A recent news story in the prestigious science publication Nature documented a survey performed by their own editorial staff that demonstrated that over half of scientists do not believe in God - and in fact scientists at the top scientific institutions were less likely to believe in God than scientists in general. This result was not shocking to those of us in the scientific community, where among our colleagues belief in God is at best not discussed and at worst condemned as fantasy. It is usual for scientific meetings to take place on Sunday mornings (precluding attendance at Church) and to coincide with Easter, Jewish holidays, and other religious observances. The world of scientific skepticism of theories and models goes hand-in-hand with a skepticism about God, too. Somehow, the focus on the concrete world and how it works that is an essential component of scientific study lends itself to an intellectual detachment from the non-concrete spiritual world of faith. The objectivity so widely pursued by the scientist leads to a dissociation from everything that is not concrete. This has created a tension between science and religion, between the scientist and the believer. Scientists become dependent on facts, measurements, calibrations - and at the time shy away from intuition, "gut feelings," and conjectures. Just as Christians today have dissociated their lives into being Sunday Christians and daily heathens, so have scientists today dissociated their lives into scientific study that is fully objective and everything else (politics, family life, administration) that is messy and almost nonsense by comparison.
What is the cause of the dissociation between scientific study and daily life? The same phenomenon which results in Sunday-only Christians has lead to scientists separated from faith; this problem has prevented people from experiencing the world in its totality and has lead to compartmentalization. Scientists are used to objective truths - the temperature is 98.6 degrees, this gene is "turned on" 4.7-fold by sunlight, the sequence of this piece of DNA contains a mutation. This has lead to a division of all conclusions (or all truth) into those that are empirical (i.e., capable of being quantified) and those that are not - truth can be discovered through measured approaches or through faith/experiential approaches. Modern scientists rely on the quantitative approaches that are empirical in nature. Scientists forget that they use nonempirical methods for determining truths every day: if the thermometer says the temperature is 72 degrees, our touch can prove that the thermometer is broken and that the temperature is actually much higher. In fact, empirical truths were once only experienced truths - before thermometers, temperature was described in relative terms based on how it was experienced. The thermometer is only a standard for defining experience in the same way for everyone. A mutant gene is only known to be mutant based on how it is "experienced" in that animal; if the genetic change results in disease, it is called mutant, if it does not it is described as "normal." Therefore, while this division of truth into empirical knowledge and experienced knowledge is often used to define the scientific method, this division is not real; all truth is based on that which is experienced, and the development of empirical approaches was merely giving everyone a common experience to compare against.
The common denominator in both religion and science is that they are both pursuing truth, but for the theologian the Truth is with a capital T. While the actual methods may be different, the truths are not separate - in fact, they are part of the One Truth, part of He Who is Truth Itself. The expression "One Truth," however, also implies that truth is complete and all-encompassing. There is a unity of truth and Truth since God cannot contradict Himself. To the discerning scientist, then, finding truth in nature can be a way of learning about the Author of Creation. To the discerning believer, acceptance of objective truths (such as the relatedness of all creatures and all matter on earth) can bring one a step closer to the revelation of the totality of the universe as God created it, simultaneously developing and complete. Blessed Augustine of Hippo said, "I cannot show you my God, but I can show you His works. 'Everything was made by Him' (John 1:3). He created the world in its newness, He who has no beginning. He who is eternal created time. He who is unmoved made movement. Look at His works and praise their Maker." The modern theologian Dimitru Staniloae in his book, The Experience of God, similarly states: "The cosmos - and human nature as intimately connected with the cosmos - are stamped with rationality, while humans (God's creatures) are further endowed with a reason and capable of knowing consciously the rationality of the cosmos and of his own nature. Nevertheless, according to Christian doctrine, this rationality of the cosmos and this reason of ours which enables us to know are, on the other hand, the product of the creative act of God." In contemplating God's created world, we can see the marks of God in all things. It is not just that the flower is there that is important, but the beauty of the flower, the way it grows, the way the plant's DNA is replicated, the mechanism of differentiation in each cell in the plant. To many scientists, there is an inherent beauty in the organization of nature. For physicists this is often expressed as symmetry, for biologists there is an inherent beauty in the very fabric of living existence. The development of a single cell into a baby, the tightly regulated processes that cause cell division, the intricacies of the genetic code all reflect an indescribable beauty - and each new intricacy only adds to this beauty. For Orthodox Christians, a special relationship between truth and beauty exists. Anthony Ugolnik in his book, The Illuminating Icon wrote, "The Orthodox mind believes in a 'salvific beauty,' a beauty that radiates from the Godhead itself and draws us in with its grace. . . . In the Russian mind, beauty or 'the beautiful' is related to the category of truth." For scientists, too, there is a link between beauty and truth.
We are able to commune with God through a contemplation of the natural world that He created - but a more perfect means to communion with God is direct communion with Him through all means available to us as Christians. There is value in seeing God in His creation, but it cannot replace direct communion with Him in prayer, in the life in the Church, in caring for others. Serge Verhovskoy in his book, The Light of the World, wrote, "It is easier to experience God in the universe, but the more direct path to Him is through the heart."
There is no question that modern science has given humanity many tools that have improved our daily lives. The pacemaker is a direct result of our efforts to reach the moon, antibiotics used to treat infectious diseases were first identified in studies of fungal growth, and the fight against cancer during recent decades has lead to countless life-saving approaches to disease treatment. Nevertheless, some recent advances also pose potential threats to humanity. The same technology that provides gene therapy for some immunodeficiency diseases has also lead to threats of human cloning and human germ cell gene manipulation. One of the most important talents given to humans by God is creativity, the ability to develop new ideas and perspectives. St. Basil, in direct reference to the sciences stated: "All the different sciences and techniques have been given to us by God to make up for the deficiencies of nature. . . . Not by chance does the earth produce plants that have healing properties. It is clearly evident that the Creator wants to give them to us to use." It is also important for humans, however, to use these tools properly. Technology in and of itself is neither right nor wrong; like all gifts from God it can be used properly or improperly. It is up to humanity to safeguard the trust given to us by our Creator. We must use the tools given to us by God to help each other and at the same time safeguard those tools from abuse that can lead to harm for any part of creation. We have faced this problem throughout all of human history; today the battlefront is on the scientific front as we face the distortion of our ecological environment and the disruption of our genetic makeup. May God give us the wisdom and strength to properly use that which He has given us.