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Friday, September 22, 2023

Dr. Bryan Enderle discusses believing both in God and in science in TEDx-style talk

In an interview after his talk, Dr. Enderle explains how religion and science are separate entities and illustrates how neither seeks to explain the other

By MONICA MANMADKAR — science@theaggie.org


Can scientists believe in God? Quite often, the stereotype is to believe that good scientists cannot be people of faith. However, during a TEDx-style talk on Oct. 8, chemistry lecturer Bryan Enderle explained how belief in God and the supernatural is not exclusive to people of faith and hence is not conflicting with science either.

Enderle said he has always believed in God and that becoming a scientist did not change that about him. He always assumed that science and theology didn’t have to be disconnected and would be better thought of as a whole. Since college, he has believed in God, so putting his profession and his faith together just made sense.

Enderle was quick to note that although he believes science and faith correspond with each other, they don’t prove each other.

“They each answer different questions that together provide a more holistic picture of our universe,” Enderle said.

If one is asking how something works and about the mechanics behind it, then science would be the answer, according to Enderle. Though he believes some religious writings could attempt to answer these questions, he says that he doesn’t believe that is their purpose. Religion and theology are “how do we, as humans, interact with the divine, and what does that mean,” Enderle said.

For example, one of the main ways that Enderle illustrates how science and theology can cause different viewpoints is through a sunset. Drawing a sunset on the board during the talk, Enderle asked his students to describe the picture in one word. Beautiful, serene, peaceful and happy were just some of the words students used.

However, Enderle explained how when he sees a sunset, he thinks of the electrons in the sun, nuclear fusion and the rays coming through the Earth’s atmosphere and warming the Earth. Enderle continued on to say that neither of the two approaches to describing the sunset  was wrong, they just had unique perspectives.

Relating back to theology and science, Enderle stated there is no need for science to prove faith since one’s spiritual self is different from their scientific self.

“Just because I have a description of meaning about my universe does not mean that I can’t have a scientific description of my universe,” Enderle said.

Several students expressed being surprised to hear how religion and science are different entities. Ryan Jain, a first-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, described his thoughts on the talk.

“It was pretty interesting when he talked about the difference between science and faith, how science cannot be evidence to faith and faith cannot be a way to describe science,” Jain said.

Additionally, Sriansh Pasumarthi, a first-year cognitive science student, reflected on what he took from the lecture.

“The talk was very informative and allowed me to learn more about Dr. Enderle’s perspective on science and faith, which caused me to rethink my definitions of science and faith,” Pasumarthi said.

Enderle emphasized that his understanding of our reality is two-part, taking into account both the philosophical and scientific perspectives. He also said that in his time learning more about theology and science, he learned to compartmentalize less and understand that there is more to one’s belief, and he hopes that whatever one’s theological beliefs are that they are commensurable with their views on science.


Written by: Monica Manmadkar — science@theaggie.org