Sy Garte: From Atheism to Agnosticism to Christianity

The assumptions of materialism he carried with him into the study of science were challenged by the science, itself

Sy Garte grew up in an atheist household. His ancestors for generations were atheists. His lateral relatives were atheists, and the people close to him in his life were atheists. He assumed atheism was normal. He didn’t question atheism or materialism as the basic assumptions of his life.

Sy Garte earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry and BS in Chemistry from the City University of New York. He has been a Professor of Public Health and Environmental Health Sciences at New York University, Rutgers University, and the University of Pittsburgh. He has written over 200 scientific publications in genetics, molecular epidemiology, cancer research and other areas, and he is the author of five books, and numerous articles published in Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith (PSCF) and God and Nature.  He is retired from a senior administrative position at the National Institute of Health. (See his biography at Biologos)

Wait a minute… articles on science and Christian faith?

He was an atheist and a scientist. So, what happened?

Well, Dr. Sy Garte has written a book about “what happened” – The Works of His Hands: A Scientist’s Journey from Atheism to Faith. I recommend the book, though this article more closely follows the interview embedded below, and it’s a pretty interesting story. I also added an interview of Sy Garte hosted by a once professed Christian turned hardcore atheist (the kind who isn’t content to allow other people to remain Christians) for an interesting exchange from two people who switched poles in their beliefs.

To begin with, no one proselytized Sy Garte. He didn’t really know any Christians. He didn’t walk in their circles, and he knew nothing about Christianity.

The assumptions of materialism that he carried with him into the study of physics, biology, chemistry and bio-chemistry were challenged by the science, itself. The things he was learning didn’t cause him to become a theist, but they challenged the materialism he had assumed all his life.

The shaking of those materialist foundations of his thinking led him on an intellectual journey to seek answers to the questions that were exposed in the process. That shaking began in college and would continue through multiple additional degrees and into his scientific endeavors. He was in his 40’s when those questions and the answers he found led to a paradigm shift in his thinking.

He still knew nothing about Christianity when he became a Christian. He didn’t set out to become a Christian. He didn’t even want to be a Christian. He thought that all Christians had to believe the Earth was 6000 years old and might be flat, and such things.

When was invited to go to church, though, he went. His first reaction was surprise that there was “no fire and brimstone”. Rather, there was talk about loving God and loving our neighbors.

As he explored the unfamiliar landscape of Christianity, he found it much more hospitable than he assumed. He was “very happy” when he discovered that things like young earth creationism and flat earth theory do not go hand in hand with Christian faith.

I won’t try to explain the part about him recognizing one day that he was a believer. He can do that for himself. If his story sounds familiar in that aspect, perhaps it calls to mind the story of CS Lewis. There are some distinct parallels, at least.

Sy Garte continued to do science after his paradigm shift from atheism to Christianity. He didn’t miss a beat, and he found no disconnect between his Christian faith and evolutionary theory, which continues to inform his science.

If you are concerned about the seeming challenge that science poses to faith, or you are concerned that you will have to abandon science to embrace belief in God, maybe you would find his book interesting.

Below is the first interview I referenced above. Below that I have added  the other interview. If you would rather listen to/watch an interview with a host who is an atheist, you will want to go to the second interview embedded below.

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