In preparing a letter to the editor of UVa magazine, I was researching the case of 1996 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Richard Smalley. I was astonished to discover that he delivered an anti-Darwinian speech during a graduation ceremony and apparently received a standing ovation. I also thought it an appropriate time to remember this extraordinary scientist.
Here is the account of Smalley’s speech:
Tuskegee University 2004
Smalley mentioned the ideas of evolution versus creationism, Darwin versus the Bible’s “Genesis.” The burden of proof, he said, is on those who don’t believe that “‘Genesis’ was right, and there was a creation, and that Creator is still involved.
Smalley also commented here:
Evolution has just been dealt its death blow. After reading Origins of Life with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear that [biological] evolution could not have occurred.”
–Richard Smalley, Ph.D., Nobel Laureate-Chemistry, 1996
Bill Dembski’s account of Richard Smalley:
Rick Smalley, a Nobel laureate in chemistry at Rice University, died earlier this week. You can read about his scientific contributions and passing here. I had the privilege of having lunch with Rick this summer. The meeting was arranged by his pastor at HoustonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Second Baptist Church, my friend Ben Young. Rick had in the previous year become a Christian as well as a member of Second Baptist Church, and begun to express his doubts about Darwinism publicly (see here and here). I reported on my lunch meeting with Rick here, though to spare him harrassment I did not mention him by name. RickÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s prediction at the end of his life was that ID would be mainstreamed in five years and that evolution in its conventional materialistic sense would be dead within ten. It will be interesting to see if his predictions are borne out.
Hugh Ross gives an account of how some of this came to be:
I am here because pastor Ben Young called me sixteen months ago to ask if I would be willing to fly to Houston to answer a Nobel Laureate’s questions about science and the Christian faith. I knew ahead of time that Rick was a stickler for scientific credibility and integrity. I expected him to besiege me with questions about biological evolution or about Bible passages he presumed conflicted with science. What I learned was that Rick loved to research frontiers of knowledge that few before him had ever probed. The thrill of Rick’s life was to explore and to invent.
Others had asked me about God’s purpose in creating the universe. Rick already had perceived that if God exists He must have more than one purpose in creating. So, we talked about God’s seven different purposes in creating the universe. In light of these seven purposes, Rick wanted to know exactly what we humans are supposed to do. He wanted to know why God would grant us free will. He had already concluded that no resolution of human free will and divine predetermination was possible within the dimensions of length, width, height, and time. He asked if the extra dimensions implied by string theory and general relativity provided possible resolutions. (By the way, they do.) We discussed God’s plan for ridding His creation of evil and how we humans presently benefit from our exposure to evil. He asked about the purpose of mass extinction events in the fossil record, the purpose of death, the reason for our short life spans, and what life will be like in the new creation.
Most scientists I know allow peer pressure and their specialized research endeavors to divert them from exploring the most important issues of the cosmos and life. I have found this to be especially so for Nobel Laureates. But, Rick was different. He had the humility and the courage to pursue the big truth questions regardless of personal cost to his reputation.
Later, Rick and Debbie attended my evening lecture at Rice on “Dark Energy and the Destiny of Humanity.” They sat in the second row with Rick furiously taking notes. I remember that he asked by far the most insightful question of the evening.
A couple of weeks later, I got an email from Rick where he described how he used those notes to craft what I knew to be a much superior talk that he gave before a thousand students at Tuskegee. Those students gave Rick a rousing standing ovation. Rick made an important discovery that day. (Let me give you some background.)
As many of you know, Rick is not only famous for discovering the buckeyball and for developing nanotechnology, he is even better known in political and educational circles for alerting our leaders to America’s science education crisis. Rick and I were both children during the sputnik era. At that time, America spared no expense in raising up an army of scientists and engineers, I recall that my high school physics teacher was paid twice as much as the other teachers. Thanks to a Texas millionaire, I and a few other high school students in Vancouver got to spend every Thursday hearing seminars and many Saturdays doing experiments with the leading science faculty at the University of British Columbia.
What I most remember about that era, though, was that scientists and others saw science as a potent tool–a tool that not only could probe the secrets of the cosmos, but also solve many of the outstanding problems in sociology, philosophy, and theology. This aggressive application of scientific research captivated the general public and attracted swarms of promising youth to pursue science careers.
Today, we have sanitized science. We have made it impotent by pretending science has no capacity to put to the test important questions of sociology, philosophy, and religion. Consequently, we are making science boring, and this to a large degree explains our science education crisis.
I know from my conversations with Rick that the last year of his life was his most thrilling as a scientist. In his words, he learned that “he need not throw his mind away when reading the Bible.” The Bible made him an even better scientist and a more inspiring science educator.
Three months ago, my wife wrote to a theoretical physicist and a chemist on our mailing list who had heard Rick lecture to ask them to pray. She wrote, “We want Rick to live, but more importantly we want what God wants.” Rick was only 62. With another thirty years he could have done great things for his newfound Savior. But, like the young prophet Stephen in the book of Acts, could it be that Rick’s untimely death will bring about an unimaginable spiritual breakthrough? Consider that the death of Stephen led to the conversion of Paul and Paul’s authoring of thirteen books of the Bible. I believe in this auditorium are dozens of men and women with the courage and the humility to take up the baton that Rick at the end of his life has passed on–a baton of being willing to seriously ask the big questions of life, of having the humility to submit to the truth about God revealed both through the record of nature and words of the Bible, and of having the courage to make science exciting again by publicly standing up for the multitude of new scientific reasons to believe that there is a God who has created, a God who knows our fallen condition and desires to rescue us if only we would ask.
Now, I recognize some may not be in agreement with the views expressed by Smalley and Ross, however, I offer these articles as a point of news and information and discussion. I can’t see how someone like Dawkins can be seen as inspirational for science. Smalley is far better role model and source of inspiration for the scientists of tomorrow, imho.