Dr Japie van Zyl (1957 – 26 August 2020) was co-director at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in America. They consisted of a group of top scientists and engineers who landed an exploratory vehicle on Mars which sends images of Mars to earth. Japie received his honours degree with distinction in electronic engineering from Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees in electronic engineering from Caltech (America). As a child in Opuwo (Namibia) he gazed at the stars and dreamt of building satellites one day. In 2011 only, his team launched five satellites. In an interview with Hanlie Retief (Rapport 12/08/2012) Japie said that they have the entire universe to ‘unravel’, and adds: “And what a challenge. … People have the idea that scientists don’t believe in God. But the Big Bang and evolution actually do not exclude God. Today we can mathematically explain the stages of creation described in the Bible. And those who say that if you accept evolution, you can’t believe in the Lord. … Well, I’m an engineer and the ‘ultimate Engineer’ designs things which can adjust to a changing environment. That is what evolution is to me. I have not found anyone here at JPL yet who does not believe.”
About 2000 years ago, when Jesus was born, there was also a group such as Japie’s team. They were the wise, clever people of the time, the astronomers (those who studied the stars). The difference is that there were no telescopes, satellite launchers or computers then. Still they saw the best-known star: Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” … And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (Matt. 2:1 – 11).
Today there are still many wise and learned people inquiring after Jesus. They are the ones who notice the miracle of the ultimate Engineer’s handiwork and who worship Him. It is they who, more than ‘ordinary’ people, know how great and wonderful the creation is and realise how small and insignificant man is.
How tragic that that some people try to portray believers as being ridiculous. They say there is no scientific evidence that there is a God. David writes: The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps. 14:1). David doesn’t want to be a stumbling block in the path of believers: Don’t let me bring shame on those who trust in you, Sovereign LORD Almighty! Don’t let me bring disgrace to those who worship you, O God of Israel! (Ps. 69:6). Jesus warns: “Things that make people fall into sin are bound to happen, but how terrible for the one who makes them happen!” (Luke 17:1).
If you believe in God, you are in the company of top scientists.
We thank You Lord, that You gave us a wonderful creation, and that there are many Christian scientists and engineers who make us more aware of that. Amen.