A few weeks ago I showed a documentary to a group of parishioners about the Chaplain for NASA. From the conversation that followed it was clear they were surprised to learn (a) that NASA actually had a Chaplain, (b) that many of those involved in space research were committed Christians and (c) that Holy Communion was celebrated by astronaut Buzz Aldrin immediately after Neil Armstrong did his first walk on the moon. (Yes, the first bread consumed on the moon and the first wine drunk was indeed that of Holy Communion. Buzz Aldrin had been presented with a “Holy Communion kit” by his congregation to take to the moon. One of the reasons for having Communion at this important moment was to send out the message that there is no conflict between being a scientist/astronaut and religious belief. Science tells us HOW something works, theology tells us WHY we are here. They fulfil two different roles.
One of the unfortunate myths in our culture is that often people seem to think that science and religion are incompatible and this blinds many to the real truth! William Phillips winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry once quipped “that so many of his colleagues were Christians, he couldn’t walk across his church hall without tripping over a dozen physicists!” In fact 50% of those who went into space found the experience profoundly increased their spiritual life, indeed Colonel James Erwin even became an ordained Minister and Colonel Charlie Duke goes around giving his Christian testimony saying that “the walk with Jesus is far more exciting than a walk on the moon”.
The idea that somehow science and religious belief is incompatible is propagated by a few vocal individuals who have their own personal reasons for not wanting to accept God. They disbelieve for their own personal reasons, not because of science! How can I say this so emphatically? The reason I can do so is because atheism faces dozens of “which came first the chicken or the egg conundrums” which can only be explained by the existence of God. Here are some examples which make uncomfortable reading for those who don’t want to accept the reality of God.
DNA is what makes protein, yet DNA itself is made of protein. So which came first, the DNA that makes protein or the protein out of which DNA is made? Living cells are made up of incredibly complex nano-chemical machinery and some of this machinery synthesizes DNA. So which came first, the DNA without which there could be no cell, or the cell without which there could be no DNA? The most amazing thing in the universe is life; there is no life without enzymes although they themselves are not living things and there are no enzymes without life because it takes life to produce them! Which came first, the enzymes without which there can be no life, or the life without which there can be no enzymes? Again, many different enzymes are required to translate the genetic information encoded on the DNA, yet the enzymes are themselves encoded by DNA. Thus the genetic code cannot be translated except by products of translation! Yet again, DNA cannot function without at least seventy-five pre-existing proteins but only DNA can produce these seventy-five proteins. The “machinery” to convert the DNA information into protein is itself made of the protein it alone can produce!
These vicious circles allow for only one logical conclusion – all these things existed simultaneously from the very beginning or neither would exist! This inescapable fact requires a creative act of God. Well does it say in Psalm 14 “it is a fool who has said in his heart ‘there is no God.”
True science points to God! As Fritz Schaefer, Director of the Centre for Quantum Chemistry (University of Georgia) the third most quoted chemist today said, “the joy in my science comes in discovering something new and saying to myself “so that’s how God did it.” God is the ultimate Scientist!