Science and Faith
The relationship between science and faith is rich and complex. In a high school setting, faith is not meant to enter the Science classroom only when the Bible is quoted, when ethics are challenged or when a debate is engaged. Science and faith continue to be mutually enriching and complementary.
I like to study technology as a way of seeing purposeful design in creation. Although technology is man-made, much of it is based on structures that exist in nature. My grade 12 Biology students study different technologies that gain function by mimicking the architecture and design of part of creation. One example is the dialysis machine. Though much larger than a kidney, and while it is less efficient and certainly less convenient, the components of the dialysis machine work together to gain the function of a kidney and remove waste products from the blood.
Recently, the Globe and Mail featured an invention, fashioned around nature, to help protect athletes’ brains. Sports equipment maker Bauer unveiled a collar-like device that claims to protect against brain damage in athletes who play contact sports like hockey, football, and soccer. The inspiration behind this piece of technology was the woodpecker.
The idea of using a collar-like device began for the inventors when they noticed how woodpeckers could withstand millions of high-energy impacts over their lifetimes — without suffering brain damage. In fact, the bird’s anatomy doesn’t allow its brain to move within its skull. This device is designed to mimic the woodpecker’s anatomy; it stabilizes the human brain by slightly increasing pressure on the neck, which in turn “increases blood volume in the veins around the brain, helping to reduce the organ’s movement inside the skull.” Genius!
Gratitude in Science
As a Science Department at Hamilton District Christian High, we are highly intentional in encouraging high school students to see the beauty, wonder, and gratitude in studying Science, rather than just task completion, deadlines, and grades. We outline these reasons in the introductory Science lessons of grade 9, highlighting the number one reason: To appreciate and praise God as Creator, creating a response in us of awe and gratitude. I admit, however, that no matter how many brains we dissect or how many explosions we set off, the prevalent culture of task completion, deadlines and grades is hard to overcome.
For me, the beauty, wonder, and gratitude are natural. I can study the way the genetic code dictates the amino acid sequence of all the proteins in the body semester after semester and never wane in my enthusiasm for how awesome it is. But, for some students, it’s just a lot of vocabulary and a complicated process. So I now incorporate Psalm 19 into the senior Biology curriculum.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Verse one affirms the divinity of God and states that His creation declares this glory. A dandelion by its very existence is shouting out that there is a God. It’s saying “Look at me…God made me…I’m awesome!”
Verse 2: “Day after day, night after night…” The revelation of God through his creation is perpetual and uninterrupted. He doesn’t merely uphold creational laws sometimes. We can count on them all of the time.
Verse 3: That they have no speech, no words, no sound covers all languages and all cultures. It is universal.
Verse 4: Their voice goes out to all the earth because the revelation is worldwide in scope.
Science isn’t perfect. The message of creation is perfect. Our interpretation of that message – Science – is subject to the fall and not always right. In the same way that the Scriptures are inerrant but our understanding of that message – theology – is subject to the fall and not always true. The message of the Scripture and the message of creation are always true and will always agree. But, theology and science don’t always agree because they are human activities.
With this collection of thoughts on science and faith, my goal is to encourage us to pause so we may look at nature, or think about the workings of a dialysis machine, and have a response of praise and wonder for the beauty and design in creation.
Kim Oppertshauser, Science Educator