Over the past couple of years, it seems like you can’t turn on the TV or read something on the Internet without being bombarded with the apparent battle between scientific and religious communities. For those on the far ends of either spectrum, trusting the opposite viewpoint is unacceptable. On the one end, if you put any trust in scientific theory and evidence, you’re probably a sinner, heretic, etc. On the other end, if you adhere to any sort of faith in God, you’re unenlightened and in danger of damaging your children, undoing hundreds of years’ worth of progress, etc.
I’ve never quite understood why science and religion, or more simply, having faith in a Higher Power (whatever you call that Higher Power), had to be mutually exclusive. I’m what people might refer to as a “cradle Catholic”, and what’s more, I’m a practicing, devout Catholic. Believe me, it wasn’t easy at times in high school and college when people, including your close friends, look at you funny because you would rather go to the Sunday evening student Mass than linger at the dining hall. But having a strong faith in God and finding a sense of comfort and community in practicing my religious beliefs has helped me in many ways over the years. I try to live my faith, and I hope it’s made me a better person as I’ve grown into adulthood.
At the same time, science fascinates me. Other than a disappointing experience with high school biology, that is. I love learning about new scientific discoveries, reading about how theories have changed over time, what our scientific community is attempting to do next. Astronomy particularly holds my interest. There’s something amazing in gazing at the night sky and knowing how vast the universe is, how many worlds, galaxies and, possibly, intelligent life forms may be out there.
Science and religion have both served me well. I have seen science save the lives of those I love, but I have also seen miracles occur in the world around me.
This morning, our daughter was baptized in the Catholic faith, and as this special event, this beautiful sacrament of welcome, drew near, I found myself thinking more and more about why I need to have both God and science in my life, and why I hope she will come to appreciate both in hers.
Thanks to science, my grandfather’s cancer was caught in time to administer a course of treatment that was suppose to give us a few more good years with him. Within a few months, he was in complete remission, and ended up having over ten wonderful years before his health began to get shaky for other reasons. Almost four years ago, this same grandfather, who was the deacon of our church for 21 years, could not be healed by science. However, science was able to keep him from pain in his last hours, and he lingered until we stood around his hospital bed and said the Lord’s Prayer. He passed peacefully the moment we finished. This wonderful man of great faith, who always prayed for everyone else, needed us to pray with him before he could leave us for the Heaven he believed – knew – was waiting for him.
Science could not, however, determine why I lost two pregnancies to early miscarriage, or why, despite dozens of tests, treatments, and medically assisted tries, we had such trouble conceiving a child. It was only after we stopped asking for what we wanted and instead let God do for us what we needed that we finally (unexpectedly!) were given a child. In fact, almost seven months before I got pregnant, I dreamed of holding a blue-eyed baby girl. Not only did I know her name, but I swear, the baby in my dream looked exactly like my daughter. I think God was showing me a glimpse of what was in store for us.
When carrying that beautiful baby, faith in God kept me strong when I was scared out of my mind with worrying that one wrong move, or just more bad luck, would result in another miscarriage.
Science, on the other hand, let me see my baby’s body and heartbeat in those crucial early weeks when so much can go wrong. Later, science showed that she was growing properly, though we still had to put faith in God that she would remain healthy and strong.
I also relied on science to provide me with a medical regimen that was intended to prevent miscarriage – a route my doctor felt was a precaution more than a need, but it gave me reassurance that I was doing all I possibly could to maintain my pregnancy. I still prayed every night that we would get to meet our beautiful girl and enjoy the years ahead as she grows.
When Babycakes decided not to come into the world as scheduled, science got labor started. Science allowed the medical staff on the Labor & Delivery floor to monitor me and the baby and do whatever they could to help me deal with the pain. I didn’t have a focal point during labor, or a particular breathing pattern, or anything like that. What I did was pray.
After 12 hours of labor, science could not, however, resolve one tiny issue that would prevent me from a “natural” delivery. But science did allow for a relatively quick and safe c-section that brought my baby into the world without putting her in distress. Science had not been able to predict that the cord would be (loosely) wrapped around her neck, though through science, the OR staff was able to keep her from taking her first breath until they had suctioned the meconium she’d swallowed in utero, keeping her from dangerously aspirating it as would have happened in a vaginal birth. My body didn’t allow my daughter to be born through my efforts during labor – or perhaps, as I believe, God knew the danger that delivery could cause and prevented it from occurring. Either way, when my husband brought our daughter to me for my first glimpse at her sweet face, the first thing I said to her was, “Thank God for you – I dreamed of you.”
I know as she grows, science will be there to help keep her healthy, to make her well when she gets sick, at least in body. I hope our guidance, and the guidance of her family, will help her develop a strong faith in God that will keep her healthy in spirit and heal her soul. When she’s older, I do want her to ask questions about both her religion and science, and I want her to explore both to find answers. I want her to be curious about stars and planets while appreciating the beauty of the Milky Way in a spiritual, faithful way. I want her to realize that science will be there to provide information and explanations, but God will be there to provide comfort and love.
Many people live very full lives through exclusive trust in either God or science.
I need both.