A Scientist Believe in God?
Anderson, my physics professor, once digressed from
an electronics lecture to tell the story of two students
who were preparing to take a final exam. Suddenly, a
hand mysteriously appeared at the front of the classroom
and began to write the Ten Commandments on the wall:
You shall have no other gods...Honor your father and
your mother...You shall not kill...You shall not steal.
The students suddenly realized that this was not just
any final exam, this was the final exam. One of them
became speechless and paralyzed with fear. The other
breathed a sigh of relief, pointed to the wall, and
said, "Look!" The hand had finished writing, and at
the bottom of the list had added, Answer any six.
life was devoted to science and religion. A physicist,
he was also an ordained Episcopalian priest, serving
Christ Episcopal Church in Oberlin part time. I attended
Christ Church for three years with Mary Ann Hopper '78,
a religion major who later became my wife. I (a physics
major) was impressed with Anderson's strong religious
beliefs; he was a scientist, yet he didn't believe that
science conflicted with religion.
Ann and I married in 1978 in Fairchild Chapel. Two of
the guests were Anderson and his wife. Following the
ceremony, Mary Ann was making her way toward the Oberlin
Inn, where the reception was to be held. She turned
around to discover that the guests were heading toward
the new sundial that I had recently finished constructing
on the south wall of the physics building. Ironically,
our religious ceremony had concluded with scientific
observations. In spite of this, the Oberlin physics
major and the Oberlin religion major have now been happily
married for 22 years--the ultimate proof that science
and religion can coexist!
moved to Evanston, and for the next 11 years were fortunate
to have an excellent Lutheran pastor, Royce Scherf.
Once again, I was impressed by the strong religious
faith of someone who understood science but did not
see a conflict between it and religion. Scherf loaned
me some works of Karl Heim, a German physicist and theologian
(The World: Its Creation and Consummation; The Transformation
of the Scientific World View). Today I am a scientist
in the field of electronic semiconductors, but also
a devout Christian. Much of this I owe to the examples
and teaching of Anderson, Scherf, Heim, my wife, and
others. Over the past 25 years, I have reached the following
conclusions: Science and religion can coexist so long
as we don't try to use science to answer the questions
of religion, or religion to answer the questions of
science. Science deals with the natural world and uses
the language of hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion.
Religion deals with the supernatural world and uses
the language of revelation, belief, and hope. Science
is unable to prove if God exists. But religious belief
in God does not require scientific proof of God's existence.
In fact, if the existence of God could be proven, religion
would not involve faith. And for those of us who already
believe in God, science strengthens our faith by continually
providing new glimpses into the incredible, infinite
wonders of creation.