Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do you Speak God?

I recently listened to the audiobook of one of my academic heroes, Francis S. Collins. He is a brilliant physician/geneticist, the former head of the Human Genome Project and the current director of the National Institute of Health. He also is a Christian and plays guitar.
The book, “The Language of God,” presents several scientific arguments which suggest that current scientific understanding is not incompatible with the existence of God. He also discusses some of the different viewpoints on the topic and reviews their scientific merit. Collins also weaves into the book his own journey from atheism to Christianity.
I really enjoyed how Collins challenged what he called the “God of the Gaps” thinking. This refers to the way people often want to ascribe to God aspects of the world which are currently unexplainable by science. He attributes many of the clashes between science and religion to such controversies, such as the conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church. 
Instead, we can see God not only in the gaps of that which is natural, but as the author of the mechanisms which science has discovered. I think we can use such a paradigm to learn more about how our world is a manifestation of the one who created it, a word from God. I highly recommend that those who are curious about such matters should give this book a read!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Tis the Season for...Debate?

It is interesting to me how this time of year is one of two times in the year that major media outlets choose to discuss religion. A couple of nights ago, the national geographic channel was showing back-to-back specials which all included Jesus in one way or another. The History Channel also did a special on “Proving God” last week as well. It seems this is also the season in which the network news enjoys turning greeting statements and outdoor displays into overblown debates about the division between Church and State. 
Unfortunately, I feel that possible harm can result if one does not consume this type of media with a critical understanding of media. It has been my experience that the media prefers to tell a dramatic story instead of an accurate one. Scholarly discourse usually includes extremist viewpoints that are not very highly respected in a scholarly community, yet these viewpoints are what make it to the television. I can just imagine that many legit historians and theologians slap their foreheads over and over this time of year.
However, I think this discourse can be valuable, if nothing else, that it might inspire people to think about God and embark upon their own quest to know him. I tend to return to new writing concerning God and science this time of year. As a scientist and a Christian, I think it is valuable for me to be knowledgeable about the topic. 
What kind of feelings do you have about these public discussions? Are they harmful or valuable? Do they inspire you?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Would Jesus Occupy?

It seems to me that the occupy movement has brought into the limelight political polarities among Christians because of the different reactions. One side seems to view the Occupy movement as a righteous crusade seeking justice for the poor. Other perspectives seem to suggest that the movement is a sad result of our increasingly entitled generation. Both sides have produced at least some Biblical evidence to support their views. 
In my view, the real question is this: What did Jesus do in response to the economic and religious injustice of his day? 
It seems to me that Jesus’ primary response was to take his message of love to both the perpetrators and the victims of economic injustice. For example, those who were entrusted with collecting taxes for the Roman government were known to be perpetuators of economic injustice. Therefore, Jesus spent time with them (such as Zaccheus) and sometimes chose them to be in his small group of apostles (such as Levi). Jesus also encouraged these people to be generous (such as the Rich Young Ruler). Finally, Jesus spoke to the rich and poor alike about the difficulties and meaninglessness associated with greed.
I am not sure what this type of ministry would look like in this day and age. Even though you might not see it on the news, I have no doubt that God is at work in our world to bring about his kingdom of justice. I think our task is to find how we can follow Jesus’ example in taking part in his work.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Suh-table Behavior?

Ndamukong Suh’s controversial “stomp” on another player in the Detroit Lions’ Thanksgiving game against the Green Bay Packers has sparked a lot of debate. Suh asserts that he was merely removing himself from the situation, although many say that his body movement as well as his aggressive playing style would suggest otherwise. Suh has since been handed a two game suspension from the NFL, which he is appealing.
Why do you think such a talented and articulate young man would behave this way? 
Psychological studies have suggested that humans tend to have an asymmetrical bias in our thinking about what causes behavior (Malle, 2006). When one thinks about his or her own negative behaviors, there is a tendency to cite situational factors. Therefore, it is not surprising that Suh has asserted benign intent in this incident.
When thinking about another person’s negative behaviors, we have a tendency to cite a person’s flaws in personality. Therefore, it is likely that the NFL will recommend anger management therapy for Suh to encourage him overcome his personality-based flaw.
I think this issue illustrates a very important concept in the way that humans view other people. The take-home message is that our view of what causes other peoples’ behavior sans investigation is usually fundamentally flawed in one way or another. Of course society has to punish and instruct to protect itself. I think we must continue to seek more accurate knowledge of human behavior that will lead us to treat each other with an increasing amount of justice and grace.  However, I think we must also know that doing so will always be imperfect because of our imperfect thinking.
Thankfully, Isaiah 55:8 suggests that God does not share our fundamental bias. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Also in Psalm 139, David also gives a beautiful account of the all-knowing nature of the creator, saying “Before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely.” 
Therefore, I believe that in his infinite wisdom, God has the only perspective that can infinitely see both the situational and personal factors involved in human behavior. Thankfully, he is the one to which we must give an ultimate account.