A weekly dose of science for the church
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Is the world fundamentally determined or undetermined?… All of these possible interpretations point to the enigma of the way the world really is. Does God play dice? Is there a reality to things before we observe them? Are there many worlds? Are there hidden variables that still elude us nearly a century after Einstein postulated them?
Let’s face it: Physics is hard—both for me the guide and for you the reader. But it’s also fascinating, and this week we will consider some of its wackiest ideas.
Quantum mechanics is so weird, so counterintuitive, and so poorly understood at the most fundamental level—dozens of interpretations exist trying to make sense of it—that it is risky to draw theological conclusions. Does God play dice? Do duality, observer effects, and probabilities truly describe the world God created? Or do they point to a veil that hides the microscopic world from us?
Why don’t our theological voices trust the sciences to offer an accurate picture of the world when we trust the science of classical Greek studies to offer us the tools to study the most sacred texts, the words that bring us to the knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Humility is something all church leaders need—and by humility, I mean something more than just a humiliating experience. It should be a frame of mind, an approach to the world that opens us up to learn what the Spirit has to teach us.
Scientists do want to get the facts right and to accurately investigate the natural world, but even more so, the ones in your pews—especially those on who sit on your boards, teach Sunday school, or volunteer with your youth—really want to be recognized not just as scientists, but as equal partners in the body of Christ. They want to be of service to the church.
Science is not the center of the church, and never should be. But let me get back to that courtyard renovation at my church—a half block from North Carolina State University, which trains more STEM professionals than any other school in the state. If we are not taking the science they are teaching seriously, they will not take us seriously.
There’s been a longstanding warfare thesis about the alleged rivalry between faith and science. But in the words of historian Ron Numbers, it’s “more propaganda than history.”
In recent decades, many interesting studies have examined how religion and faith help us deal with stress, loss, and trauma. Events as different as 9/11, near-death experiences, and caring for someone with cancer have been studied.
How do these attachments affect our relationship with God? Scholars have determined that our history of human attachments—good ones and bad ones—can impact our relationship with God.
Our faith can give us the power for change, but so does our God-given neurobiology. Scientists call it neuroplasticity. Our brains are malleable, and as our neurons and synapses rewire, we change. New neurons can even form. This happens throughout our lives, though at a slower rate as adults. Any repeated brain activity rewires us, and once rewired, our mental and physical experience of the world can be transformed.
How do scientists and clergy work together for the good of the gospel? Fortunately, the Christian scientists I’ve met share a love for both their individual specialities and for the bigger-picture greater good of the Gospel of Jesus.