Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The God and Science Discussions pt1

Impressive title, no?

ok. Some ground rules.

  1. Notice at the top of my sidebar there is a Kind Blog icon. If you are not up to speed on this click on it and read it. I apply this to my comments as well.
  2. I will delete comments. I will never censor a person's opinion but I will censor the way you decide to express it. If I delete your comment I will email you explaining why and invite you to express your opinion again in a more respectful way.
  3. If you read an offensive or rude comment please do not respond to it. I will be checking my comments frequently and the comment will be removed. I expect all discussion to be respectful and not to give time or energy to people who are too lazy to express themselves well.
  4. These are open discussions. Meaning open to anyone of any faith or non-faith to talk openly with the intent of a good conversation and a hope of understanding each other better. Respectfully worded questions are encouraged and anyone is free to answer them.
  5. This is not a debate. It is a discussion. There are plenty of places to debate this stuff. If you feel the need to prove your point the correct one, I can point you to those websites. This is not one of those websites.
  6. If you don't like these rules. That's fine. You can go say mean things about me on your own blog.

I grew up going to church every Sunday. We said grace before every meal, made all of our sacraments, went to religious school from grades 1-12. My Faith Community is one of those quiet, personal communities. Faith was private and not discussed much. But, still you knew it was there. The rituals and rites never felt empty.

My father is a bio-chemist/bio-geneticist/something new that I can't remember. He is well respected in his field and has been a part of some discoveries and developments that touch every one of our lives on a daily basis. He has always loved the hands on aspect of his work and never cared for the academia or the frankly corporate side of the science world. He never felt the need to go beyond his B.S. in biology.

My mother is a teacher. She was head of the Science Department at my rigorous college-prep high school. She has her M.A.T. in Physics. Her students always loved her fun, passionate classes and her love of the subject.

As a child, I was brought out to explore my world through hiking, canoing, and camping. There was never any piece of nature that was too small to explain and point out, from different types of rocks, to sediment patterns, from nesting habits, to the parts of a flower. Nothing was ever judged disgusting or frightening. We caught snakes and held spiders. We'd spread out our blankets in the middle of the night to watch meteor showers or got out the telescope to see astrological special events like Haley's Comet. (We still email each other when we see that something is coming around.) Questions were always answered. Never shushed or belittled.

We regularly went to museums and watched episode after episode of Nova and other documentaries. Our development was filled with our world and my parents instilled a strong sense of respect and guardianship. We were taught to never disturb a habitat, always view ourselves as a guest, and never, ever anthropomorphize.

Although they never came out and said it, it was given that we were thanking God for his creation by taking the time to appreciate it. It never occurred to me that our exploration was somehow explaining away God. Of course the night sky was full of God's majesty as was the tiny colorations of the
Libellulidae family of dragonfly . I was honestly shocked when I got to college and realized there was some weird culture war between science and religion. It just didn't make sense to me. It still doesn't. I still don't really understand the animosity.

I understand the twitching and itching over biomedical ethics. I do get that. Trust me. I had plenty of reservations when we did IVF. We ended up with 19 frozen embryos. We had promised each other and God we would give life a chance to however many embryos we created. Well, 21 kids?! And the connection to these embryos is inexplicable. One of the hallmarks of an IVF baby book is a picture of Junior as a 3+ cell embryo. And when they are transferred you start loving and hoping and wishing everything you've got on the wee little fellers. You give them nicknames and cheer them on. Then you look at the resulting children and their faces flash before your eyes when you think of those embryos. (Well, I know not everybody's, but for lots of us.) I was so attached to mine that when I got the call from the lab that the batch they were thawing was arresting, I demanded they transfer them immediately because it broke my heart and I wanted them to be snug and warm and...with me.

So when the time came to make our decision, we sat down and talked to a priest friend who specializes in medical ethics. After discussions with him we decided that 6 embryos we had that were already in the 6+ cell stage had to be given a chance. But, we didn't have to worry about the 13 that were still in the 2pn stage. The nuclei, and therefor the DNA, had never merged so the identity of the potential person never formed. Splitting hairs? You betcha. (It turns out to not have mattered because none of the embryos every resulted in another child.)

But, to think that science cut out God was never even something I considered. I mean, God is so much bigger. Science, for me, was looking at the glory and love of God through the world he gave me to live in and explore.

By the time I was a senior in high school, my dad had stopped going to church with us. I didn't know why and since I had the teenage radar of hypocrisy finely tuned, I asked him. His answer was a long time ago, but I understood it as this. "I don't find God at church. I spend more time in awe of God and his creation when I'm in the lab than I do for 1 hour on a Sunday." He said every time he broke down a protein or examined a genetic code he couldn't believe the precision and beauty of the way it was all put together down to the minutest level. Sure you can look at a landscape of the Rocky Mountains and say it beautiful. But it is layer after layer after layer of perfect symbiosis and intricate detail right down to the microorganisms breaking down the leaves of the forest. And I believe that though he wouldn't phrase it this way, he worships God everyday at his work.


shaz said...

nice points. if u've ever read the Qur'an, you'd notice that creation (embryo et al.) is explained in great, scientific detail. actually, the scientific explanation is given for many things in the universe. i am not sure how this works in Christianity, but i've never thought of science and religion as mutually exclusive.

Cakes said...

Sadly, I haven't read the Qur'an since college. Does it allow room for scientific advances? Things that weren't known when it was written?

Multi-tasking Mom said...

What a wonderful discussion. I am eager to read your next installment.

Your upbringing sounds like a wonderful and enriching experience, I hope I can strike a similar balance with my own children. I love the way you describe your father's experience with his own faith, and I can identify with that sentiment. While I enjoy going to church, to me it is more of a way to contemplate my faith and frankly, to socialize. I too feel closest to God when I stand before his creations.

MollyD said...

I absolutely see where your father is coming from on his thoughts. Sounds like you had a very wonderful upbringing.

I have had many issues with the Catholic church on their stance on IVF, and ultimately donor eggs (which we used). IMHO God creates life even in a laboratory dish, and the wonderful human that decided to donate for us was all apart of his plan.

My degree is in poultry science/microbiology and the more I learned from science studies the more I was convinced that God had to be the creator of all these wonderful things that worked so perfectly together.

Anonymous said...

How blessed you are to have been raised by such a man. For me, I see God all around me and am in constant awe at the intricate world he created for us. A spider that spins this perfect web, Wow God, good job!
His beauty and attention to detail, his vastness and majesty of mountains and oceans makes me want to weep forever, And still, He loves us and we can climb on His lap after a hard day and have a cuddle. This same magnificant creator is also our Abba Father. I can't fathom it but I am oh so grateful!
HC Sister Mel

shaz said...

Cakes, it actually has descriptions of things that were not discovered until recently, and other general things like predicting space travel and so on...

here is a new blog you may find interesting.. http://iqrabismirabik.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/surah-al-hajj-verse-5/

julie said...

I loved this post. My husband has a Ph.d in Physics so I understand all about the scientific brain.

He loves Jesus but we do get into some very deep conversations at times because we definitely look at some things differently.

We just agree to disagree.

The most important part of Christianity is your belief in Jesus as God's son and your Savior. Period.

Sometimes I wonder if God is getting a giant laugh out of all of us and how we can make a really big deal about things that are really insignificant in the giant scheme of things.

I look forward to hearing your other thoughts.

JLP said...

Definitely interesting, and looking forward to see what else you have to say.

I think I've always found myself (12 years of Catholic education too) somewhat torn among all the different theories, but I do lean toward science. I think the balance for me is that I see evolution as something God set in motion. Perhaps that's a way of having my cake and eating it too.

Jennifer (JLP from IVFC)

Sally said...

I once heard it put as "The Bible tells us the 'who' and the 'why'. Science tells us the 'when' and the 'how'."
Here in England, there is much less of a divide between Science and Christianity, compared to the impression I get from America. Most people (as far as I know) are of the same approach as jlp (and me!) - God using science.