This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.
As a scientist and a person of faith, I get asked the following question a lot: “How do you reconcile your scientific beliefs with your faith in God?” The question seems to concern others a lot more than it concerns me, largely because I see no conflict at all. They exist together, happily, and each supports the other.
For those of us who are religious scientists, the validity of science is only strengthened by our faith and our faith only bolsters our appreciation and love for the scientific world and process.
How do I teach my sons about religion without compromising my scientific integrity? Well, I make sure to tell my sons that the Tanakh (Hebrew bible) is not a science book. God created the universe as a scientific one. God created evolution and gravity and placed the stars in the sky. God created a world in which we could create the tools and theories and philosophies that explain God’s universe, as well as the notion of religion and prayer that honors that.
When my boys ask me questions of a scientific nature, I find myself giving age appropriate but detailed logical answers that more often than not includes the notion of appreciation of God and Judaism’s appreciation for appreciating God.
For example, if they ask me, “Why is the sun sunny?” (yes, my 4-year-old asked me this a few weeks ago), I give an explanation about the sun being a giant ball of a hot gas, like the kind that fills up a balloon. If I’m asked the proverbial “Why?” the answer is, “Because that’s the way HaShem made the world.”
If I’m asked how we have the ability to hear things (I love this one, since I was a teaching assistant for The Anatomy and Physiology of Sense Organs course twice at UCLA and this was one of my favorite topics!), I describe the auditory nerve and how it connects to little hairs in the ear that shake back and forth like the keys on a piano, creating the range of sounds we hear. And because it is so elegant and so delightful and so amazing, I can’t help but tell my boys, “Didn’t HaShem make an amazing world!?”
I don’t “use” God to explain things I can’t scientifically. Everything is understood by God, and we try in our human capacity to touch it as best we can. The glory and holiness of God as we discuss in traditional Judaism fills the entire world (as we say in the Kadosh, “Melo kol ha’aretz kvodo”). No exceptions. Every ant is a magnificent creature with a complex social network and the ability to construct pathways for transporting the tiniest bread crumbs. Every time we swoon when we see someone we are in love with, the neurotransmitters of the cells of our brains are rushing through our nervous systems creating that feeling for an evolutionary Divine purpose. Every time a sperm and an egg meet and a baby is born, we have witnessed Divine creation on the most intimate and grand scale.
All of these things are scientific and religious experiences, and I hope my sons see them as both existing together, appreciating them together and separate, but as inseparable from God’s existence and our awareness of it.
To read all of the post in this series, click here.