How to balance science and faith.

• My talk on Fracking and Global Warming at Oral Roberts University.
• The faith of a neurobiologist.
• Tensions he sees between science and faith.
• Deciding to marry – science or faith?
• Netflix challenge of the week.
I’m giving a talk this coming week called Fracking and Global Warming: What’s the Connection? This is a new topic for me and I had to put some research into it. The talk is at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Wednesday 27 February at 1:15 pm and at 2:15 pm (same talk at both times in room 102 of the Global Learning Center). I appreciate the invite by Dr John Korstad who reaches two different courses on Sustainability at the university.

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William Newsome, Ph. D. Click image to enlarge or to source, then back-arrow to return to blog article.

I am always intrigued by scientists who admit they have an active spiritual faith, especially if they talk about the tension between science and faith.
Such is the case with a neurobiologist called William Newsome, from Stanford university in California. I had to google on the word. “Neurobiology deals with the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the nervous system.”

Here are some snippets from an article written about Dr Newsome (to read the full article click HERE):
• Dr Newsome is not only a world-class scientist who has made extensive contributions to the study of vision and the neurobiological underpinnings of choice but is also a church-going Christian.
• Professionally, he leads an institute devoted to understanding how the human brain gives rise to mental life and shapes who we are.
• “My father was a Southern Baptist minister and particularly interested in new paleontological discoveries on hominid origins, things like that. So I had a healthy interest in both science and in matters of religious faith in my background. I’ve always been grateful for that.”
• “I got really interested in biology early on. I had a great course from a great teacher in the ninth grade. I remember the first time I looked at a clear drop of water – looked at it under the microscope and saw all these little bugs swimming and moving around in a clear drop of water. I was just enthralled by that and made up my mind right then and there I really wanted to be a biologist when I grew up.”

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Click on image to enlarge or to source.

WHAT TENSIONS DO YOU SEE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND FAITH? “One, which I think is a red herring, is saying that the discoveries of science make religious faith untenable.”
• “I actually think that most of the discoveries of science are open to a religious worldview. I think that the discovery of the big bang [origin of the universe], for example, shows that our universe has not been in existence forever, that there was a moment where it started, and that’s very consistent with the notion of creation in early Genesis stories.”
• “The theory of evolution has been a flash point obviously. People have said that religious faith requires purposeful creation but that evolution depends on random mutations and random events, so how can anything that depends on randomness be purposeful? That’s a red herring. Scientists, including my own laboratory, use random events to purposeful ends all the time. That’s why people who create good random number generators are so valued in science.”
• “Where the real tensions exist are the habits of mind in science and the habits of mind in religion. In science, we want everything to be objective, so if I do an experiment properly in my lab it can be replicated anywhere in the world… In religion, we’re searching for meaning and trying to construct and perceive patterns of meaning in our lives. There’s some objectivity in that, but it’s much more reliant on intuition, much more reliant on gut-level feelings.”

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Click on image to enlarge or to source.

DECIDING TO MARRY – SCIENCE OR FAITH? You’ve said that science is good for answering some questions, while faith… is good for other questions, like whether to get married. “When you marry someone you’re really making a commitment. It’s a declaration of hope, and yet there’s no scientific experiment you can do that proves that this is the right person to marry. If you wait for scientific proof, you’ll be waiting an awfully long time. Now that doesn’t mean that you check your brain at the door. You think really hard, but in the end you don’t have proof and you have to take a step of faith.”
• “Your faith should be informed by science. It should not be replaced by science. Science can’t… give you the things that you need from faith or well-reasoned philosophy.”

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Lee Strobel’s namesake in the movie The Case for Christ. Click image to source.

I watched a movie this week on Netflix called The Case for Christ. It’s a true story, about a news reporter, Lee Strobel, who resisted the Christian faith even after his wife Leslie embraced it. He was a confirmed atheist.

Lee is compelled to use his journalistic and legal training to try to disprove the gospel of Jesus Christ. He interviews several experts to answer his questions, including an archeologist, a psychiatrist and a medical doctor. Questions include proof of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’ve also read Strobel’s book by the same name and found it more convincing than the movie. Strobel is very thorough in his investigation. Would love to know if you’ve read it – and what you think of it.

PS: I write blogs about three topics: Health and Hiking, Science and Energy, and Inspiration and Hope.

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The Gray Nomad ….. Read and learn.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him….
[Book of Romans, chapter 15]

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5 years ago

Hi Ian, and thanks for this interesting blog. I like the comments and rational thinking of Dr. Newsome. Thanks for introducing him in this blog.

Garrick Little
Garrick Little
5 years ago

Enjoyed the blog as always Ian particularly Dr. Newsomes contribution from his field of study on the neurobiology of choice. I do believe, however that there is real tension between science and faith when it comes to the issue of evolution. My understanding is that major universities will not consider for employment in the biological sciences applications from individuals who question the theory of evolution. I do think in any discussion involving science and faith we should consider two basic facts that appear to be beyond dispute:
1. The impossibility of the universe coming into existence from nothing. ie someone or something must have caused the universe to come into being. This cause must, by definition be greater than the effect produced.
2. The impossibility of life coming into existence without the intervention of a supreme intellect. Given the supreme complexity of even the most primitive cell there is no mechanism conceivable which could account for this happening by random occurrence.

5 years ago

Wow! A very interesting person Dr. William Newsome. Amazing story, one little drop of water under the microscope led him to study and become a neurobiologist. You never know who you are going to IMPACT in life… it could be for Christ or anything else.

5 years ago

I am looking forward to lunch (my treat) and your talk on Wed.! 🙂 Thanks, safe travels, and God bless, John

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