Faith and Science Find Harmony for Biology Teacher Dr. Higgins

Susanna Montgomery '19

Not many people are both religious and scientific. The two are practical opposites. Historically, scientists and religious figures have seen each other as enemies. And though, yes, times have changed, it’s still quite uncommon for people to have a foot in both doors; however, Dr. Higgins, a Biology and Marine Science teacher, as well as a newly ordained youth pastor, does just that.

Higgins is frequently frustrated with the word choice of “religion” instead of “faith”. This is an important distinction for him, as he says religion is more a practice with a set of beliefs, while his faith is a non-denominational relationship between him and God.

“For me, religion was never about the relationship; faith for me is about my relationship with God,” he says.

When it comes to science, Higgins notes that he has “always been interested in science because [he] thought the world was pretty awesome.”

Higgins, who grew up Catholic, went to college to further explore his intrigue in science, and through that, he found faith. While he was in Alabama working on his doctorate in marine science, he stayed with a friend during a hurricane. This specific friend also happened to be quite religious and had consistently asked him to join her at church. But it wasn’t until the church was the only building in town with power during the hurricane that he finally found himself attending.

“[She asked] me for five years to go to church and [I said] no…it took a hurricane to get me there,” he says.

After that, he found his relationship with church, became a youth leader, and rediscovered his faith.

“That’s when my life really started to matter,” Higgins remembers.

He describes feeling that faith was opening up new doors and giving his life new meaning. Since then, Higgins has thanked science for guiding him to his faith.

Higgins accepts that there are different ends of the spectrum: those that believe you cannot question God, and those that believe you cannot question science. But Higgins found himself asking, “Well, can’t we question both?”

As I listened to Dr. Higgins’ words, I thought to myself, “what an exceptional way of looking at things,” but it also raised a lot of questions for me. I had to wonder, with such an unique opinion, what are some struggles he faces being one of the minority who is both a man of faith and a man of science? To this, Higgins says that being in the Northeast and a member of an accepting community has made him feel very supported.

Still, it’s the small comments that people make that bother him most. He describes that in the North, there are “more people that don’t believe or don’t know what to believe,” and though that makes his life a little more interesting, it does provoke the sly remarks that can be offensive. But, still, he stays respectful of other people’s views and only hopes that they can do the same for his.

Higgins doesn’t believe that he manages the two perfectly, or that there is any real perfect balance between his faith and his science, but he does believe that everyone can find a harmony suitable to them. And his main piece of advice for anyone struggling with both parts of their lives is to stay true to themselves and what they believe in.

“The key to faith is belief in something,” Higgins notes.

Though I don’t consider myself a very religious person, maybe I can find a type of faith through my beliefs of the world. And I hope that with this knowledge – that it is possible to do both – I will continue exploring the world through science, through religion, and through anything else that I can.