I am always open to philosophical discussions, and greatly enjoy learning and understanding new things. I don't like to push my own personal beliefs on others. I believe that we all have are own individual paths to follow. I once had an intriguing conversation with a scientist concerning faith and a belief in God. It should be noted that I've known this man for many years, and that he has always considered himself to be an Atheist.
Though I do not agree with his beliefs I have learned over the years that he is a pretty decent human being. He has been involved in many charities, and has even taken foster children into his home. A year ago he married a woman who believes in God, and has a pretty strong faith, and his life has undergone some subtle changes. I'll get to that a little later. Let me give you a little background on this man. He is a scientist who is very well educated and has spent his entire life chasing higher degrees and educational challenges. In college he majored in molecular biology and minored in Physics.
At the time of our discussion, he was working on experiments in DNA sequencing. Not being quite as educated as he was, I asked him what this meant. He told me that DNA sequencing is a method of determining the order of nucleotides in DNA strands. Noticing the confused look on my face, along with a blank stare, he continued with the query. "Did you ever hear of the Human Genome Project?" Still confused, and not wanting to look stupid I asked him to continue. He explained that DNA is basically genetic instructions or blueprints for all living things. It is almost like a recipe for making a human, animal or plant. The Human Genome Project in it's simplest terms is an effort by scientists to determine the instructions for making a human. Before he could go into any more scientific talk, and feeling the onset of a terrible headache, I decided to turn the conversation to two simple questions. I asked him,
"Do you believe in God, and is there room for faith in a scientist’s world"?
Knowing his scientific background, the fact that he had always considered himself an Atheist, and my experience with men and women who believe in the quantitative properties of the world in which everything is able to be analyzed and measured; I was stunned by his answer.
"Yes, I believe that there is a God, and yes I have faith, but not as much as I want".
Taken aback by his statement I waited as he continued. "Though I do not follow an organized religion, I do believe that there is a power greater than ourselves that has a hand in our existence, and is involved in our day to day lives."
As he paused, I took a moment to take in what he was saying. It seemed that he wasn't so much of an Atheist as he had claimed. Continuing he said,
"To be honest, in my younger years I had considered myself an agnostic. I had followed the writings of Thomas Henry Huxley, a 19th century English biologist, who rejected all claims of spiritual or mystical knowledge. I came to believe, that in scientific inquiry one needed to be skeptical of anything that wasn't demonstrable through scientific method. I believed that there wasn't a God, because through my studies and experimentation, there wasn't any definitive proof of his existence."
I asked him what started to change his way of thinking. He said; "a subtle change in my thinking began after I met my wife; a religious women with strong beliefs. She would go to Church on Sunday, though I rarely went. She never pushed me to go, but I always admired her faith, and the type of person she was. She would often chide me to have faith. She would say that the beauty and the mystery of the world are not only in what we can see, but more importantly in what we can't. You can't see the wind, she would say, but its there. Faith was a very hard concept for me to understand because my whole life had revolved around that which we can see and study, and measure."
"With an open mind, and a few gentle nudges from my wife, I began to take a closer look at all the scientific data I'd been studying all my life. It didn't happen overnight, but I slowly came to realize, especially in my DNA research, just how special everything in this world really is. The complexity of us all is amazing. I came to believe that our creation and our very existence could not possibly be through some type of random chance. I started to realize that a power greater than ourselves must have created us all. I guess my wife is wearing me down, because I think that I am also starting to see the importance of faith. Early scientists made discoveries without the benefit of modern inventions, such as the electron microscope. They had to not only use their minds, but also have faith in what they couldn't see. I still have a long way to go, but as my wife likes to say; maybe there is room in heaven for one more skeptical scientist"
After our conversation, I did a lot of soul searching about my own beliefs, and my own faith. I've tried to live a good life, but like many people I have sometimes struggled with my faith. Though I envy those with the strength of their convictions, I think I'm on the right path. Like the scientist; I have a lot of work to do before I rest.
I started to look more closely at the world around me. This world may have war, hate, pain, and despair, but it also has beauty, love, joy, and wonder. I was in the park the other day. I sat on a park bench and looked around at the trees, birds and flowers. I looked at the sun in the sky and the passing clouds. I could feel the gentle touch of the wind and the heat of the sun on my face. A woman sat next to me with her baby. The baby girl was so tiny and perfect. Looking at her, it was easy to see the beauty and wonder of the world around us, and how special we really are. I've been kind of a loner all my life. Besides my wife I don't have many friends. Sitting on that park bench, I really didn't feel alone. I felt like I was a part of something special. Maybe my faith got just a little better, and maybe, just maybe, there's hope for me yet.