How Can a Christian Be a Scientist?

I used to ask this question as a student.  I wondered, who could make it in the world of science and still hold onto their faith?  Soon enough I met a good number of successful scientists who were sincere Christians, some of whom were at my own university.  So, what do people like this make of the opportunities and challenges that a life in science holds for a Christian?

Science is an exercise in observing and measuring things in the world, and coming up with general principles about the way things are.  Exploring the world is a great thing to do to express our gratitude to the Creator.  There is a sense of awe and wonder that comes when we expand our minds and our horizons by discovering things about the universe which can feed into our worship.

Of course, there may be things in science that some Christians don’t want to get involved in because of what they believe.  But there should also be ethical issues that make them want to get stuck into new research that will help people, protect creation, or tackle injustices.  I am glad to see that many senior scientists do their best to find appropriate ways to make their own faith visible, so that people like my younger self can find role models and mentors.

Another helpful thing about science is that although our beliefs may at times affect what we notice about the world and how we interpret our data, they shouldn’t affect the outcome of experiments themselves.  This means that a scientist can be respected by her colleagues for doing good work, regardless of what she believes and what her colleagues think of that worldview.

In my work at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, and my involvement with Christians in Science, I have the privilege of meeting a great number of scientists who are also Christians.  One of the most famous living biologists is Francis Collins, who was Director of the project to decode the whole of human DNA.  He wrote that it is “possible for the scientist-believer to be intellectually fulfilled and spiritually alive, both worshipping God and using the tools of science to uncover some of the awesome mysteries of His creation.” (Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Simon and Schuster, 2007)

Dr Ruth M. Bancewicz, Church Engagement Director at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge.  Ruth writes on the positive relationship between Science and Christian faith.

The feature image for this post is “PSR B1509 58, NASA – The Hand of God” (PD). What looks like an X-ray of a hand is actually the remains of a star that exploded 17,000 light-years away. The astronomers who captured this image with a NASA space telescope call it the “Hand of God.”

Leave a Reply