Science and Faith

The last two years have highlighted how we respond to science.  For many years, we have become used to the idea that science has the answers to the questions that we need answers for.   We have watched the news briefings as the Chief Science Officer and the Chief Medical Officers of the different UK countries have led the country through the last 2 COVID-filled years.  We have become steeped in science.  Science has fuelled decisions.  Science has led to Lockdowns, self isolation, economic regression and medical inventiveness in changing PPE and vaccines.

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These COVID times have been a nightmare.   The number of deaths in the UK that have involved COVID has reached 176,000.  Some people think we should have ignored this – that it is no different from flu – that its a storm in a Teacup – this it is part of nature.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with science.  I like to know how things work.  When I was a child I used to take things apart and then try (and fail) to put them back together again.   I have a thirst to understand.  I need to know the details.   Through the COVID epidemic – this has been no different.   I have wanted to learn what has been going on; why decisions are being made and the justification for the measures taken.

I have been fascinated to watch our scientific (and less so, our political) leaders in action as they tried to do what was best for us all over the last 2 years.   These were big, hefty decisions that needed to to be taken.  None of us really understand the pressure on someone who is responsible for the actual lives of a nation.  I have watched ‘the science’.  I have considered the data and the responses to that data.   I have watched the predictions as wave after wave of COVID spread through our population – with seemingly no end in sight.  I bought a book called Covid by numbers:  Making sense of the Pandemic with Data by David Spiegelhater and Anthony Masters.  They outlined some rather good arguments for the different available facts and figures (in 2021) about the mechanics of the epidemic and dealt with some of the hard questions about the disease, the interventions that were used, the vaccines and the process used to develop these

I am a Christian.  I am a believer.  I believe in a God who cares deeply for us.  I am someone who has faith.  I have a simple faith.  I don’t like to over-complic`ate things.  Having faith means that you cannot have all of the answers.   I don’t mind not knowing some of the answers.  I like the fact that there is mystery.  We need the mystery because God is in the mystery.  Having faith means that you make a decision based on the information available to you.  It’s your best guess.  It’s based on the things you see in front of you.   You listen to people.   You hear the stories of what God has done in the loves of people and you decide to follow.

I believe that God created the world and everything (including us) in it.   Sometimes, as a Geography teacher that belief can pop up when I am trying to explain different things in class.   I have held creationist views for a long time but I have to admit that the recent years have threatened this.  Its not that I have had some sort of existential crisis (I haven’t).   Its not that I have read new opinions that have swayed me (I haven’t).  It’s that some of the people who used to share the same ideas as me – have become rampant anti-vaxxers who are challenging every scientific discovery and even the body of science thought and thinkers.   I am used to disagreeing with some scientists.   I am used to saying that we cannot explain away everything. I am used to getting people to justify and to find that there are still things that we don’t know.  But – I am not used to having to back up the ideas of people who are arguing that the science is wrong and that we are being duped.

I have listened to the medical experts of our country and when they said that the vaccine was safe – I have believed them.   I have got all 3 of my jabs.  I have listened to the informed argument.  I have spoken to my doctor friends who have reassured me about the safety.  I have listened to some anti-vaxxers who have spread lies, half truths and downright propaganda about the validity of the vaccine.  I have watched the pictures of people try and force their beliefs on other people.  I have heard Christians spout lies and fuel fires that the vaccine was made with aborted babies.  This is not acceptable.   Right thinking Christian people should be condemning these people and calling them out.   I have read reports about how COVID was a fake. I’ve had it.  It’s not.   All this does is to shake my faith.   I am frustrated that many vocal Christians have hijacked the mics and are shouting about freedoms they don’t actually believe in.   `People who I used to agree with – I now find repugnant.  I dislike their message.  I dislike the way they spread their message through fear and admonition.   I dislike how they attempt to undermine the public safety messages.  Yet – when they catch the disease themselves they claim that it is something different that ails them.

It is ok to read the science and to come with a different conclusion.  But it is not OK to do this with no sound thinking and evidence to back things up.  It is not OK to do this in such a way that it instills fear in people or belittles the struggles that people are going through.

People are entirely well within their rights to have their own opinions on things.  But – to argue that everything is pseudo-science is harming MY faith.  Where is your faith?  When you tear down the pillars of science – what are you replacing it with?   We believe that God will protect us and will intervene when we pray – yet, and yes we must rely on Him for salvation.  BUT – that does not mean that we turn our backs on those with the gifts and talents who have been given to us to help us through the crisis.   I am very thankful for the medical scientists who provide injections and tablets for me on a daily basis.   I am thankful for their training, knowledge and professionalism to give me the best chance of living a long, active and productive life.

I am reminded of the story that Leo tells Josh in the West Wing about the man who fell down a hole  . . .

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I have been reading a book about Quantum Physics recently – it is so good that I am even understanding some of it!  Its called Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli.  Quantum theory is something that many great scientists do not fully understand on page 130 he writes about how the ‘world of phenomena is one that we can investigate, gradually improving our understanding of it’.   We are trying to work out how to negotiate our way through a health crisis and we want to use every tool (and talent) that God has put at our disposal.  I don’t believe that God intends this age to be some sort of Malthusian Thanos-inspired finger snap where half the population are wiped out.     I believe the God who created us, revels in our industry, in our inventiveness, in our determination to fight the unseen virus.   Rovelli continues,

“I believe that one of the greatest mistakes made by human beings is to want certainties when trying to understand something.  The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty:  it is nourished by a radical absence of certainty.” 

We all need a little faith.  Even in science – observation and measurement is not enough.  To delve into the depths of how our world works and how the physical world interacts – we need to have a little faith.  We don’t want certainty.   We have to have faith and we have then can start to think about who started to create all these things in the first place.

My concern is that if people start to think that Christians have nothing positive to say and only pull down and demean (and lie)  – it will mean that when the crisis is over, no one will listen ever again.

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