Q&A with Astrophysicist Jason Lisle



This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Each of us can remember moments that completely transfixed us. For one young boy, it was a glimpse of the stars splashed across the deep night sky. He spent Ohio’s sticky summer evenings looking at them more closely with his dad’s six-inch telescope, and hid between the stacks of books in the local library to look at brilliant images of nebulae and planets, eventually growing old enough to devour every astronomy book on the shelf.

Almost 30 years later, Jason Lisle holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics, discovered a star and started the Biblical Science Institute, a resource to defend the literal six-day creation worldview in a culture arguing that science disproves the Bible. Come January, Lisle will pour his knowledge into the Winter Term Astronomy students at The Master’s University before speaking to a larger audience during the annual Truth & Life Conference.

In an interview with Master’s U, Lisle shared his passion for God and science:

Q. What is fascinating to you about astronomy?

A. Astronomy is wonderfully beautiful. It’s always abstract and it allows you to explore something we just don’t experience on earth. The sizes of objects in space are mind blowing. When you look through the window, there is this big bright sphere out there that is 100x the diameter of the earth, but then there are stars that are 600x the size of the sun! It is the artwork of God. The Bible says the heavens declare the glory of God and, when done properly, astronomy is a very spiritual science.

Q.How did you marry your passion for astronomy with your passion for God?

A. For me, when I study the universe I am studying the handiwork of God. That makes it much more enjoyable. I don’t know how secular people do it. I don’t know how they can enjoy something that they think is just chance. That doesn’t make any sense. The fact that I was saved very young and became interested in astronomy when I was very young, is a tremendous blessing from God. I think it has caused me to enjoy science much more than my secular colleagues ever could.

Q. What is the purpose of education?

A. The purpose of education is learning to think like Christ. When you put it that way, you realize most schools really don’t do that. The extent to which they teach people to think like Christ is almost an accident. Yes, you can go to a secular school and learn mathematics, but you don’t really learn what mathematics is. Mathematics is the way God thinks about numbers. It works and applies to this world because God’s mind upholds this world. That’s why math is beautiful—most students don’t view it that way; they don’t see it as applicable.

I appreciate The Master’s University and some of the very few colleges that really do devote themselves to training students to think like Christ. We are supposed to cast down arguments that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God and take captive every thought in obedience to Christ.

Even from a non-Christian perspective, education is supposed to teach you to think rationally and have good reasons for what you believe. To think rationally is to think like a Christian, because we have the best reason to believe what we believe. I would caution parents to be very careful where they send their kids. Often they are not going to be educated properly, but rather trained to think as secular humanists. That’s not really education; that is brainwashing. Yes, they will get some good information, but they will get a lot of false information, too. Little kids generally believe in God, but when you send them to the public school system and they spend more than a decade of their life learning secular humanism, you shouldn’t be surprised if they come out little secular humanists.

Q. How do you go about sharing your faith through astronomy? How should others do so?

A. It is easy to bring God into the conversation about science, because God is what makes science possible. God upholds the universe in a consistent fashion, places patterns in nature for us to discover, and gives us the capacity for rational thought so we can consider the options and choose the best. If the universe were really just chance, why would you expect to find patterns at all? Why would we expect our brains to have the capacity to reason if the brain itself is just an accident that resulted from mutations? Science is predicated on the Christian worldview.

I then would go into specifics and show the way things are designed in nature, especially in biology. Most people at a secular level have no clue how well designed human beings are. It’s astonishing. God recorded the information to make a human being on DNA, which is basically a long molecule. We think the amount of information on a Blu-ray is impressive. God put the information for making you in a molecule. Those are some of the details I could bring up, but just the fact that science is possible is proof of the Christian worldview.

Whatever that person’s interest is, I am going to ask them how that would make sense apart from the Christian worldview. I’ve never had anybody give me a good answer, because everything only makes sense in light of the Christian worldview. All the wisdom and treasures of knowledge are deposited in Christ, according to Colossians 2:3. Let’s say someone is interested in animal conservation. Animal conservation really is a Christian principle because God has given us dominion over this planet. If a non-Christian is interested in conservation, I’m going to start asking questions to get them to think: “How would that make sense, because you told me you believe in evolution? How would it make sense to try and protect the species when evolution is all about the strong dominating over the weak and eventually eliminating them? That’s how evolution is supposed to proceed, so animal conservation is anti-evolution by its very nature.” There is some inconsistency in their thinking, and I’m going to be very polite, but I’m ultimately going to get them to think through those inconsistencies.

Colossians 2:3 and Romans 1 should help Christians have an appropriate boldness. Romans 1:18-19 says that God has revealed himself to everyone, so we don’t need to convince unbelievers God exists. The Bible says they already know that but suppress the truth in unrighteousness. What I try to do is expose that suppressed knowledge by demonstrating the way an unbeliever behaves affirms God as creator. My goal as an apologist is to help them over the stumbling blocks. I think it is very good for every Christian to know the basics of science, especially creation, because that is the most attacked area of the Bible. It’s not my job to convince the person. It’s my job to bring a defense, and if God is going to call that person to repent, it’s up to Him.

Q. What can we expect in the upcoming astronomy class this Winterim?

A. I am going to take the students through a history of astronomy. I want to start with how we came to know what we now know about astronomy. We will talk about how man, in ancient times, discovered the earth was round. We will go through recent discoveries (1500-1700s) when astronomy really started to blossom, largely as a result of Christian thinking. Many pioneers of astronomy, like Johannes Kepler, were very devout Christians with Christian convictions that God upholds the universe in a consistent fashion and that the mind can probe, understand and make discoveries. Even Isaac Newton, although he had an unorthodox view of the trinity, had great respect for the Bible and that motivated him to make scientific discoveries. So astronomy really owes its existence to the Christian worldview.

We will then come to the more modern discoveries and how these confirm biblical creation. I will take the students through our own solar system, explaining how each of the planets confirms biblical creation. We live in a wonderful time because all the large objects in our solar system have been explored at this point, so we can see these things up close. There is evidence of design that defies secular expectations. The students are going to learn a lot of material that they would learn in a standard astronomy class and a lot of material they would not learn in a standard astronomy class because it is contrary to the secular beliefs, yet it is true, good evidence.

Q. What is the biggest argument against God for secular astronomers?

A. I think most astronomers do believe in God. Most are not Christian, but it’s very strongly built in us to believe in God. I think those who are atheists have a big misconception about who the biblical God is. Their argument would tend to be that God is an unnecessary, auxiliary hypothesis because you can explain the universe without appealing to God. Their approach to science tends to be naturalism, the belief that nature is all that there is and that all natural phenomena have an explanation within the laws of nature. I believe that is true in most cases because God works through normal means. I believe there is a God behind it and therefore am not a naturalist. My argument to my secular colleagues is that God is necessary. The fact that we can even discuss and test the hypothesis logically only makes sense if God upholds the universe in a consistent fashion.

Q. What was it like pursuing science at secular schools as a Christian?

A. When I went through the University of Colorado—a very secular school—I had a pretty good Christian worldview at that point, which allowed me to go into a system like that and still get good information. I was able to learn a lot but also recognize the faulty philosophy when I saw it. They would present evidence and give a secular interpretation of it, but I knew there was no reason to interpret it the way they did. I can apply the calculations for what would happen if the universe had gone through the big bang without believing it. I can do the math and give them the result; that’s a useful exercise because you can find the inconsistencies. They have problems with star formation for example. My secular colleagues recognize, as do I, that blue stars can’t last billions of years, and yet we have blue stars all throughout the universe. So if the universe is billions of years old, how do you explain blue stars? My secular colleagues would say, “Well, obviously they must have formed more recently,” but star formation is riddled with problems because gas doesn’t just collapse in on itself, it wants to expand. So, I learned a lot about astronomy, astrophysics and the problems with the secular interpretation of the evidence.

I didn’t go around trying to convert my professors, and I would recommend that students not do that. Professors are paid to teach you and they don’t want you to teach them. Some students think, “Well, the university is just an ideal utopia of knowledge where we can discuss ideas and bring Christian ideas into it, but for the most part that’s not the case. They don’t want to hear the Christian answer, so I recommend staying kind of quiet and learning the information. There are honest ways you can answer test questions. For example, if I am writing an answer on the origin of the universe, I know my teacher would want me to write about the big bang and billions of years, so I could say, “It is generally believed that the earth is 13.8 billion years old.” You are being tested on what you are taught so it is appropriate to give back the answer you were taught in class. You are demonstrating that you understand the material. The Bible shares wisdom for restraining your words at times. We know of some people who have been very vocal about their faith and they get stopped in their Ph.D. program and are not allowed to get their doctorate because some people have it out against Christians and creationists in general. You may get someone who says, “I don’t understand why you are a Christian but you know your stuff so you pass,” or you could get someone who just hates Christians. For that reason I recommend using wisdom in what you say, when you say it and to whom you say it.

Q. How do you suggest someone break into the field of astronomy?

A. If you want to go into astronomy as a Christian, first of all you need to be really solid in the Word because colleges universally teach a secular view of astronomy. This class we are going into at The Master’s University is the exception. Most Christian colleges teach that God caused the big bang and that the earth is 13.8 billion years old, but that is unbiblical. So, I would recommend that a student be very solid and follow ministries like the Bible Science Institute, resources that will help them interpret the evidence from a biblical worldview. You still want to be aware of other worldviews, but you want to know the truth.

In terms of what to study, hone your math skills. The better you are at that the easier astronomy will be, especially if you want to go into astrophysics. It’s always helpful to study other areas of science, especially those that deal with astronomy, like chemistry and geology. A lot of astronomy deals with geometry on other planets or chemistry that works in space. All the sciences are good. No knowledge is a waste of time as long as it’s truthful.

Some people want to go into space. If you want to be an astronaut in NASA you must be fluent in Russian because NASA works very closely with the Russians in terms of maintaining the International Space Station. So, mathematics, physics and staying solid in the Word of God, those are the things you need to know in order to be good at astronomy.

Q. What’s next on the researching front for you?

A. Right now I’m in the process of getting this new ministry up and running. We are only a few months old and I’m heading up everything, so it takes up a lot of my time. I’m writing all the content for it with the help of volunteers and I’m doing some speaking, so it doesn’t leave much time for research. I do have a book that I have almost completed on the physics of Einstein from a Christian perspective, so that will come out shortly. I want to write a book on the topic of the Secret Code of Creation, which will be unique. In terms of scientific research, we will see. I’d love to come back and do some research on the data from the Kepler spacecraft, which measures the brightness of stars and can detect the smallest changes in brightness, like when a planet crosses in front of a star. I was actually able to discover a new planet that way, which sounds very impressive but Kepler has been able to discover several thousand planets at this point, so I found one among thousands. I would love to continue that research and see what I can find. As a creationist, I would expect to find planets that are perhaps contrary to secular expectations of size and location. It’d be fun to come back to that.

Q. You’ve talked a lot about the Biblical Science Institute, what is that?

A. It is a brand new creation-themed ministry. We specialize in defending the literal historical account of Genesis and showing how science lines up with what the Bible teaches. Because I am an astrophysicist, the ministry will be heavy on astronomy, but it won’t be limited to that. I’ve got some articles up already on genetics and how that confirms biblical creation and refutes an evolutionary story of origins. I’m going to have a series on logic and how proper reasoning leads to the conclusion that God is who he claims to be in the Bible. It is a free resource and we are donation funded. We have an online forum as well, and if people donate $20 or more a month they get access to the forum and can ask questions to me directly or other creation scientists who will participate. At some point in the near future we are going to start a weekly podcast. People have this impression that science refutes the Bible or disproves it. Nothing could be further from the truth, so I founded this ministry to refute that claim and show that science confirms the Bible and Genesis in particular.

Q. Star Wars or Star Trek?

A. There is room in my heart for both of them. Is there anything factual? Some things, but they take a lot of license. Faster than light travel is just not possible based on the way God has constructed this universe, and both of them have to use that in order to get people from one planet to the next in any sort of reasonable amount of time. Both are fascinating works of fiction and I really enjoy both. In Star Trek they will use terms like Heisenberg compensators, because they know the Heisenberg uncertainty principle would make transport impossible. They throw these little words in there that show they thought it through and so have gotten some of the terminology right.

To register for Dr. Lisle’s weeklong Astronomy course on January 3-10, 2018, go here. To purchase tickets for our annual Truth & Life Conference, go here. To learn more about BSI, click here.

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