BY CLIFF HAN
WWII was the most devastating and destructive wars of all time. It began when Adolph Hitler took power at a time when Germany was economically and politically unstable. He invaded Poland, and made treaties with Italy and Japan to enhance his ability to dominate the entire world and proceeded to murder 6 million Jews in what he called the “final solution.” Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) was established when the world’s leading scientists wanted to create a weapon that would put an end to Hitler’s plan and the unspeakable devastation of the war.
By bringing together scientists who could put their unique and different minds together in a rigorous way to think and debate and create, LANL was able to win WWII and the cold war afterwards.
Decades later, LANL seems to have lost sight of the value of intellectual freedom and dissent. The latest example is that LANL has asked it’s employees who choose not to take vaccines due to their faith to either quit their job or take leave without pay on October 15.
First of all, this measure seems medically unnecessary, since the vaccination rate at LANL is over 90%, which is well above the minimum rate to stop runaway circulation of COVID 19 at the lab. On top of that, I’m amazed that in a society of free will, more than 90% of people would ever choose to do the exact same thing no matter what it is. But what’s mind boggling is that the lab is demanding 100% alignment or you’re fired!
This kind of extreme and unbending policy is not unfamiliar to me. Growing up in communist country, I witnessed and experienced long brain-washing and knew people were getting their heads cut off when 100% consensus wasn’t achieved.
While an individual’s utopian wishful thinking of saving every life may make him a hero some of the time, it’s dangerous when an organization has an utopian policy of saving every life because the results come at the cost of other people’s lives. In this case, life of hundreds families will put upside down in such a short time.
Personally, I am not even anti-vaccine; I am fully vaccinated.
As a biologist and a Christian, I understand why people choose not to vaccinate for medical or religious reasons. Their choice came with some risks, mostly (>99%) to themselves. Taking a risky path is usually a rare behavior in any group and can lead to valuable contributions to society.
As an organization based on science, LANL should take the lead to protect religious freedom
Because religion, specifically Christianity, is the father of modern science. Modern science could not exist if there was no Christianity.
Let me explain. I was an atheist before I became a Christian. I experienced two stages of conversion, first emotional conversion and then rational conversion. The rational conversion happened when I studied the history of modern science, Christianity, and other religions. My conclusion from that study is that modern science could only occur in a society that practices faith. In this short writing, I will tell you briefly about my main reasonings.
First, science and faith have something in common: firm belief in an idea.
Great scientific breakthroughs must start with a firm belief in a hypothesis. A hypothesis is a theory that has not been verified. Verifying a hypothesis takes effort, quite often a great effort. The greater the effort it takes, the stronger belief is needed. What’s the difference between religious faith and scientist’s faith in his hypothesis? Mentally, the two kinds of faith are not much different. They likely engage quite similar neurological pathways to hold on to their faith.
Second, throughout the centuries the Christian faith has strengthened our capacity in abstract, imaginative thinking. The human brain has great potential for growth, and it’s like a programable computer that can be changed. The way a brain develops depends on the stimulation it receives and the culture that it is in.
One of my friends in China told me many years ago, “I do not have anything in my brain if I do not talk. It is all darkness when I close my eyes.” He’s not unintelligent, but he grew up in a culture that said nothing happened after death, which limits the imagination to what people can see and touch.
Christianity gave people a reason to imagine a heavenly world that we can’t see, but also it provided daily practices that develop our imagination through teaching, reading, and prayer.
Third, Christianity prepared a society that values the product of abstractive thinking.
Geniuses are born sporadically in history all around the world. Most of them withered before they were known or had a chance to accomplish anything. That’s because great brains need a specific environment to flourish and become great minds. And that environment is similar minds that care, understand, and value each other.
This is why universities invite several scholars studying related subjects to work together when starting a new research field. These clustered super minds happened rarely, randomly, across the world historically. Christianity changed the world by preparing society ready for the great minds. The social dominant Christian faith produced minds with advanced capability of abstractive thinking in mass, because practitioners got together regularly to read, sing, and discuss ideas together and pray and think in private. Those mental activities made it possible for minds to be ready to take the fruit of great thinking.
That is why the renaissance happened in all fronts of civilization, literature, music, art, philosophy, architecture, and modern science. Readers were eager to read great writing. Listeners were quiet for master pieces of music. People looking for deeper meaning of life were ready to follow the philosophers. Art lovers ready to admire the great painting. Curious minds were opened by the amazing explanation from scientists. Even people who used their intellect to question Christianity could not have done so without first being exposed to it and having their minds shaped by it.
After a thousand year’s cultivation of Christianity, the society around the time of renaissance was a fertilized land for the great minds to flourish. In all interactions, they enriched each other’s life and propelled civilization forward.
In conclusion, this socio psychological understanding of our civilization has given me internal peace between Christianity and modern science. I hope my experience can help you, TRIAD, and other curious minds to rethink your situations. Your employees who attend church are not your enemy to rid of, instead they are your valuable asset. Treat your fellow employee who has faith gently. They are as important as everyone else. I believe LANL will lose its edge if it removes every employee with faith as no good science can be done without a seriously-believed hypothesis.
I plead to TRIAD, the manager of the Lab: for the good of our society and the Lab, please treat your fellow employee with faith well and keep them with you!
Cliff Shunsheng Han, Ph.D. in Genetics, Psychiatrist, Physician, and Christian. He worked in Los Alamos National Laboratory for 22 years and recently founded AllerPops Corp.