Early in my career as a scientist it seemed that a common worldview was that scientific beliefs and religious beliefs were somewhat incompatible. While I myself never held that view, I did appreciate various efforts to blend scientific beliefs and religious beliefs. In this regard, one of my favorite quotes was from Isidor Isaac Rabi, a famous physicist at Columbia University who was awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in physics for his research on nuclear magnetic resonance. Rabi once described his physics research as “Wrestling with the Champ,” that is, trying to learn the natural laws that God (the Champ) had created.
Although I believed throughout my career that scientific views and religious views indeed can be held in common, my purpose in this article is to point out that the impact of my scientific views on my religious beliefs has grown greatly in recent years, progressing from being merely compatible, to greatly enriching my religious beliefs.
A primary tenet of most religious groups is that an Almighty God created our universe. I believe that the more one learns about the current scientific understanding of various aspects of the universe, the more awesome the image of an Almighty God becomes.
Wow! Thank you, Almighty God!
- If one is aware of the Sun’s incredible age to date of several billion years, understands how it works (nuclear fusion), and the extremely important role that it has relative to life on earth, one greatly appreciates the power of our Almighty God who created the Sun. As a scientist, when I observe the Sun, particularly at sunrise, I think of God and say: Wow! Thank You, God!
- Looking at the entire universe, our scientific understanding is that the universe started with the “Big Bang” and then expanded from its tiny origin. Wow! That Almighty God conceived of and created the “Big Bang”!
- A similar appreciation of God can come from a study of global climate change. Long ago, prior to man’s insertion of a large amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a very small percentage of the gases in the earth’s atmosphere were greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. That very small percentage of greenhouse gases, placed there by the Creator of the Universe, is known to have led to a “Natural Greenhouse Effect” that made our earth’s average temperature (about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than 0 degrees Fahrenheit) livable to human civilization. Thank you, God, for the world conditions that you gave us.
- Another example is that many people who have looked upon a newborn baby have been thoroughly amazed. I myself remarked at the birth of our first child, “Thank You, God!”
To summarize, one’s scientific knowledge is not only compatible with religious beliefs, but can greatly enhance our image of Almighty God.
About the author: William (Bill) Rauckhorst ’62 is an Emeritus Associate Provost and physics professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He joined the Miami University faculty in 1985 and has taught an Energy and Environment Honors course within the physics department for many years. He received his bachelor of arts in physics from Thomas More College in 1962 and doctorate in physics from the University of Cincinnati in 1967. In addition to teaching at several universities, Bill’s career has included appointments in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation; and the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago. He also is a member of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Climate Change Task Force addressing climate change. Bill’s wife, Elaine (Kroger) Rauckhorst ’63, also graduated from Thomas More College. A woman of exceptional religious character, Bill credits her with being an excellent partner for life. This sentiment was seconded by Monsignor John F. Murphy, President of Villa Madonna College/Thomas More College (1951-1971), and an extremely influential person in Bill’s life.