The National Medal of Science is awarded by the President of the United States of America to individuals whose scientific contributions have been deemed worthy by a 12-member committee gathered for just this purpose. The medal itself pictures a man with a crystal in his hand and inscribing a formula in the sand. When I first saw a picture of the medal, I thought the man was holding a flame of fire in his hand, which to me was a poetic depiction of human discovery, immortalized in the ancient myth of man’s first discovery of the means of controlling fire, from which, according to the myth, our scientific progress proceeded. The crystal which the medal actually depicts represents the order of the universe, apart from which science would be impossible, and the unfinished equation represents scientific abstraction. The man is surrounded by earth, sea, and air, representing his attempt to comprehend the elements that make up the world around him.
To me, this picture of man is a beautiful one, hearkening back to the words of Shakespeare, “in apprehension, how like a god!” or of the Bible, that God has “made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor and has given him dominion” and stated that “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”
Human existence is one of discovery and subsequent control, in the creation of artifacts based upon knowledge of the materials we use to create. Science is of utmost importance. It is one of the things that separates man from the apes. It is indeed a result of the imago dei in humankind. And it works. Everything we see around us is due to the understanding we have of nature through the scientific method. Your house, your air conditioner, your car, your computer, your Advil, your shoes. Even your toothbrush. They are all products of applied sciences. I trust science. And so do you. It’s value cannot be questioned, but it is not only a vehicle of comfort, security, productivity, or health; it is an intrinsic part of the human experience, and without it, we stagnate into a kind of essential death, or death of our essence. Scientific inquiry is a necessary part of the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:26, 28, and to abandon the pursuit of it would be to sever a piece of the human soul and to spurn the desire of God.