“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (NIV, 2001 ed.)
I spent my last blog post exploring the general public’s idea of science and the scientific method. If anything, I hope I was able to convey that science is the process of testing ideas and hypotheses to draw conclusions about the natural, physical world. As a quick refresher summary, science is quantifiable; it’s observable, measurable, reproducible, and concrete. Sure, sometimes the process can be darn murky (I’m actually cross-eyed with some of my own confusing data at the moment and procrastinating by writing this) and sometimes it becomes too complex for a simple mind like mine to visualize. On the whole, though, science tries to build up evidence and draw conclusions based on that evidence.
Now if we turn to the flip side…what is faith? The whole point of my blog is that I’m a person who loves science, but I’m also very faith-based and love my God as well. I opened up this post with Hebrews 11:1 because I think it captures a very important distinction between science and faith: faith is trusting something even when traditional “evidence” is absent. I can’t bottle God, design an experiment to test His power or even His existence, and I certainly can’t quantify anything about Him. There is no statistical test that will ever demonstrate His significance (nhaha, see what I did there?), and I can’t present the kind of reproducible data that would ever sway a non-believer or impress reviewers for a journal.
So why on earth would I enjoy having these two facets in my life? On the one hand, I selected a career path that has trained me to be skeptical and critical of how someone arrives at a conclusion (well, at least a good number of folks have tried to help me think this way…definitely a work in progress). On the other hand, I put the ultimate confidence of my life in Someone that I will probably never see with my own eyes while I’m alive on this Earth. In a way, these two different directions are almost opposing absolutes—sometimes complementary, sometimes in seeming opposition.
For me, though, there are two ways around this impasse. The first is that I don’t hold science or the scientific method itself as the be-all, end-all. It is an incredibly powerful way of answering questions, but it always will be limited by our knowledge, intellect, creativity, and technology. Heck, Louis Pasteur did away with thousands of years of ideas behind spontaneous generation by simply bending a tube. Giant Disclaimer: I’m not by any means saying I don’t trust modern science. (So please vaccinate your kids and reduce, reuse, recycle, dagnabbit.) I am saying that just because we can’t or don’t know how to test something, we don’t necessarily have to negate its value or authenticity. How on earth can you test spirituality? To my knowledge, you can’t. Does that mean spirituality has no value? Well, the ancient Egyptians thought the brain was a useless lump in our skulls, but they had no way to test that idea. That sure as crikey didn’t mean the brain actually was useless though.
Second, and probably the weightier factor for me, is that I’m willing to accept a very different kind of “proof” with my faith: my own story and experiences. Now don’t get me wrong; I will be the first to cry foul when someone tries to pawn off anecdotal evidence as data, especially if they’re trying to tell me how they cured cancer with cod liver oil and bean sprouts or something. And heck, out there on the interwebzz, you can find a shockingly scandalous conspiracy theory or goofy tale for just about anything. Beyond that, though, I mean our full personal stories, our own history and experiences. Our personal stories shape our emotions, influence what political beliefs we will adhere to, and help make decisions about novel situations (this version is easier for that one). Our stories are really what make us. As for my faith, my story and my life experiences all say that there is Something out there controlling random chance. There is a sense of deeper meaning and value than I have ever found in science, and there are life experiences that I can’t explain away with any reasonable answer.
I love this quote by C.S. Lewis:
“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”
It’s more on the philosophical side, and I’m sure there are plenty who would debate me on it. Indeed I have a number of friends who don’t even think there really is any ultimate meaning in life. Now be sure to note, I’m not here to judge that belief or the people who hold it. Rather, my point is that I personally don’t know how to ignore the idea that every person I’ve ever met is worth more than the simple generational act of passing on one’s genes. We’re worth more than just being polite or being a “good person,” whatever that really means. Maybe this is just me being too anthropocentric. Maybe I’m biased because I’m just lucky and have gotten to meet some really awesome folks in my life. Maybe I’m too full of myself to believe I’m worthless #rockstar #clearly
Or maybe…just maybe…each one of us really is loved and valued by Someone, from somewhere outside our own little worlds.
Well, agree with me or call me crazy. Science will never tell me if I’m right on that last bit or not, but I’m cool with that. I’m going to keep on running the in-between ground—learning about God and teaching folks all the nerdy tidbits I can find! And now you know what to expect from me if you come back in the future.
Peace, love, and science!
P.S. Sorry about the lateness of this post…too much fun happening around the 4th of July. Stay tuned for my next post, though! You’ll learn more than you ever realized you needed to about reptiles!
*Oo! Like my C.S. Lewis quote, want to see some crazy animals that really do live in a world without light? Check out the blind salamander, Mexican blind cave fish, and virtually anything that lives below the photic zone in the ocean. Just watch out for these bad boys. And these.