Science and Faith are unrelated topics, right? Scientists are the ultimate atheists as they believe in evolution. The Bible is not be more than a fiction book.
Think again. Sir Isaac Newton wrote the book “Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John”. Nobel Prize winners physicist Charles H. Townes and Chemist Richard Smalley were Christian scientists among with many others respected and impactful thinkers. Of course there are also a number of atheist scientists too, or those who believe in a spiritual life but not in the Bible as a holy inspired Scripture, or that Jesus is the Son of God and the Redeemer. Why some chose the path of faith and others don’t? This is not a simple question, but I can tell about my own experiences and leave it for you to decide.
I have seen too much of God’s action in my life not to believe He is here and is presently guiding me. His actions are in my career and personal lives alike and my decisions are always guided by His word and by listening.
I’m originally from Brazil but became a professor in a R01 university in US by the age of 29yo. I achieved tenure in a record time, after only about 2 years in the chair. I got major research grants, established an internationally respected research group and became Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the College of Engineering before turning 40. I had offers to leave UC Davis, but God had a plan for me here. All of these suggest I have a successful career. The short conclusion is that my intelligence is above average, but I cannot even write this without cracking a smile. What I truly believe is that Jesus is guiding every step of the way, telling me what to do, and I just have to be humble enough to listen and do the works.
There is an infinite number of scientists in Brazil who are smarter than me but did not have a similar opportunity. Why did I have this chance? When I write this, my mind immediately goes to one moment in my life when I truly accepted that Jesus is my master. I grew up Catholic but not really understanding the whole concept of a mass or the faith foundations. When I was 14yo, walking to a party with my friends I had an encounter that changed things. An evangelical youth group was making a sketch on the street we were passing by and they left me a flier. It was a simple flier with Bible quotes. It was simple, but touched me somehow. I went to the Bible to check the verses, and I recall a message from John 3:16 which says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ”
I kept this in my heart but went on with my life. When I was in college, I was going to church sometimes, but my faith was not there yet. I was admitted in the PhD program at University of Sao Paulo, but still my faith was not ‘activated’. Then God called me in a strange way. After attending some research conferences, I observed that being a great speaker would make a difference in my career as scientist. That’s when I had an idea (likely an enlightenment): one group of speakers I see with undivided attentive audiences are Pastors. I started to wonder if it was the message or the style. To answer that, I started watching a TV show by a Missionary, R.R. Soares (in Portuguese). I analyzed the style and learned a lot from it ( I still use some of the speaking skills I learned back then in my lectures). But as I did it, I learned ‘the message’ was touching me and firing up my spirit in a way I wasn’t prepared for.
What called my attention in that ministry of ‘great speakers’ is that they were doing what Jesus did in the Bible: healing the sick, casting out demons. As a scientist, I immediately started discrediting the ‘healings’ as I could not see how it’d be possible for a person to be healed from a back pain, or headaches, or more serious issues such as blindness. I thought they hired the audience for testimonials, but I did the math and realized it was either a super well-organized scheme, or it was simply faith-in-action. I searched the globe and found other similar ministries, such as T.L. Osborn and Oral Roberts’, both with respected testimonials and followers. The message in all of them was the same and very clear as is summarized in John 14:12, when Jesus himself says: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Well, Jesus healed the sick. Can I do the same if I only believe? When you then see the things Jesus did, beyond healing, you start wondering if that’s possible, and what the ‘greater things’ even mean.
If Jesus can act through me, his power acts through my body which is made his image, I can accomplish anything in His Name if I believe with all my heart. The glory is not mine for my achievements, but His. My life plan was not mine, but His. The future belongs to Him as well, and I wait and listen to His words to know what is the next step.
In my lifetime, God has revealed so much about ‘how things work’ to me. Nature is fascinating and God can show its secrets if you pay attention and is prepared, both spiritually and technically. Proverbs 21:31 says “The horse is made ready for day of battle…The victory belongs to the Lord.” I try to be ready with my horse, by studying the most complex topics of science, but the victory of understanding and expanding the current human knowledge belongs to Him.
You may find all of these irrelevant to you, and you have the freedom to do so. I do not ask or expect my students and colleagues to share my faith. I don’t preach and make sure I’m not attacking or defending Christian concepts in any working environment. But people ask me about my journey as a scientist and I am writing this to say I cannot set apart my spiritual life as something independent. My life is one, and it is in Christ.
(This text represents Dr. Castro’s opinion and does not reflect by any means the University of California’s mission. The message is of responsibility of the author. Religion is not a requirement for education or research in Dr. Castro’s or any other lab in UC.)