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 (Manna 42: Science and Technology)
A Scientist's Point of View : An Interview
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James Lin — Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1. Can you briefly describe your background and area of study in the field of science?

My focus and area of study is in the field of toxicology, and my research includes studies and applications of cell and molecular biology, as well as animal models. My major research contribution to the scientific society includes:

·         Providing evidences to explain the differential toxicity of Cadmium (a heavy metal) to human and rodent cells

·         Developing an organ culture technique that can be applied to pulmonary toxicology research

Currently, I am working on applying neuron stem cells to Parkinson’s disease, which is termed “cell therapy”.

How can we incorporate scientific approaches to our faith?

I think the scientific approach often encourages doubt because people become dependent on proofs and results—things that we can see. And it is doubt that can easily plant the seed of uncertainty in our faith.

Jesus knows this weakness in us, just as He recognized it in Thomas. Jesus accepted and answered Thomas’ doubt because this particular apostle would not believe that Jesus had resurrected until he could see the scars of the nails in His hands. So Jesus appeared to Thomas and showed him (Jn 20: 24ff).

Though I don’t encourage doubting in our faith in God, I do think it is good to ask questions: “Is this true?” and “Is this correct?” Jesus often questioned His disciples so that they could examine if their faith was genuine.

But the questions that we ask should not twist God’s words, just as the serpent twisted God’s words when he tempted Eve to eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Our education system trains us to doubt and ask questions; especially scientists, who are trained to ask objective questions and find answers. And this is how I got my degree.

Being both a scientist and a Christian, I’ve seen the best of both worlds. Being a scientist helps me ask good and healthy questions about my religion, but I also remember what Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).

2. What is evolution, and what do genes have to do with evolution?

Briefly, evolution is the process of gradual change of living organisms from simple to complex forms. Because we won’t have time to cover such a wide topic, I will not get into the origin of evolution.

Genes are the significant sections located on the DNA, which is the basic material of living organisms. The end products of genes are peptides/proteins and they provide the structural and functional foundation to support biological functions.

All living things evolve and they are predisposed by genetic factors (such as genetic alterations and gene mutation), behavioral factors (for higher animals), and ecological factors (such as environmental conditions and interactions with other species).

The theory of evolution itself is continually being shaped even today, based on complicates of facts, assumptions, hypothesis, and a bit of imagination, too. Evolutionary mechanisms are now even presented mathematically.

Genetic alterations do arise, which lead to the structural and/or functional changes of living organisms, and evolution occurs when a population successfully passes on the altered genes and also the consequent structural and functional changes.

Genetic information is then somehow the record of genetic alterations and genetic fidelity through generations, and it’s usually applied to provide evidence of evolution.

To give an example of how genetic information can be applied to track the lost genealogy; a group of Native African population was recently identified as the descendent of Abraham through genetic and other evidences such as culture and tradition.

This example might not be a good one to correlate evolution and genes, but it does illustrate how genetic information can reveal the alterations and relationships that started thousands of years ago.

Based on similar genetic approach and theory, evolutionists came to the conclusion that mankind and apes are closely related.

Simply by looking at nature today, we can see that certain degree of evolution does take place. We can see that the descendents of Adam and Eve have now evolved into different races, and the scientific term for this is intra-species evolution.

There is another type of evolution, which hypothesizes that different species can evolve into another. And scientist uses the example of domestic animals, said to have evolved from wild animals, and claims that they are the result of inter-species evolution.

There is no direct evidence so far to support inter-species evolution, since no one has ever lived long enough to witness the changes from one species to another.

It is important to note that changes among the same species can be identified easily, but changes from one species to another have never been witnessed. But Evolutionists hypothesize that the latter happens if given adequate time.

3. What are your thoughts on genetics? Where do you think we are heading in this technologically advancing society, and what are some things we should pay attention to, watch out for, and/or stay away from?

The growing genetic age of science and technology is a challenging era for the Christian faith, since traditional biblical teachings do not always have direct answers to new and ethical issues that constantly pop up.

I have routinely altered genetic contents of living organisms (bacteria, cells, and complex animals). The purpose, of course, is for research, and I feel comfortable because the Bible does not prohibit from doing so.

In fact, genetic manipulation can be traced as far back as biblical times, when Jacob separated the spotted goats from the brown ones, and he mated the stronger livestock so that his flocks grew in large numbers (Gen 30:35 -43).

Today, genetic alterations are taken to a whole new level with the advancement of technology. Nowadays, these methods are also used for commercial applications and therefore have greater impact on society.

Society benefits greatly from the fruits of genetic technology, and we are enjoying a lot of genetically altered foods (animals and veggies) and some products for medication. But there are definitely things that we should watch out for.

Tougher Issues to Come

·         Genetic researches have revealed that some genes might be greatly related to human behavior (the phenotype). Someday, genetic factors might be the legitimate excuse for criminal action.

·         Homosexual behavior might be somehow related to gene patterns. A biblically sinful behavior detestable to God might be excused because of a bad gene.

·         Brain research is another important scientific field. Understanding how brain works might cast a lot of doubts on religious experiences such receiving Holy Spirit, divine revelations, and other spiritual experiences.

·         Psychological verses spiritual experiences has been the center of debates for a long time, and the effects of genetic factors to these experiences will eventually be investigated by researchers. No big breakthrough has been achieved at this moment.

·         One thing I think we need to stay away from is performing inter-species breeding, which will affect ecological stability. Although Jacob did perform breeding practices in his time, his method was very traditional compared to what we can do now.

Our Perspectives

The difference between then and now is the motivation behind these experiments. In the past, natural selection was a way for survival but I’m not sure if we can say the same for today’s practices.

I think biblical teachings are the only standard for us, and we should ask God’s revelation and go in-depth to approach these difficulties because there are many unknowns as technology moves forward.

One thing that I think is potentially dangerous for bio-researchers like myself is that we might lose ourselves in our ability to create (modifying is probably a better term) lives and become a person that has neither respect nor love God’s creation.

It is definitely plausible in the near and foreseeable future that simple forms of life will be created in the lab out of supra-molecules through biochemical procedures. If this occurs, mankind will become “life-creating” and will be like God—words first spoken by the serpent in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:5).

Mankind can be creative; in fact, it is a gift from Him. But our pride is a sin that only leads people away from God. We should be aware of any thought to “act God”.

Our Morals

Success in in-vitro fertilization and human cloning techniques will enables us to select and deposit “embryo”. These cast big challenges to our interpretations over the compositional elements (spirit, soul and body) of mankind; or maybe it makes it clearer for us.

Knowing God is a life-giving God, does He breathe the same breath into genetically modified/cloned animals or human beings? What is God’s involvement in this life-generating process? Until which embryonic stage does God give spirit and soul? Do the early stages of the embryo hold human life?

Are we killing lives when we have to choose only one in-vitro fertilized embryo out of ten or twenty? Actually, in-vitro fertilization and modern molecular biology have made no way for us to escape these theological problems.

More than ever, we need to find these answers for ourselves—we need to find God’s place in our lives.

4. How do you reconcile what you do with what you believe in?

Thank God, my research has not really brought any conflicts to my faith. On the contrary, through the understanding of the cellular structures and the complexities of nature, I have come to a deeper appreciation of God’s wisdom and His creation.

For me, to be able to perform research and to unravel the beauty of God’s creation is His gift to us. But most scientists only know to use this knowledge to understand and improve themselves and not to appreciate and value God.

Of course, the knowledge we gain through research is inadequate to approach God, because He is Spirit, and that is the key to His true wisdom and our salvation (Jn 4:24).

But we don’t have to ban research altogether because this is part of God’s wisdom, too. So I don’t believe we need to discredit science and research just because we believe in God.

King Solomon’s wisdom into living things was the result of his request to God, which He was pleased to grant. In fact, his approach to understand the nature of living things was very similar to the scientific approach (i.e. assumption, hypothesis, and experiment).

            Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt…Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. (1 Kgs 4:29, 33)

The more we discover about His wisdom in this world, the more we will come to enjoy and desire to nurture His creation—to stand in awe of God.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church