Searching for Truth - Dr. Kirk Shanahan's Story

Searching for Truth - Dr. Kirk Shanahan's Story
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Searching for Truth - Dr. Kirk Shanahan's Story

May 24 2024 | 00:57:19

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Episode 0 May 24, 2024 00:57:19

Hosted By

Jana Harmon

Show Notes

Chemist and former atheist Dr. Kirk Shanahan began to see science's inability to answer big questions of life and the universe.  It opened him up to the search for truth and the possibility of God.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:02] Speaker A: I basically said, well, I'm interested in science. I know some scientists mess up, but science won't. And that's probably how I spent the majority of my professional career in that point of view. [00:00:21] Speaker B: Hello, and thanks for joining in. I'm Janna Harmon, and you're listening to psybe stories, where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptical, but became a christian against all odds. You can hear more of our stories on our Psybe stories [email protected], or on our YouTube channel. We welcome your comments on these stories on our Facebook page and YouTube videos. You can also email us with feedback or [email protected]. we always love hearing from you. There's often a picture painted among skeptics that christians are unscientific, uneducated people. And the skeptics are the more intelligent, rational people who think more clearly, who don't need to succumb to delusional beliefs like religion to get them through life. Rather, they are rationally superior, more educated, more sober minded than the average religious person. They don't believe in God or the supernatural, nor do they need it or desire it, especially in the scientific world. But what happens when a brilliant PhD scientist as an atheist, decides to pursue the truth about God, science, and reality at all costs and then ends up believing in what and who he once rejected? What then? His conversion to belief counters these negative stereotypes of Christians and Christianity. The straw man begins to fall down in our story today. Former atheist doctor Kirk Shanahan, a brilliant chemist, rejected God and belief in the supernatural for over 40 years. Why? And how did he begin to question his own atheism and scientism and consider the possibility of God? I hope you'll come along to find out. Welcome to scipie stories, Kirk. It's great to have you with me today. [00:02:16] Speaker A: Thank you for having me. [00:02:18] Speaker B: Terrific. I would love for the listeners to know a bit about you as we're getting started. Could you tell them a little bit about your educational background, the kind of work you do now, perhaps where you live, a little bit about your life? [00:02:32] Speaker A: Okay, well, I'm currently employed as a research scientist, specifically a chemist at the Savannah River National Laboratory. I have a PhD in physical chemistry, went to school at Berkeley. I did my undergraduate in Nebraska, where I grew up. I've been here since 1987, so I've been in this place about the longest I've ever lived anywhere. So I work with what they call tritium, which is the radioactive form of hydrogen. [00:03:06] Speaker B: So you are enveloped in the scientific world. I'm interested to see how that's going to play a part in your story. So let's get started. In your story, Kirk, it sounds like you've lived in different places in the country. Where were you born? Where's your family from? [00:03:22] Speaker A: Actually born in Sioux City, Iowa, and I guess I lived there for my first year. I don't really remember that, but we moved across the river, which is a Missouri river, into south Sioux city, Nebraska, which is where I grew up. [00:03:38] Speaker B: What was that like in terms of Christianity or cultural heritage and religion? [00:03:43] Speaker A: I grew up with my mom taking me to a lutheran church, going through all the lutheran stuff, you know, vacation Bible school, you know, Sunday school, church services, stuff like that. Confirmation at age 13, I was baptized as an infant because actually one day old, because I had a hernia that had an operation that first day of my life. So I did all the things you do. You know, there was lots of people coming to that church. I mean, it wasn't thousands of people, but it was probably, you know, 2300, something like that. [00:04:19] Speaker B: As you went through the motions of all this religious activity and confirmation and church going, was it any, did you have any kind of belief in God, or was it just something that you were doing as a part of your family life? [00:04:37] Speaker A: I was doing it more because my mom wanted me to. I didn't even really think about it until I got to confirmation. And I don't know if you know much about that, but it's a process where you go to class for several days, several different days, and go through some questions and answers that they have prepared called their catechism. And at the same time, outside of church, I was heavily into science fiction literature. So I was getting the whole atheistic point of view from there, and I started looking at the questions that they were putting forth and the answers, and I was not quite believing them. And confirmation in the lutheran church, at least the one I went to, happened at age 13, so it took me a couple of years, but by age 15, I basically had decided that everything they tried to teach me there was all hogwash. Being from the midwest with lots of pig forms. And, you know, what was really true was that science was the answer. And I knew I was going to be a scientist early because I'm relatively smart. I guess I say that now, but the problem is it's a trap. The intellectual arrogance that you get when you know you're smart and can always come up with the answer tends to convince you that you know everything, and that's where I was. So at age 15, I started thinking very seriously about being an atheist. And by age 16, I basically was. [00:06:15] Speaker B: And what convinced you that atheism was true and religion? Those answers did not provide the substance you thought was sufficient to ground? [00:06:25] Speaker A: Well, to be honest, I convinced myself. Again, looking back at it, it was just pure egotistical arrogance, you know, that I was smart and I could figure it out. But the truth of the matter is I really didn't look around. I don't know. This was like 15. I was 1970 ish, maybe a little. Yeah, 1970. There was no Internet. You had libraries, but it was a small town. My library wasn't very big. I didn't ask anybody any questions. I just read what I read in the science fiction literature, and it seemed much more reasonable to me, and I just decided that was it. [00:07:15] Speaker B: Okay, so it didn't come through your education. It's not like you were hearing it in the classroom or hearing it from your friends. [00:07:24] Speaker A: Yeah, actually, in my 10th grade biology class, I clearly remember them presenting the fact that there was a creationist view that they weren't going to talk about because it wasn't science. And so we were just going to talk about science. And I said, yeah, okay, that sounds good to me. [00:07:41] Speaker B: So there was this kind of unspoken implication that either you believed in science and you were intelligent or you didn't believe in science and you believed in something that wasn't. I think it's ironic that science fiction, which is, of course, a fictionalized view of science, in a sense, very fantastic sometimes. But that point of view actually pointed you away from what you consider to be fiction. I don't want to put words in your mouth with regard to religion. What did you see religion as? Was it some kind of fictional, you know, thing that that, I mean, what was it to you? [00:08:27] Speaker A: I sort of took the view that it was, and this is a view a lot of people have, that it was sort of just something people leaned on as a crutch, and it was totally fictitious. I mean, I equated God with the tooth fairy and leprechauns and all that kind of stuff, you know, so there was no, no difference to me whether between them. So when I looked at science, I saw them trying to work hard to come discover what the facts were and put together an explanation that made sense and held up to testing. And I didn't see any of that in religion. So I said, yeah, it's all a pipe dream. They all just are doing it because it makes them feel better or because that's what their mommy told them to do, you know? [00:09:13] Speaker B: Right. [00:09:14] Speaker A: And that's where I was. I was going to church because that's what my mom told me to do. So. [00:09:18] Speaker B: Right. How did your mom respond or your family respond? When did you, did you stop going to church or did you continue going as a skeptic? [00:09:27] Speaker A: At age 16, I could get a job. Okay. And as soon as I turned 16, I got a job. I worked in a grocery store for two years and they had me work every other Sunday. And I just went to my mom one day and said, I'm tired of trying to fight to go to church with all this working. I just can't do it and I don't want to go to church anymore. And she said, okay. And I literally, I mean, she did not give me any resistance at all. So. [00:09:58] Speaker B: At that time, you really, you identified as an atheist in your mind. What. How would you have defined atheism at the time? [00:10:08] Speaker A: You believe that there is no gods and in fact, no supernatural. Everything was what they call matter, energy, space, time, you know, no supernatural. And truth was obtained by scientific reasoning and testing. So that's what I thought, you know? [00:10:27] Speaker B: Yeah, no, I think it's a very common thing. [00:10:30] Speaker A: I think it's common today still. Yeah. [00:10:33] Speaker B: Yeah. So when you believed that science was the way forward for you as an intelligent, rational guy, did you pursue or did you think fully about what the implications of that view were? If everything was only natural and that natural explanations had to be rendered for everything, not only the world around you, but even your own self? Did you think deeply in that way, or was it just that you were just pursuing science and really not thinking about the potential implications of that, of the naturalism? [00:11:13] Speaker A: It wasn't, no, I don't think I really thought that whole point through heavily. What I did is I looked at the basis of the religion and decided that God was not real and just rejected that. And when you reject all the religions that are based on anything supernatural, that doesn't leave a whole lot. So I basically gravitated towards atheism. I did. Just to be clear, I wasn't a terror out there in the streets doing terrible things. I was very, very straight laced. I mean, I don't think I had a beer until I was 19, but I did see the value of the christian ethic before holding a society together and keeping it orderly. And so I was fine with other people wanting to be christians. I didn't walk around carrying signs saying, oh, you can't, you know, christians are stupid and that kind of stuff. But I thought you were all kind of crazy. It was just, it was just, you know, it wasn't a harmful crazy. It was just, you know, you were deluded and it wasn't really serious. And so, you know, you go ahead and think what you want, and I'll think what I want and we'll be all happy together. [00:12:27] Speaker B: Would you say that atheism brought you what you desire? That is, I think what I mean by that is being in a community, having an identity of that rational superiority, the intelligent one that did it provide meaning in that way for you, that it would. Were you a happy atheist? [00:12:50] Speaker A: In a sense, I think I was a happy atheist. And yes, to be honest, when I started into science, I kind of felt that I was going to be working with a better class of people. Again. Here's that arrogance coming out at you again. I recognize it now. Of course, I didn't see it then, but it was very arrogant. I found out pretty quickly as I went through my educational and early professions that the people were just people. So, you know, I like to say scientists are people, too, and that means that you get all the, you get all the same problems that you have anywhere else with people on top of it. We're all socially inept, so, you know, that just makes it worse. But what I did is once I saw that, I basically said, well, I'm interested in science. I know scientists mess up, but science won't. And that's probably how I spent the majority of my professional career, in that point of view. [00:13:55] Speaker B: Yeah. And, you know, it's interesting. You mentioned there that you were fairly moral person, and you also inferred with, there's certain scientists that were messing up, even, like, the basis of doing science, there's a certain implication or expectation towards ethical approaches to science. Did you ever think about how, I mean, what defines ethics? How you ground that or whether or not, you know, how can you? Okay, sorry. [00:14:26] Speaker A: I just made my, I made my choices as a 15 year old, and I stuck with them. [00:14:31] Speaker B: All right. Okay. No, I think that that happens a lot, to be honest. So you're moving along as a scientist. You're obviously, again, very bright, Berkeley grad, your PhD, you're working in chemistry, and something that you're enjoying. Take us along that road. How long were you an atheist, and what was it that perhaps made you question that in some regard? [00:15:05] Speaker A: I was an atheist till I was 45, so I went through what I actually did is I went and I got a bachelor's degree. Then I went to work for three years. Went back to school, got my PhD, got a job. And I've been working basically for the same company ever since then. I mean, it's a department of energy subcontractor. And they've changed names multiple times. But it's basically the same place. So got married, four kids. And then at age 40, I got transferred internally. Into an area of chemistry. That had a scientific controversy associated with it, which impacted me directly. I don't know if you've ever heard of the term cold fusion. Yes. Back to the future. Remember back to the future? The flying DeLorean with a little mister fusion on top. [00:16:11] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:16:12] Speaker A: If cold fusion was real, that would be basically what it would be. Something like that. [00:16:16] Speaker B: Okay. [00:16:17] Speaker A: But the thing of it is, is that the people claiming that cold fusion was real. What it is is they're saying they found a new energy source. And unfortunately, any energy source, if it's released too quickly. Can be hazardous. It can essentially blow up. Right. And so I got into this new area. And had something associated with it, the cold fusion thing. And so I asked all the people I was starting to work with. What do you think about it? And, of course, they all kind of laughed up their sleeve at it. And then I asked them, well, why do you think that? And I got crickets, you know, didn't hear anything. And that kind of bothered me. Because, you know, if the thing was actually real. Which all the people still doing it to this day claim it is. It could blow up on me. Because I was personally handling those materials. Okay. [00:17:15] Speaker B: Yes. [00:17:16] Speaker A: And I really just to back up a little bit, that job I had between my bachelor's and PhD. Was at Sandia national lab in Albuquerque. And I worked with explosives. And I had two of my experiments go up. Boom. Not either of which, if I'd been in the wrong place at the right time, I wouldn't be here now. [00:17:39] Speaker B: Right? [00:17:39] Speaker A: So I'm very conscious of safety and safety related things. So I started asking about this cold fusion thing. And nobody could tell me why it wasn't real. So I started looking into it. And I guess that's sort of what started me on the path to becoming a Christian. But, you know, I had gone through life up to that point in time. Looking back at it, I just really was sort of going through the motions. Of doing what people thought you should do. You know, I went out, and I got a good job. And I did my work. And I got married and had my kids and got them into school and was doing all I was coaching little kids basketball and little kids soccer and all that kind of stuff. But the question I asked myself today is why? There was really nothing behind it. Other than that's what you're supposed to do. So anyway, it took me five years of studying cold fusion. To come to the conclusion that the people who thought it was real were just as intelligent as I was. Many of them came from just as good a universities as I came from. But they just would not accept what I found. Which was an explanation for the phenomenon that didnt make it into a fancy energy source or. And it didn't involve a nuclear reaction, which is what they claimed was going on. [00:19:00] Speaker B: So you basically disproved their theory or their thesis. [00:19:04] Speaker A: That coefficient was real technically, like 90% of the way. You know, like you say in science, I have. You have to test things out. But what they do when they do that experiment is they set up a condition that is explosive. Because they're splitting water. And they're making hydrogen and oxygen. Well, hydrogen and oxygen, when put together, can blow up. It burns. That's where the energy comes from in a hydrogen engine. But when they're mixed together, it can blow up. And that's what the problem part of the problem was. So where I were, it's extremely difficult, extremely. To do things that have a potential for blowing up. They just don't like it. And so I never got around to actually trying to do that. It would have taken me months to get permission to do the experiment. But what I did do is I just described some simple experiments. The people with the equipment doing these experiments could use. And probably in the space of two weeks come up with an answer proving or disproving me. But none of them ever would. And they all use the same tactics they use against Christianity. All the logical fallacies you hear about and everything like that. And that's what got me starting to think. Because I realized that second part of my belief in science. You know, I gave up on the people being better. But science was the answer. Remember back when I was 29? [00:20:39] Speaker B: Yes. [00:20:40] Speaker A: I found out that now those people can overcome that too. And so I went back and I started looking at those base questions that I looked at when I was a kid. Basically, you know, is there a creator? Was there a beginning to the universe? Do I have a soul? Is there any part of me is eternal? Those kind of things. And every time I got to the point of saying, well, I can't trust science, I did a quick left turn and ran away. And that's why it took me so long to get to where I was trying to go. [00:21:15] Speaker B: I'd like to pause for a moment and tell you about a new opportunity. The CES Lewis Institute is now accepting applications for the Fellows program. This program is a twelve month discipleship course that focuses on monthly themes related to theology, spiritual formation and apologetics. Through the structure of a strong curriculum, like minded community, and one on one mentorship, our fellows encounter a life changing experience where they grow deeper in their faith as disciples of Christ. Offered in 16 cities, the fellows program is for christians who are seeking to broaden their christian education and deepen their personal faith. To learn more and to find out if you live in an area where the fellows program is offered, please visit our [email protected], now back to our story. So when you were looking at those big questions, origin of the universe, fine tuning, whatnot, and you said that science, how did you phrase it? Science wasn't providing the answers for you, or what was it about what you were finding? [00:22:28] Speaker A: Well, let's take the creator thing, for example. I mean, how can you test a creation event scientifically? You can, because science, one of the primary discoveries of all science is that there's this thing called error or variation, and that means you have to reproduce your results. You can't do it just one time because you can have a mistake or a little error or something can happen not even due to you. That could give you a bad answer. You always have to repeat it. Well, how do you repeat a creation event? One can't. So right there is the first problem with science. You can't address miracles of any kind with science because they're a one time thing and science requires replication. So from that point of view, I recognize the weakness of science. Again, I didn't go looking for Jesus Christ when I converted. I was looking for, the truth is what I was looking for. And, you know, every time I came, like I said, every time I came close to it, it was, science isn't real or isn't the answer. And because of that, because I had been so trained in this thinking, I would do my quick left hand turn and say, nope, we're going somewhere else with this. We're not going to handle that question that way. And I had to keep forcing myself back to it because I was strictly searching for the truth, is what I was searching for. You know, I did not, yeah, I did not have anybody talking to me about Christianity or Jesus or anything like that. I was, however, being forced to go to church. My, at this point in time, my ex wife had decided that the children's programs at this baptist church in our town were quite good, and she wanted our kids to go to it, but she was a Catholic, and so she wanted me to start going to the baptist church, and she wanted me to join it. And I'm sitting there going, eh, I don't really want to do this. And she kept on me. And, you know, I think most guys eventually just kind of go along to get along, as the saying goes, you know? [00:24:48] Speaker B: Yes. [00:24:49] Speaker A: And I started going and I went perhaps for a couple of years at this point, you know, and some of those coaching experiences I mentioned were church league teams, things like that. But I was sitting there in the back saying, man, I wish I didn't have to sit through this stuff. This is just terrible. Why do I have to do this? It wasn't like I was sitting here glued to my seat and listening intently. I know this stuff. I know this stuff is not real. I don't know why. Okay. I know I just got to keep the happy wife, you know? Happy wife, happy life, right? [00:25:24] Speaker B: Yes. [00:25:26] Speaker A: So my personal adventure was a search for the truth, and I didn't have any real idea where it was going to take me. I wasn't driving towards anything but figuring out what to do about the questions that essentially Christianity asks. But, I mean, you can look at Islam, you can look at Judaism, you can look at Hinduism. They all ask similar questions by saying that there's something besides the natural world out there, you know? So there's a lot of people out there claiming there's something besides science. And I was finally getting back to looking into that. [00:26:07] Speaker B: Obviously, science was not sufficient for you as an explanation. So where did you go if you were kind of resisting, but yet obviously open to the fact, or at least aware of the fact that there were other explanations that allowed something more than the natural world. How did you pursue this question or these questions if science was kind of a dead end? [00:26:35] Speaker A: Well, that's what I had to figure out. This is what took me so long. Once I started looking, once I became, once I realized through dealing with these cold fusion scientists that they could make just as many mistakes as anybody else on a scientific issue, I started thinking, well, how do I avoid doing that? And so then I started working towards trying to find a way to reach the truth. And again, arrogance. I basically didn't talk to anybody about it. I didn't look at anything. I didn't read anything. I basically was just thinking about. I mean, I read some of the stuff the cold fusion advocates would write, and they love talking about logical fallacies and all that kind of stuff. And I agreed with most of what they said because I had seen those kind of things in action and understood they were wrong. But again, one of the facts is you can't do science on a miracle. And that was a fact that I came up with by my own study. Now, I have to be honest. You know, I was sitting there in that church pew listening to this, to the preacher every Sunday for quite a while. And I did have that lutheran background, so it isn't completely like I was a guy out on a desert island has never heard of Jesus or Christianity or anything like that. But I was pretty close. I think I was pretty close. So what I did, just started asking the questions, well, how do I get to the truth? And every time I came down to using logic and that kind of stuff, I'd say, but those people doing the cold fuschia stuff, they're trying to use the same thing and they're failing. What are they doing wrong that I'm doing, too? And in the end, I basically just decided that I couldn't trust my intellect because it had already proven me wrong, or proven to be wrong in the sense that things like miracles and that can't be disproven scientifically because there just simply isn't a way to do it. And I went back and I said, well, okay, then I guess I better go back to those things I was thinking about when I was 15, deciding I was an atheist and redo it because I did it wrong. And then the question was, well, how do I do it right? Because I thought I was doing it scientifically back when I was 15, right? Of course I wasn't. But that's beside the point. You can't do it scientifically. In the end, I just decided I had to just look in my gut, is the way I put it. I just had to trust my internals. There's. I don't know that you would call that a great way to do it, but I didn't have anything else because I already had decided that the intellect way wasn't guaranteed to provide it. So I reconsidered one night on me back up, one night, and we had taken the kids to Disney in Florida, and I'm laying in the bed in Orlando, can't sleep because I'm thinking about this, because I do this sometimes my mind just gets wound up and just runs. And I'm thinking about this and I'm saying, okay, well, if I gotta. If I can't trust my intellect, I gotta trust my gut, so to. So to speak. What about this question? Do I have any part of me that is eternal? And the immediate knee jerk response is, no, of course not. No, of course not. But that's what I'm trained to think of as science. Scientist. Right. Because that would mean something beyond the natural. As a pure scientist, you know, life ends when I die. That's it. [00:30:23] Speaker B: Yes. [00:30:24] Speaker A: Okay. But I didn't find that satisfactory internally. That's. I don't know if that explains it very well, but. So I asked myself that question, and I looked in my gut and I said, yes, there is part of me that is eternal. I believe that. And I said, okay, well, how about this question about a creator? What about that? And I didn't have to fight as long to get to the answer, but I got to the answer that, yes, I think there is a creator. And then at that point is when my conversion occurred. It's very difficult to describe this because it's totally unique event. And I don't know that other people seem to have described things similar, but what happened was I'm laying there, this bed in Orlando, Florida, in October. I don't even remember what day it was because I was doing. Thinking these things constantly, you know, all the time, whenever I had free time. But my body basically just sort of went on fire. Now, that's a term that you kind of. You think pain, right? You think fire. It wasn't painful. It felt really, really good. Now, being the straight lace person I was, I've never done drugs, so I don't know what those feel like. But this had to be one of the best drugs I've ever made, okay? Because it was fantastically good. And I'm sitting there going, I have no clue what's happening, but I love it. Okay? And so I loved it so much that I did it twice more that month. And, in fact, I did it several more times later in more standard conditions. If you. I came to understand that it's what I think, what people call being filled with the spirit. [00:32:11] Speaker B: Okay? [00:32:12] Speaker A: And Blaise Pascal, Pascal's triangle fame has a passage in his book, the Night of Fire. [00:32:22] Speaker B: Yeah, the night of fire, yes. [00:32:25] Speaker A: And he basically is describing the same kind of thing, I believe. I mean, I don't know what he felt, and he doesn't know what I felt, so. But in any case, the upshot was, is that I felt that I had made direct contact with the creator, and he, without using any words or, I mean, I didn't hear words, but he put a desire in me to read the Bible. So I started to read the Bible. And as I read the Bible, I learned more and more and more about what happened. But I basically knew at that point in October that I was a Christian. Okay. [00:33:04] Speaker B: And so when you were reading the Bible, then for the first time, of course, thinking especially from a prior naturalistic perspective, then you're reading things in scripture which, you know, include the miraculous and the supernatural and claims of Jesus to be God. You know, again, supernatural being incarnate into human form. Was any of that bothering you, or did it kind of, like, make sense, considering the experience, the supernatural experience that you had? [00:33:38] Speaker A: Yeah, the latter. The fact that I had that experience just basically grounds me. I describe it as people like saying, you know, somebody can tell me about Jenna, Jana, and I can say, oh, no, you don't know what you're talking about. That person doesn't exist. You know, you're making that up. You're trying to con me. And I can go on and on and on, but then when I meet you and I see you, that's it. I can't say that anymore because I've met you and I say, I met God that night. So after that, he sent me to the Bible. So I took it as what he wanted me to read. I don't know that I immediately took it as his divine word, but I knew he wanted me to read it and grasp it, so I did. And as I've grown, I've grown to understand a lot more about it. In fact, I went back to school and got a master's in christian theology and apologetics. So I could probably talk theology if you want. [00:34:38] Speaker B: So, you know, when you have an experience with God like that, and then you said that he kind of pointed you towards the Bible. It wasn't like, okay, any God or, you know, another religion's God. It's particular to the God of the Bible, which is obviously Jesus. I mean, was there any quite. Once you experienced that extraordinary moment with God, was there any question about which God or, you know, who that was? [00:35:07] Speaker A: No, I went, I never asked that kind of a question. I just went to the Bible and started learning about the whole system, so to speak. But at the same time, I also started reading about all the other systems, so to speak, you know, mormonism, Hinduism, that, all those kind of things. I've done a lot of reading on that, and basically I find that Christianity is the most rational one. Once you admit there's a supernatural, which is, of course, what that experience in meeting God taught me, that there was. You don't get that from matter, energy, space, and time. You know, the natural world. You know, you get. You get an encounter from God with God from the supernatural point of view. So I took what he said and went with it, basically. [00:35:58] Speaker B: So then you came to embrace the God of the universe, the creator, as Jesus Christ. [00:36:06] Speaker A: And obviously I understood his plan. I understood how he structures, how he is structured, and I understood the whole business of the incarnation and all that as part of his plan and how he was going to do it and why he needed to do it. [00:36:21] Speaker B: So then, okay, let's circle back to where you were at 15, where science and God were unrelated. It's either one or the other. You can't believe in both. But now you're sitting there as a PhD chemist who believes in God and Jesus Christ, obviously in a very serious way. But you're also a serious scientist. So for you, how do those. I mean, how do they go together? If they do? Could you explain that? And how science does or does not support your faith? You say that Christianity is a rational faith. So how do they support or are integrated at all? [00:37:08] Speaker A: Well, okay, let me just say that, you know, there's a cute little saying out there, and I'll repeat it, but God wrote two books. The second one he wrote was the Bible. The first one he wrote was the creation or nature. And so when I do science, I'm trying to read the first book, and I actually think it's a lot harder than reading the second one. But reading the second one is quite hard sometimes, too, you know? So I have no conflict between science and Christianity, okay? I have a conflict in some other ones, some of the other religions. But God is a God of order. He's not a God of chaos. He wrote the laws of nature. And, I mean, it doesn't. There's. There's no conflict there. He's the author. He's the creator. [00:38:01] Speaker B: I'd like to pause for a moment and tell you about a new CSO is small group resource, which takes a closer look at one of CS Lewis's shortest but most important books, the abolition of man. We've all felt the effects of the loss of truth and the rise of cancel culture against traditional moral values in our world today. Where can we turn to find a way to deal with these cultural challenges? The abolition of man study course may be a terrific resource for you. It will help you understand and engage others regarding issues of truth, morality, and conscience. Through a five part video series, Doctor Brian Holland takes us through each chapter of the abolition of man. It helps us understand CS Lewis's perspectives while also providing key insights from the Bible. This study course can be easily facilitated and led. The entire workbook can be found online free of charge. If you're interested in this small group study, you can find out more information on the CSOs Institute [email protected] dot look for study courses and there you'll find the abolition of man study along with many other excellent small group study resources. I hope you'll take a look. Now back to our story. So everything that you do, you know, I've heard John Lennox speak to perhaps the difference between agency and mechanism in the sense that that God is the creator and is the cause sufficient to the effect, in a sense. And then you can study the mechanism and the hows of nature itself within the scientific method so that there is no conflict. They work together in a beautiful orchestration. [00:39:58] Speaker A: Exactly. Yeah, there is no conflict. I mean, that conflict is a creation of the atheist because he has this anti supernatural bias that says there's no such thing as God and fairies and leprechauns and tooth fairy and, you know, Santa Claus and all that kind of stuff. But that's wrong. I've met God personally. He's there and he's interacted with me on multiple occasions and doing different things. He's not like a deistic God where he just bound it all up and is just letting it run down with no interaction. He's there interacting with you on a day to day basis. And it just does. It really doesn't make any sense to try to claim there's a conflict there. But the conflict comes in the atheist's mind because there can't be a God because there's no supernatural. At least that's what they think. I don't think that way anymore. I used to, but not anymore. And I don't think that way because I've had the personal experience of meeting God. In fact, I mentioned my religious training. I'm basically trained as an apologist. And the key problem with being an apologist is I can never convince anybody of God's existence. That's something that God guarantees. Every single person must make a decision on him or herself. I'm always stuck just, well, saying the reasons are pretty good. I think they're really good, but I can't prove it the way that a scientist would like to say, but there's a hidden flaw in what the scientists say, too. See, the scientists love to forget what's known as the hidden variable problem. They like to think they've got all the answers, and they like to act like they have all the answers, but there's always the problem that they're supposed to be willing to give up their closely held beliefs in the face of new data. And, in fact, that's what I did personally when God came to me and indwelt me, is I had new data, and it was in conflict with the old way of thinking. So the old way of thinking left, goodbye, that's it, gone. But until they have that experience, I suppose they'll pretty much stay where they're going to be. [00:42:21] Speaker B: Yeah, you had a major paradigm shift, as it were. One more question before we kind of turn the page towards advice. I'm curious. As someone who had a very strong personal experience with God, you knew he was real. It had resolved the questions in your own mind of any doubt that you might have had it. You know, of course, the rejection that you had had as an atheist, you know, that was completely gone. So why did you feel the. The impetus or need to go pursue a degree in christian apologetics? And for the listeners, can you describe what apologetics is and then why you felt the need to go pursue that? [00:43:05] Speaker A: Well, initially, I knew that I could do that, and I said I really didn't need to get another degree. I had my PhD, and I thought that was more than enough. But as time went on, I just needed more challenge this, bottom line. I mean, I started going to these conferences where they talk about apologetics, and for those who don't know what that is, it means a reasoned defense of. So christian apologetics means a reasoned defense of Christianity. Science apologetics is kind of like what I did with the cold jesian thing, and it means a reasoned defense of science. You know, and there are science apologists out there. I read voraciously, okay? And I'd already been doing it. I mean, I've got a little small library, all of my own, all this stuff, and I just wanted to challenge myself against the professors, essentially, and get something a little bit more sophisticated, because, to be honest, most pastors don't really get into heavy duty apologetics in general. I just wanted to study the case, so to speak. But to do so at under the direction of somebody who'd already gone through the process so that I wouldn't miss anything. [00:44:27] Speaker B: Yeah, I think it's important, especially as a pursuer of truth as you are. You know, particularly, I would imagine, if someone just says, oh, will you just believe because you had an experience? But there are other religions and faiths who say they have their experience. But pursuing a rational grounding for your faith, particularly as compared to others, I think would be beneficial not only to you, just not again, but to others as well, to be able to answer that question. If somebody confronts you with the experience only. Objection. As someone who's been in the apologetics world for quite a while, it does so much to confirm your own faith, but also to commend it to others. So I appreciate that you actually did that. As someone who already had, you know, reached the pinnacle with PhD, you thought it was so important that you pursued it, right? [00:45:22] Speaker A: Yeah. And I've. I also don't want to be a miser, you know, a hoarder. I take in, my best friend calls me an information collector, and I want to collect it, but I don't want to keep it just to myself. I want to share it with people. I've always. I've been that way all my life. I was one of those kids when I was in second grade, the teacher asked a question. I shoot my hand up and scream out the answer, and then the teacher says, kirk, you should have let somebody else do. But that's been me. That's been me. So, I mean, I'm currently involved in trying to bring apologetics to my church. I'm involved with the stand to reason ministry, if you know what that is, trying to bring. We brought their reality conference to our church here, where I am, and I am actually a director of one of their sub ministries. It's called outpost. So I'm continuing to get involved and trying to do more and basically just trying to help people handle their doubts. Just be honest here. It's fine to have doubts and have questions, because there are difficulties in the Bible that can be overcome if you know what the answer is. But you've got to go, and you've got to go find somebody that has the answer, either in a book or some sort of information source or a person. And I want to be that person, so that's what I'm doing. [00:46:47] Speaker B: That's amazing, especially considering, as you were pursuing your own journey towards truth, you were doing it on your own, and sometimes that's not easy to do, and now you're helping to provide resources for others. Kirk, as we're, again turning the corner and say that there, I'm sure skeptics out there who, like you, think that they are, you know, in a sense, sometimes just the smartest guy in the room and have a sense of rational superiority, that it's better, you know, or more rational, reasonable not to believe in God than to believe. But yet there's something about them. There's. They're questioning, you know, like you, there were some unanswered questions that they wanted answers to. And especially someone has had trained apologists, such as you, what would you say to someone who, in terms of, like, for a good first step towards seeking after truth and the truth and the reality of God? [00:47:49] Speaker A: Wow. Well, you know, John 14 six, Jesus said, I'm the way, the truth and the life. So the actual answer is, go seek Jesus. But of course, the atheist isn't going to do that. So what I do is there's a description of an apologetic approach called defeating the defeaters. And so I would look at somebody like an atheist, and I would say, say he doesn't believe in the supernatural because it can't be. There's no proof of it. And I would ask him to explain how he would get proof and see, the trick there is that if they don't believe in the supernatural, there's no way they can test it because there's nothing they could do to test it because it isn't there. But even if we do believe in the supernatural, we still have to know how to test it. You know, that's been the whole progress of science since the alchemists of the middle ages, is that they've been throwing stuff together and finding out what happens and then repeating it and then developing theory, laws, you know, hypotheses, theories and laws and all that. That's what you have to do if you're going to gain knowledge of the supernatural scientifically. The other thing is to point out to them that, you know, there's the whole idea of something coming from nothing just doesn't go with science, you know, and so it's not something coming from nothing, it's something coming from God. [00:49:20] Speaker B: When someone is seeking, they need to be, I presume, like you, willing to go where the evidence leads, willing to go where the truth can be found, even if it's apart from atheism. And sometimes that's the biggest obstacle to. [00:49:41] Speaker A: There's all kinds of reasons why you don't want God around. And one of them, the primary one, is called original sin. We all want to be God. I mean, that's what original sin is about. We have supplanted God with ourselves. We're the ones who, to make the decision, and we're the ones who understand, et cetera, et cetera. And that's what I did when I was 15, and that's what I recognized was wrong when I was 1445, you know? But they need to understand that. And it's just, it's hard to get them to do that because they have to give up their, their godhood, essentially, because they have to understand that there is a God and that he is superior to us. He knows more than us. His capacity is infinite, and there's no way that a human being or any group of human beings can even compete with him. So. But it's very, very hard to get through. It took me, it took me five years of working for the truth to get there. And I don't know that that was fast or slow or not, but I know there are lots of people probably will never make it, and there's lots of people that will. So all I can do is hopefully, with my relating this experience and talking about it with you, that maybe somebody will listen and say, wait a minute. Maybe that guy's making a little bit of sense, you know, maybe go and think it through for themselves and end up where I ended up. God's waiting. He's waiting for you. He's calling everybody. [00:51:08] Speaker B: Yes, yes. And, you know, as Christians, I think we do want to try to bring people to the truth of the reality of God and the truth of the christian worldview. And, and I imagine, like, just your wife, who's dealing with her brother, there's a lot involved with that. There's being, you know, thoughtful like she is, and probably strategic question asking, like you suggested. And I would imagine that there's a lot of patience and love surrounding that as well. Do you have any other thoughts about how we as christians can engage? I mean, you've already given some really wonderful advice. [00:51:52] Speaker A: Well, actually, what I would recommend is you check into Greg Kohl's work. At standard reason, I like to try to translate science into something the average person can understand. It's not always easy because sometimes you need some basic concepts underneath it. But Greg is the same way with Christianity. He doesn't use Christianese, that special language that we all know. You know, he talks in a normal language that everybody can understand. And he has some very good tactics, which is actually the name of his book, that talk about using questions and trying to be that respectful and gracious christian apologist who points out the errors without trying to beat them down with it. That's what's hard, because I'm sorry to say this, but the whole science area is often a big competition on who knows more, somebody else. And how can I show that I know more than somebody else? And how can I, you know, how can I win over this other guy? And that's not the attitude you want to do as a Christian. You want to point out the flaws in their thinking and get them to think about it. So questions, clarifications, asking things like that instead of trying to browbeat them with facts. I'll tell you right now, as an atheist, if you told me the Bible says right. When you say that, my mind turns off because the Bible means nothing, meant nothing to me as an atheist, meant zero. God didn't exist. It wasn't God's word. It was just a bunch of stuff written down by some religious fanatics. So trying to tell somebody this is what the Bible says just doesn't do it. You know, you've got a, you've got a. There's truth in the Bible and you need to bring it out, but just you're trying to base Christianity in the Bible itself is not right. You need to base it in God and in God's character. [00:53:56] Speaker B: Yeah, that is really deep. I think a lot of people might struggle with what you just said, but there's truth to be found there, I think, because there's so much animosity just towards even just bringing up the Bible, like you say, or so much disbelief that you almost have to go underneath that and. But is there anything else, Kirk, that you think we might have missed about your story or anything else, or are we good? [00:54:27] Speaker A: I think for now, we're good. You know, if somebody comes back at you with some questions or stuff, I'd be more than willing to talk to you some more. [00:54:34] Speaker B: Okay, fantastic. Well, Kirk, I've really enjoyed our conversation today. I appreciate you. Again, I think that you're obviously, you're intelligent, you're brilliant, but yet you are representative of Christ. And I think that in and of itself is such an oxymoron to many who don't believe. You know, you are the living embodiment, spirit and soul and intellect. You know, mind, emotion, will, everything of an ambassador for Christ, because, you know, and I love that you're representing standard reason because that's what they do. You know, they create ambassadors, winsome, intelligent ambassadors for Christ, because you are a walking, living example that really defeats, speaking of defeaters, that defeats the atheist argument. Like, there could never be an intelligent person who believes in God or, you know, on and on and on. But yet you you are a living example that God moves in in really unexpected ways and changes minds and hearts in extraordinary ways. I love, too, that you're not only the winsome ambassadors, but you actually did the hard work to study apologetics and understand the defense of your worldview so that you can represent him in the best way possible. I just want to thank you for coming on today again. What a pleasure it has been. [00:56:02] Speaker A: Thank you. It was great. It was a great time. Thank you. [00:56:06] Speaker B: Thanks for tuning into psybe stories to hear doctor Kirk Shanahan's story. You can find out more about him and his recommendations for the stand to reason ministry in the episode. Notes for questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our email. Again, that is infoibestories.com. also, if you're a skeptic or atheist who would love to connect with a former atheist with questions, please contact us through our email and we will definitely get you connected. This podcast is produced through the CS Lewis Institute and the work of our wonderful producer Ashley Decker, audio engineer Mark Rosiera, and podcast assistant Lori Verleson. You can also see these podcasts in video form on our YouTube channel through the excellent work of our video editor, Kyle Holt. If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll follow rate, review and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we'll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

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