Scientists reflect on their faith (XII)

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‘In a word, dinosaurs were the jewels of God’s creation.
By no means failures, they graced the planet for 160 million years.
Like all of His Creation, they gave Him praise. God loved dinosaurs.’ [1]

Peter Dodson was born on 20 August 1946 – happy birthday!

An accomplished paleontologist and a committed Catholic, Dodson is a professor of vertebrate paleontology and veterinary anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on dinosaurs.

He describes the confrontation with materialistic scienticism in words that some of us may relate to in some way or the other:

‘I grew up in a Catholic household, attended Catholic high school and Catholic university. At Yale during my Ph.D. program my friends were for the most part Catholic. To be candid, I led a sheltered existence and was never seriously challenged in my faith. I never went through a period of doubt.

‘My bubble was burst in 1988 when I attended a seminar at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. The topic was “The Evolution of Human Morality” and the speaker was the late Will Provine, an evolutionary biologist and evangelical atheist from Cornell University. His message was that we should face up to the consequences of what evolutionary biology teaches: “There is no God; there is no soul; there is no life after death; there is no such thing as free will. A scientist who professes to believe in God is a hypocrite. You MUST check your brains at the back of the church. Not more than a handful of evolutionary biologists believe in God.”

As I sensed the tacit or vocal approval of this message by the assembled scientists, I slouched deep into my seat, feeling most decidedly alone. I had never before heard such a crude expression of scientific naturalism, the gratuitous philosophy of materialism that science does not require. I of course knew that there are atheists in science but nobody before had tried to tell me I could not believe. [2]

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Scientists reflect on their faith (XI)

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Rose Amal is an Australian chemical engineer, currently serving as Scientia Professor and ARC Laureate Fellow in the School of Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Australia, where she is the director of the Particles and Catalysis Research Group. She was recently named 2019 NSW Scientist of the Year.

Prof. Amal says that it is her Catholic faith which has guided her research career developing methods to purify air and water and create sustainable sources of energy. It is her calling and passion to help ensure future generations “have a planet in which they can live comfortably”.

She told The Catholic Weekly she felt “very honoured and humbled” to receive this award.

‘“Everyone has their different journey, depending on the background their gifts and talents and if my story inspires them it does not mean their journey will be the same,” she said.

“I am often asked to speak to young researchers, and I always tell them that we are all the author of our book, and my book is probably close to the end, but for them they have many blank pages and the power to write a good story so they should always do their best to do that.”

She hopes to inspire more school students especially girls to do science, engineering and maths subjects when they are young. […]

St Andrew’s parish priest Father Laurie Cauchi said the parish is grateful to have her as a member of its family. “Rose is so generous with her time and talents and yet so humble,” he said. “If only we had a few more parishioners like her. Rose is living proof that scientists can still have great faith in God.” […]

Prof. Amal continued: “People might see that my career is going very smoothly, that I have just cruised through, but that’s not the case. There have many hard times and failure in both my professional and private life and in those times I’ve had to rely on my faith to get through it. Many times I did not know what I should do when it came to making important decisions. I normally rely on my faith, listen to God, and then I know what I have to do to sort through these problems in a positive way.”’

Scientists reflect on their faith (X)

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John Bannister Goodenough is an American materials scientist and solid-state physicist. Aged 97, he just became the oldest person to win the Nobel Prize. Together with Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, they were awarded the Nobel Prize 2019 for their development of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. The rechargeable, lightweight battery is found in nearly all portable electronics, from power tools and medical devices to smartphones and laptops.

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Scientists reflect on their faith (IX)

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Gayle Woloschak, born in the United States in 1955, is a lecturer in Radiation-Oncology, Radiology and Molecular Biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University in Chicago, and adjunct professor of Religion and Sciences at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and at the Pittsburgh Institute of Theology. A scientist of world renown, she directs a research laboratory. Orthodox and an expert in bioethics, she is interested above all in biological evolution, stem cell research and ecology. From 2014 to 2016 she was President of the Orthodox Theological Society in the United States and is currently Vice-President of the Zygon Centre for Religion and Science.

Read the interview in the Osservatorio Romano.

Scientists reflect on their faith (VIII)

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Karin Öberg (1)

Karin Öberg is a Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University. Her specialty is astrochemistry and her research aims to uncover how chemical processes affect the outcome of planet formation, including the chemical habitability of nascent planets.
Dr. Öberg left Sweden for Caltech in 2001, where she matriculated with a B.Sc. in chemistry in 2005. Four years later she obtained a Ph.D. in astronomy, with a thesis focused on laboratory astrochemistry. In 2009 she moved to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics with a Hubble fellowship, focusing on millimeter observations of protoplanetary disks, and left in 2012 to join the University of Virginia chemistry department. In 2013 she returned to Harvard as an assistant professor in astronomy and was promoted to full professor in 2017.

Öberg said she rediscovered her Christian faith while in the United States and determined there was no conflict between the religious values she cherishes and her research into how chemistry and physics interact during star and planet formation.  She became Catholic in 2012 and joined the Board of the Society of Catholic Scientists, explaining: “My biggest motivation is for the students so they don’t think they have to choose to live their scientific vocation separate from their faith.”

Scientists reflect on their faith (VI)

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jonathan I Lunine

Jonathan I. Lunine (born June 26, 1959) is an American planetary scientist and physicist. Lunine teaches at Cornell University, where he is the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and Director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research. Lunine is at the forefront of research into planet formation, evolution, and habitability. His work includes analysis of brown dwarfs, gas giants, and planetary satellites. Within the Solar System, bodies with potential organic chemistry and prebiotic conditions, particularly Saturn’s moon Titan, have been the focus of Lunine’s research. Continue reading

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!

Scientists reflect on their faith (III)

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katherine hayhoe

Katharine Anne Scott Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University, where she is director of the Climate Science Center. She is also the CEO of the consulting firm ATMOS Research and Consulting. Hayhoe received a degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Toronto, and her masters’ and PhD in atmospheric science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed publications, and wrote the book A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions together with her husband, Andrew Farley.

In an interview for NBC News in October 2018 , she said:

“We believe as Christians that we have stewardship over this planet. We believe we are to care for people who are poor and disadvantaged and suffering, and climate change is affecting those very people today. Going there and sharing that with them, it was like a window opened — both for them and for me — connecting the dots between what is already in our hearts and the changing climate.”

You may also want to check out the small video series: “Global Weirding with Katherine Hayhoe”. Here is one:

Scientists reflect on their faith (II)

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stephen barr

Stephen M. Barr is professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware and a member of its Bartol Research Institute. Barr does research in theoretical particle physics and cosmology. In 2011 he was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the citation reading “for original contributions to grand unified theories, CP violation, and baryogenesis.” He has widely published and lectured on the interaction of science and faith, and authored 2 books: Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003) and The Believing Scientist: Essays on Science and Religion (Eerdmans, 2016). In 2007 he was awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Benedict XVI. He is also President of the Society of Catholic Scientists.

In the 2017 interview “Integrating the Worlds of Science and Religion” by Big Questions Online, he said:

“A common mistake is to think that God and Nature are in competition, so that something either has a natural explanation or is caused by God. That is like saying that an event in a play is either caused by other events in the play or is caused by the play’s author. It is as silly as being forced to decide whether Polonius died because he was stabbed by Hamlet or because Shakespeare wrote the play that way. God is the Author of nature and nature’s laws are his laws. So natural explanations really lead to God, not away from him.”

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Scientists reflect on their faith (I)

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william T Newsome

William T Newsome is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Professor of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He received a B.S. degree in physics from Stetson University and a Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Newsome is a leading investigator in systems and cognitive neuroscience. He has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying visual perception and simple forms of decision making.

Stanford News did an interview with Prof. Newsome in June 2018 and asked him:

What tensions do you see between science and faith?

There are two ways in which one could find tension. 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, 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 and 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.

 

Read the whole interview here:  How a Stanford neurobiologist balances science and faith