I’m a retired Associate Professor of Physics at Western Sydney University. I had the pleasure of being part of the foundation of that university and developing the then physics major in the B.Sc. I spent 23 years teaching physics in all the undergraduate and postgraduate programs offered at the university. My research was in Astrophysics and I made collaborative contributions to the distribution of Hydrogen in the universe, Methanol maser measurements, and the scientific Search for Extra Intelligence (SETI). Most of my work was done with the Parkes Radio Telescope at Peak Hill in NSW, Australia. A major part of my teaching and research work has been computer programming, electronic equipment development, and theoretical physics.
I started following Jesus as a disciple when I was about 18 and have continued to do so for the rest of my life. My wife and I have opened our home for over 40 years as part of L’Abri Fellowship: a place of hospitality and thoughtful reflection for those seeking honest answers to honest questions about being a disciple of Jesus. Over the years, I have had the privilege to speak in Australia and overseas on the relationship between science and being a follower of Jesus and the relationship between science and the Judaeo-Christian Scripture.
Why am I interested in Science - Physics in particular?
I have always been interested in numbers and mathematics. I was fascinated as a teenager how Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was been able make mathematics work for him and bring together mechanical and electromagnetic relativity into one new ‘special’ relativity: a remarkable feat of mathematical insight into the working of a rational universe repeated many times in all areas of physics. As a teenager, I also lived at a time in the 1960’s when space exploration and going to the Moon were central science issues. My then girlfriend (and now my wife of 50 years) sat together with me, in CarsIaw lecture theatre at Sydney University, and watched the Moon walk live in July 1969. I was inspired by rocket launches and how rockets could be made to travel trajectories that were the cross sections of a conic as predicted by Isaac Newton (1643-1727). You can see why I ended up at Sydney University as a Physics/Applied Mathematics major. As a minor I took classes Chemistry and Pure Mathematics and interestingly in Biology and Zoology because I was equally fascinated by the biological world. There was a time when I dabbled with a career in Biophysics. I did start out in that direction as a post-graduate student, but I ended up back in Astronomy as the major part of my professional life as a physicist.
Are not science and Christianity fundamentally opposed?
Of course you would not expect me to say yes to that question!
I have good reasons why I consider science and the Scripture as good allies and not enemies. It comes right down to the amazing universe we live in and the answers to the ‘why’ questions. It’s all really simple. Science has discovered a universe which is rational in form. Indeed the enterprise of science couldn’t be done if the universe was not governed by laws. Science has discovered that the physical universe has organisation, function, information, and fine tuning so that life like us can exist. The question immediately is, ‘Why?’ This could be dismissed as ‘we just got lucky and here we are’. It’s like winning the lottery. True, but the chance to win this lottery is so incomprehensibly small, that time, chance and quantum chaos do not offer a good starting point for explanation. A variation of 1 part in 1040 (a 1 with 40 zeroes behind it) in the change of the Gravitational constant would have created a different universe and one in which we could not exist in. And since we do exist, we need to be humble before this staggering fine tuning and continue looking for good answers. Moreover, it isn’t just the fact that we exist. We have evolved the capacity to comprehend this remarkable universe. One set of atoms (us) looking at other atoms (everything else) and comprehending, understanding, abstracting, manipulating, theorising and experimenting, to gain remarkable insight into the universe’s workings.
Looking for a good answer to all this? Perhaps the idea of God is not so far fetched and worth a second look. The God revealed in the Judaeo-Christian Scripture resonates perfectly with the fine tuning and also why we are who we are. Firstly God is not a created being and therefore not contingent like our universe - he is what is called ‘transcendent’. Secondly, creation is something from someone with creative, artistic and engineering ability and therefore the universe is fine tuned to exquisite precision. Thirdly, humankind has properties which reflect being in his likeness. We have moral agency and are psychologically complex. We can comprehend the universe because we are a good fit with the form of the universe. We can respond to what is there.
If all of the above is a good answer then consider a consequence. God is revealed in Scripture, not only creator of the universe and us, but also a person - someone - with his own moral agency. It follows that relationship with God is possible but on his terms.
What are his terms? Fundamentally doing what he requires. How do you know what he requires? The answer to this starts a Journey which I decided to do at 18. Read the Scripture. I suggest starting in the New Testament (towards the back of a modern Bible) in the book of Luke. You learn about Jesus and you will get a glimpse of what you must do to have a relationship with God. And, of course, there are any number of people who will help you understand if you get stuck.
Write to me via this website if you have more questions or need help.