Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Two scientists who left atheism for Christianity

Rosalind Picard - Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MITThis post is based on two articles by Dr Jay Wile.

Professor Rosalind Picard

Rosalind Picard (1962 – ) is a Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who invented a new branch of computer science called affective computing. Picard was raised an atheist, but converted to Christianity as a young adult. When she was a school student she believed that smart children didn’t need religion. So she promoted atheism and dismissed people who believed in God as uneducated.

But later she met people who were Christians but were also smart and well educated. One couple convinced her to start reading the Bible, and she was surprised by what she found there. Then she started to go to church with another smart Christian. After asking many questions, in the spirit of Pascal’s Wager (Appendix), she choose to be a Christian believing she had much to gain but very little to lose.

Picard said, “I used to think religious people were ignoramuses. Then I got smart and took a chance on God.” And, “I once thought I was too smart to believe in God. Now I know I was an arrogant fool who snubbed the greatest Mind in the cosmos — the Author of all science, mathematics, art, and everything else there is to know.”

She sees DNA as too complex to have originated through “purely random processes”. To her, the complexity of life shows “the mark of intervention”, and “a much greater mind, a much greater scientist, a much greater engineer behind who we are”.

Dr Allan Sandgate - a pre-eminent observational astronomerDr Allan Sandgate

Allan Sandgate (1926 – 2010) was an American astronomer. He was one of the most influential astronomers of the 20th century. And throughout the 1950s and well into the 1980s, he was regarded as the pre-eminent observational astronomer. But he was nagged by questions like, “why is there something rather than nothing?”. Sandgate was a “practicing atheist” as a youth, but converted to Christianity at the age of fifty.

Sandgate said, “As scientists…we have to try everything to discover how the world works. But the deeper you dig, the more complicated the thing becomes. There are layer upon layer of the intricate gears of a watch; and you keep uncovering layer upon layer, and finding more and more connections.” “The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together.”

This brought him to the conclusion that the universe is the result of design. However, he decided that science cannot tell us many details about the Designer, and more importantly, it cannot tell us anything about why the universe was made and why we exist in it. Science told him the universe is the result of design, but in order to truly understand the universe, he had to understand its Designer. Science didn’t prove the existence of God, but it prepared him to believe in God.

This led him to start looking into religion. He read the Bible over a period of 35 years and the works of some of the great thinkers of Christianity, including Blaise Pascal. He was particularly struck by Pascal’s Wager, which says that if you believe in Christianity, you have everything to gain and nothing worthwhile to lose (Appendix). As a result, Christianity is the “best bet.” In 1983 Sandgate announced he had become a Christian and began to write essays on the subject of religion and science

Sandgate said, “It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science…It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.” “We can’t understand the universe in any clear way without the supernatural.”

Others

Some other scientists who left atheism for Christianity include:
– Jerry Bergman (1946 – ),
– Computer scientist, Guillaume Bignon,
– Geneticist, Francis Collins (1950 – ),
– Physician Raymon Damadian (1936 – ), who invented the MRI,
– Richard Lumsden (1938 -1997), professor of parasitology and cell biology at Tulane University, and
– Biochemist, Alister McGrath (1953 – ).

Conclusion

Although it is rare, some scientists have left atheism for Christianity. This is difficult because it requires a paradigm shift. Pascal’s Wager was a factor in the two cases presented above.

As Sandgate said, “Those who deny God at the outset by some form of circular reasoning will never find God”. The reason for this is that the scientific paradigm of naturalism rules out the God of the Bible.

Appendix: Pascal’s Wager

According to Wile (2019), Pascal’s Wager, is a clever argument for becoming a Christian. Blaise Pascal was a brilliant philosopher and scientist, but he also loved to gamble. He said believing in Christianity is a gamble. If you believe and are right, you are given infinite reward, because you are in heaven for eternity. If you believe and are wrong, you have given up some finite earthly pleasures in life for no reason. If you don’t believe and are wrong, you have infinite loss, because you spend eternity in hell. If you don’t believe and are right, you gain some finite earthly pleasures that you would have avoided as a Christian. Essentially, your choices are infinite reward at the possible cost of losing some finite earthly pleasures, or finite earthly pleasures at the possible cost of infinite loss. From a gambler’s point of view, you need to bet for the infinite reward and against the infinite loss. Thus, Christianity is the best bet.

References

Picard R, (2019) An MIT professor meets the Author of all knowledge
Wile J L, 2019, MIT professor writes about her conversion from atheism to Christianity
Wile J L, 2022, Dr. Allan Sandage: An astronomer who found what he was looking for in Christianity

Acknowledgement

This post is based on two articles by Dr Jay Wile.

Posted, July 2022

Also see: Living dangerously
Taking risks for God

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