Rhoda Hawkins, a theoretical physicist from the University of Sheffield, recently spoke on ‘Should we mind, and does it matter?’ at the Christians in Science student conference. Here, she asks how much Christians should be involved in discussing questions of science and faith.
Why should we engage our minds in science and religion issues? Why should we engage with the big questions of mind and matter? Firstly Christians who are scientists are whole, integrated people – body, mind and spirit – so to be true to ourselves and to God we should hold together the different aspects of who we are. Engaging our minds in such deep issues is both fascinating and enriching.
In my experience, questioning and doubting strengthens my faith. Contemplating the mysteries of creation increases my wonder and worship of the Creator. A greater awareness of the philosophical foundations of science, its limitations and its possibilities is important, and grappling with its ethical consequences is our responsibility.
In my research I study living matter. I want to understand how it behaves and moves. What are its material properties, how does it self-assemble and what makes it alive? Sometimes studying a bacterium, a eukaryotic cell, or even a single protein molecule, it can seem as if it has a mind of its own. There’s an intriguing mystery here. How does it work?
Striving to describe, explain and understand this complex behaviour that emerges from the properties of matter is exciting. When understanding is achieved, I am amazed. Far from taking away the mystery, this process of enquiry opens our minds to glimpse something of the mind of God.
At the level of the brain, how the material properties of neurones can lead to emergence of behaviours as complex as our own minds is an exciting scientific question that merges with philosophy. Is there more to the conscious mind than just matter?
A merging of science and philosophy also happens in quantum mechanics. Is the world really indeterminate at the smallest scales? Are there hidden variables that control subatomic particles, communicating instantaneously across non-local distances?
Are there many universes? Is there life on other planets? What is the origin of life? How did life first emerge & evolve? Scientific research may find partial answers to some of these big questions within our lifetimes but I expect many mysteries will remain.
The Bible talks of us as matter, mind and spirit, and says that we should use all these aspects of ourselves to worship our creator God in spirit and truth. For me such holistic worship includes using my mind to seek truth by investigating created matter using science as well as searching for spiritual truth about God.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind
More by Rhoda Hawkins: Wondering; Questioning.