Sarah Coakley

Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, Cambridge

Sacrifice Regained: Evolution, Cooperation and God

In her series of lectures, Coakley engages with contemporary mathematical and empirical reconsiderations of ‘cooperation’ and ‘sacrifice’ in evolutionary biology. She critically investigates evolutionary theory and its narrative of meaning, raising the question of God. Natural theology is ‘reconceived’, argues Coakley, in light of global economic and ecological challenges precipitated by false notions of ‘sacrifice’. She skilfully negotiates the varied conceptual landscapes of natural theology and contemporary evolutionary biology.


Sarah Anne Coakley was born on 10 September 1951 in London. As an Anglican priest, systematic theologian, and philosopher of religion, she has led research projects on theology and the biological concept of evolutionary cooperation and written on theology and feminism. Coakley began teaching at Lancaster University in 1976, moving on to Oriel College, Oxford in 1991, becoming Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity at Harvard in 1995. In 2006, she was the first woman elected as Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and in 2011, became Deputy Chair of the School of Arts and Humanities. 

Elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2019, she holds honorary degrees from Lund University, St Andrews, University of St Michael’s College, Toronto, and Heythorp College, London. Her publications, spanning journal articles, edited volumes, and books, include The Making and Remaking of Christian Doctrine (1993) Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender (2002), Praying for England: Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture (2008), The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God (2012), and The Oxford Handbook to the Reception History of Christian Theology (2013).