On God and science
“You Christians are just gullible,” Jimmy said to me the other day. “And not very smart. You believe all that stuff with blind faith. You stick your head in the sand and take a blind leap in the dark.”
“I have faith in your ability to mix your metaphors.”
“What is your definition of faith?” I asked.
He paused for a moment and then said confidently, “I agree with Mark Twain when he said, ‘Faith is believing what you know ain’t true.'”
I shook my head.
“Sorry, he’s wrong. People like Twain back in the 1800s or like Richard Dawkins today misunderstand what the word faith means when they say that faith is stubborn belief despite evidence. Instead, faith is a trust in what we have reason to believe.”
“Reason?” Jimmy said. “Science has disproved God. Nobody with half a dog brain would have faith in that stuff.”
Just then Jimmy’s dog scampered down the driveway to where we were standing and looked up at me, tail a-waggin’.
“Hey Pablo, I need something to explain what faith is. Something to show…”
“Roof,” he said.
“Ah, yes. Great idea, Pablo. See your neighbor’s roof over there, Jimmy? Would you walk out on it? Jump up and down a few times?”
“No way. Wouldn’t trust it for a minute. No one has taken care of that place for generations.”
“How about the roof of your own house?”
“Of course. I trust that.”
“Because I designed it and built it myself. I chose the rafters and the hardware — no prefab trusses — made it extra strong to hold tons of snow. I reinforced every collar beam myself. And I took out a pen and signed the ridge before I finished it off. I carefully placed every expensive shingle. That roof will outlast my grandkids.”
“So you trust it because you know it.”
“That’s faith. The more we know God, the stronger our faith.”
“But science …”
“OK. Let’s talk about a scientist, a distinguished professor and inventor at Rice University, Dr. James Tour. He’s one of the world’s top synthetic organic chemists.”
I pulled out my phone and looked up some info.
“He has authored 750 scientific publications and holds over 130 granted patents and over 100 pending patents.
“In 2014, he was named one of ‘The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds,’ and, in 2018, he was recognized as one of the world’s most highly cited researchers.”
“Researching what?” asked Jimmy.
“Let’s see … nanoelectronics, graphene electronics, carbon nanovectors for medical applications, green carbon research for environmentally friendly oil and gas extraction, graphene photovoltaics, carbon supercapacitors, CO2 capture, water purification, carbon nanotube and graphene synthetic modifications, graphene oxide, hydrogen storage on nanoengineered carbon scaffolds, synthesis of single-molecule nanomachines, which includes molecular motors and nanocars … The list keeps going.
“Among the many, many honors he’s received, he won the Oesper Award from the American Chemical Society in 2021, which is awarded to ‘outstanding chemists for lifetime significant accomplishments in the field of chemistry with long-lasting impact on the chemical sciences.’
“And, in 2019, he was cited as one of the 50 most influential scientists in the world today. Also …”
Jimmy cut in.
“So what? What’s the use of all this ivory tower research that doesn’t help anybody?”
“OK. I just heard about this recently. Dr. Tour announced that he is working on a project that builds nanomachines that can drill into harmful bacteria or even cancer cells and kill them. Antibiotic-resistant cells will not be able to build a resistance to these machines.
“The nanomachines, called that because 50,000 can fit within the diameter of a human hair, have eliminated four different types of cancer cells so far. The machines do not harm healthy cells. They only go after the ones for which they are programmed, and they only go to work when activated by a blue light.”
Jimmy cut in, “See, science can do all that without having to believe in God.”
“Yes, but Tour became a follower of Jesus in his freshman year of college and that has guided his mind ever since.
“He has said, ‘I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.’
“Dr. Tour also said, ‘More than any of my awards, degrees or accomplishments, what means the most to me is that I am a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Messiah.
“‘I haven’t seen any conflict’ between science and faith. When I see things in science, I’m in awe of the way God constructed these things. For me, it is just pure joy.'”
Phil Cook is a teacher, works in northern Michigan with Biglife, an international disciple-making ministry, and serves on the Board of Directors for Sunrise Mission in Alpena.