Sunday, February 14, 2010

Faith and Science - Why get a Ph.D?

One of the most inspiring spiritual talks I have heard in a while was in the Physiology and Metabolic Engineering Class. Surprising?

Next time we will probably discuss genetic engineering for stress tolerance, but this morning, Ray Bressan, shown here, gave a charismatic chalk-talk explaining why we should all aspire to get our Ph.D. "tickets." According to Dr. B, a Ph.D. is not an accomplishment, it is not something that is necessarily earned, it is essentially a piece of paper which gives a person the ticket or the license to discover things - and sometimes get paid for it.

Ph.D. stands for Doctorate of Philosophy coming from "philo" from the Greek meaning loving and "sophia" meaning wisdom, so one who earns a Ph.D. is one who is recognized as "loving wisdom."

So what is wisdom? Wisdom is more than knowledge. Knowledge is what people "know." Wisdom is a respect for God and his creation, which includes many things we do not know. The Bible says that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The Koran has a similar definition.

Therefore by definition, someone who has earned a Ph.D. is a lover of wisdom, who respects God's creation and realizes there are many things that are not known. Do I have to go to school for more than twenty years of my life to recognize that?

But the Ph.D. is also about seeking to understand what is unknown - that is where science comes in, and there are a whole history of persons from the West and from the Middle East who have influenced scientific thought and the scientific method to become what it is today.

So is a Ph.D. right for me? I am not sure what the future holds yet; I need to focus on finishing the masters first and see what doors that will open. Right now, only God knows what the future holds for me.

I can say that in my experience, religion and science, faith and reason are complimentary rather than contradictory. Science can measure and explain creation, but it can never quantify or explain God - that is why we have faith. Faith alone, on the other hand, is not a satisfactory system for building an oil refinery, or planning a city's highway system, or writing a system of laws and government. God gave us a mind so that we could understand some things, but we will never fully understand everything. The deeper one delves into the realm of physics, or of genetics, or of human thought, the closer reality comes to exceeding the human limits of thought and imagination. Faith and reason are inseparably entwined.


  1. ya, go for phd. Thinking about your phd when you are doing masters makes a lot of difference. Never wait for your future. Decide now. Take necessary action.

    God is greater than anything we can imagine. We cannot see him. We cannot study him. He is beyond our comprehension. What we can do is understand him through his creations. That is where science comes in.

    Like the stars are studied by analyzing its light. So can God be understood by studying his creations. How do you suppose to do that without science or maths or any other field of knowledge.

    It reminds me of what einstein said :- "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.It is the source of all true art or science.He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."

    thanks for the thought

  2. Beautifully stated. I don't think I've ever heard such a lovely thing in a post about Ph.Ds! :-)

    I agree that God is above our comprehension. Sure He reveals parts of Himself in creation and science and universal laws, but can we ever understand all of Him? I don't think so. Our minds are too limited to understand Someone so great!

    Keep trusting God to lead you each step of the way. Ask Him for direction in whether or not to pursue a "ticket." :-)

    Enjoyed this!