Transcendent Science

microscope
Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu

There is great beauty in science, whether in the experiments themselves, the data produced, or the presentation of that data. There is also great wonder, and that is what drives science forward. How does a seed grow into a plant? What is a star made of? Can we describe the movement of a cell using mathematical equations? At times wonder gives way to open-mouthed awe as we see something vast, incredibly complex or highly ordered.

Awe is enjoyed and cultivated by all scientists, despite their different personalities, and popular science writing is invariably full of awe and wonder – whatever the beliefs of the author. Continue reading

On Awe and Zebrafish

Head of a Zebrafish larva, around 24h
Head of a Zebrafish larva, around 24h, by Ruth Bancewicz.

Whether Christian or not, scientists share a reverence for the moment when painstaking lab work blossoms into something almost transcendent. This post is taken from an article that I recently wrote for Third Way, and explains some of the thinking behind my current work on science and faith.

I’ll never forget my first sight of a Zebrafish larva. At twenty-four hours old they are about two and a half millimetres long and almost completely translucent. A simple low-magnification microscope reveals every detail of their anatomy in minute detail. You can see the heart pumping, and tiny red blood cells moving through capillaries. You can trace the outline of muscle fibres in their tails, and see every detail of the developing eye. Later on the eye becomes covered in silvery pigment cells, the transparent lens protruding, beautifully rounded and greenish in colour.

As a teenager heading off to university, I knew that science was compatible with Christianity – but I didn’t expect it to enhance my faith in the way that it has. Continue reading

View from the Biology Lab: Worshipping God with Science

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.

He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.

He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it.

He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness….

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Job 26: 7-10, 14

As a biologist I have seen some very beautiful things. My own area of research was eye development and genetics in the small tropical ‘zebrafish’. Every developmental biologist tends to love the organism they work on, and I was no exception! Continue reading

Fresh eyes

There is an anaesthetic of familiarity, a sedative of ordinariness, which dulls the senses and hides the wonder of existence. For those of us not gifted in poetry, it is at least worth while from time to time making an effort to shake of the anaesthetic. What is the best way of countering the sluggish habituation brought about by our gradual crawl from babyhood? We can’t actually fly to another planet. But we can recapture that sense of having just tumbled out to life on a new world by looking at our own world in unfamiliar ways.

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (Allen Lane, 1998) Continue reading