A passionate affair

I’ve always struggled with the idea of a sunrise. It seems an awfully big assumption, you see, to think that it will happen every morning.

I know it has happened repeatedly in the past, but that doesn’t say much for what the sun might decide to do in the future. Quite simply, I’ve never understood the arrogance of the secular scientist in thinking that observing something makes it certain.

Surely, I have thought to myself quite often, the scientist can see that he and I are in the very same position? He knows a lot about the sun, perhaps, and I know very little. But we are both still living by faith when we talk about it rising tomorrow, because neither one of us knows for sure that it will.

After all, if it is a surprise that we exist, then very likely the end of it all will come upon us as a surprise too.

And perhaps, because I have always thought of both the religious man and the secular scientist as being people of faith, I have struggled to understand when people speak about the conflict between science and faith.

Johannes Kepler couldn’t see a conflict when he refused to go along with crowd in his day, when all had given up on finding some order in the movement of the planets. In fact, it was because he had more faith than the blokes around him that he was able to discover their elliptical orbits, and break ground for establishing scientific method.

Louis Pasteur couldn’t see the conflict when he refused to bow to Darwin’s claim of life spontaneously generating, as the rest of his generation had done. Again, it was his faith that life came from life which lead to his discovery of germs as the cause of much disease and sickness. That led to the development of the vaccine, a little process called pasteurisation, and inspired a fellow Christian and surgeon named Joseph Lister to advocate, despite mockery, sterilisation in hospitals.

Sir Isaac Newton, the founder of modern physics, Robert Boyle, the founder of modern Chemistry, Carl Linnaeus, the man who gave us biological nomenclature, Michael Faraday, from the field of electrics, Samuel Morse, of Morse Code, James Joule, of the Kilojoule, Gregor Medel, the father of genetics, Charles Babbage of computing…the list goes on and on and on.

Each man credited his discoveries to his faith.

And that is because it takes a person of great faith to discover something new. After all, you must believe that there is something yet to be discovered, something yet unknown, before you set out to discover it. That is faith in its purest form.

You have even more reason to press forward, incidentally, if you believe that there is purpose, order and logic to every living, breathing, loving thing under the sun. And that is because you can’t just put it down to an accident. Faith sees an entire universe of “why” questions, and believes every single one of them has an answer waiting to be uncovered.

And that brings us back to the sunrise. It’s where I decided faith and science are wrapped up in a passionate embrace. Science can tell us what a sunset is, and how it works, and even why our hearts and minds react so upon seeing a particularly beautiful one.

But only by faith did we ever set out to discover those things in the first place. And only by faith do we hope to see it all happen again tomorrow.

This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz

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