific journal Nature in 1952, Peacocke and his colleagues at Birmingham went on to show that the chains in DNA are not branched, as once thought, and that the double helix exists in a solution.
      From 1959 he continued his research at Oxford, where he became a lecturer in biochemistry and fellow and tutor in chemistry at St Peter's College and later at Mansfield College.
      An evangelical Christian in his teenage years, Peacocke turned agnostic as an undergraduate, repelled by conservative evangelical Christianity, which challenged some of the key discoveries of science. This phase lasted until he heard a sermon at Oxford's university church by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, and began to conceive of the possibility that Christianity might be intellectually defensible.
      At Birmingham, influenced by the liberal theologian Geoffrey Lampe, Peacocke began a serious study of Theology, took a diploma and a degree in the subject, and was ordained in 1971. In 1973 he published Science and the Christian Experiment, which won the Lecomte de NoŁy prize and established him as a leading theological thinker in the new discipline of science and religion. In the same year he moved to Cambridge to become Dean of Clare College, but he returned to Oxford in 1985 as fellow of St Cross College, then Catechist at Exeter College and honorary chaplain and honorary canon at Christ Church Cathedral.
      Peacocke's other major publications include Creation and the World of Science (1979); Intimations of Reality: Critical Realism in Science and Religion (1984); Theology for a Scientific Age (1990); God and the New Biology (1994); From DNA to Dean: Reflections and Explorations of Priest-Scientist (1996); God and Science: A Quest for Christian Credibility (1996); and Paths From Science Towards God: The End of All Our Exploring (2001).
      Arthur Peacocke was appointed MBE in 1993.
      He married, in 1948, Rosemary Mann, with whom he had a son and a daughter
      [Daily Telegraph, 25 Oct 2006]
    Person ID I2728  Tatham | Christopher branch | Parent of spouse
    Last Modified 09 Jul 2013 

    Family Living 
    +1. Living
    Last Modified 09 Mar 2012 
    Family ID F0703  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Sources 
    1. [S13] thePeerage.com.

    2. [S02] BMD Index, birth reg Watford, 1Q1925.

    3. [S11] Newspaper, Daily Telegraph, 25 Oct 2006.