Aerospace Engineer professes creation
Robert Carter chats with Dr Dewey Hodges
Dr Dewey Hodges has been a professor of aerospace engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta since 1986. A native of Tennessee, he received his M.S. (1970) and Ph.D. (1973) degrees in aerospace engineering from Stanford University in California. For sixteen years, he was a research scientist focusing on rotorcraft dynamics at the U.S. Army Aviation Systems Command at the NASA Ames Research Center near Mountain View, California. An active Christian for his entire adult life, Dr Hodges has been an inspiration to many students and coworkers.
He is also a church elder at Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, Cumming, Georgia.
Like many Americans, Dr Hodges grew up in church. But it was mainly a ‘habit’ rather than a conviction. However, things changed when he met someone who had a dramatic conversion experience. “There was a kid who had grown up in the church but he had left and become sort of a hippie and drug addict and was generally unkempt.” But when they met six months later, “He was completely different. He was totally changed. He was happy. He was rational. He was clean-cut.” He explained to Dewey that it was due to Jesus and that He was a real person who lives today.
Later on, alone in his room, all the future Dr Hodges could say was, “Lord I want what he has.” A short time later during a church meeting, he repented, surrendered his life to Christ, and has never looked back. “I was a new creation in Christ Jesus from that moment on.”
But how did this intelligent man, working toward a Ph.D. in a very technical field, become a biblical creationist? This began in 1971 when he was a new Christian, a member of a church in San Jose California, a graduate student at Stanford, and an employee of an army laboratory located at the prestigious Ames Research Center. “The church started a Bible college and so I took advantage of this and sat through a number of courses, one of which was apologetics—defending the faith.” The teacher of that course showed him the consistency between the Bible and the real world.
After that, Dr Hodges has been an active church leader, starting with teaching that same course after returning from the officer basic course. He started a Bible study at Ames, during the lunch hour, and this ran for many years, drawing up to forty people at a time. “When I came to Georgia Tech, I decided to start a Bible study here. From my very first week in 1986 until now, we have been meeting in a nearby conference room.” He was also one of the faculty instrumental in starting Georgia Tech’s Christian Faculty Forum on campus. His activities have had a great impact on many.
In fact, I am one of the people influenced by Dr Hodges. As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, and a new Christian, I attended a creation debate and weekend creation seminar in Atlanta that Dr Hodges helped to organize. These had a profound effect on me as a young scientist, eventually leading to my working for CMI—and this interview!
However, Georgia Tech has become much more secular in the two decades since I was there. Dr Hodges’ explanation highlights the battle of worldviews currently occurring on college campuses worldwide, “Most large public and private colleges share a common perspective that Christianity is not true, and that, even if it were true, it’s not relevant. Then we have university administrators bending over backwards to promote non-Christian social behavior. There are administration officials hired to do nothing but enforce the university’s vision of ‘diversity’, but this really amounts to ‘perversity’.”
Yet, the focus of his work is aerospace engineering, not administrative attempts at social engineering, so I asked him how his faith interacts with his work. He replied, “There is an underlying order to the universe, and I especially see that order reflected in the equations I write.” He then related a story of how he and a colleague found some small mistakes in two foundational papers in the field of structural analysis. They eventually realized that the equations were much longer than they needed to be. “And I don’t think that it is an accident that the final analysis is simpler, and that the underlying interpretation is simpler.”
In another example, working with a professor while in graduate school, he published a paper about the equations of motion for helicopter blades. “It took pages and pages of equations,” he said, “but in 1990, I discovered a way to write better equations in just a few lines. In 2003, I discovered an even simpler way to write these equations. Now they are so simple that, not only can you write them from memory, but the computer code needed to solve them is far simpler.”
But why would an all-powerful creator God create a universe based on simple mathematics? “I don’t know that it is simple as much as it is orderly.1 If I have an equation where I can understand every term, I am in a different realm of understanding.”
In defence of God’s creative genius, he appealed to ‘Occam’s Razor’, a general rule that the simplest answer is often the best one. Furthermore, “We can predict with pinpoint accuracy the path of a projectile. We can send a man to the moon. If the underlying world were not real, if it were an illusion, we would not be able to do that because there would be no link between observation and reality.” Continuing along those lines, “Another option is that the universe came into being on its own, which violates the First Law of Thermodynamics. Or, it has always existed, which violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Or, it was created by an all-wise, intelligent Creator.”2
He highly recommends the book Mathematics: Is God silent? by James Nickel, 3 saying the reason mathematics works is evidence of God’s existence. “If this is a world of random phenomena, with random jiggling of molecules, with no plan or order behind it, why would you be able to predict anything with an equation? The fact that you can means there is a connection between our thoughts, which are not the random jiggling of molecules, and the material world.” This explains why “there is an obvious connection between mathematics and the real world and this is part of design. I feel like I am ‘thinking God’s thoughts after him’.”
That last part was a quote from the famous scientist Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), a devout Christian and creationist4 who worked out the laws of planetary motion (1609) and who interspersed his scientific writings with praises to God. Another of Dr Hodges’ scientific heroes is the great Swiss mathematician and physicist, Leonhard Euler (1707–1783), who wrote more pages about mathematical physics than any person before or since, and continued his highly productive output even after he became totally blind in 1766! Included in his works is his Defense of the Divine Revelation against the Objections of the Freethinkers.
During the first lecture of every class—and he teaches sophomores to graduate students—Dr Hodges introduces himself to his class, then concludes, “But the most important thing in my life is that I am a servant of Jesus Christ. There are people on this campus and in this culture who will tell you that you cannot be a good scientist or engineer if you are a Christian. But I am here to tell you that they are wrong.”
With that last statement we heartily concur!
References and notes
- Reflecting the creation of a God of Order (1 Corinthians 14:33). Return to text.
- He explained that this four-point proof of God was pioneered by Walter Martin, author of Kingdom of the Cults. Return to text.
- Available on our webstore, creation.com/mathematics. Return to text.
- See Lamont, A., Johannes Kepler: Outstanding scientist and committed Christian, Creation 15(1):40–43, 1992; creation.com/kepler. Return to text.