We Are God's Creatures

The World and I, March 2001 | Go to article overview

We Are God's Creatures


A laser physicist, Nobel laureate, and Christian, William Phillips shares his views on some of the big questions of science and religion.

William Phillips is the leader of the laser cooling and trapping group of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1948 and attended public schools in Pennsylvania. He received his B.S. in physics from Juniata College (a small, church-related, liberal arts college in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania) in 1970 and pursued graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leading to his Ph.D. in 1976. He is a NIST fellow and an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Maryland at College Park.

In 1997 Phillips shared the Nobel Prize in physics for "development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light." Today the research group led by Phillips routinely uses laser light to manipulate matter at the quantum level in efforts to gain a better understanding and mastery of this ultracold and ultrasmall world. Areas of potential application of the research include better atomic clocks, absolutely secure encryption of digital information, and further miniaturization of electronic circuitry.

Married for 30 years and the father of two college-age daughters, Phillips is also active in a small, culturally diverse Christian congregation. He has served in various capacities in the church over the years, including 18 years in the church's gospel choir.

Our interview of Phillips explores the meeting of science and religion in his own life.

The World & I: Dr. Phillips, what is the religious tradition with which you are most closely associated?

William Phillips: I was raised in the Methodist Church (now the United Methodist Church), and I am happy to be a member of Fairhaven United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I don't see Methodism as the "one true faith," but I am comfortable with the traditions and the basic beliefs of this and other Protestant churches. One of the traditions of Methodism is that our understanding is based on the four pillars of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

The World & I: What has been the impact of your scientific and academic training in shaping your religious views?

Phillips: For the most part, I would have to say that my scientific training has not had a great deal of effect on my religious views. As a physicist, I see a tremendous beauty and consistency in nature that reinforces my belief that our universe was created by an intelligent being. The scientific evidence that our universe has certain specific properties and is governed by natural laws that appear to be "fine- tuned" to allow the development of life reinforces my belief that one of God's purposes in creating the universe was to have intelligent creatures with which He could have meaningful relationships. These scientific observations, however, are not the source of my belief. Nor do I believe that these observations represent a "proof" of the existence of God. Furthermore, I think that the important aspects of my religious belief, namely my understanding of the nature of God--God's love for us and God's desire that we love one another--are not beliefs that are much affected by scientific observation and training. St. Paul wrote that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. My religion is based on faith.

With respect to the broader question of academic training, I have had a relatively elementary education in biblical history and the Judeo- Christian heritage. This academic education in religion has to some extent shaped my belief that human creatures should maintain a humble attitude concerning the correctness of one religious viewpoint over another one. The history of how the Bible came to be in its present form, and the history of the variety of religious interpretation, has made me cautious of believing that I or anyone has a monopoly on truth. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

We Are God's Creatures
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.