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Guest blog – Sharing the Wonder: Science and Faith

A new illustrated book, Wonders of the Living World: Curiosity, awe and the meaning of life, will help adults and older teenagers to connect with God’s amazing creation and the big questions raised by science, writes Ruth Bancewicz.

Staring up at the night sky away from light pollution is an amazing experience.

For those who believe in God, it can give us a sense of his immensity and power.

As a biologist, I find that the world of the very small can also give me a sense of awe and wonder. Most cells in your body contain two metres of DNA. How is that even possible? You can’t see a single cell, but if you took all the DNA out of it and stretched it end to end, the invisible thread would be taller than you (unless you are very tall indeed!).

If you took all the DNA out of every cell in your body (around 30-50 trillion or thereabouts) and added all the strands end to end, they would reach to Pluto.

The more we understand the world through science, the more we can enjoy a sense of wonder. If God is the creator of everything, the things we find out should help our faith to grow – even if they pose some challenges to begin with. We can see how powerful God is, we can learn how to take care of creation, and we can learn how to care for people more effectively.

Science can answer certain kinds of questions: ‘What is it?’, ‘How does it work?’, ‘What happens if it goes wrong?’, and so on. Biologists sometimes use the language of purpose in a small way – for example a bird incubates its eggs so they can eventually hatch.

But the language of purpose in a meaningful sense – the ‘Why are we here?’ type of questions – takes us outside of the realm of science. Science raises questions that it cannot answer, so we have to go to other ways of knowing, such as philosophy or theology to begin to make sense of them.

For some people, staring at the stars can make them wonder if their life could mean anything in the face of such a vast universe. The writer of Psalm 8, the shepherd David, knew that awestruck feeling when he gazed at the night sky above Israel thousands of years ago, but it meant something different to him. No doubt light pollution was the very rare exception rather than the rule, and any clear moonless night was the most indescribable display of brilliance.

He asked, ‘What is man …?’, and went on to answer his own question with what he knew of God. David believed that our purpose in the world is to rule over creation. Long after David’s time, Jesus came in person to demonstrate how to rule: gently, wisely, in a servant-hearted way. 

When we approach science in a faith context, we might think of the hot topics that can pull in a crowd to a speaker event or spark a debate. But what if we also sometimes start with the sense of awe and wonder that we can all feel in response to scientific images or stories? Can we start a conversation about the meaning and purpose of the things we see?

Main image: Danny Allison, © Lion Hudson IP Limited

 

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