The Choice: Science or God?

• A pub in Ireland
• Hammered by an evolution website.
• Does it have to be a choice?

I AM A SCIENTIST and I have spent my career doing R&D on a variety of topics: from cosmic rays to fracking to coalbed methane to shale-gas-oil. Also, I believe in God. For this, I have been laughed at once (in Australia many years ago). But never in the USA…….until now.

BILL WIBKER AND I TOURED IRELAND MANY YEARS AGO. We especially wanted to visit the Ring of Kerry, perhaps the most popular tourist spot in Ireland. After we disembarked the ferry from Wales, we walked into a pub and it was exactly as I had envisaged. The Irish music I wanted to hear was playing. The pub was packed and full of gaeity: It must have been happy-hour. I ordered a Guinness, but it was too strong for me (and for Bill). A friendly fellow, called Liam and about 45, suggested adding blackberry liqueur, and I was sold. He told me later this was regarded as a woman’s drink in Ireland!

Ring of Kerry in Ireland (click to enlarge or to source, then hit back-arrow to return to blog).

Ring of Kerry in Ireland (click to enlarge or to source, then hit back-arrow to return to blog).

Liam was chatty, and soon discovered I was a scientist. He also quizzed me about my belief.
“I’ve never met a scientist who believed in God,” he said incredulously.
“We have lots of them in the USA,” I replied.
With a deep frown, he asked me why. How could I still believe in God?
It was a respectful conversation…….but Liam kept shaking his head……he just couldn’t believe it.

FAST FORWARD TO 2016, JUST A FEW WEEKS AGO IN AUSTRALIA. A close friend called Bob contracted thyroid cancer and it was malignant according to a twin-needle biopsy. They rushed to prep for the surgery only two weeks away. The surgeon took out a tumor the size of a mandarin. It was examined by several specialists, and pronounced benign!

Bob told me of perhaps hundreds of Christians who were praying for success in his operation, from a close-knit country church group at Booleroo Whim to mission-supported work in Thailand. He was forced to conclude it was a miracle……that God had intervened somehow. I had to agree, since to me a scientist, it seemed the simplest explanation of the data.

Meanwhile I came across a website called EvolutionIsTrue, out of Chicago. The website strives to be very strong on science, not just evolution. The author expounded a recent blog that there were no such things as miracles in the natural order, because they couldn’t be proved by science.

I DECIDED TO ADD A COMMENT ABOUT BOB’S MIRACLE, and Bob’s (and my) interpretation of the data in terms of an intervention by God. Well this opened a Pandora’s box of criticism, and I got hammered. My physics degree got hammered, my reputation as a scientist got hammered, and my belief in God got hammered……by individual responses to my first and subsequent comments……

• They tried to argue that a poor biopsy evaluation fell within normal statistics, which cannot be true for otherwise we’d have no trust in biopsies at all.
• Also, they said it couldn’t be proven to be of God because God didn’t exist.
• They asked me to prove that God exists.
• Then they said if this was a miracle from God then God was a monster (because he didn’t heal all cancer patients; only some of them).
• I told them I didn’t disrespect them because they didn’t believe in God, so why did they disrespect me because I did believe in God?
• Lastly, they asked me to get off the site because I was dominating the blog-thread.

Although I made sure I was respectful in all my comments, I was disappointed in the personal attacks by some of the other side, which were mostly about my believing in God. I felt angry and sad at these attacks…. first in over 40 years of living in the USA.

DOES IT HAVE TO BE A CHOICE? A new book is out called Let there be Science, which I haven’t read, but the book appears to be a refreshing look at the link between Science and God. The lead author, David Hutchings, is a high-energy high-school physics teacher, and he obviously doesn’t see any conflict between science and God. (I used to teach high-school physics).lettherebescience

• You don’t have to choose between Science and Christianity.
• The idea of having to ‘pick a side’ is totally unsupported by the evidence. Christianity and Science have walked hand in hand for centuries…. A deep interconnectedness of the biblical worldview and scientific progression.
• Time and again, Christians appear right at the forefront of scientific revolutions – frequently attributing their insights to their faith.
• The practice and priorities of the Christian life link clearly to the attitudes and habits which produce good science. After all, what better preparation could there be for tearing up the science rulebook and starting all over again than having done that already with your whole life?

POST-SCRIPT: I thank God for a lifetime of opportunities as a scientist. At this particular juncture of my life, I and my family are immersed in one of the biggest multi-dimensional storms of life that I have ever encountered, and I truly do not know how we would deal with this without our faith. I’m not embarrassed to say I am clinging moment-by-moment to the comfort and peace and hope that comes from God, and from all our praying friends.

The Gray Nomad
Probing the practices of Christian faith

Are we using science in ways that it wasn’t intended to, in which case we should be a little careful, or are we using faith in ways that faith wasn’t really designed for? There are certain questions that are better answered by one approach than the other, and if you start mixing that up, then you end up in …..conflict. (Francis Collins).

17 comments on “The Choice: Science or God?”

  1. Jack says:

    Ian, I find it interesting that evolutionists in particular and many scientists in general, can not believe in God or accept that there is a God. They expect you to accept their beliefs that they have not been able to prove after examining evidence going back something like 600 million years yet they say God can’t exist because you can’t prove He exists. I believe by the evidence I see in the people, creatures and world around me that God has to be the ultimate scientist, biologist, chemist, mathematician, physicists, etc. How can you separate God from science?

    A saying I have heard is “What you believe is the truth”. Instead of following the evidence to find the Truth we tend to believe our “truth” and make our evidence prove what we believe! It is written that “The truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God has made. They can clearly see His invisible qualities – His eternal power and Divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God” Romans 1:19-20.
    These are my thoughts from a simple man. Thanks for sharing you stories, insights and experiences.

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      Thanks Jack for your comment. I loved your statement “God has to be the ultimate scientist….”

  2. Barbara Hale Leachman says:

    It isn’t unusual for people who don’t believe in God to be so closed minded that they don’t want you to believe either. They call themselves open and liberal, and they are as long as you agree with them. Don’t you find it odd that people who don’t believe in God are so against him? It’s seems that if they allow you to speak about God and they had to hear you, then they just might be converted. If he doesn’t exist, then let people believe if they want to. It’s no skin off their noses. I may not be able to prove God exists, but they can’t prove he doesn’t exist. I had a miracle. Interestingly even some of the people in my church at that time didn’t want to hear about it because they didn’t believe miracles still happened. We are praying for your continued peace and hope right now. Remember, Jesus was with the disciples in the boat in the midst of the storm.

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      It did puzzle me that strong emotions were evident behind the criticisms of my believing in God, and from people who would probably claim to be hard-nosed scientists. I agree if I cannot scientifically prove the existence of God, they cannot disprove his existence. Good points you make Barbara.

  3. Joshua Ellison says:

    When I ponder on the beauty of this world- in the visuals, the smells, the feel, and my sheer ability to love other humans as I do I cannot fathom how God has such creativity. As I watch Youtube videos that zoom into the complexities of a simple cell, I try to imagine the most logical pattern that could have led to the forming of that cell…sure I may come up with something clever that could relate to the evolutionist perspective, but then I zoom back out and capture the entirety of all that is around me. So much life! We are so small, and I do not mean us as people but rather our entire planet. What space does the universe take up? Awww….. one of the many questions beyond my understanding but a true revealing of how incredible our Creator is. I thank God for gifting me with the ability to appreciate his creation. God in your heart Ian.

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      Well said Joshua…. Your statement, “I thank God for gifting me with the ability to appreciate his creation.” struck me as a rich vein of thought. I want to understand this better……

      1. David Hutchings says:

        Dear Ian (and All),
        Thank you for your post and your comments – and in particular to Ian for drawing attention to Let There Be Science. I thought I would respond to Ian’s response to Joshua’s comment(!) by letting you all know that this is a major theme in the book. In fact, we have a whole chapter on it, entitled ‘A Gift and an Invitation’.
        God has made us in His image, and given us the ability to reason creatively about the reasonable world He has made. As we do so, we learn more about Him, as St Paul says in Romans 1. Christians can be greatly blessed by involving themselves in science – it can be a way for them to draw closer to God!
        So as others attack, stand firm, and be of good cheer! We know Whom we have believed 🙂

        1. Ian Palmer says:

          Hi David. Its an honor to receive your comment, and especially the part in which you elaborate on Joshua’s concept….. he will be pleased.

  4. Don says:

    Thanks Ian for this blog post. And thank you Jack for your comments, which I agree with wholeheartedly. As an accountant I have been privileged to work with some of the brightest minds in the world of science. These people held advanced degrees (most held doctorates) from top universities. They were nuclear engineers and physicist, other engineer disciplines, chemists, chemical engineers, and from other technical fields of science. These were smart people, engaged in heavy science, who knew that humility was an important ingredient in doing good science. Working closely with these people for years, we became friends; and guess what, the overwhelming majority of them were Christians, with a firm belief in the Holy Scriptures, and a deep abiding faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some were of other religious beliefs. I don’t remember ever encountering an atheist among these good women and men. It seems that “pride” is the engine that drives the strict evolutionist, who give no consideration for a higher power. Believing in God does not have to do away with a belief in an evolutionary process (if you choose to believe in that). No matter what the process was and is, God is still involved and in control. Its like these people who attacked Ian think all science has been accomplished and all discoveries have been made, and all the knowledge, which is selective in their case, that is to be had is already available to them??? Or at least enough has been learned to give credence to their beliefs. I actually feel sorry for these people, because such narrow minds produce anger and unhappiness, and it gives no place for disagreement or discussion. Not to mention being deprived of the joy that comes from the fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Who among us would want to give up the fellowship and inspiration of Holy Spirit? We should pray for them.

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      I definitely think pride was an issue with the scientists who criticized me. Its one thing to say respectfully, “I don’t believe in God”, and quite another to imply that believing in God lowers someone else’s competence to interpret data and to do science.

  5. Don says:

    I wrote my blog comment after I read Jack’s comment. But I also agree with the other blog comments….. thanks to all of you for your wisdom, understanding and faith.

  6. Karen Larre says:

    Wow, Ian. I am so sorry for the way you were treated. It is not unlike the way (I’ve heard) that some people very upset that Donald Trump is our new President-elect have been acting. It seems that points of view that disagree these days are being met by some with anger, rage and even some violence. Bless you for doing this blog and bringing some balance to the dialogue.

  7. Kim B says:

    I find it interesting, that they attacked your opinion. When others attack, they are in fear of something or someone. If they are so confident that there is no God, they should have been more comfortable with what you had to say. Keep planting those seeds Ian!!

  8. Michelle says:

    What an encouraging perspective and courageous journey. Thank you for sharing so openly. This gives me hope for others I love who struggle with the science vs God dilemma.

  9. Vanessa says:

    I’m so glad you held your ground Ian.

  10. John says:

    Your experience with the “EvolutionIsTrue” blog was unfortunate coming just before your operation. Those folks seem to be somewhat insensitive and intolerant. That said, I hope you had a successful operation and are recovering well.

  11. Jon Clarke says:

    There are lots of Christians in science, not just in the USA! Even in Australia.


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