Science as a Route to G-d

Dawn redwood forest in California

I’m thinking today of a walk I took back in college.  I was a Forest Biology major,  out in the woods near campus with some interdisciplinary liberal arts major.  I kept stopping to examine some interesting root growth pattern, soil strata, or flower structure, and he was getting frustrated; he wanted to bask in the natural goodness of the mixed deciduous/coniferous canopy over us and pontificate about the miracle of God’s Creation.

I don’t remember how we met, and I don’t think that we hung out again after that day, but not because we disagreed, or, at least not beause I disagreed with him. 

Do I believe in G-d?  Yes, but ‘he’ might be deep physics.  Do I believe that G-d created everything in the universe?  The universe follows the laws of physics (even the ones we don’t understand yet), so, again, yes. 

Pink Lady's Slipper from Bristol, VT (wikipedia)

One moment from that walk stands out in my mind above all others.  I was hunched over a rare pink lady’s slipper orchid, and this guy started scowling at me, complaining that I was “insulting God, *disecting* his creation like this.”

First of all, I was doing no such thing: Pink Lady’s Slippers are a rare treasure, and I would NEVER dig up one from the wild, let alone disect one.  (Folks now sell seeds, but this was back in the early ’90s when they did no such thing.) 

Secondly, I wasn’t *insulting* anything.  I’ve never felt more in the presence of the divine  then when deep in the study of some intricacy of our universe, whether it be of the development of pollen tubules in a flower head, or the metabolism of extremophiles in a sulfurous deep sea hot vent, or the theorized emission of Hawking radiation from shrinking black holes.  Or, I might add, the continually unfolding, infinitely complex, fully integrated process that is evolution. 

If the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, then, surely, the more parts we can both discern and understand, the greater the whole must be. 

He only saw trees, dirt, and maybe sunshine dappling through the leaves.  I saw xylem and phloem, water tables and the carbon cycle, wildlife habitats and genetic diversity.  He saw living things.  I saw life. 

I pitied him.

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