Yesterday, I visited our son at college for the first time since we moved him in. I’ll leave thoughts about the emotional aspects of our “reunion” for another time and instead write about one less personal part of the experience.
Our son had only one class during the day: Introduction to Chemistry. I went with him expecting to enjoy the feeling of being in a college classroom again but not expecting to either understand or care about the material. I am interested in some scientific disciplines but chemistry is really not one of them and I really thought it would all escape me completely.
But, surprisingly, I found myself interested in the content of the lecture about the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of certain materials or compounds and actually followed the formulas and concepts.
At the end of the class, the professor demonstrated how water (in the form of steam which had been heated to a very high temperature) could actually light a match. When he succeeded in doing this, he let out a shriek of joy and satisfaction and expressed a clear respect for the amazing property of this most basic of compounds, H2O.
That’s when I realized why I was so interested in the lecture. It was clear through the whole presentation that to this teacher, this was more than formulas, more than scientific principles, more than a particular discipline. He passed along a sense of wonder and excitement about the entire scientific enterprise. While I have no idea if he is a “religious” man,- and I really don’t care- he clearly looked at what he had taught as being miraculous and wondrous. I heard his “Wow” at the end of the lecture as if he had said “Halleluyah” and meant it literally.
I sit on a committee of scientists and clergy which meets to talk about the intersection of science and faith. There are so many ways that that connection takes place. One way is when we, as spiritually minded individuals recognize the beauty of God’s creation and appreciate science as a reflection of God’s wisdom in creating the world. Another is when a scientist expresses wonder and awe when considering his or her work. I’m so glad I sat in on that class.