Recently I saw a comment made by a friend (the pink blob) on my Twitter feed and decided to throw myself (the attractive, green and purple blob…the gaussian blur really brings out my eyes) into the fray. Keep in mind that this is a girl who used to regularly attend church, mission trips and the whole nine yards. Let me also say that I can’t blame her at all for how she was feeling- I went through the exact same thing.
Having spent four years studying Human Biology in the Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State, I know how it feels to put your faith through the gauntlet of science, as well as how it feels to be surrounded by those who mock you for believing something with so little concrete evidence. The church made it very hard to be both a scientist and a Christian. For so long, science was condemned as work against God, and scientific viewpoints were cast out of society. It is unfortunate that the people who most frequently speak on the matter of religion and science have little to no knowledge in either regard. One may be well versed in religion, but has never studied science past grade school. The other may be a brilliant scientist, but never took the time to see what religion is really about. It is often the uneducated who are the loudest, and who get heard, which often drives people to one extreme or the other.
To me, science is equatable to the Wizard of Oz, where the crew finally see the man behind the curtain. This quote from Richard A. Simmons sums up this thought quite concisely. He says, ““God conceals from us vast stretches of ultimate reality. As the centuries and millennia pass, however, God slowly pulls back the curtain and opens up the door…the Creator has allowed us to see new spiritual truths and scientific principles that demonstrate His nature. As the ‘glass darkly’ lightens, our understanding of the greatness of God deepens” (http://www.davidmays.org/BN/SweMore.html).
For me, studying the sciences strengthened my faith. Studying topics like Immunology, Genetics, Physiology, Biochemistry, and others made my head spin. Not because of the difficulty of the classes (yes they were difficult), but because there is no way that all of those came to exist through random action. I know that the Earth has been around for a long time, and had a long time to develop, but I just can’t accept the fact that a single celled, heterotrophic “organism”, if you can even call it that, developed and differentiated itself into every type of living thing that exists today. I won’t get into the complexities of the human genome, cellular replication and modification or any of those other subjects, but trust me when I say that the accuracy that those systems operate with did not come by purely through chance. One tiny alteration or error, at the sub-microscopic level can send the entire organism spiraling towards death.
On the other hand however, I cannot accept that everything in this world was put in place just as it should be. I know that the Christian in me “should”, but the scientist in me just can’t do it. I really struggled with this for the longest time, I felt like I had to believe one or the other. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this world recently, it’s that there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of gray area. I have seen evolution with my own eyes- your immune system evolves every day. Your genome is mutating and evolving every day (AWWW YEAH WE GON BE TERMINATORS SOMEDAY). So where do we draw the line as to what is wrong and what is right?
For me, I feel that intelligent design is the most accurate answer, and the one that I feel most comfortable supporting. We weren’t plopped down 4000 years ago ready to rock- look at the Bible and how much the world has changed. Shoot, look at 10 years ago and how much technology and medicine have changed. I believe that everything was put into the world with a purpose and room to grow and adapt. Maybe someday there will be evidence to change my way of thinking, but for now that’s where I’m at. The beauty of this? No one can tell me if I’m right or if I’m wrong. They can debate it, sure, and I love talking about it and kicking ideas around. But at the end of the day, nobody really knows for sure.
What science can’t explain, however, is why my mom still wants to serve in every way she can, despite losing her parents at 16, having a brother in jail and a sister struggling with drugs. It can’t explain why I am able to forgive those who have deeply, deeply hurt me- and not give in to the primal urges of anger and bitterness. It can explain the mechanics of cancer; the oncogenes, the cellular promoters and suppressors, the genetic mutations; but it can’t explain why the person survived uses their story to lift others up who are going through the same thing. Science can explain the “how”- that is actually in the definition of the word- but it cannot explain the why. It is the mechanism, not the answer. You can understand how everything works, down to the most minute quantum particle- but you still won’t know the “why”.
Christianity has been a huge part of my life in making me complete as a person. Where science makes me thirsty for knowledge, spirituality makes me thirsty for grace. Just as I am compelled to learn how a bird flies, or how lightning works, I am drawn to serving others and showing compassion and grace to the best of my ability. Once I started reading the Bible, I saw that science and religion can co-exist. So much gets lost in translation between the Bible and what we are told. The church puts its own spin on it, the news spins it another way and the neighbor up the street has his own twist. What I have found, though, is that the Word is pure. There is no one telling you how to read it or interpret it, that is between you and your God. No one is telling you what is right or what is wrong, or what to believe- that is for you to figure out. For so long I just based my understanding of Christianity on what I was told, what the media showed, what the church did, and how “Christians” acted. I have since realized that the Word gets twisted so many times, that it not only loses its original meaning, but gets bent into completely different interpretations, depending on who is using it and what they are trying to accomplish.
At the end of the day, I do believe that both can exist in harmony. I won’t look to the bible to learn how cancer works, nor will I look into a textbook to see why we get it. The way I see it, they are two different answers for two different questions- science as food for my head, and spirituality as food for my soul.