Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles?, by Ian Hutchinson

Reviewed by Steven Yoon

In my field, engineers often use equations to predict a medical device’s safety and assure the public of its use. But Christians believe the Bible (and real life) reminds us of our limitations. A well-planned machine can tragically fail, yet a terminally ill toddler can be miraculously saved.

I confess these scenarios try my faith and calling as an engineer who is a Christian. Simply put, a tragedy invites skepticism of God, and a miracle invites skepticism of science. And yet, I also feel God calling me deeper into Him to resolve this seeming dichotomy between science and faith. 

Ian Hutchinson’s Can A Scientist Believe in Miracles? (InterVarsity Press, 2018) is the perfect book to think through this dilemma. Hutchinson is a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has openly professed his faith in public venues like the Veritas Forum, which brings students and faculty together to ask big “why” questions. This book recollects the question-and-answer sessions he led at these events. He also visited our church for the Stone Hill Science lecture series in December 2018.

Hutchinson does an admirable job of framing the question asked in his book to include everyone, whether or not they are believers or scientists. In his book, the main antagonist is scientism, or “science attempting to go beyond its own competence…invading areas where other types of knowledge are required.” Scientism is an easy trap to fall into, he warns, and the reader will be convinced of its dire consequences.  

What type of knowledge, then, is required to behold a miracle? Hutchinson gives an illustration of the mirror surface of a pool. Undisturbed, the pool is an almost perfect reflection of the original. Disturbed by a finger (a rare miracle), the representative power of the reflection is lost. But “the laws of nature rapidly restore themselves, the ripples die out, and the world proceeds once again smoothly,” Hutchinson explains.

For me, this beautiful vision points to a satisfying union of science and faith. In the time scale we care about, the universe is stable and coherent. Yet, the laws of nature are also resilient enough for God to freely enter and govern through His character and will.

For further reading:

Barnes & Noble / Amazon / IndieBound

Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles? (YouTube)   

Veritas Forum