As the second year biologists and biomedical scientists journey on into their immunology course this term, I can’t say that any of us are too excited about having to learn so many stages of different cascade reactions, such as the stages of protein cleavage in the complement system. Despite all the protein names to remember, I can’t help but think that it’s also incredibly cool to learn about. Complement activation involves the release of proteins which assist in clearing an infection in a number of ways. For example, complement proteins recruit other immune cells to the site of infection, cause the pathogens to stick together for easier destruction and enhance the action of phagocytes – cells which engulf and digest invading pathogens. An endgame goal of complement activation is to destroy bacterial cells by the formation of a complex of proteins that punches holes in its cell membrane. Why do I think this is cool? I believe that when I’m studying the complement system, I’m studying something that has been carefully hand-designed and created by God.
To some, ‘Christian’ and ‘scientist’ may seem like two mutually exclusive terms. How is it possible for someone who believes in God and the Bible to also engage in the world of the science? Hasn’t evolution disproved creation and the idea of a Creator been negated by natural selection? Is it really possible for a biologist to also be a Christian? My firm answer to that question is yes, and I’d like to share with you why.
Biology exists in the Bible. If you look at Genesis, the first book of the Bible, you’ll read about God bringing all the creatures that He created to Adam, the first created man. Adam looks at all of God’s creatures and gives them names. This is a wonderful picture of humanity interacting with creation, whether you believe that Genesis gives us a literal account of creation or not (many Christians believe that Genesis is not literal – but that’s a whole other blog post!). There’s a whole field of biology called taxonomy which is about defining organisms by their characteristics and giving them names – just like Adam does in the Bible. Some of my labs involve looking at things under the microscope and figuring out what they are. Whilst this isn’t exactly taxonomy, it is exciting to me that I’m interacting with God’s creation in the way that He always intended for me to.
Engaging with and understanding the natural world is important to God. In Genesis chapter 1, God decrees that mankind should rule over the earth and the animals and the plants. This is a great thing to read as a scientist because part of being responsible for the earth means understanding how it works. Understanding, for example, how global warming will redistribute animal life across the globe and severely harm ecosystems means that I can fight for positive change in this area and fulfil my Biblical duty to protect God’s creation.
When I do my lab reports… I’m doing them for God! The book of Colossians tells Christians, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.’ This means that I can put 100% into my work as a scientist, knowing that I’m doing it for God. Elsewhere in the Bible, we’re told that God prepares ‘good works’ for us and that we were created to do them. It’s amazing to know that God has put me in exactly the right place at the right time to do the work He’s prepared for me – being a biologist, getting to know His creation intimately and engaging with the natural world in a way that helps me to know the Creator better.
I don’t believe there’s any reason why ‘Christian’ and ‘scientist’ need to remain separate. When I look at the Bible, I see a God who created the universe and everything in it. When I study biology, I get up close and personal with His handiwork. An amazing privilege and, I think, very cool.