Scientists reflect on their faith (IV)

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Martin A Nowak (1)

Martin A. Nowak is Professor in the Department of Biology and the Department of Mathematics of Harvard University, and Director of the Program of Evolutionary Dynamics  (Ph.D. Mathematics 1989, Univ. of Vienna). Prof. Nowak does research in mathematical biology, especially description of evolutionary processes, the evolution of cooperation and human language, and the dynamics of virus infections and human cancer.  He is the author of Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life (Harvard, Belknap Press, 2006) and Virus Dynamics: Mathematical principles of immunology and virology, with R. May (Oxford Univ. Press, 2001). He is a board member of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

In his scientific work, he stresses the importance of cooperation and altruism in the evolutionary process “The two pillars of evolution are mutation and natural selection: mutation generates diversity, and natural selection chooses the winner. What I want to argue in this book is that, in order to get complexity, there is a third principle, co-operation. It’s not just a small phenomenon, it is something that is really needed to explain the world as we see it.” Without it, he says, we would have a world without multi-cellular creatures – or even without cells, just monomolecular replicators in an organic soup.

In the article “How Might Cooperation Play a Role in Evolution?” for Big Questions online in January 2014, he wrote a personal statement at the end, explaining that Evolution and Faith do not contradict each other:

“God is not only creator, but also sustainer. God’s creative power and love is needed to will every moment into existence. God is atemporal. In my opinion, an atemporal Creator and Sustainer lifts the entire trajectory of the world into existence. For the atemporal God, who is the creator and sustainer of the universe, the evolutionary trajectory is not unpredictable but fully known.”

In February 2016, the German newspaper “Die Zeit” published an Interview with Martin Nowak: “Wo ist Gott?” – “Wenn es um den Sinn des Lebens geht, stehen sich Religion und Wissenschaft meist als Widersacher gegenüber. Völlig zu Unrecht, findet Martin Nowak, Professor für Evolutionsbiologie in Harvard. Ein Gespräch über sein Vertrauen in Gott und in die Naturgesetze“ – einfach sehr, sehr lesenswert!