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Humility and Flexibility

Humility and Flexibility
By Dr. Matt Ryan | July 3, 2019

Guest blogger and member of our St. Philip’s church family, Dr. Matt Ryan shares his thoughts on Faith and Science in the second installment of our blog series “Discovering How Faith and Science Work Together”.

What do you love about science?

Why do I like science? I like science because science can be used as a way to answer questions. There are lots of questions about the natural world that can be answered with the scientific method. As a doctor, that includes questions about how the body works, what causes diseases, and whether a treatment ‘works’.

So I like science because of the way it helps me answer questions, or at least approach the truth about a question (strictly speaking, the scientific method never ‘proves’ anything; it only disproves—and if you disprove all of the alternative explanations for a phenomenon, you are left with one thing that you may accept as the ‘truth’).

How do you integrate your faith with your scientific pursuits?

As for integrating faith and science, I personally am not one who sees any conflict between the two, because religious faith and science answer different kinds of questions. The problem lies with people who are confused about this, who think that with science all things are knowable, or who allow their faith to bias how they approach science. A great example of this is the biologist whose atheism demands that they posit an explanation for the origins of life that cannot be adequately supported by an investigation with the scientific method. But an atheistic explanation is promoted as the ‘truth’. The same could be said of the creationists who ‘discover’ fossil evidence that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, and that the earth isn’t more than several thousand years old, after all. So some scientists allow their faith to bias how they use science and understand its constraints.

As a physician, my Faith definitely impacts how I approach my interactions with patients. The qualities of humility and flexibility are important in both Science and Faith. There are lots of theories within Science but very few laws. When self-assured scientists become too quick to mistake intuition with certainty, they close themselves off from real discovery. The same can happen with our Faith, when assumed beliefs harden into immovable tenets, we miss out on growing our faith and making new, deeper discoveries about God. When Science and Faith don’t remain open and flexible to new insights and information, we stunt our ability to be in step with what is real and true.

Dr. Ryan is Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Education and Quality in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, where he specializes in Rhinology. Dr. Ryan attended medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and completed residency training at the University of Florida. He currently serves as President of the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy.