God, Science, and the Nature of Reality: Event Recap

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By Amaris Garcia and Edgar Villaruel | UTS Staff Writers | SQ Online (2013-14)

On Monday, April 14, students gathered inside Price Center West Ballroom to hear a discussion about “God, Science, and the Nature of Reality.” The Veritas Forum, a Christian organization, hosted this event featuring Dr. Satyan Devadoss, a professor of mathematics at Williams College, and Carl Hoeger, a professor of chemistry at UC San Diego.

The event included approximately 15-minute segments for each speaker to present their viewpoints, question and answer time from the audience, and an interactive discussion time in small groups led by professors and graduate students.

In general, the views of these professors reflect how faith and science can intertwine. Coming into this, most students claimed that they assumed it would be a debate of secular versus religious views. Instead, it turned out to be a discussion of how one can live with faith and science, with both professors being prime examples.

No matter which side one takes, this debate-turned-discussion portrayed the benefits of looking through the lens of both science and religion.

Devadoss introduced the scientific extremist side by quoting Bertrand Russell, philosopher and mathematician who said, “Whatever knowledge is attainable must be attained by scientific methods. What science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” Although Devadoss explicitly stated that he follows Christian faith, he implores people to have a general open-minded perspective on life, expressing that, “We live in this messy world and we have to deal with tough questions. There’s no quick fix, but now is the time to wrestle with these questions–don’t be afraid to get messy.”

Taking on a slightly more integrated approach, Dr. Hoeger explained the need for a relationship between religion and science. He personally described how he uses religion as a moral compass, a motivator to continue his passion for science, and an explanation for radical miracles–essentially, religion for him is a unifying principle that binds the messiness and complexity of the world. Hoeger defended his view by quoting Albert Einstein who, even after all he discovered, stated that “his life was a failure because he couldn’t find a unifying principle.”

To recap, Dr. Devadoss is a mathematics professor who believes asking questions is normal since we live in a complicated world and is also a strong believer in Christianity. Dr. Hoeger is a well-known chemistry professor who was driven to research and teaching because of his passion to return to the classroom in order to bring young people back into science. Yet, he practices the Catholic faith. Both stressed their advocacy for faith in God because of the fact that there are some things in this world science cannot explain. Yet, they did not let that stop them from doing what they love and were passionate about. Indeed, both professors have succeeded in influencing thousands of students and continue to do so through teaching.

Identifying a single best theory to explain the complexity of life would be ineffective as there is no pure factual evidence to justify every earthly occurrence. Many have decided to live with a combination of both theories. As a scientist, Dr. Hoeger “always had faith that [he] would be put into the right positions to discover things if [he] looked close enough.” Rather than challenging the idea that God exists or that science and faith are incompatible, both of these intellectuals presented unique perspectives on how one can live a life of faith while simultaneously actively participating in academic organizations. Both professors agree that it is best to find out what makes sense to you and use that faith, may it be science or religion or both, to explain what Dr. Devadoss describes as a “messy and beautiful” world.

To learn more about the event and speaker details, as well as to watch the full video footage from the event, visit the Veritas UCSD page.