Oberlin Alumni Magazine Spring 2001 vol.96 no.4
Feature Stories
Planet Earth
High Atop Wilder
[cover story] Creating a Scene
You've Got Mail: Now What?
Experience, Exposure & Enlightenment
Body Art
Message from the Board of Trustees
Around Tappan Square
Oberlin Partnership sharpens Economic Development
Composing a Career
President Dye's Sabbatical
Closing Institutional Devides
In Brief
Alumni Notes: Profile
Alumni Notes: Losses
The Last Word
Staff Box
One More Thing

Science/Religion Touches a Nerve... continued

I find it strange
that of the other six faculty members, only one referred to God in personal terms. That member experienced God in such negative terms that he has come to deny apparently any god's existence. With 2000 years of Christian teaching on the nature of God, why is it that a discussion concerning six faculty members' relation to God's work has so little to report of their perception of God?
Peter Perry '51
Medina, Ohio

Can A Scientist Believe in God?
David Anderson, my physics professor, once digressed from an electronics lecture to tell the story of two students who were preparing to take a final exam. Suddenly, a hand mysteriously appeared at the front of the classroom and began to write the Ten Commandments on the wall: You shall have no other gods...Honor your father and your mother...You shall not kill...You shall not steal. The students suddenly realized that this was not just any final exam, this was the final exam. One of them became speechless and paralyzed with fear. The other breathed a sigh of relief, pointed to the wall, and said, "Look!" The hand had finished writing, and at the bottom of the list had added, Answer any six.

Anderson's life was devoted to science and religion. A physicist, he was also an ordained Episcopalian priest, serving Christ Episcopal Church in Oberlin part time. I attended Christ Church for three years with Mary Ann Hopper '78, a religion major who later became my wife. I (a physics major) was impressed with Anderson's strong religious beliefs; he was a scientist, yet he didn't believe that science conflicted with religion.

Mary Ann and I married in 1978 in Fairchild Chapel. Two of the guests were Anderson and his wife. Following the ceremony, Mary Ann was making her way toward the Oberlin Inn, where the reception was to be held. She turned around to discover that the guests were heading toward the new sundial that I had recently finished constructing on the south wall of the physics building. Ironically, our religious ceremony had concluded with scientific observations. In spite of this, the Oberlin physics major and the Oberlin religion major have now been happily married for 22 years--the ultimate proof that science and religion can coexist!

We moved to Evanston, and for the next 11 years were fortunate to have an excellent Lutheran pastor, Royce Scherf. Once again, I was impressed by the strong religious faith of someone who understood science but did not see a conflict between it and religion. Scherf loaned me some works of Karl Heim, a German physicist and theologian (The World: Its Creation and Consummation; The Transformation of the Scientific World View). Today I am a scientist in the field of electronic semiconductors, but also a devout Christian. Much of this I owe to the examples and teaching of Anderson, Scherf, Heim, my wife, and others. Over the past 25 years, I have reached the following conclusions: Science and religion can coexist so long as we don't try to use science to answer the questions of religion, or religion to answer the questions of science. Science deals with the natural world and uses the language of hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion. Religion deals with the supernatural world and uses the language of revelation, belief, and hope. Science is unable to prove if God exists. But religious belief in God does not require scientific proof of God's existence. In fact, if the existence of God could be proven, religion would not involve faith. And for those of us who already believe in God, science strengthens our faith by continually providing new glimpses into the incredible, infinite wonders of creation.
Mark Kearns '78
Evanston, Illinois

Blodgett's Amazing Performance

This is long overdue (just like some of my papers, back when Geoff Blodgett was my professor) but, proceeding under the better-late-than-later rule, here goes: I was a senior the same year Geoff Blodgett was a freshman. A freshman professor, that is. And I remember well that he was teaching (at least) six hours of brand new courses a week, one of them an introductory course and the other an advanced course in American social history. I have very clear memories of Professor Blodgett as a young, engaging, attractive, and, as the year wore along, increasingly tired professor. His office was way up in Peters somewhere, and on many nights his light would be seen and his typing heard, even after the last soprano left the old Con building. Imagine: six new hour-long lectures a week. And unlike others who might have decided to wing it, maybe even fake it, Professor Blodgett wrote his lecture and delivered it daily. Some days the lectures were a tad short. Could it be he ran out of time, and in order to start at 9:00 he had to finish at 9:42? That's what we always assumed. Other days they were too long. It was an amazing performance, as winter turned to spring. Would Geoff Blodgett last? Would he collapse? Would he cancel some meetings? Would he use the last resort of scoundrels, the discussion period? The haggard look came and went. He made it. All new lectures. Amazing. It was a performance I still remember from a young professor who taught me lots that spring, on and off the page.
Bill Schechner '63
Berkeley, California

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