St John’s has an amazing range of people in its congregation from all walks of life, including a number of scientists. As we look at the issue of the compatibility of science and faith, some of those scientists reflect on whether their is a conflict between their work and their faith in God.
I’m retired now of course, but I worked for 30 years in drug discovery at Alderley Park. My particular field was the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis, and I was lucky enough to have a fantastically interesting job trying to find new, more effective treatments. The drugs at that time were quite poor and there was certainly no cure! Our immune system plays an absolutely pivotal role in keeping us alive by eliminating invading organisms that would otherwise kill us, while leaving our bodies to flourish and grow. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when, in error, the immune system begins to attack our joints and my work involved finding new drugs to stop this happening.
I’ve never felt that there is a conflict between science and belief in God. On the contrary, I find the elegance and exquisite selectivity of immune-biology to be truly awe-inspiring and this in fact strengthens my belief in a loving, creator God. I see beauty in the biological systems that He has created just as we all see beauty and wonder in many other areas of the natural world.
Luckily my daughter Lucy, who is an academic immunologist, keeps me in touch with the latest wonders of science in the area.
I did natural sciences (physics) at Cambridge, then did my PhD in Radio Astronomy at Jodrell Bank. My husband’s work then took us to California, where I started working on galaxies using an optical telescope. After a few years we returned to Manchester, and I began working on computer simulations, tracking the dynamics of galaxies, and how individual stars moving within them create the shapes we see. After a career break and two children, I returned to join the cosmic microwave background (CMB) research at Jodrell, and became Project Manager of the group constructing the cryogenic low noise amplifiers and front end modules for the Low Frequency Instrument of the Planck Satellite, a European Space Agency cosmology mission to survey the CMB. After that I moved to become project manager of the group working on the design of the timing and frequency distribution and fibre networks for the Square Kilometre Array.
Especially during the cosmology work, I felt very conscious of the fact that these missions are just discovering the wonderful way in which God has in fact created the universe, and how he is leading us to understand his works through our scientific endeavours. There can be no conflict between God’s word and his works, since they are both aspects of his self revelation, and that helps me when deciding how to interpret the Bible.
I studied biology at St Andrews University, graduating in May 2016. My main area of study was evolutionary biology and my dissertation looked into ways that new species may evolve. I investigated two strains of fruit flies taken from opposite sides of the world. The males of one strain were reluctant to court females of the other which could ultimately lead to total separation between the two strains.
God is responsible for both creation and His word in scripture so we can be confident that no scientific discovery should cause us to question the truth of His word. For me scientific investigation is an attempt to better understand the intricacies of God’s creation and the pattern of complex mechanisms at work in creation strengthen my faith in a Creator God.
At AstraZeneca I had the responsibility with a senior clinician to provide a comprehensive literature review of the olaparib drug mechanism for US regulatory authorities enabling progression from Phase 1 to Phase 3 clinical trials for ovarian cancer. This successful drug is now also in trials for pancreatic, prostate and gastric cancers.
I see enormous benefits for human health as a consequence of our intended diligent, orderly, honest exploration of our world using the capabilities God has enabled mankind to develop. Christian belief in human dignity and value is a great motivator, as is love for God, our Creator and Redeemer of all who trust in him.
I am a senior lecturer in imaging science at the University of Manchester where I work on developing medical imaging methods and with others their application to medical research and clinical practice. As a Christian the work can be very challenging, for instance working in areas such as cancer and dementia where the suffering of patients and their relatives is all too apparent, and progress is often frustratingly slow. Nevertheless, as a scientist, the wonder of creation from the physics of instrumentation to the complexity of biological pathways is very apparent and humbling as our understanding is often limited.
I clearly remember an experiment I did at St Andrews university in my final year project where I said “Wow!”, out loud, to the amusement of my supervisor, and from then on I was hooked and realised that I wanted to go on discovering more about molecular mechanisms in cells. Nearly 30 year later, having worked primarily in the pharmaceutical sector, I have had a career that was never boring, often frustrating when our ideas proved to be wrong, but privileged to work with others to help discover potential new cancer treatments. Although scientific research has taken us a long way, there is so much we still don’t understand; the complexity of even simple cells is breath-taking, which speaks to me of a creator God who brought this into being rather than random events or chance. As scientists we can begin to understand how the world works (or doesn’t in some situations!) but only God’s word tells me the reason and purpose behind it.
Dr Philip Lewis
I’m a medical doctor and specifically a cardiologist because of divine guidance which I had sought. This came through a variety of sources including advice from others and after praying. Several important career decisions came after having dreams. At other times, I felt prevented from applying for some jobs and pushed by God to go for others. The one thing I know is that I feel like a round peg in a perfectly fitting round hole and enjoy what I do enormously, knowing it is what God directed me to do, even giving directions such as where specifically to live and when to move.
I love the ability to use the wonderful world of scientific knowledge with passion in combination with huge compassion for people to be whole. I enjoy a God-given persistence to keep going and to provide excellence in care even if at the cost of taking much longer than is convenient to me to get to the root of a matter and to then explain what is going on.
I enjoy using intuitions and insights I feel God has given me to pursue certain areas of research or to develop models of investigation or treatment and to use these opportunities to help patients as well as other doctors or researchers in their careers. I love teaching and sharing with others what I have learned because I am so grateful for what I have been taught and to show something of God’s love, care, greatness and the beauty of design in human beings. Thank you God!
Taken from the Winter 2016 edition of In Touch