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Scientists Who Believe: Twenty-One Tell Their Own Stories

Scientists Who Believe: Twenty-One Tell Their Own Stories

by Eric C. Barrett

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Here are the stories of scientists, both men and women, who have achieved career fulfillment in the sciences yet found further fulfillment through faith in Jesus Christ.


Here are the stories of scientists, both men and women, who have achieved career fulfillment in the sciences yet found further fulfillment through faith in Jesus Christ.

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Moody Publishers
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Scientists Who Believe

By Eric C. Barrett, David Fisher

Moody Press

Copyright © 1984 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-7634-0


Flight to Faith

For Dr. Boris P. Dotsenko, an espionage exit from the Soviet Union was to prove an esoteric entrance into a personal relationship with God. Brought up under the ideology of scientific atheism, which he had "absorbed into the very marrow of his bones," Boris came to faith in the Creator and Sustainer of the universe through three surprise discoveries of the Bible—one in an old barn in the southern USSR, one in a professor's study in Leningrad, and one in a motel in Edmonton, Canada.

"Disillusionment with the ideology of materialistic Communism," says Dr. Dotsenko, "is that common factor in the lives of Soviet intellectuals who are finding God."

Dr. Boris P. Dotsenko received his first academic degree in physics and mathematics at the University of Lvov, in the Soviet republic of the Ukraine, in 1949. He was awarded an M.Sc. degree at the University of Leningrad, and obtained his doctorate at Moscow State University in 1954 for research in physical and mathematical sciences.

After working for three years in the prestigious Academy of Sciences of the USSR, on intercontinental and space rocket research, Dotsenko moved to the Institute of Physics in Kiev, where he was eventually appointed Head of the Nuclear Laboratory.

He sought political asylum in Canada in 1966, while he was traveling on official business. Since then, he has taught at a number of schools and colleges, including the Waterloo Lutheran University, in Waterloo, Ontario, and the University of Toronto.

Dotsenko is a member of a Mennonite Brethren Church.

During World War II, I lived in Siberia. Life was very hard. At the age of fifteen, I went to work on the construction of boilers for factory power plants. The moisture of the steam and the coal dust made it hard to see more than ten steps away. Food was scarce, and we were often very hungry.

I had always had a natural curiosity. In my harsh surroundings, I asked myself more than ever before, Why do we live? I read some of the works of Plato and Socrates, and I was thrilled with the clear, logical thinking of the Greek philosophers. But I was a convinced atheist; I had absorbed my political and antireligious thinking into the very marrow of my bones.

At the end of World War II, I was of university age. My family was "reevacuated" to the Ukraine. There I was able to enroll in an electrotechnical college.

One hot and humid afternoon in August, when I was at my grandfather's home recovering from a bout of pneumonia, I wandered into an old barn and fell asleep on a pile of hay. When I awoke, I discovered that I had slipped down between the hay and the rough wooden back wall of the barn. Struggling, I fell further to the floor. There, by my feet, I saw some old papers.

Reaching down, I found some copies of a very old magazine and parts of a book without a cover. Its pages, yellowed with time, were covered with two languages. One was strange, but I recognized it as Old Slavonic script. On opposite pages, in Russian, was a translation of the text. I read: "The gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ ..."

I was frightened. I knew that Christianity was frowned upon in my country. Churches had been burned down or closed. Christian preaching had become a crime, although I did not know why. But, at the same time, I was intrigued. I hid the book under my shirt and sneaked back to my room.

There I read more. The words of John 1:1—"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"—struck right into my mind! Here was a very clear statement of what was at the beginning, underneath everything. But it completely contradicted everything that I had been taught! Psychologically speaking, reading that was an extremely shocking experience for me.

As I read on, I felt increasingly uncomfortable, and nearly ridiculous. It was so different from all I had been taught. I had thought that it was Stalin who had first said, "He who is not with us is against us." I discovered now that it had been Jesus Christ (see Matthew 12:30).

The Great Commandment of Jesus particularly frightened me. How could I love God and my neighbor as myself if God did not exist? I had been told that any enemy who does not surrender must be annihilated. I had learned that I had a responsibility to betray, if necessary, not only my neighbor, but even my own family. So I resisted what I read, but the words sank deep into me.

Then, strangely, after two weeks, the Scripture disappeared from my room. To this day I know neither how nor why it happened. But what I read had left its mark on me. I kept reverting to its implications while studying physics and mathematics at the University of Kiev.

One of the most fundamental laws of nature that interested me was the Law of Entropy, which is concerned with the probable behavior of the particles (molecules, atoms, electrons, and so on) of any physical system. Put simply, this law states that, left to itself, any physical system will decay with time; matter tends to become increasingly disorganized. (One of the implications of this law is that the whole material world should have turned into a cloud of chaotic dust a long, long time ago!)

As I thought about all of that, it suddenly dawned on me that there must be a very powerful organizing force counteracting this disorganizing tendency within nature, keeping the universe controlled and in order. This force must be nonmaterial; otherwise, it too would become disordered. I concluded that this power must be both omnipotent and omniscient: there must be a God—one God—controlling everything! I realized also that even the most brilliant scientists in the best equipped laboratories are still incapable of copying even the simplest living cell: God must be the Creator of life on Earth.

I did well in my studies at Kiev, and I received and accepted an opportunity to study further at the University of Leningrad.

While I was studying for my master's degree in Leningrad, I discovered another Bible in an unlikely place: the study of the late Dr. Jakov Frenkel, a Russian scientist of world reknown. I had been hesitant about deciding what priority God ought to have in the life of a scientist. It impressed me greatly that this brilliant man, who had the most intimate knowledge of the laws of nature, should keep the Book of God openly in his library.

I began to reach out to God through prayer.

In 1951, as one of the three best students at graduation in Leningrad, I was sent to Moscow State University. There I obtained my Ph.D. in physical and mathematical sciences in 1954, and was assigned to work in the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union. My field of research was intercontinental and space rocket research. My personal ideology continued to swing towards Christianity.

In the years that followed, I became a respected scientist, working in the nuclear branch of the Institute of Physics in Kiev. But I lost faith in others—and even myself—when I discovered that my father and my wife were reporting regularly to the KGB on my actions and beliefs.

By the fall of 1964, the strain had become intolerable. I prayed, "My God, kill me, or take me out of here!" I took an overdose of sleeping pills. When I regained consciousness in the hospital, I remembered saying also, "My Lord, Thy will be done."

Death had not worked. That in itself was an answer to my prayer. I decided to wait and see what God had in store for me.

In 1966, I was appointed Head of my laboratory—a great honor in itself. Then, one day, I was called to Moscow, to the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party. I was told that I was to be sent to Canada, and after that to Vienna, as a senior member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. From there, I would be expected to send back information about the achievements of nuclear researchers throughout the world.

One of the top men, Comrade Baskakov, lifting his finger to indicate a quotation from the highest source, said to me, "Boris Borisovich, we will be able to reward your service greatly—up to the Nobel Prize in Physics!"

Two days later, I was in Canada, at the University of Alberta. When I began to unpack my luggage in my Edmonton motel room, I found a third Bible—this one placed there by the Gideons, an international group of Christian businessmen who donate free Bibles to hotels and other public institutions in many countries of the world for the benefit of their clients.

My hands trembled as I lifted the Bible. It opened to John 1:1, and I was reminded of that verse which had struck me so forcibly twenty-two years before, in the Ukrainian barn: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Thereafter, I spent every available moment absorbing the Word of God. Did I now accept what I read? I swallowed it all!

I became a Christian, and I was soon baptized by a minister in Edmonton, Alberta.

I quickly realized that my relationship with Jesus Christ was more important to me than my career, or even my beloved homeland and family. So I stayed in Canada and began teaching physics at several schools and universities.

Today I know that the Bible is the greatest Book of faith, in which the acts of God are recorded for believers. Its final proof will come with the return of our Lord and the establishment of His kingdom.

I believe that God is the Creator of the universe, but He is not confined to it. He is independent! He keeps and controls the whole universe, and each part that helps to make it up. He is the One who maintains its order. It is hard for us to conceptualize adequately His relationship with this world, because He does not belong to this "reality"—the only one with which we are familiar.

A simple analogy may help us to understand this a bit more clearly. Consider an electric field, with small particles of iron placed in it. The movements of the particles are controlled by that field, but the field itself does not become part of the system of particles. Each preserves its own "individuality." In the same way, man is circumscribed by God-ordained conditions, but he can still behave to some extent according to his own nature.

But no analogy can do justice to God's provision for men to enjoy spiritual union with Him. Paraphrasing Francis Bacon, one may say that superficial and egocentric knowledge leads to atheism, while genuine, deep, and objective study leads to faith in God. I thank Him for bringing to my attention three times, in different places and over many years, His book for the world, the Bible. And I thank Him too for granting me the faith to know Him personally and to experience His love. As a professor, I want to train my students in science. But, more importantly, I want to help them to become people who realize their chief responsibilities: to society, to the world around them, and—above all—to God Himself.


Cause and Effect

For many years, Paul Adams-Jutzkiewicz wandered the world, searching for real meaning in life. Pursuing that objective throughout many countries of the world, he became a rolling stone of sorts. Not surprisingly, he can say, "I like to think of myself as an expert hitchhiker: I've tried virtually every means throughout the United States and Europe." Eventually, "something unheard of in hitchhiking happened"—in answer to his first real prayer.

Before that happened, he gained a wider and more varied experience of life in six short years than most of us manage in a lifetime. Following his initial university studies in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and in London, Paul worked on twelve assorted jobs in six different countries. He found time to complete an M.Sc. degree in environmental resources—plus courses in biology, Red Cross first aid, and Spanish.

Paul says that, when he finally found the truth about life, it came as a "dazzling revelation" to him. This is how he puts it: "A scientist's training equipped me to reach absolute truth concerning my own life—indeed, concerning life itself."

Paul Adams-Jutzkiewicz was born in Derby, England, in 1951. His mother is English, but his father is Polish, having come to Britain from Warsaw in 1940 with the Free Polish Air Force. Paul graduated with an Honors Degree in Psychology from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1973, specializing in animal behavior. He received a Postgraduate Certificate of Education from the University of London in 1974. From 1976 to 1977 he studied the behavior of urban foxes in Bristol and undertook an ecological survey of fresh water bodies for the Wigan County Council, while working towards his M.Sc. degree in environmental resources at the University of Salford.

His other activities between 1974 and 1980 make for amazing reading. He worked as a veterinary assistant and trainer for the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida. He helped to rehabilitate oiled sea-birds in Brittany, and he worked as a laboratory assistant in Marine Sciences in the University of Brest, France. He assisted on an oceanological research vessel, operating along the coast of Morocco, and he taught guitar at a public school in Switzerland.

Two years in succession, he won a Burroughs Prize for individual studies in natural history, A gifted linguist, he speaks eight different languages. Musically talented, he plays four different instruments. Physically active, he's good at athletics, swimming, and the martial arts.

He is now a science teacher at St. Vincent School in Gosport, England.

I am a teacher of secondary school science. The areas I cover are extensive—not that I'm an expert over such a vast range of study. No, I still have to do what I've always enjoyed doing. I have to continually seek out and learn more up-to-date facts; then I have to assess and teach them. Above all, I have to be critical. But I enjoy it, and my diverse experience is certainly an advantage.

The beginnings of my science career were shaped by my insatiable interest in natural history. By the age of twelve, I was already asking questions that my biology teachers could not answer. I progressed in my own research at home. My artistic ability and my love for languages, however, did present me with a dilemma in later years: Which direction would I take for university? Eventually, I chose what I thought was, for me, the easier option: science. But I continued to enjoy artistic pursuits—the guitar, drama, painting, and languages—in my own time. I often reckoned myself to be a scientist by circumstance, because I might have been just as happy with an arts degree.

My entrance to university was determined by my examination results in biology, chemistry, and physics: To tell the truth, I only just made it! At the age of eighteen, I found that the pull of fast living had almost become too much for me; girls, parties, and youthful fun had become priorities over my studies.

The odd thing was this: The prayer I had always repeated, parrot-fashion, night after night, since I was ten years old, still featured as my nocturnal obligation. I always prayed for high academic achievement, and I had never, ever, failed an examination since that time. However, my childhood belief in God had hardly survived—little more than a religious superstition remained.

In October 1969, I began my courses at the University of Newcastle-on-Tyne in the north of England. Zoology, physiology, and psychology were exciting studies at the university. I even managed to find a balance between those and all the other "delights" that the campus offered. Parties, dancing, and girls still featured high on my list. But, after four years of rather egocentric living—including a lot of travel to Europe and the United States—I like to think of myself as an expert hitchhiker!—I managed to gain an Honors Degree in psychology.

I went on to obtain a postgraduate teaching certificate at London University, and, after one year of teaching science, I undertook a Master of Science degree in ecology at the University of Salford.

Science is governed by well-defined rules. One is the premise that the basic principles we discover will always be true. We depend greatly upon the repeatability of experiments. We make predictions and thus discover the fixed laws of science. Science is based on cause and effect. All of my school lessons are based on that premise.

In physics, every pupil knows Newton's first law of motion: An object will remain in its state of rest or uniform motion until acted upon by a force. How beautifully that illustrates our principle of cause and effect: if you do not push your trolley, it will not move!

In chemistry, the principle is exemplified again. I have yet to see a precipitate forming in a silver nitrate solution without the presence of a causal agent like the chloride ion.

Our physics experiments show how the heating effect in an electrical conductor is caused by the excitation of subatomic particles. Along with heat, light energy is emitted—cause and effect again.

Thus, our scientific experiments display such orderliness that our very livelihoods can depend on it. We can and do expect very certain results to occur, time and time again. And we are not disappointed. Yes, variations may occur, if we change the conditions of any cause-and-effect relationship, but the patterns and predictions that we discover remain ever constant. The more I pondered this truth, the more I questioned its application to all areas of life—my life.


Excerpted from Scientists Who Believe by Eric C. Barrett, David Fisher. Copyright © 1984 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

ERIC BARRETT is the dean of the Slavic Gospel Association's Radio Academy of Science and former director of Remote Sensing at the University of Bristol in England. He is co-author of Remote Sensing for Hazard Monitoring and Disaster Assessment, Scientists Who Believe as well as a number of other books and papers on environmental science. Eric resides in the United Kingdom.

DAVID FISHER is a missionary radio broadcaster working jointly with Trans World Radio and the Slavic Gospel Association. He is director and editor-in-chief of Radio Academy of Science (RADAS). Fisher believed that scientific atheism was preventing many from accepting Christ, so he began writing scripts for a broadcast which countered atheistic spins on scientific issues, and included interviews with believers professionally involved in the sciences. Nearly 30 years later, TWR¿s Truth in the Test Tube program and webcast continues to make a difference in the lives of students and young adults. He is co-author of Scientists Who Believed with Eric Barrett.

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