By Kelly Carr
I am inclined toward words rather than hypotheses and research, but I have an appreciation for the wonders found in the fields of science—that is, when people in the science fields break down the information enough to explain them to someone with my limited power of understanding!
A dear friend of mine, Susan Israel, is in the field of neuroscience. I asked her to share some thoughts about being a woman of faith in an area of study that seems to sometimes disagree with belief in God.
What made you want to go into neuroscience?
Susan: As a physical therapist, my first job was at a trauma hospital, and I saw many patients with injuries to the brain and spinal cord. I was always amazed at how people recovered from seemingly devastating injuries. But some people didn’t get better, and I wanted to understand it.
I remember the first patient with a brain injury I treated in the intensive care unit. He was in his 20s and had broken most of the bones in his face. The first time I worked with him, another therapist and I helped him sit up in the edge of the bed, and he couldn’t do it; he kept falling over. Fast forward a few weeks of therapy later, and he walked out of the hospital. Being a part of that recovery was life changing. Seeing a person with damage to the brain so severe that he couldn’t remember how to sit is scary. But then he recovered—amazing.
How does science draw you closer to God?
Susan: When you are in grade school and high school science, you learn about cells and their different organelles: the nucleus, mitochondria, and golgi apparatus; or you learn about the body and its organs: brain, heart, and stomach. You understand the basic way things work. But the reality is, the simple things you learn are more complicated and elegant than you can imagine. That elegance and the complexity of the way our cells and bodies function—to me, that is the beauty of God’s creation.
Why do you think people in your field can sometimes be negative toward faith in God?
Susan: Scientists and Christians, like most people, want to be in control.
God can’t be studied or quantified in a test tube. We try to describe God in human terms, but God is infinitely bigger than our ability to understand. By definition, faith is required to believe in God, and scientists are, by training, skeptical.
Sometimes Christians fall into the same trap as scientists—we want to know for certain that what we believe is true. We want to erase doubt, but that isn’t what we are called to—we are called to faith. We think we have to memorize certain facts about Jesus, and those facts replace faith. We can’t understand God; he is too much.
Science is the quest to understand the way the world works, through experiments and observations of data. Faith is basically the same, without data and statistics. I believe I experience science the same way I experience faith—as a journey to what is true.