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Finding God in the lab

Science can enhance our Christian faith, says scientist and author Ruth Bancewicz in her new book ...

Science can enhance our Christian faith, says scientist and author RUTH BANCEWICZ in her new book

MY book’s called God in the Lab: How science enhances faith, and in it I share a series of stories about how a scientist can grow spiritually through their work.

Exploring the topics of creativity, imagination, beauty, wonder and awe, I also include interviews with six working scientists who are Christians.

My aim is to show the positive side of the relationship between science and faith, and help start some new discussions about this topic that go beyond the usual debates.

One of the scientists I feature is Dr Rhoda Hawkins (pictured above), a researcher and lecturer in the physics department at the University of Sheffield.

Rhoda’s research is in biophysics, and she has taken on the phenomenally complex task of studying how cells move. This work will hopefully contribute to our understanding of the immune system and cancer.

In her interview for the book, Rhoda shared her experience of wonder in science and how that affects both her work and her faith.

“I find cell movement incredible … You wouldn’t expect a blob of hair gel to start crawling across your shower floor unless you pushed it – whereas a cell, which has a similar consistency, is able to move on its own … I look at that and I just ask: ‘Why?’”

For Rhoda, wonder is an acknowledgment of beauty in the system and amazement at the world around us. The job of a scientist is to ask those childlike ‘Why?’ questions about everything.

“Every piece of research I do always leads to more questions,” she says. “It’s like exploring a castle: you open a door and realise there are more rooms than you thought.

“Some people can look at a rainbow and say: ‘That’s beautiful’ and leave it at that. I can’t stop there – I want to know why.

“What gives me an enormous sense of wonder is when I do a calculation and it works … I find it incredible that we can use the language of mathematics and our finite human brains to understand something in the physical universe.

“There’s an amazement about it that goes beyond what I’ve done myself – an acknowledgement of beauty.

“Sometimes those moments are too rare, but if I got them all the time I would take them for granted. Even the struggle is contributing to that sense of wonder because it’s more amazing if it’s difficult and complicated.

“If climbing the mountain was too easy, then you wouldn’t feel so happy when you got to the top.”
As a Christian, Rhoda attributes her sense of wonder to God. “He made the particular system I’m working on, so my wonder turns to worship.”

Wonder in the questioning sense – wondering – is also absolutely crucial to Rhoda’s experience of Christianity.

“I remember helping my younger sister with some maths when she was at school, and she said to me: ‘I don’t understand why you like maths, it just makes my brain hurt!’ I understand what she means.

“Maths makes my brain hurt too, but I love the challenge.

“In some ways, the doubts I have about my faith are similar: I enjoy grappling with them. I enjoy that process because I come out at the end of it with a stronger faith.

“I remember being impressed as a young child by some of the older people in my church who were in their 80s. After all that time they had not understood everything there is to know about God.

“I found the idea that I could spend years and years learning about God and still not know it all, really exciting. It’s like an adventure where you don’t know what’s around the corner.”

  • God in the Lab: How science enhances faith by Ruth M Bancewicz is published by Lion Hudson, price £9.99. Dr Bancewicz is a Senior Research Associate at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge and blogs at scienceandbelief.org

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