How can a smart scientist like you believe all that?
Probably most scientists today who follow Jesus have been asked this question in one form or another. My clearest memory of being asked it was by a an MIT colleague in an airport restaurant. Chicago, I think it was. Our plane back to Boston had been delayed, giving us a few hours together returning from a scientific collaboration meeting. This was in the late nineteen seventies; forty years ago now. Lou and I were close coworkers in the fusion research team at MIT at the time. He a freshly appointed junior professor; I a research scientist a couple of years past PhD.
I told him that my experience of God and of science did not lead me to regard them as incompatible in the way that he obviously thought they were; and that belief in both were essential parts of my intellect, commitments, and personality. Our dinner conversation continued to explore the questions that he and I put to each other. In the years since, as I have grown in my understanding of how those two strands interlock and interweave, I have often thought of my friend and wondered what he would think and ask today.
I’ll never know, because Lou died suddenly and tragically, hardly a year later. The occasions of our conversation and of the later emotional service of remembrance for Lou by his MIT friends are inseparable in my mind. They are, for me, a reminder to think about matters of ultimate significance, as well as the day to day challenges and occasional inspirations that every scientist encounters.
My book “Can a scientist believe in miracles” tries to answer, in as fair and open a way as I can, hundreds of questions I have been asked about this topic in the years since. I think of Lou today and am thankful that the quality of our friendship enabled him to ask his question.