I often get asked this question when I tell people what I study, “How does that affect your faith? The Big Bang, evolution and all”. That’s a very valid question and I will probably flesh out answers some other time. I know for sure that my work and my Christian beliefs are not mutually exclusive. To what extent they mingle and interact with one another, I don’t know. However, seeing that Christ is the most solid rock in my life, it is difficult to see how anything could bulldozer its way through (but that doesn’t mean I don’t doubt sometimes).
I tend to ask myself a different question, one that is very important for the success of my future career: Does my faith affect my science? Does the fact that I am a Christian somehow slow down my scientific reasoning? Maybe not hampered mental faculties but do I see things from a different angle to other palaeontologists? Does my faith stop me from digging deep and asking critical questions on life, its origins and diversity, or do I ask a different variety of questions?
My unprocessed, impulsive answer is: Yes, of course beliefs play a role in my work. Sometimes when I reach a difficult concept, instead of trying to work my way through the issue, my brain just stops, stares at the complexity and praises God for His intricate beauty. At those times, just knowing that God designed it all is answer enough for me and I don’t give much thought to the how and the why.
Does this mean I am incapable of critical thinking? Surely not. Many revolutionary scientists in the western world were devout theists. Think of Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel and Isaac Newton. Moreover, for Faraday, his Christian faith was the driving force behind his science. He was fixated on the relationship between nature and God. Then again, a lot has changed since Michael Faraday’s day with the rise of the works of Darwin, Hubble and others. And perhaps his beliefs weren’t exactly as ‘conservative’ as mine.
So, I ask another question: Does my belief in Biblical inerrancy affect my studies? Should it affect my studies? It should and it definitely does; but not to the extent that one would presume because my subconscious is permanently engage in extreme compartmentalisation. From news from Nigeria to my love of British desserts to my friendships, everything gets its own mental box. These chests are only opened one at time. Never will you find two of them uncovered simultaneously. My Christianity doesn’t get a box. It is the very atmosphere that I exist in. When the science box is open and there are ideas and notions that are struggling to exist under the atmosphere of faith, I take them out real quick and dump them into a bin that’s always unlidded – the ignore it wastebasket. I don’t ignore the theory itself, just the controversy. That’s how I deal with issues between science and Christianity. I know that this is not the best method. Not only because it makes me a coward but as I dump things into the wastebasket, I am also throwing away some associated critical thoughts (which are not necessarily controversial) that could help my work greatly – unavoidable collateral damage. This method also makes me guilty of faith that is blind and untested, and that’s not right
Well, I throw this question out to you. What do you think? Can I really be a Christian palaeontologist? Not the kind you see on TBN that are just out to prove people wrong with their extremely questionable research methods. As a person of faith, could I really work with my fossils and operate under the constraints of scientific theories?