Science in Christian Perspective



Walter R. Hearn, Ph.D.

From JASA 9 (December 1957): 18-19.

A.S.A. Conventions are always exciting and stimulating to me and the 1957 Convention was particularly so. I came back from Gordon College more convinced than ever of the importance of our role as a group of Christian men of science, and resolved to devote more of my time and effort to the cause of our Affiliation. One of the suggestions that came up in our scheduled discussion on the Future of the A,S.A. and that was echoed in many an unscheduled "bull session" was the need of fostering closer fellowship among A.S.A. members. It seems obvious that the best place to begin is among those of us in the same scientific field. The new section of the journal represents an attempt to do this for the chemists of the A.S.A. My idea is for only a part of the Chemistry Section to be a review of literature in the field bearing on our Christian faith. I do hope that many of you who are active in the various branches of chemistry and who keep up to date with the literature in your own corner of the field will contribute frequently to this section. But in addition to this part by Chemists for the rest of the A.S.A., I hope that a large part of the column will be about chemists in the A.S.A. and written for them specifically. In other words, this section of the journal may serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information among those of us who are chemists.

A casual glance at the directory reveals that many of our members have degrees in chemistry. Some of us are teaching in high schools, others in small colleges, and still others in large universities. Some of us have little or no opportunity to do research, some are working alone on small problems, and still others are making major research contributions in academic institutions, government laboratories, or industrial concerns. Some of us are involved in administrative or managerial positions related to chemistry or chemical engineering. But we all regard ourselves as chemists, and we do have many common interests and problems in connection with doing our daily work and integrating it with our Christian philosophy of life. I always look forward to the opportunity of discussing these problems with the friends I make at our Annual Conventions, but I know that many of you seldom attend an A.S.A. Convention and might welcome a chance to discuss some of these things through the journal. I can think of several times when Christian friends have meant much to me in my professional development, and I can think of many ways in which we might be of help to each other if we were only better acquainted.

For one thing, many of us attend the same professional meetings and would enjoy getting together for at least a chat and possibly for a meal or even to room together at meetings of the American Chemical Society or other meetings we attend. It would be relatively easy to arrange such contacts through the medium of this column. Of course we don't all go to the same meetings, but I'm sure that Christian fellowship means so much to each of us that we would be glad to know of even one other Christian who would be at the same meeting we plan to attend. We might even schedule a breakfast or luncheon meeting at the A.C.S. and get it on the program of events. A notice on the bulletin board explaining the nature of the A.S.A. and announcing such an event might attract some new members to the Affiliation. I understand a few of our members have been getting together during A.A.A.S. meetings, but most chemists seem to go to A.C.S. meetings instead. Many of us in biochemistry attend the spring "Federation" meetings instead of or in addition to, the American Chemical Society. Discovering other Christians in my own field is always stimulating to me, and it always gives me a thrill when I later see their papers in the literature. The week this column was written, for example, I came across three papers by A.S.A. friends in three different journals, and may have missed many more simply because I didn't know the authors personally as A.S.A. members!

Also, there is the service we could render each other in the matter of counselling students. If we knew more about the research programs of our members on university faculties, we could give better advice to prospective graduate students who wish to work with Christian professors. In fact, there is no reason why we couldn't be of real help to each other in the matter of our own employment. For example, I know right now of a liberal arts college in the Midwest which is actively looking for a Christian to become Head of their department of chemistry. From what I know about the situation, this seems to be an excellent opportunity for the right person, and I would like to be able to suggest someone for the position. Incidentally, if any of you feel you are perhaps qualified for this position or would care to suggest a candidate, I will be happy to pass your name or your suggestion on to the president of the college. If I knew more of you personally, or had an up-to-date file on what A.S.A. chemists are doing, I could probably have easily made several suggestions already.

An important function we could perform for the A.S.A. if we were better acquainted with each other is that of serving as referees of papers for the journal and for our Annual Conventions. The Program Chairman for the 1957 Convention told me that there is a real need for referees but that often the Chairman doesn't know which members are qualified by their experience to serve as referees in the particular area covered by a submitted paper. As the Affiliation grows in size and gains maturity it becomes more and more essential to utilize the experience of our members in various scientific fields.

There are still other benefits to be gained from our having a forum such as this colurnn if those of you who are chemists are willing to take an active part in it. The Editor has kindly agreed to let us try it on this basis, and I have volunteered to serve as "Chemistry Editor" of this Section until someone else wants to take over, or until I can stir up so much interest among biochemists that we want to start our own "Biochernistry" Section. If we had a Biochemistry Section, we might even let a few of you physiologists share it with us! Seriously, if you think such a column as this is a good idea, I hope you will write to me, especially if you have some specific suggestions for future issues. When you write, why not tell me what kind of position you hold, what courses you teach, what research you are doing, what you have published lately, what meetings you usually attend, what sort of Christian activities you participate in, and, in general, the kind of things you would like to know about other chemists in the A.S.A. Are there problems which have come tip in your professional life which you would like to see discussed? Have you had opportunities to witness for Christ through your professional activities that you would like to share with us ? Do you have any suggestions for making the A.S.A. more effective?

Well, let me hear f rom you, and we will get the column off to a good start in the next issue. Incidentally, the Editor's deadlines are the first of November, February, May, and -August for the issues which come out the following month. By the way, I expect I may attend the Federation Meetings in Philadelphia in April and the A.C.S. in Chicago next September. Do any of you plan to be there? How about the A.C.S. meeting in San Francisco in April? Drop me a letter or a postcard if you plan to attend one of these meetings and I will let you know of other A.S.A. members who tell me they plan to attend. 

My address is:

Dr. Walter R. Hearn Department of Chemistry Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa