A SCIENTIST’S POINT OF VIEW: AN INTERVIEW
James Lin — Montreal,
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
How can we incorporate scientific approaches to our
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
2. What is evolution, and what do genes have to do
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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”.
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
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
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
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.