Sunday, October 19, 2014

A NASA Scientist Told Me There Is a God, one reason I'm not an atheist

By Kay Ebeling

The cliché is that all scientists are atheists. Yet first person to convince me in years that there probably is a God was the Dean of the Astronomy Department at The University of Texas at Austin, Professor Harlan Smith.   

Harlan Smith
On the walls of his office were posters of the universe with words of Praise For God, which surprised me.  Back in 1977, I figured scientists were too smart to be religious, yet here was the Lead Astrophysicist at UT sitting at his desk in front of all these holy posters.  So looking around at his walls, I said something like, I'm not surprised to see pictures of space and the solar system here, but why do so many of them mention God.  Aren't all scientists atheists?   

Smith uprighted his posture and looked directly in my eyes. "Oh no," he said almost breathless.  “The more you learn about the universe, the more you realize there has to be intelligent design.” 

His blue eyes shined, seemed to reflect whatever he was seeing at that moment inside his visionary head.

I’d made the appointment to see Dr. Smith in the first semester of my junior year.  The University of Texas had a requirement that you take five science courses to get a bachelor’s degree, and after I waded through two semesters of Physics for Non Science majors, I discovered the space program.  So I went to meet with the dean to find out how one gets a job at NASA. 

At that meeting Harlan Smith gave me advice that helped get me a job at NASA when I graduated.

I also learned at that meeting that many scientists have a passionate belief in God, not the Christian fundamentalist version of God, but a confirmed faith that there is a power greater than ourselves, and that most scientists have learned to recognize this power that is everywhere in the universe.  

In that meeting Harlan Smith told me that the more you learn about astrophysics, the more you see a mathematical precision that can only be explained by a higher intelligence. 

“There is no other way to explain the perfection," he said. "Someone or something must have designed it, some form of intelligence created it. 

“There is a creator,” he was certain. 

No doubt in his mind.  

It's a scientific fact that there is a God. 

His eyes Beamed.

After that conversation with Smith, I was even more Wowed and Jazzed to go to work at NASA.  Smith had told me how to begin the journey through academics.  So I took a bunch more astronomy and physics for non science majors courses.

I also started doing the Science Beat for The Daily Texan, the college paper, taking Smith’s advice one step farther.  So by the time I met with him again in my senior year, I had written several feature stories about research at UT where Smith actually managed the NASA contracts, so I even kind of got to know him.  I spent two nights at McDonald Observatory taking pictures and interviewing scientists for a feature story in the paper and they had a great commissary. 

Smith's recommendation letter probably played a part in NASA creating a job for me in the Public Information Office at LBJ Space Center in Houston in September 1978. I was so good, I had that much potential that they created a position for me.  

And I blew it.  Three years later, I did not have that job anymore.  That's another part of my story.

Also while working on The Daily Texan, I was one of the first writers to ever do word processing.  While I was editing copy with a soft lead pencil there one day, the dean of the Communications Department brought in this new thing, “the computer.”

“We got a grant from the NPAA to see what it takes to put a newspaper together using  a computer,” the man announced, and right there on the copy desk the soft-lead pencils and erasers disappeared and were replaced by monitors.  Literally while we sat there, they pushed aside the pencils and installed monitors.

Then the dean sat next to me and said, "It's like this.  You Cut.  And you Paste."  

I said, "Oh you mean like we do with scissors?"

"Yes, he said.  You won’t be using scissors and glue and all that mess anymore.  You just Select, Copy, and Paste.  Here you try it."

So right there at the copy desk at The University of Texas at Austin daily paper, I selected, copied, and pasted and probably became the first journalist in the world, or one of the first, to actually cut and paste on a computer instead of cutting and pasting with a scissors and glue. 

I can actually say that. 

I'm one of the first journalists to ever use a computer to write and edit a news story. 

But I digress.

Anyway.  As well as starting me on a path towards NASA, Harlan Smith sparked my interest in God that day, made me realize there is a Spirit that is part of the totality of everything, something I had first begun realizing as a student of Dr. Timothy Leary about a decade earlier.

Yes, NASA hired me in 1978 as a News Writer Editor, even though in 1969 I had been a news writer editor for the Timothy Leary for Governor campaign in Southern California, which caused me a heck of a lot of problems in 1980 or so when these Air Force guys showed up as part of the space center employee population and we all had to get Top Secret Security Clearances.

But again, I digress. 

More To Come 

-Posted by Kay Ebeling
(The City of Angels Is Everywhere, please click my PayPal button with high fives)

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