As a child I remember looking once at the clear night sky and feeling the deep awe it inspires. It wasn’t just a sense that the Universe is big that gripped me, though it certainly is. It was the whole experience of being in the dark with my senses half deprived, which enhanced the profound feeling of wonder as I gazed up into the immensity of space. I believe that every child has this kind of experience at least once, realizing just how small we are and how much there is to discover. It may last just a few minutes or the whole life! But it always happens, because, as every child knows, one of the deepest pleasures a human being can experience is the pleasure of finding things out. It is not by accident that this expression is actually a quote from a physicist, Richard Feynman. Physicists (and other scientists too) are just grown up kids that haven’t forgotten about the guiltless pleasure of being curious about everything!
Being a Christian, though, there is another layer on the matter.
So, in a sense, I am still the same kid that saw the night sky that evening. I had looked at it before, of course, but on that occasion I actually saw it and felt the awe. I still feel it today. That’s why I became a physicist—to find things out.
Being a Christian, though, there is another layer on the matter. A wonderful one! Feynman once said:
“Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars—mere globs of gas atoms. I, too, can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more?”
The argument is sound. Physics can’t take away the profound beauty of things, the beauty poets talk about. It actually reveals the true inner elegance and symmetry behind the surface of reality that poets write about and that artists in general try to grasp. In a similar manner, how can anybody say that physics takes away any of the profound impact that Christianity has on a human being? A physicist, as a Christian, is a searcher for truth. And the truth, be it spiritual or physical, cannot contradict itself. How could the creation contradict the Creator? So I search for His fingerprints in nature! Because every artist leaves a particular, individual touch on his or her works of art. God, as the great Artist, the great Engineer, is no different. We can clearly see His touch on nature, whether we are looking at intricate biological systems (even if perverted by sin) or at the basic fabric of space-time (untouched by perversion). How can anyone not marvel before such a big and beautiful picture of reality?
As I grew in stature and knowledge, I felt a desire to serve God, to do His will. But how could I? It was clear that my life experience was a build up around my choice to become a scientist. So, “obviously,” I felt I should study medicine and become a physician. Makes sense, right? There is a kind of unspoken and, for sure, well-meaning suggestion within some sectors of the church that you have to be a medical doctor or a pastor to really serve God. Sure, both do an invaluable and important work! But was I supposed to follow such a path?
While this dilemma circled around in my head, I was half way through my Ph.D. Physics is irremediably entangled with who I am, but was it God’s choice for me? So I asked Him. I prayed. I searched. And one day He spoke to me. I had some friends involved in GYC 2009, so I downloaded the messages and put them on my audio player. I remember hearing a sermon by Pastor David Asscherick as I walked one morning to the university. Suddenly, he started talking about a real need for Adventist scientists, as opposed to medical doctors. He addressed my very doubts! As he spoke, it struck me: science was the ministry God intended for me! I prayed more about it and kept going, finishing my Ph.D. a few months ago.
So why do I do science? I surely don’t do it to prove anyone wrong. I do it because I recognize my deep ignorance, because I don’t know everything. I do it because I am curious and want to know the truth. I do it because I marvel at the work of the Creator and I want to know Him better and better.
The message of the three angels in Revelation 14 tells us that the exaltation of God as the Creator is part of our message. Looking at the popular view that science and religion are intrinsically incompatible, how can anyone doubt the validity of such a message? Again, truth is truth. Spiritual truth and physical truth cannot contradict each other! So if you feel any inclination toward some form of science, pursue it! Pray about it every step of the way, and just search for the Truth. This way not only will you partake of the wonderful pleasure of finding things out, but you will be a valuable servant in God’s hands!
Paulo Torres is a physicist, working mainly in the field of cosmology. He has been studying dark energy and dark matter, the mysterious ingredients of the Universe that are massively more abundant than all the visible stars and galaxies. Curious by nature, his interests extend to several other fields of physics and beyond, be it exotic languages, neurology or music.