Well, hello, I’m Steve Matheson, and my blogospheric biography, reduced to mere phrases, goes like this:
- Associate Professor of Biology, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Reformed Christian
- developmental cell biologist
- NCSE Steve
- baseball fan
I run a blog called Quintessence of Dust, which could be subtitled “biology for evangelicals” but isn’t. I’ll be crossposting appropriate articles from QoD in this excellent forum. Here are my answers to the getting-acquainted questions.
1. What does science mean to you? I consider science to be the rational exploration of God’s world, with the primary goal being explanation. My preferred definition of science is from the work of my friend and Calvin College colleague, Del Ratzsch:
A natural science is a theoretical explanatory discipline that objectively addresses natural phenomena within the general constraints that (1) its theories must be rationally connectable to generally specifiable empirical phenomena and that (2) it normally does not leave the natural realm for the concepts employed in its explanations.
From Science and Its Limits: The Natural Sciences in Christian Perspective, 2nd Edition, by Del Ratzsch. InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 13.
2. How do you interact with science? I am a professional scientist. My day job is as a professor of biology at Calvin College, where I teach and perform research in developmental cell biology.
3. Are you atheist, agnostic, Christian or something else? I am an evangelical Christian of the Reformed variety.
4. Have you ever been anything else? I was raised Catholic, then spent several years as a charismatic evangelical in churches affiliated with the Assemblies of God and Foursquare.
5. How do you see faith and science interacting? I do not acknowledge a significant distinction between supernatural and natural causation in the context of the definition or discussion of God’s work in the world. In other words, I see “natural” processes (embryonic development, climate, metabolism, evolution) as “God’s work” every bit as much as I see the miraculous (biblical miracles, the Incarnation, modern miracles) as God’s work. (The writer of Psalm 104 is a major source of inspiration on this point, which I take to be obvious despite its evident lack of current popularity among evangelicals.) Largely because of this foundational principle, I see science (as I defined it above) to be nothing more or less than the discovery of the ways and means of God’s creation.
And this means that I’m cautious when asked about how faith and science “interact.” I do think that Christianity laid the foundations of modern science, and I find the suggestion that science and faith are “incompatible” to be laughable on its face. On the other hand, I can identify key questions – largely historical in nature – that science has uniquely raised and that traditional Christian faith has not answered. Specifically, I think that the historical Christian (if not Judeo-Christian) narrative of creation and fall is not easy to map onto our current understanding of natural history. But, importantly, I am often annoyingly dismissive of many topics that fall under the heading of “faith-science interaction.” All too often, the discussion betrays a view of the “natural” that I reject completely.