Physics, faith and the FBI
A talk with physicist Saami Shaibani
It’s not every day one gets to interview someone with four earned science1 degrees from the UK’s world-renowned University of Oxford. Dr Saami (pronounced ‘Sammy’) Shaibani, who now lives in Virginia, USA, has a rare combination of expertise in physics applied to trauma2 to the human body. One of the several hats he wears is that of a ‘clinical professor of physics’, teaching the physics of medicine to physicians and surgeons.
Saami has done extensive research on the triggering systems for automotive air bags and seatbelt locking systems. He says, ‘Crashing into a brick wall at 30 mph, the whole system has to be up and running within about 20 thousandths of a second.’ His research enabled him to ‘identify failure modes and propose design modifications to reduce the likelihood of death or injury’. Taking precise measurements and investigating the physical characterisitics of vehicles forms part of Saami’s reports on car safety. Trauma investigations for the FBI help to assess the plausibility of injuries before prosecutions can commence.
When the FBI needs expert advice about trauma to the human body in criminal cases, one of their top consultants is Dr Shaibani. He said:
‘For example, a woman in South Dakota had been brutally beaten to death. I was asked a couple of weeks ago to determine if her body was found in a position that was consistent with the injuries received.’
There are often great difficulties for medical examiners and forensic pathologists in distinguishing between blunt trauma from a fall downstairs, as opposed to a blow from a baseball bat, for instance. Or, in child abuse cases, where Dr Shaibani often gives evidence, distinguishing between accidental and deliberate injury. So Dr Shaibani is asked to apply his combination of physics and medical science expertise. The FBI produces visual exhibits of his calculations to help juries understand the scientific issues.
‘Babies, by and large, do not have fractured skulls from falling off a chair or changing table. There are these floating plates on a baby’s head that don’t knit for months, so the baby’s head is soft enough to accommodate a lot of mechanical deformation without generating high stresses. So they will be able to withstand blows which would fracture an adult skull. Babies are vulnerable, and fall over easily, so this way they don’t crack their skull each time.’
Once, when asked by a criminal defence attorney in cross-examination why babies’ skulls do not easily fracture, he said, ‘To be perfectly honest with you, sir, I think that’s the way God designed them.’
As a Bible-believing Christian, Dr Shaibani is fervently pro-life. He sees it as a bitter, tragic irony that the same society that properly spends millions to prosecute those who commit violence on babies, also spends millions inflicting (fatal) violence on babies while still in the womb, just because they are a few weeks younger.
When Dr Shaibani talks about ‘God’, and ‘design’, it’s not some throwaway line covering a belief in evolution. He believes the Bible from the very first verse. He was converted to a saving faith in Jesus Christ while at Oxford, but went through a time of sliding away. As he went on to post-graduate work, all those who graduated with him left. He says:
‘I was without my “support system”? and, regrettably, I began to drift away … I sort of said, “Look, Lord, I’m very busy with this graduate work, do You mind if I put things on hold, and I’ll get back to You when I’m finished?”? Not only was that a terrible thing to do, but I later reneged on that commitment. Oxford is a wonderful place, a great privilege, but there are many distractions, and I became selfish and self-indulgent.’
A physical sciences doctorate in Oxford normally takes four-and-a-half years; his was completed in two-and-a-half. Yet this gives him no pride; rather, he says:
‘I had made my studies a god, worshipping academia and making sacrifices to my career’.
What brought him back to full relationship with God?
‘Coming to the USA removed the distractions and temptations of Oxford “cold turkey”?, and at the same time, I met a dear man of God who has since passed away. I probably needed to be hit over the head, but he just said, “Any time you want a ride to church, you know where to get one.”? Little by little, I just crept back into the fold.’
Dr Shaibani is a member of the well-known Bible-distributing organization, the Gideons. He believes that the Bible’s authority takes absolute precedence over man’s opinions. He says:
‘I got myself into a lot of trouble when teaching Sunday school. At the beginning of the year I said to the class, “Your opinion is irrelevant. My opinion is irrelevant.”? Holding up a Bible, I said, “It’s only God’s opinion that’s going to count for anything.”? I was booed and jeered, because they all felt entitled to an opinion. My response to that was, “Which verse is that?”?’
Dr Shaibani’s passion for the authority of Scripture attracted him to the ministry. He believes that the lack of interest in the Word of God that pervades our churches today has a great deal to do with the evolutionary indoctrination of society. He said:
‘It’s alarming and disappointing how few pastors believe the vital, foundational first eleven chapters of Genesis. How can you expect those in the pews to believe them when the issue is sidestepped, downplayed, and worse? Your ministry to the leadership of the church is fantastic; it’s almost as though pastors need to be kicked in the rear and told, “Look, you’ve got to get your act together. This stuff is for real, and until you understand it’s for real, you’ll have a limited potential as to what God’s going to do in your church”?.’
We talked about the many Christian leaders who wanted to add millions of years to the Bible because of the ‘authority’ of scientific opinion. Dr Shaibani said:
‘Our sense of our own cleverness is hopelessly misguided. Take the age issue. I’m a physicist, and I’m more than happy to take God at face value that things are 6–7,000 years old. I am very disappointed with the fundamental fraud that “science”? offers people in saying something is X-million years old. Suppose one year I got a pay increase of $1,000, and then next year for some reason another one of $2,000. If I extrapolate this far enough, I’ll be a zillionaire! It’s the arrogance of man to say that because we’ve had 100 years or so of data, we can extrapolate backwards almost infinitely. If my students did an experiment with two data points that ridiculously close to each other, and tried to extrapolate them by orders of magnitude, I’d fail them—it’s just too ridiculous. In man-made dating methods, there is assumption upon assumption, plus a couple of more assumptions sprinkled in, plus some blind guesswork. And this masquerades as wonderful, legitimate methodology, but it’s not. 1 Corinthians 1:25–27 says that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s cleverness.’
Saami also reminded us of how science is always changing. He said:
‘When railways were invented, a popular scientific theory held that even though the train could go faster than 30 mph, it should not, because the passengers’ lungs would collapse. Such absurd notions were grounded in the science of the day, which was found to be utterly flawed. I think this reverence for “science”? rather than God’s Word is a tremendous tool of Satan. As far as I’m concerned, the whole evolution/long ages thing requires a whole lot more faith than the creation perspective. There’s a basic lack of honesty there—an unwillingness to say, “Look, this is my best guess.”? OK, friend, I don’t have a problem with your guessing, but tell me it’s a guess, and don’t try to corrupt the authority of science by claiming your guess is science.’
We asked about Christian leaders who claim that Genesis cannot mean what it clearly teaches—recent creation of the universe in six earth-rotation days, and global Flood. Dr Shaibani said that he would like to tell them that:
‘when you start putting words in God’s mouth, you’re going to have a lot of problems. The moment we start saying to God, “God, You really don’t mean this, You mean something else which I feel more comfortable with”?, then that’s a slippery slope.’
Dr Shaibani said it was frustrating for him that more people didn’t know that belief in the first 11 chapters of Genesis was compatible with the highest levels of intellect and education. We were pleased to be able to tell him that this interview, with a world leader in his scientific field, would help to get that message out to many tens of thousands of people around the world.