Former Gov. Jim Martin, who has a doctorate in chemistry, is the author of the book "Revelation Through Science." He will speak about his book Sunday at 2 pm at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh's North Hills. Martin answered questions via email. Here are his edited answers.
Q. Why did you write the book?
A. The reconciliation of science and religion has long been a quest for me, going back to graduate school. Twenty years ago, I began a systematic reading of books by scientists about religion and faith. Contributions from respected astronomers, physicists, geologists, and medical biologists impressed me that a new movement was arising among prominent scientists — unafraid to affirm their faith as consistent with and indeed supported by the most sophisticated levels of their scientific disciplines.
Q: Are science and religion compatible?
A: Not only are they compatible, but remarkably harmonious. Galileo challenged some tenets of Christianity four centuries ago, but his targets were essentially Aristotelian doctrines, not Biblical, as he was devout in his own faith. Darwin’s "Origin of Species," and the theory of evolution that grew out of that was a different problem for many Christians. This new paradigm for understanding life was seized by his agnostic colleague T.H. Huxley as evidence that no God was needed to explain life.
The new movement among theistic scientists, however, has shown many examples whereby the deeper we move into more sophisticated levels of the sciences, the more we find what Dr. Francis Collins has called “evidence for belief.” For chemists, it is the three-dimensional structures of most biologically active compounds (including DNA, RNA, proteins, and carbohydrates, plus many more). This is harder to understand without pictures, so my book is fortunate to have our son Jim Jr. as illustrator.
Q. Is the universe orderly? Or chaotic?
A. The universe has both orderly and chaotic features. There is a clear degree of order within celestial galaxies and our solar system, but grand chaos around the black hole at the center of most galaxies. The clearest case for order must be the elaborate anatomical structures of every plant and animal species, but especially the high degree of apparent design within the DNA code that controls each anatomical feature. Meanwhile, principles of thermodynamics tell us that every process tends inevitably toward disorder. Buildings crumble, life decays, sand drifts. Yet, for billions of years to come, existing pockets of orderliness can generate other pockets of order. An example is the human contribution of architectural structures.
Q. You're the son of a minister. Did you ever doubt there was a God?
A. Mary Martin’s four sons never doubted, at least not through undergraduate days. I was aware of fellow students who wrestled with doubt, and often wondered whether I could have successfully navigated through a crisis of faith, as some had — while others resolved into atheistic beliefs, or the uncertainty of agnosticism. Perhaps something is missing in my psyche for lack of having grown from the search.
Q. You were in Congress or governor from 1973 to '93. How does politics today compare to then?
A. It is more chaotic in that the two major political parties have lost their ability to influence each other and compromise. Each has locked into a commitment that every outcome must be totally its own way, with little or no allowance for sensible contributions from the other. Citizens who care about government have separated into three groups: (a) those favoring government growth to solve peoples’ problems more quickly, (b) those who favor private enterprise to respond more flexibly to bring the best solutions, and (c) those that have abandoned both parties, in favor of pragmatic solutions from whatever source or mechanism.