This is my open letter to all of my family and friends, to replace those long, hand-written letters that I used to write to each of you individually. Everyone is welcome to join the conversation.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Science and Christianity
No, I am not a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist or a follower of Scientology. I am a scientist who is also a Christian, a member of a Presbyterian congregation, to be specific. Some think that religion and science is incompatible, but not me. I see God in nature and I believe that I am getting to know him better as I learn more about the natural world. I don’t view the Bible as literally true. In fact, I think that many sections of it are actually completely made up. The point of the Bible is not to ask, “how did God do that?” or, “how did this event really happen?” but instead to ask, “why would God want me to know this story?” Genesis is actually a correct description of the history of Earth, if viewed from the Earth’s surface. Whether miracles actually took place as described in the Bible or not, that’s not the point. The point is for us to learn something from the story about how God wants us to live our lives. He wants us to learn from the Bible how to have a better relationship with him, which, in my interpretation, is the same as having better relationships with people here on Earth. I see God not only in the spectacular natural phenomena, like aurora and sunsets, but also in the mundane, like the speckled coloration of a boulder or the intricate patterns of a leaf. The more I know about how these things are formed and how they behave according to natural laws of the physical universe, the more I appreciate them and respect them. So, I don’t find my scientific vocation and training in conflict with my religious beliefs and worldview. I remain objective in my work and, I would say, my take on religion helps me to be a better scientist. Knowing that God created the universe, I always strive to understand the basic mechanisms responsible for some strange and unexplained feature in the data I am pondering. That is, I try not to hold any preconceived biases about how things work. It also means that I strive to treat all other scientists with respect and consideration, because I know that God created them for a special purpose and that my relationship with them is a reflection of my relationship with God. So, are science and religion incompatible? I don’t think so.