Nicola is a theologian, and co-director (with Graeme Finlay) of the newly formed New Zealand Christians in Science. She is a theologian and has taught in the United States and New Zealand. She is the author of Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil (OUP, 2013), and co-editor (with Andrew Shepherd) of Taking Rational Trouble Over the Mysteries: Responses to Atheism. She is also Chair of the Board of A Rocha in Aotearoa New Zealand. Nicola has taken part in the Human Uniqueness Project, (2014-2016) at Notre Dame, Indiana, and the Human Nature Project at the Centre for Theological Inquiry at Princeton (2012-13). She is currently working on a book on free will which interacts with the relevant sciences, and claims that we are not as free as we think we are, and that freedom is a matter of degree.
Description: Thirty years ago I wrote a dissertation examining the bondage of the will in Jonathan Edwards and Friedrich Schleiermacher. I was more or less convinced by the compatibilism of these theologians from very different traditions. But I went on to re-frame freedom in corporate terms as freedom in community; I had also been puzzled by the Matthean injunction that what is freed on earth will be freed in heaven and what is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. My original sources were writing pre-neurology, and pre-Darwin. I am no longer convinced by compatibilism. If we are inwardly bound we cannot be responsible, or not fully responsible for our actions. I argue in dialogue with neuroscience that we are more bound and less free than we think we are, and less free than courts of law assume. I reframe freedom to some extent as the gift of community, looking at sociological, literary, theological and anthropological evidence. I then go on to look at that spark of genuine freedom I now think is real, but hard to define, and I examine this as grades of freedom in dialogue with quantum mechanics and chaos theory. This fragile product of human consciousness (perhaps shared to some extent by other animals) nevertheless does not trump the more bound aspects of our being. Freedom in this dimension is related to wisdom. In the end I examine some of the repercussions of these findings for courts of law, the penal system, parenting, and everyday judgments of moral value.