Friday, January 07, 2005

Bio-awe

So I went to a seminar today and this old guy with an English accent told an incredible story about a Christian scientist. Well, to me, every story about Christian scientists is incredible. But this one was especially good.

It was about this scientist (I wish I could remember his name...) who was poring over all this data, late into the night, trying to figure out how the information in DNA bases could be transformed into proteins, what the code could be. Suddenly, he figures it out - like a "Eureka" moment - the reading frame of DNA. So what does he do? Run and call all his scientist friends? Or his wife, maybe? Jump up and down? No. He stays sitting in the same place for two hours. He's overwhelmed by one thought: "In the whole world, the only ones who know this amazing secret are me and God!"

It was enough to make me want to go into research. (The desire passed - research is not for me!) Really, though, I could kind of identify with this scientist. Some of my most amazing times with God have come about in my Biology labs. I could sit there for hours, watching fern sperm swim, or an amoeba creep across my slide, or thinking about the complexity of each one of my cells, and the miracle that I started out as one cell... and I'll think, "What an absolutely amazing God you must be to think this up! And I'm so grateful you let me enjoy it."

If I do end up going on in Biology, I think I'd want my job to somehow involve inspiring awe in people. Because so much of science and school sucks the awe right out. Which, as the seminar guy pointed out, is exactly what leads to things like genetic manipulation and euthanasia and cloning. If we're not in awe of life, we think we understand it all and we're masters over it. The awe reminds us of how small we are, how little we actually understand, and how we have no right to play God. But beyond that, this experience of biological awe points directly to our Creator, and it's powerful, even in the naturalistic science community. Brian MacLaren says it better than me:

"I remember in 8th grade looking forward so much to taking biology - a chance during school hours to indulge a personal delight. But to my huge disappointment, science studied animals in every way except the way that counted most to me. That red eft? It's nothing but a larval stage of the primitive vertebrate amphibian notophthalmus viridescens. That sunset? That's nothing but light being refracted through humid atmosphere. That house finch singing? That's nothing but a territorial organism's defense call...

I would be denying my truest sense of how things really are to go along with this view. In all of these beautiful things I could sense a taste of something so fine, a subtle clue, an enticing scent. Who can help but love these creatures, and in loving them, who can doubt that his or her love wants to reach through and beyond the creatures to their Creator? The world rings like a struck bell with this resonance: There is a God, and God is alive, and God is good, and God is beautiful. Science keeps leading me to faith."

There. Now, don't you all want to be in biology with me? And watch fern sperm swim for hours? I thought so.

5 comments:

christine said...

umm...no thanks.

tank said...

i know what you mean, but i'll stick to seeing similar stuff in the math and physics. i think my abstract algebra class may be the one that links my math world to my physics world.

Beth said...

Math-awe and physics-awe are almost as good as bio-awe, Tank. I asked Sherri recently if she saw God in math, and she replied with a long e-mail that could basically be summed up as an emphatic "all the time"! That's why both of you are going to make excellent teachers, if you do end up doing that. I wish I could have learned math from one of you.

p.s. Bio-awe sort of sounds like Iowa...

Smaj said...

i love physics (especially astronomy!) and biology. i think i would like chemistry too, if i understood it.
i read this book called Calculating God by robert j. sawyer. the novel discusses properties that are pretty much entirely unique to water which make it a prerequisite for life (as we understand it) on Earth. This is on top of the cellular additions of water:

1. It contracts as it cools, until it freezes at which point it actually expands and floats. If this didn't happen, there would be very little chance for life to begin.
2. Of all natural occuring substances, only liquid selinium has a higher surface tension. Water creeps up cracks in rocks and mountains, the tension keeps it to the rock walls.. then it freezes and (because while freezing it expands it) breaks the rocks apart. This creates dirt and soil.
3. However, if water had even a slightly higher surface tension, then blood (which is essentially sea water) would not be able to transfer through our veins.
No biochemical processes exist that would be able to power a stronger heart for an extended period of time.

Lauren said...

This is what I love about being in the sciences and being a Christian, that it's a discovery into the deeper aspects of God's creation, and through that it should lead us into a deeper aspect of our relationship with God. I sit in class and listen to my profs lecture about Operating Systems or A.I., and I relize that this incredible machine that we call a computer though incredibly complex is extremely simple compared to creation. And this brings on this God moment, a moment that seems to exist outside of time which only God and I inhabit.