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Location: Huaraz, Ancash, Peru

Having mastered the University of Montana's IYFD program, I journeyed to Peru with the US Peace Corps. Currently, I'm discovering Peru while living in the gorgeous Andes mountains in beautiful Ancash. Come visit!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Where Science and God Collide

Charles Townes is a controversial man, but what does one expect from a UC Berkley Professor? He's said some crazy things over the years, things that many don't agree with, and yet he has now been awarded the Templeton Prize worth 1.5-million dollars. He is a Nobel Prize winner (1964, he shared it with someone else). He developed the maser in 1954 and went on to co-invent the laser. (Can you hear Dr. Evil laughing?) The laser has since led to many breakthroughs in medicine, telecommunications, computers, and electronics.

What's so controversial you ask? Well, Charles Townes was the first Scientist to state that religion and science had a lot in common. His work was groundbreaking and upsetting to many in the religious and scientific communities, especially in the 1960's when he decided to publish a paper on it. The following is from a recent Los Angeles Times article:

He said no greater question faced humankind than discovering the purpose and meaning of life and why there was something rather than nothing in the cosmos.

"If you look at what religion is all about, it's trying to understand the purpose and meaning of our universe," he said in a telephone interview from New York this week. "Science tries to understand function and structures. If there is any meaning, structure will have a lot to do with any meaning. In the long run they must come together."

Townes said that it was "extremely unlikely" that the laws of physics that led to life on Earth were accidental.

Townes said science was increasingly discovering how special our universe was, raising questions as to whether it was planned. To raise such a question is the work of scientists and theologians alike, said Townes, who grew up in a Baptist household that embraced "an open-minded approach" to biblical interpretation. He is a member of the First Congregational Church in Berkeley and prays twice daily.

In 1964, while a professor at Columbia University, Townes delivered a talk at Riverside Church in New York that became the basis for an article, "The Convergence of Science and Religion," which put him at odds with some scientists.

In the article, Townes said science and religion should find common ground, noting "their differences are largely superficial, and the two become almost indistinguishable if we look at the real nature of each." When MIT published the article, a prominent alumnus threatened to break ties with the institution.

In a 1996 interview with The Times, Townes said that new findings in astronomy had opened people's minds to religion. Before the 1960s, the Big Bang was just an idea that was hotly debated. Today, there is so much evidence supporting the theory that most cosmologists take it for granted.

"The fact that the universe had a beginning is a very striking thing," Townes said. "How do you explain that unique event" without God?

Good point. I recently read Krakatoa a book about one of Earth's worst volcanic eruptions, and I couldn't help but see the connection between God and science. To say one is without the other is to create either a very small God or a very ambiguous universe. So why can't we put aside all the hate, and begin to learn from one another how immaculately God designed and carries out the plan of earth. That he has made the human body and this great earth to be extremely diverse and complicated. And yet that he invites us along for the ride. God is not sitting in heaven fascinated by all our scientific discoveries, but that he sits beside us anxiously awaiting the times when the human mind manages to catch just another small glimpse of his majesty. He partners with us in the discovery of his creation. He already knows what he did and how he did it, but he's gracious to let us discover it too. Let's not forget who is the greatest scientist .

And congratulations to you Dr. Townes. This person salutes you and thanks you for being controversial.


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