‘Engineered’ for Duty!
Gary Bates interviews Chad and Angel Duty
Chad Duty obtained his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech (US) in 2001. He married his high school sweetheart, Angel, in 1996 and she later obtained her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering (also from Georgia Tech) in 2004. Their four children are presently aged from 1 to 10.
Chad is currently employed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.1 This government research facility is famous for its role in producing enriched plutonium for atomic bombs as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II. ORNL currently specializes in advanced material sciences, supercomputing and using neutrons for isotope production and material characterization. Neutrons have quantum-mechanical wave properties, so are used very much like x-rays for imaging and structural analysis of materials, but they penetrate much better through some materials (like metals).
Chad works in the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility where he helps develop technology for 3D printers. Readers may have seen these futuristic machines that manufacture or ‘print’ three dimensional models from computer-aided design (CAD) systems. In the same way that regular inkjet printers squirt layers of ink on paper, these incredible 3D printers build up layers of polymeric (plastic) materials to produce a complex 3D component. ORNL is also working on systems that produce similar objects out of metals like steel, titanium, and various nickel super alloys. In the industry this is known as ‘additive manufacturing’ as opposed to the commonly used ‘subtractive manufacturing’ method, where a large block of material is gradually cut away to produce the shape or model required.
I mentioned to Chad that I had seen demonstrations of these machines on TV and that the technology is almost like science fiction becoming reality. Chad said, “While the design aspects are becoming more complex, modern technology is only starting to mimic the incredible complexity that we routinely see in nature. This is known as biomimetics. There are already numerous applications of this technique in the aerospace industry, automotive and medical fields.” Indeed, CMI has written on this subject quite a bit.2 We discussed how some of the most brilliant scientists from around the world have been assembled at Oak Ridge to understand and dissect what is seen in nature. This, of course, led us on to the obvious subject of ‘who was nature’s Designer?’
Chad has no problem in ascribing all the brilliance of nature’s design to the Creator revealed in Scripture, starting in Genesis. But it wasn’t always that way. Like many who had a nominal Christian background and lots of public education, Chad did not always believe in the authority of Scripture. Although his parents grew up in strong Christian homes, Chad’s parents did not continue the faith as strongly, and he did not attend church regularly as a child.
He recalls, however, that his parents still read Bible stories at home. This helped lay a foundation, and when Chad became a Boy Scout he remembered that one of their precepts was reverence to God. Chad said, “I noticed I wasn’t reverent and it troubled me.” So, he accepted an invitation from a friend to attend Vacation Bible School (VBS), which is an entrenched summer tradition in the conservative ‘South’ of the US. This time his exposure to Scripture was quite different. Unlike the Bible stories he’d heard, Scripture was laid out in the context of the big picture of the Gospel. The concepts of sin, repentance and salvation hit home, hard. A few years later, at that same friend’s church, he received Christ as Lord and Saviour, and at age 18, he was baptized.
Creation is excluded
Growing up in rural Virginia, Chad was not overtly confronted by evolutionary teaching. But of course, during his higher education at university, it infected several subjects. And looking back, he also realizes how subtle the indoctrination was. He says, “It’s everywhere. The idea of slow gradual processes—fish to man, etc. Go to a natural history museum—the icons of evolution are endemic. It’s easy to believe this stuff as science when you are never exposed to any alternative views,” Chad remarks.
Thus, Chad allowed room for the idea that God may have used evolution to create mankind (theistic evolution). It created a conflict of ideas. Chad knew in his heart that God was real and his belief was correct, but he also believed that evolution was fact. He said, “Looking back, I was never really sure how both worlds fit together. So, I kind of kept them separate. I just hoped and believed that our knowledge was perhaps limited and that one day all would be revealed.” And, for Chad, it was.
A little bit of information can make a big difference.
I did not know until I commenced this interview with Chad that CMI played a large part in his ‘second conversion’—this time to biblical creation. He attended a huge men’s conference at a large church in Atlanta where, courtesy of a friend of CMI, I had been given a 5 minute opportunity to make a short presentation. (Thanks to the hosting church I have been a regular speaker at this conference for the last few years now).
Chad recalled the moment. “It was when I saw an illustration of Adam and Eve on a pile of bones that supposedly represented millions of years of death and suffering. The point was made, ‘How could God have called this all good?’ I could immediately see the problem.” Then some time later he spoke to a CMI representative manning a booth at a homeschooling conference. “I still had a lingering issue with the length of the days in Genesis and suggested that it was perhaps figurative. The representative showed me the scriptural disharmony with that theory, and the problems it causes for the rest of Scripture. They encouraged me to take the Bible at face value. As I gradually learned to see the facts through a biblical lens, the scales started falling away.” Chad is now fully affirmed in the Genesis account of Creation.
Stepping up to the plate
He adds, “Of course, one hears the creation story in children’s Sunday School, but we are rarely taught why it is important to the Gospel.” So Chad and Angel have become more active in helping others make this connection. They started teaching adult Sunday School for young married couples in their home church. He said that the questions about creation come thick and fast, and the information they have shared has “blown minds”. He asked one group about the age of the earth and got a huge range of views even from people who called themselves creationists. Chad says, “Their story is like ours. We were never challenged to think about it.”
We discussed how Christians are to answer non-believers and atheists if they cannot defend what they believe themselves. This is not lost on the Dutys, and it is a reason why they decided to homeschool their children. Chad remarked, “My wife was very career-driven. You don’t work for a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering without being that way. However, Angel has laid that aside to train our children” (Proverbs 22:6). It’s a big sacrifice and Chad understands that not everyone is able to do this, but he agrees with CMI that regardless of where children are educated, the parents need to spend a little extra time teaching young ones how to think critically in this foundational area of origins.3
He said, “It is very challenging, but also very rewarding, and I would encourage all parents to make an effort in this area. One hour a week at church cannot compete with 35 hours of government school and hours more of TV.”
After consistently teaching their children how God is the Creator and that the Bible is true, Chad has witnessed a change in their character and says it is now interesting to overhear their children’s comments with friends—how they can actually defend their faith at a young age. Chad commented that when one of his young sons sees dinosaurs presented within an evolutionary framework of millions of years, he pipes up and says, “Daddy, they don’t really know, do they?”
Finally, Chad reinforced how much he’s come to understand the importance of the creation issue. He says, “Destroy Genesis and it’s like a house of cards. Beliefs about where we come from are the foundation for everything we view in life.” Recalling a quote he once heard from a non-believer, he closed by saying, “Either there is a God or there isn’t. Both possibilities are frightening.”