As a scientist and person of faith, how would you describe your relationship with religion and science? Where does faith fit into your scientific worldview? Where does science fit into your theological worldview?
I believe there is no conflict between faith in God and science. By definition, science is the systematic knowledge of that which exists. Considering that God created all things, makes Him the ultimate scientist. The problem is that we are limited in our experience, and God is unlimited in His. He is omniscient. As we learn things we did not previously know, we discover that there are so many other things we do not know. I have read that many scientists who at one time claimed to be agnostics or atheists have realized that there must be a higher intelligence. They admit that the microcosmic and macrocosmic intricacies of matter could not have just occurred without some supreme orchestrator.
Growing up in a charismatic Pentecostal church, I witnessed many healings and miracles that helped solidify my faith. In this life, it seems like the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know. To have a relationship with God and to keep an open mind to the revelations of His creation is the best of both worlds.
As a pastor and dentist, what do you feel are your guiding principles or responsibilities to your congregation and patients, respectively? Do you find that they often overlap?
As a pastor and dentist, my primary responsibility is to convey to my congregation and patients the truth. That is not always as cut and dry as it may seem because, throughout history, we see information that is declared as truth turn out to be false when new discoveries are made.
Dr. Leonard Scott
In this life, it seems like the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know. To have a relationship with God and to keep an open mind to the revelations of His creation is the best of both worlds.
At one time, we thought the world was flat. It was considered heresy to think otherwise. And that the sun revolved around the earth. In the 1800s, a forward-thinking physician named Ignaz Semmelweis was ostracized for asking his colleagues to wash their hands before treating each patient. He was fired for not doing it the “scientific” way. Science would later discover bacteria and consider Semmelweis an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures posthumously. The beauty of science is that it is self-correcting. We have to tell the truth as we know it now, but be open to new developments when more truth is revealed.
Back in the mid-1900s, many strict holiness churches did not believe in doctors or taking medications. Past pseudoscientific surgical procedures such as skull trepanation, and bloodletting without antiseptic procedures or antibiotics often preceded the death of the patient. Many medical procedures and medications had no scientific studies to validate their effectiveness. Modern scientific studies concerning medical procedures and medications have resulted in numerous procedures and medications that save lives. I believe God has placed all that we need to be physically healthy and whole on this planet. It is our responsibility to discover and utilize these cures.
You founded Scott Dentistry over three decades ago, and over the years, it has grown from just you as a sole practitioner to many staff, including your daughter and granddaughter. How did your daughter and granddaughter come to follow in your footsteps and pursue careers in STEM? For many women and minorities, representation matters—having role models and exposure to STEM-related careers. Did you find that you provided this for your daughter and granddaughter?
We started Scott Dentistry in 1973, one year after beginning my walk with God. At that time, there were very few minorities or females in the dental field. In our dental class of 100, I was one of two Black people and there were two females. Those numbers have significantly increased for females, up to 30%, but not so much for minorities, at less than 4%. We encouraged our children to pursue careers they were interested in, as well as ones for which they had mental and physical acuity. They were allowed and encouraged as children to come to the office and see what we did, and even help. Today my daughter and granddaughter both say this helped in their decisions to be dentists.
In what ways have you engaged your congregation in conversations related to faith and science or on health-related issues? How would you encourage pastors to engage in conversations on faith and science or health-related issues in their congregations?
In our book, The Ultimate Boost from Within: 31 Days to Health, Wealth, Wholeness, and Happiness, we attempt to tell people that we are more than just physical beings. But we are also mental and spiritual. People who are unaware of their spiritual component will often totally neglect it. And sometimes, those who are heavily into the mental and spiritual will fail at the physical—ignoring the physical means having no health concerns for how to eat or drink and little or no physical exercise, as well as undertaking unhealthy habits. Neglecting your mental and spiritual aspects includes filling your mind and spirit with sounds, thoughts, images, and experiences that are debilitating and negative. I would encourage pastors to teach about being tripartite and responsibly caring for each part.
This article is part of a special series published by BioLogos for Black History Month, highlighting underrepresented voices on faith and science. This work was supported and made possible by a Diversity grant from the National Association of Science Writers (NASW).
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