Mechanical engineer: physics points to God’s glory
Lita Cosner interviews Dr Chad Rodekohr
Chad Rodekohr earned a B.S. in Aviation Management, an M.S. in Physics, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering, all from Auburn University (Alabama). He is an Associate Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, where he and his wife are raising their five children.
As a mechanical engineer and a physics professor, Dr Chad Rodekohr is passionate about the scientific method. Some might be surprised to find that he is also a biblical creationist. But he says that his career actually helps confirm the amazing design in the world. “Physics is the study of our real physical surroundings. Since all physical things were created and are now sustained by God, it is easy to point to God’s glory while studying physics.”
Chad came to the study of science from a strong Christian family background. His parents, who were converted to Christianity when he was three years old, eagerly learned the Scriptures and taught Chad, and he in turn became keen to learn about his faith. He says he began to trust Jesus as his Saviour and Lord at an early age. “Although there have been periods when I’ve allowed my pride to be more dominant, God’s hand has been steadily shaping my life.” And he is continuing this legacy of faith, which his parents started, in his own family. “We strive to raise the children that God has entrusted to us in a way that is glorifying to Him, so that they and their children may fear, trust, and love Him.”
Chad was also drawn to science from an early age. “Understanding how the world around me physically functions has always been a joy to me. I love watching the swallows gracefully swooping to catch their food, so learning about the physics behind flight and the various control surfaces of airplanes came quickly. Details like these in all physical mechanisms have always been of great interest to me, thus going into the sciences seemed a natural progression. To this day, I gain unusual enjoyment from maximizing the precision of my measurement tools in everything from bathroom construction to astronomical observations. This stems from simply loving the order with which God has created the universe.”
Although the specific issue of creation did not come up in Chad’s childhood, his parents taught him to trust the Bible as God’s inerrant Word. It made sense to him to interpret Scripture in a straightforward manner; therefore he believed that God created the world in six normal-length days, about 6,000 years ago.1
When Chad entered college, he realized the need to equip himself to answer the challenges he would face from fellow students and scientists: “I could tell people what I believed, but was not able to make a very strong stand. Because of this, I was convicted of my lack of preparedness to ‘give a reason’ for my faith (1 Peter 3:15) and have been studying the issues carefully ever since.”
Today, Chad as a professor of physics, teaches everything from basic courses like “The physics of how things work” to senior-level physics courses like “Electricity and magnetism”. He also has ongoing research in the areas of household energy efficiency, mathematical analysis of rope braiding, and tin whiskers (structures which grow on tin-plated surfaces which cause short circuits in electrical devices).
This research depends on the scientific method, about which there are many misunderstandings. One that Chad emphasizes is the difference between the normal empirical or operational science; and claims about origins or history. In the former—the science responsible for space flight, curing diseases, making new inventions—we perform repeatable experiments to test some hypothesis. If the experiment confirms the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is capable of being a theory or maybe becoming a law. From these theories and laws, we can make predictions about the future. E.g. Newton’s friend Edmond Halley (1656–1742) applied Newton’s laws of motion and gravity to predict the next arrival of the comet that was then named after him. However, successful predictions cannot ultimately prove a theory, although a faulty prediction can disprove it.
In contrast, Chad points out that this sort of science can’t work backward in time. So when making claims about the past, evolutionists must 1) assume initial conditions in the process of defining a hypothesis, and 2) rely on experiments that have already played out in history (and so can’t be repeated); only the results can be repeatedly measured.
Chad gave the specific example of the big bang: “Scientists have guessed the prerequisite conditions for the supposed big bang. These initial conditions are assumed to be true, but they are not actually known because the hypothetical event was not observed by anyone. Furthermore, one of the primary evidences used to support this secular hypothesis is the presence of cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). A further hypothesis is that CMBR is the result of the big bang. The only way to experimentally test this hypothesis would be to restart the universe and measure any resultant cosmic background radiation. This is not possible. So, all they can do is to measure the currently existing cosmic background radiation, which does not test the hypothesis.” Also, if CMBR is the afterglow of the big bang, it should be coming from distant regions in space, so should cast shadows in its journey to us—but these shadows are missing.2
Chad continued: “Those who deal in the historical sciences desire the authority of having used the scientific method, so they modify the process. In reality they are peddling a false worldview about history disguised as science and claimed as fact. I think that this is why the scientific method is not taught to most students anymore. Although students all act like they know the scientific method, when pinned down, most can’t actually differentiate between hypothesis, theory, law, or fact. It is no wonder they don’t distinguish between repeatable science and claims about history.”
We need more creationist scientists!
As a professor, Chad is aware of the challenges that creationists can encounter in science courses, but also of the need for more creationist scientists. We asked him to explain how he handled disclosing his creationist views in the classroom as a student, and how he would advise students to handle it themselves.
“What I did may or may not have been the best way to handle it, and is probably not what I would do now if I could do it all over. The primary way I handled the issue was to select carefully the classes that I took. I simply didn’t select courses which were historical in nature—knowing full well what the theme of the class would be. But even in operational science courses, the issue would occasionally come up. In those situations I would only steer into the creation discussion when it was in a personal setting with my fellow students.”
“How would I handle it now? What if I didn’t have the luxury of simply not taking historical science courses? Peter gives us clear teaching on this—1) Honour Christ as Lord by bringing such conversations back to Him—the Creator and Redeemer, 2) Be prepared—understand the scientific issues so you can ‘give an answer’, and 3) be gentle and respectful (1 Peter 3:15). If you are treading into unfamiliar waters, it is easiest to accomplish this with a series of questions leading back to the faulty foundational assumptions on which evolutionary teaching is always based. From there it can be contrasted with the solid biblical witness of our holy Creator, Christ the Lord.”
To students who are considering pursuing a scientific career, Chad says: “Please continue! Please persevere! Please investigate fully! Please teach truth!”
“As Bill Nye3 recently said in an anti-creation video, ‘We need scientifically literate kids.’ Although his intent and mine are very different, I agree that our society desperately needs a scientifically literate generation. We need to bring academia back to the Lordship of Christ—gently and respectfully, being prepared at every step.”