Unless otherwise noted, events take place in the church of St. Andrew’s on The Terrace, 30 The Terrace, Wellington, New Zealand from 12:15pm to about 1pm
Precis: Science and spirituality are usually pegged on opposite sides of a great divide. There are the debates of creationism versus evolution; traditional healing versus mainstream medicine; the ‘evils’ of genetic modification versus the ‘sacredness’ of nature. Elizabeth thinks these polarised debates cause more damage than good. In this talk she will present her vision, in which scientists, artists and mystics join forces as rebel explorers to tackle the biggest baddest issues facing humanity.
“The unknown is the most important part of science and spirituality,” she says. “. Let’s face it. There is so much more that we don’t know than what we do. Unless we find a way to feel comfortable in the unknown and work with it, we have no chance of tackling major issues like climate change, social collapse, war, hunger, overpopulation.
Both science and spirituality give us tools to face the unknown and discover meaning in it.”
In her talk Elizabeth will tackle such questions as:
- what is the essense of science?
- is science living up to its role in society?
- Is religion still important in this increasingly secular and globalised world?
Bio: When Elizabeth Connor was fourteen she had a dream of starting a renaissance that would reunite science, spirituality and the arts and spread across the world reconciling conflicts. Now, almost twenty years later, her plan is roughly the same.
She now directs The KinShip, a Wellington-based consultancy, which uses storytelling and other creative tools to help scientists, council staff and other groups to collaborate across sectors and communities. She has worked with regional council staff working in freshwater management, helped postgraduate scientists connect with industry, directed Magnificent Science Variety Shows combining science with dance, theatre and music, run storytelling competitions for scientists and produced reports, podcasts, publications and performances.
Elizabeth has a Masters in Science Communication from Imperial College in London and an Honours degree in Physics and Maths from Victoria University of Wellington. Her mentor was the late great kiwi scientist, Sir Paul Callaghan, who has been a great inspiration and kicked off her career. With Paul's support she was awarded the inaugural NZ Prime Minister's Science Communication Prize.
As a great admirer of modern science, and as a passionate agnostic, I have alwaysstruggled to define a personal philosophy that might provide a grounding for ourexpanding understanding of the physical world, while underpinning my reluctance tocommit to particular cultural mythologies. Although at first blush the two appear to leadeasily into some form of naturalism, I've never been convinced by this approach. My talkwill be an attempt to outline my current position, with regard to both the philosophy ofscience and those beliefs that sit necessarily beyond its influence. My tentativeconclusion is one of what I shall call collective objectivism, and I will attempt to explorethe relative merits and pitfalls of my evolving stance.
I was born in New Zealand, in 1967. The fifth child of seven, I grew up amongst farmland five kilometres south of the nearest small town (Featherston, pop. 3000).
I attended a Catholic primary school, St Teresa’s and later Chanel College in Masterton. At the end of the school years I moved to Wellington, and completed a degree in Economics, then trained to become a high school teacher.
The teaching career kicked off at Otaki College in 1990. It was there I first learned to love the classroom. An added bonus was the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer; I developed a love of hiking and mountain biking, and first began directing plays.
In 1993 I moved to Tokyo, and spent six months working part time as an English language tutor. It was this lifestyle, with its long empty days, that gave me the chance to try my hand at writing novels. Over the next three years I wrote five books, none of which were publishable. In 1997 the clumsy phase of the apprenticeship drew to a close, and the novel Lester was accepted for publication by Longacre Press, a truly wonderful place to land.
By then I was working at Onslow College, a school with a particularly strong drama programme. I made use of the talent available and began writing and directing my own plays. The first of these was Terence, in 1995. Two stand outs for me are Malcolm and Juliet, which was first performed just after the death of my youngest brother, John, and Double Exposure, written with ex-student Duncan Small.
My first three published novels (Lester, Redcliff and No Alarms) were all written in the gaps while I was teaching. That changed in 1999, when I spent the year traveling in Europe and spent many a sun soaked afternoon with pen in hand. Jolt and the novel adaptation of Malcolm and Juliet were both completed during this time.
Home Boys and Deep Fried (written with my now-wife Clare) rounded out the first decade of my writing career. With seven teenage novels to my name, and a couple of national awards, I felt solidly established as part of the local YA scene. With Clare I experienced my first, rather inglorious, entry into international publishing, when Deep Fried was released in Australia, and largely ignored.
About this time Jolt was turned into a radio play for Radio New Zealand, featuring a group of my students from Onslow college. The broadcasting of the play in England led to an opportunity to develop a screenplay of Jolt, working with an Australian producer and British director. Although the film was never made, it gave me my first taste of writing in this medium.
An opportunity to try something different presented itself in 2005, when I was awarded a Royal Society teaching fellowship, which meant spending a year at The Allan Wilson Centre, an international leader in the field of molecular biology. Initially I intended to use the opportunity as the foundation for my first adult novel, Acid Song. When this project foundered, I turned to an idea I’d been playing with for a few years, a teen sci-fi/metaphysical thriller, and so Genesis was written.
Despite being intended as side project, Genesis became the book that introduced me to the international market. It was sold first to Text Publishing in Australia (my current, superb, publisher, following the sale of Longacre to Random House) who onsold world rights to Quercus in the UK. It’s now gone into 30 territories and has been translated into more than 20 languages.
Meanwhile, I completed Acid Song, along with a work of non-fiction, Falling for Science, an examination of the philosophy of science, and particularly the relationship between story telling and scientific modelling.
I married Clare in 2008, and in January 2010 became a father, with the birth of twins, Sebastian and Alexander. Writing, which I’d always considered more of a hobby than a career, slipped another notch down his list of priorities. I moved to part-time teaching in order to give as much time as possible to Clare and the boys.
In 2011, August was published. Where Genesis had focussed on the conundrums of consciousness, August took as its theme Free Will. It represented the second in an intended trilogy of metaphysical novels. In 2012 I took a year’s leave from Hutt Valley High School, to be the Victoria University Writer in Residence. During the first half of the year I finished the third of the metaphysical novels, Lullaby, abandoned it and began a new project, which has inherited the same theme (death) and name, but nothing else.
I’m also working on a screenplay for August (working title Daybreak) with a British director.
More recently, I’ve completed another screenplay with the same director (this time for Lullaby) and have begun working on a screenplay for Genesis for a duo of young American film makers. Lullaby, the novel, was released in 2012, and as yet has remained fairly anonymous. With the birth of our third child, a delightful, albeit nocturnal, young chap by the name of Avery, our family is complete. I couldn’t be happier.