I’m currently in a long email exchange with a former business associate of my husband’s, a brilliant European chemist. I don’t even know him very well but I emailed him to tie up some loose ends with some business dealings and happened to mention that we’re Catholic. He asked how I went from atheism to Catholicism and now we’re currently hashing out the age old science vs. faith debate at about 1, 000 words per email.
His emails basically consist of him throwing out scientific principles and facts in dizzying detail to show that even science-minded Christians who try to use physics and biology to bolster their faith in God have it wrong. Some examples:
[Responding to my comment that DNA is information:] DNA isn’t really information, it’s just a series of 4 chemicals chained together by sugars and phosphates, which make other chemicals. It just looks very slightly like the way computer code is put together, in a series of bits, so ignorant journalists tell ignorant tabloid readers it’s computer data. It ain’t.
[Responding to my comment that the big bang unfolded similarly to the description in Genesis:] And the universe didn’t become transparent until after about 300, 000 years, so there wasn’t any light at the beginning. Photons couldn’t condense out of the soup anyway until the temperature had reduced sufficiently. The beginning, depending on how you define that, was essentially the explosion into three big spacial dimensions of what we might call spacetime. Which begs the question ‘how did that come about?’ which has several possible answers, depending on how you define your terms, a current leading contender being that two other multidimensional spacetimes (what we call ‘branes’) collided spewing out our chunk of spacetime.
I post these just to give examples, not to start a debate about these specific comments. The point is, a lot of people hear this sort of thing and think that it does seem like the obvious truths of science just demolish the claims of religion. Honestly, it’s easy for doubters like me who were raised to believe that the scientific method is the key to all truth and knowledge to be intimidated by such claims. It just seems, you know, SO OBVIOUS that this debunks religious teachings.
But this is ignoring some other obvious truths as well.
I often think about a little incident that happened while I was on vacation last year (interestingly, it was just two days after writing this first post on my old site). My husband and I were having drinks with a friend, a successful lawyer who has always struck me as very intelligent. I happened to mention that I was exploring religion for the first time in my life, that I’d always been an atheist.
He let out a loud laugh. “You mean you think THIS, ” he said, playfully punching my husband in the arm, “just kind of randomly came about?” He took a moment and looked around the cheesy casino bar with the dinging slot machines, tacky neon lights and group of frat boys laughing loudly at the bar and outstretched his hands triumphantly, “What about this?”
I suppose you would have had to have been there, and perhaps that third gin and tonic made his explanation of his point less than Chesterton-esque, but the look of sheer confusion on his face at the notion that we’re soulless, purposeless creatures really struck me. I think of it often. At that moment it really hit me that if you put the scientific method aside for a moment and think of how you feel when you hear a beautiful piece of music, think of your love for your children, or hear about some great cruelty in the world, there is no doubt that we have a soul and are here for some purpose. It’s SO OBVIOUS.
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