Religion

Can you believe in God and evolution? Former Republican N.C. governor says yes.

Former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin, shown here in 2009, speaks about science and religion to a Sunday school class at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Martin, a former chemistry professor at Davidson College, discussed Galileo, Darwin, DNA, and religion's relationship with each.
Former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin, shown here in 2009, speaks about science and religion to a Sunday school class at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Martin, a former chemistry professor at Davidson College, discussed Galileo, Darwin, DNA, and religion's relationship with each.

At a time when many Republicans – from President Donald Trump to conservative churchgoers – are dismissive of the science for everything from climate change to evolution, a former GOP governor of North Carolina is standing up for science.

Jim Martin, who was a chemist before he was a politician, argues in a new book that science is nothing short of revelation – from God.

In fact, he titled his book “Revelation Through Science.” And over 387 pages, which cover everything from the Big Bang to DNA to evolution, Martin makes the case that divine revelation didn’t stop with the last book of the New Testament. God continues to speak through science and nature, Martin argues, and humans are finally able to understand more and more of it.

“Science is revelation to us regarding God’s creation; it helps us understand how God did it,” the 81-year-old Martin, a lifelong Presbyterian, told the Observer. “Science is not the enemy of faith, but an ally.”

That’s heresy among many scientists, who see key discoveries in their fields as refutations of the very idea of God and religion.

But Martin, who got a PhD in chemistry from Princeton University and then taught it at Davidson College for 12 years, is part of a growing number of scientists who say science and religion are compatible.

The leading figure in this group of what Martin calls “theistic scientists” is Dr. Francis Collins, now director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and author of “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.” A physician and geneticist who went to medical school at the University of North Carolina, Collins also led the Human Genome Project, the goal of which was to completely map and understand all the genes of human beings.

Until now, most of the books written by these believers in both science and religion have come from medical doctors, astronomers, physicists and biologists.

Martin said he thought it was time for a chemist to join the debate. Hence the book – his first.

‘An orderly universe’

“Revelation Through Science” is a testament to Martin’s deep understanding of things like hydrogen bonding and asymmetrical organic molecules – either right-handed or left-handed.

But his book is also informed by his religious faith. The son of a Presbyterian minister, Martin is a member of Charlotte’s Covenant Presbyterian Church and sometimes attends Davidson College Presbyterian.

A key passage from his book: “Should we believe that a loving and all-powerful God created a world of pranks and misinformation and, like the Wizard of Oz, intends for us to remain confused and ignorant about it, never to look behind the curtain? Or should we believe in a loving and all-powerful and trusting God who established an orderly universe, and was pleased to arrange for us to have the intelligence to figure it out?”

Martin acknowledges that he and other theistic scientists have no hard scientific proof of the existence of God. Rather, he said, the science under-girding the earth and its human life is so complex and so finely-tuned that “it’s evidence that points to a creator whom we call God.”

Science also can’t say why God did it all this way, Martin said. But DNA, the Big Bang, and various physical constants and conditions, he argues, “are just too unlikely to have happened by unguided chance.”

Evolution?

“My belief is that evolution is the basic process that God used to develop species, including us,” he said. And yet, as a religious person, Martin also believes that the Earth, at 4.5 billion years old, is not old enough for that process to have happened by random chance. In other words, he said, “God did it with evolution – but stepped in from time to time.”

Literal interpretation of the Bible’s story of creation?

“Anyone is entitled to believe that if they so choose,” Martin said. “That view has nothing to do with science.”

And equating Charles Darwin and evolution with atheism, as many conservative Christians have done for decades, Martin writes, “mistakenly abandons evolution to be the intellectual asset of atheism.”

Miracles in the Bible?

“If God could manage the Big Bang of creation and the miracle of evolution and the miracle of the properly sequenced proteins and the right-handed DNA and RNA ... and left-handed amino acids and proteins – if he could do that, certainly he could manage all the miracles recorded in the Bible.”

Denial of science by political parties?

Martin, the only Republican to ever serve two terms in the N.C. Governor’s Mansion (1985-93), sees it among members of both parties. Many Republicans deny the evidence of global warming, he said, and man’s contribution to it. But many Democrats, he said, continue to see vaccines as dangerous without any real evidence.

Martin dedicates his book, which was illustrated by his son, Jim Jr., to his family – including former N.C. First Lady Dottie Martin – and “to those who taught us.”

But Martin the scientist and Bible believer ends the book with a note of gratitude to his maker:

“When, in the revelations of science, we find realities of nature that point us to God, we might thank God for science.”

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Book signing

Former Gov. Jim Martin will sign copies of his new book, “Revelation Through Science,” at 7 p.m. April 20 at Main Street Books, 126 S. Main Street in Davidson.

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