Monday, January 21, 2013

Confessions of an LDS Biology Student

I spent years of trying to figure out what I wanted to do as far as school goes. I started as a Chemical Engineering major because in High School Chemistry was fun and my dad is an engineer and it just sounded cool. But when I got into college Chemistry was NOT fun. I scraped a C in my first and only Chemical Engineering class and decided I didn't want to do that at all. So I switched to Audiology and Speech Language Pathology. The intro class was great and I enjoyed it but it still wasn't quite right and in conjunction with health problems I decided I was done with school for a while and went home.  If you look at my grades from that time you can see a pretty direct correlation between my grades and which classes I enjoyed or hated, which is actually pretty terrifying to think that I would let myself suck something up so badly just because I didn't enjoy the class.

When I came home I took a short term certification course to become a Pharmacy Technician, which was actually pretty pointless really, except to show me that I could do well in classes even if I really didn't like them. I was a pharmacy tech for 3 years before the work environment became way too stressful for the return. There is nowhere to go as a pharmacy technician. That’s just all you are, all you have the credentials to be. Being a trainer is the highest up you can go unless you want to go back to school for 7 years and become a pharmacist. I decided early on I wouldn't ever want to be a pharmacist. So few people I worked with actually enjoyed their job. It entails working a retail job with extra laws and ridiculous expectations and having everyone mad at you because those expectations just simply cannot be met with the staff they allow you to have. Long hours with no appreciation.  I still have nightmares about this job.

So I went back to school. I had been talking to my sister about what I should do as far as school goes, and she said I should “feed the penguins.” It’s strange to think that such an idea would spur me on to investigating what that would take and I headed off towards a wildlife biology degree. That goal has since changed slightly, but I've realized that there is little in the field of biology that I would hate doing, and much that I would enjoy. So here I am, a biology major, a chemistry minor, a possible genetics option.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Being a Christian and a Biology major places me in an awkward position which if it is understood it is not widely discussed. As my cousin put it, “it is a hard lot in life.” It seems like everyone I come in contact with is one of two extremes: Evolutionist or Creationist. Evolutionists seem to think that because my passion is science and biology that I must agree with them on everyone count (else they think that they must convert me to their ideas because I ‘m a Christian) and Creationists seem to think that because I’m a Christian that I must share their beliefs. So I’m here to set the record straight. I see no reason why my religious beliefs and my scientific beliefs have to contradict. They are not even two separate entities to me, they are 2 sides of the same coin, or parts of the same big picture which still has many sections left to be painted. Everything I learn strengthens rather that weakens my testimony of a loving God who created this beautiful universe full of diversity and knowledge to be gleaned. Old school scientists understood this. They wanted to pull of the mask of the universe to stare at the face of God. But nowadays it seems like people want to pull of the mask of the universe to prove there is nothing behind it.

I believe that God created the Earth, and the heavens and the galaxies. But created is a confusing word when we talk about God. It seems to call to mind the idea of him snapping his fingers and worlds appearing. But that’s not how I see it. An artist creates beautiful works of art. A musician creates music. My mom and I create quilts. Does an artist snap his fingers and a sculpture or a fresco appears? Do musicians snap their fingers and cause music to be heard? Do I snap my fingers and suddenly a quilt is done? Of course not. There would be no point to this, no accomplishment if that were how it was done. Creation refers to organization. An artist organizes his materials until it is the form he desires. A musician organizes their movements and/or breath to create sound which has been organized by a composer to be music. I organize my fabric pieces into a design to make a quilt. The difference here is that as humans we sometimes make mistakes. Because we don’t always know how to do everything perfectly. We are still learning and growing. God knows how to do everything perfectly. I don’t believe that God did this marvelous thing in seven 24 hour days as we know them. The scriptures use symbols and allusions to convey their meaning. Christ was well known for teaching with parables and symbols. Why would the scriptures be different?

OK, so this next part will probably get me some flak from people. God is omnipotent or all powerful. Does that mean he can do anything we can think of? Or does it mean he can do anything that is possible? Our sense of possible vs impossible could be very different from one another and from God’s, because as I said before God knows how to do things perfectly. He has a perfect knowledge of things. I believe that God once went through a mortal experience such as the one we are currently experiencing. I believe that many of the natural laws have been around since before then. I believe that God currently operates within natural laws. This may seem ridiculous. But remember, we don’t currently have a perfect understanding of how the natural laws actually work. God does. It stands to reason that he would be able to do things we cannot currently fathom because our understanding of the world is not a perfect one. Things in science change all the time. We must admit we don’t know everything because new developments happen every day. So I am left with this. Either God operates within the natural laws because they have been around longer than him, OR God created the natural laws and therefore operates within them. I am inclined to belief the former, but really I must admit that as far as this goes I do not KNOW. And that’s OK, because it really doesn't change anything whether one is true vs the other.

As far as evolution is concerned I have to say this: open your eyes people, evolution is obviously a real thing. There is so much evidence of this. Evolution is a dynamic process which I believe was put in place by God to allow everything on this planet to grow and change and become more suitable for life. Because isn't that the whole flipping point of being here anyway? To grow and change personally? To become something better that we were before? Why would this be different on a global scale? As far as human evolution goes I only have to say: I do not know HOW God ORGANIZED man to be in his image. And if the whole creation process took thousands to millions or billions of years who is to say that he didn't do it through evolution? Like I said, I expect flak for this. That’s cool. I don’t know how God did it. But the idea of not learning about the possibilities astounds me. We are supposed to be trying to be more like God, right? So if God is all-knowing then we need to learn about EVERYTHING. Because becoming all-knowing is part of become like God.

In closing I would like to say this: When we know everything there is to know about science and everything there is to know about God I fully believe that there will be NO contradiction between the two. I want to rip off the mask of the universe and stare at the face of God because I KNOW that he is there.


Allanna said...

I love how you put this.
And I totally agree. ^_^

Matt J (Another Christian Biologist) said...

I totally agree with you!

Two of the defining characteristics of God are that He is omnipotent(all-powerful) and omniscient(all-knowing).

I think that most Christians think, perhaps without realizing it, that omniscience is the result of omnipotence. In other words, that God knows everything because He has the power to know everything.

In my experience as a human, knowledge always comes before power. I believe that God's power is the result of His knowing how to do everything.

This means that God is not above science, or outside of science. It means that his power is his scientific understanding, knowledge, and ability.

If the method for creating life is to electrically charge some inorganic sludge just right and then guide it to develop into higher and higher forms and intelligence, how would that be contradictory with science or religion?

Ash said...

I love you and I love this post! Good to see some activity on here :)

Kimberly Jo said...

Beautiful! This is exactly how I try and explain it to people.