Can you understand science and still believe in God? I remember clearly when I first started asking that question---and how I answered it.
I was a fourteen-year-old freshman at Prospect High School in northwest suburban Chicago, sitting in a third-floor science classroom overlooking the asphalt parking lot, second row from the window, third seat from the front.
I already liked this introductory biology class. It fit well with my logical way of looking at the world. I was incurably curious---always after answers and constantly trying to figure out how things worked.
That's why I liked science. Here the teacher actually encouraged me to cut open a frog so I could find out how it functioned. Science gave me an excuse to ask all the 'why' questions I was wondering about, to try genetic experiments by breeding fruit flies and to peer inside plants to learn about how they reproduced. To me, science represented the hard facts and the experimentally proven. I tended to dismiss everything else as being mere opinion, superstition---and mindless faith.
It was no accident that my admiration for scientific thinking was developing at the same time that my confidence in God was disappearing. While many of my classmates in Sunday school and confirmation class seemed to automatically accept the teaching of the Bible, I needed reasons for trusting it. When nobody wanted to hear my questions, I began to suspect it was because nobody had any convincing answers. And if there wasn't any scientific or rational evidence for believing in God, then I wasn't interested.
That's when, on that day in biology class, I began to learn about scientific discoveries that, for me, opened the door to atheism.
HELLO EVOLUTION, GOOD-BYE GOD
My teacher explained that life originated millions of years ago when chemicals randomly reacted with each other in a warm ocean on prehistoric Earth. Then, through a process of survival of the fittest and natural selection, life-forms grew increasingly complex. Eventually, human beings emerged from the same family tree as apes.
Everything fell into place for me. My conclusion was that you didn't need a Creator if life can emerge unassisted from the primordial slime of the primitive Earth, and you don't need God to create human beings in his image if we are merely the product of the impersonal forces of natural selection. In short, I decided, you don't need the Bible if you have The Origin of Species.
By the time I was halfway through college, my atheistic attitudes were so entrenched that I was becoming more and more impatient with people of mindless faith. I felt smugly arrogant toward them. Let them remain slaves to their wishful thinking about a heavenly home and to the straitjacket morality of their imaginary God. As for me, I would follow the conclusions of the scientists.
THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS
If I had stopped asking questions, that's where I would have remained. But with my background in journalism and law, demanding answers is part of who I am. So when my wife, Leslie, announced that she had decided to become a follower of Jesus, it was understandable that the first words I uttered would be a question.
I didn't ask it politely. Instead I spewed it out: 'What has gotten into you?' I simply couldn't comprehend how such a rational person could buy into an irrational religious belief.
But in the months that followed, Leslie's character began to change. Her values underwent a transformation, and she became a more loving, caring, authentic person. I began asking the same question, only this time in a softer, more sincere tone of genuine wonderment: 'What has gotten into you?' Something---or, as she would claim, Someone---was undeniably changing her for the better.
Clearly, I needed to investigate what was going on. And so I began asking more questions---a lot of them---about faith, God, and the Bible. I was determined to go wherever the answers would take me---even though, frankly, I wasn't quite prepared back then for where I would ultimately end up.
This multifaceted spiritual investigation lasted nearly two years. Because science had played such an important role in propelling me toward atheism, I spent a lot of time posing questions about what the latest research says about God. With an open mind, I began asking:
* Are science and faith incompatible? Am I right to think that a science-minded person must reject religious beliefs? Or is there a different way to view the relationship between the spiritual and the scientific?
* Does the latest scientific evidence tend to point toward or away from the existence of God?
* Are the teachings about evolution that spurred me to atheism all those years ago still valid in light of the most recent discoveries in science?
'Science,' said two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, 'is the search for the truth.'1 And that's what I decided to embark upon---a search for the truth. I hope you'll join me as I retrace that journey. At the end you can decide for yourself which answers and explanations stand up under investigation.