Science and Faith

CA-Yosemite-12aI studied in the biological sciences in college, getting BS and MS degrees in plant and soil science. I have also been a Christian all of my life. For me, learning about nature through the sciences helped me see the wonder of this world and strengthened my faith.

Studying the ecology and the history of an area helps me better understand it. Discovering how a plant or animal lives because scientists have studied that gives me new perspectives and a greater sense of awe. Chuck had shown a photo of a snow plant earlier. Here is one in context of its environment, the ponderosa pine woods of the Sierra Mountains (Yosemite National Park). What is fascinating to me is that this plant has no chlorophyll — what you see here is the plant’s flower stalk and that is all that ever comes above ground! At first, it was thought that this plant either broke down dead material in the ground for “food” or it tapped into a tree’s roots as a parasite.

The actual story is more complex. The ground is filled with mycorrhizae, root-like filaments of soil-fungi that have a very unique function. They have a direct connection to the trees and tap into the tree roots. However, they are not parasites. They are partners with the tree. The fungi has better access to nutrients from the soil and helps the tree get more of them. The tree, in return, supplies food from photosynthesis. Such mycorrhizal fungi is very important to most forests, and usually specific species of fungi are connected to a specific species of tree.

Along comes the snow plant. Its main root supports its flower, but small roots infiltrate the mycorrhizae and tap those fungal strands for its food. When you see how large and bold a snow plant is, you realize how extensive the mycorrhizae are.

All of this came from science investigating the life of nature and revealing this remarkable and amazing connection of life below the ground. There is no logical reason for a snow plant to exist, yet it does, and it is beautiful. To me, this shows what a stunning world we have, a world created by a God who knows far more than we do and loves art!

All of these thoughts were stimulated by an opinion piece from USA Today published this past Monday called “We believe in evolution — and God.” I love this quote from the article, “We understand science as a gift from God to explore the creation.” The article is on-line at http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/08/we-believe-in-evolution-and-god-.html?loc=interstitialskip. The authors also have a website, The BioLogos Foundation at www.biologos.org.

— Rob