Credo ut intelligam et intelligo ut credam - We believe in order to understand and we understand in order to believe.
This maxim, based on the words of Saint Augustine of Hippo, is sometimes used to show the relationship between science and faith. Last November 14, Rick and Lisa King, along with New Canaan Society, hosted a gathering at the Lasater Home in Clemmons titled A Discussion of Science vs. Faith with Dr. Tony Atala. Though not specifically mentioned at our November presentation, the maxim would have been fitting.
NCS brought in Dr. Atala, the Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, to speak on this topic because he is both a scientist…and a person of strong faith. Dr. Atala is a practicing surgeon and researcher in the area of regenerative medicine. His current work focuses on growing new human cells, tissues and organs. He is an active member of First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
This event included an invitation to individuals in the science and/or medical community, as well as NCS members – making it a unique type of outreach than typical NCS presentations. The evening was moderated by Andrzej Turkanik, Executive Director of the Quo Vadis Institute (QVI) based in Salzburg, Austria. Andrzej and QVI are part of the NCS relational network.
Dr. Atala shared that often, faith repels science in the context of this world. Many see a binary choice between either science or faith; rather, Atala believes that one can confirm the other. He explained that you don’t have to choose between believing science and believing your faith.
For those who have grown up prioritizing intellect and their faith, this crossroads of science and religion comes up from time to time. The complexity is challenging: how do we balance logic and knowledge with the truth of the Creation story in the Word of God?
Atala shared that as a scientist, you believe what you see. As a person of faith, you believe what you cannot necessarily see. Through his presentation, Atala linked the two. He brilliantly linked discoveries of ancient philosophers and the Hubble telescope to the proof of an ever-expanding galaxy, aligning the Big Bang theory to the formation of the universe as explained in Genesis. Atala’s personal search for truth gave clarity to how faith and science actually inform one another.
“Science brought me back to my faith,” stated Atala.
The audience responses to the presentation were striking. There was a sense of awe in the room. Many felt that what had been complex was made simple. Overall, all were captivated with a new thought of how science confirms faith and faith confirms science. One could feel a sense of relief that we no longer have to grapple with this, choose one over the other.
“The testimony by Dr. Atala was very impactful by showing how the more he learned about the human body and the creation of the universe, the more he believed there had to be a creator (God). Dr. Atala is very humble but is a brilliant doctor and researcher. Dr. Atala’s boldness in sharing his faith as a physician is a great example and inspiration to other physicians and believers,” shared Rick King, attendee and host for the evening.
Everyone left that presentation feeling like a door had been opened to see a truth that perhaps they were previously unaware of. The testimony of Dr. Atala, obviously a skilled scientist and a man of deep faith, encouraged all to explore further and accept the invitation to pursue a more intimate knowledge of our creator God.
Perhaps this powerful presentation will be ‘part one’ of additional conversations and healthy exploration, stirring hearts and imaginations to think about the universe differently, with truths from science and faith helping to answer the questions we’ve contemplated for some time? Regardless, it was obvious to everyone in attendance that Atala’s presentation was a story to be shared broadly – not just locally. And shared with youth, elderly and everyone in between.