Cancer Journey Part 6: Science, Cancer, and my Faith

Let me begin this post with a caveat: This particular post presents Craig’s viewpoints. Of the two of us, it is probably the case that Marion has the more spiritual outlook but is the less sympathetic to organized religion.

One of the things I have been asked about repeatedly is how I manage my religious faith and my scientific approach to life otherwise. That today I work in computing in support of research is happenstance. My original plan was to get a Ph.D. in Biology and pursue a career as a Professor of Biology. I believe in facts, laws of nature, and chance. I have spent my whole life in the pursuit of truth about the universe. 

That does not mean I don’t believe in God. I believe that trying to understand the universe is a powerful way to honor its creator. Any religious work of any depth, from any of more than a half a dozen important religious teachings, tells us that the nature of that we call God is beyond our comprehension. I believe that. And I believe there are many sources of wisdom that come to us from many religious faiths as well as our own direct experience of the divine.

I do not believe that the Torah or the Christian Bible are the literal words of that we call by name God. No one who believes in physics can get past the 6th verse of the 1st chapter of Genesis without realizing the writing in the Bible cannot all be literal truth: “1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” (From 

At the time Genesis was codified, the belief of the people of the Tribes of Israel was that above us was a giant dome that protected us from the waters that were found above that dome. The rain that comes down to us was believed to be from the water above us, falling to and on us from openings in that dome. We know today that this is simply not literal fact. Above us is a vacuum, not water. 

In addition, were one to believe that the Bible presents a literal history, one must consider the multiverse theory proved and must find its proof in Genesis. Because in Genesis you find the world, and humans, being created twice, in slightly different ways. Of course this is not really proof of multiverse theories. The twice done creation of we humans and the world around us is a side effect of the history of that thing we now call the Bible. The first chapters of that document we now name the Bible wer originally transmitted from generation to generation as an oral tradition. While part of the people of the tribes of Israel were in captivity in Babylon, two versions of the creation story diverged over time. Those who codified the Bible as we know it seemingly could not bring themselves to omit either version, so both are included, in sequence.

So the Bible is not literal fact in a technical, scientific, or detailed historical sense. So what.

The meanings in the Bible are much deeper than literal facts. They represent deep teachings mixed with attempts to make a cohesive picture of the universe and mixed with the occasional bit of human error. (Scholars fairly widely agree that the bit about handling of poisonous snakes is a relatively late addition, not a proper part of any revealed wisdom… not to mention rstupid to actually do.) 

I search religious writings for meaning, not details of mechanisms. My belief in that we call God is based in God’s agency – God’s responsibility for the fact that there is something, rather than nothing. And one of the critical lessons in Genesis is that God’s creation is inherently good. “And God saw that it was good” is repeated over and over, a strong statement about the nature of our earth and a statement that contradicted some of the prevailing religious views of groups in the Mideast.

My belief in God’s agency makes it unnecessary for me to try to search religious wisdom writings for explanations that fully and accurately form a cohesive explanation of the physical world around us. A world view of the physical necessarily comes from the study of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, and the other sciences. And I do not need to understand the details of the execution of God’s interaction with the world. I do not believe that people were created by God literally out of a pile of dust with, say, some water and clay modelling tools. I believe that God caused creation to be, and what we read in the Bible represents the most coherent rendering of that basic belief that was possible to set down 35 centuries ago.

Nor do I need to know how if at all God acts on specific prayers. I doubt that God decides who gets to live by taking votes via prayer. I know that praying does the pray – er great good, and the knowledge of others praying for me has done me great good. Both are ways to be mindful of the Divine. Beyond that, maybe I’ll find out how the whole prayer thing works in detail someday.

Who is and/or what is God? I don’t know, but I know I have experienced things in my life that cannot easily be explained by the simple laws of physics and the more complicated laws and probabilities of chemistry and biology. And in my searching through the evidence and wisdom writings about God’s agency I find that the messages are pretty simple, even if their execution is not: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (And I am sure Kant was quite proud of himself for deriving this basic formula without reference to revealed truths; good for him.) This guidance applies even if others are different than you are. Simple to say, hard to do. But I’m trying. I hope someday everyone will.

A great gift has been given me. I am alive when I might easily not be. I will spend the rest of my life trying to make good use of my time. I am not yet to the point where I get through a day without thinking about cancer. I am to a point where I get up in the morning on almost every morning and view today as a gift. I will spend the rest of my life trying to prove that I can make good use of this gift time that I have received during every moment of “now,” however long my “nows” last.