Charlie Barnhouse ‘19, Biology and Music

Posted on January 15th, 2018 by

Charlie Barnhouse has always been a curious person. His interest in science has grown out of his naturally curious personality. Finding ways of explaining how things work fascinates him, and he believes that this has been influential in his personal growth. He referenced the mechanisms behind life, in that we know that it works, but we’ll still never fully understand it. Influenced by his curiosity, Charlie wants to continue on to medical school after college. He believes that medicine and the mechanisms of human body are incredibly important, making the point that we are our bodies for the entirety of our lives, and because of this the world needs people who understand how to care for human bodies. Additionally, his desire to be able to help people and improve other’s lives with science drives Charlie to pursue his scientific vocation at Gustavus.

In addition to his scientific passion, Charlie is influenced by his love of music. He says that his double major “is both sides of me”. Charlie is passionate about music and believes that it nurtures another part of him, even though if he hadn’t come to Gustavus he’s not sure that it would be as big a part of his life. However, music is now a huge part of his life, and a way to be creative. Charlie feels that he is somewhere in the center between his analytical and curious side and his creative free-spirited side, even though he sometimes feels that he’s more one or the other. He wants to see science in action, and he also wants to spend time composing music. His double major is a way of fulfilling his dual passions.

Charlie is influenced by many different people in his life. A major influence is his dad, because his dad’s past, personal trials, and career history is fascinating and inspiring to Charlie. His dad left home at age twelve to join the circus, dropped out of high school, and didn’t finish an Associate’s Degree. But now, without finishing a degree, he works as a network engineer. Charlie is reminded by his dad’s story not to overly rely on specific goals too much. Although he is worried about the possibility of not getting into medical school, he has learned from his dad’s past that it’s okay sometimes to not have a backup plan “because there’s always something to do”.

While his dad has influenced Charlie’s professional direction, his mom and grandfather have had a great deal of influence on the kind of person Charlie is.  Charlie’s mom is very religious and his dad is not religious at all. Religion is something that’s very important to Charlie, and without his mom he wouldn’t have been exposed to it. Charlie’s grandfather aging has also influenced who he is. His grandfather growing old has been shocking for Charlie, but is has also taught him what it means to be a good person. Charlie says that “he has aged with grace” and is a loving, caring person. His grandfather came to Charlie’s first band concert recently, afterwards saying “I hated it, but I’m really glad that I get to see you.” So he drove two hours even though he knew he wouldn’t particularly like the music, but because he wanted to support his grandson. Charlie aspires to be like his grandfather and wants to show the people he’s close to how much they matter.

Charlie is defined by both his religious beliefs and his faith in science. He’s noticed that often these two ways of knowing are seen as incompatible. Charlie had heavy conversations with people on one “side” or the other, but he doesn’t understand why the perceived divide is accepted. He believes that there are many scientific findings that the church rejects because they don’t literally line up with the Bible. An example of this is evolution. Many scientists say that evolution and religion cannot mix. Charlie understands that evolution is real, because there is scientific proof. However, some religious people still refute this, referencing verses in the Bible that supposedly state how the world was created. Charlie thinks that is “silly”, saying that there is no verse that refutes that God could have used a mechanism such as evolution to create humans. He makes the point that evolution might be the most spectacular way that human beings could’ve come into existence. To him, life having diverged from a common ancestor by the hand of God is much more powerful and mind-boggling than God just sprinkling humans onto creation. Charlie believes that science does not hurt religion at all, and in fact can make it stronger, saying that “your religion doesn’t mean anything until you question it”. He believes that if you are a Christian “just because of what your parents told you to be”, than you’re not a Christian for the right reasons. Although Charlie thinks that religion can be a force for good, he wants people to look at it critically.

While Charlie is mostly comfortable integrating science and religion in his life, there are some scientific issues that scare him as a Christian. These include areas of research such as artificial intelligence and genetic modification. He worries about what will happen if science moves too fast and humans “play God”, questioning the morality of some scientific research. Conversely, there are some biblical teachings that scare Charlie as he pursues a scientific major. He believes that some of the stories in the bible are “absurd” and cannot be taken literally. However, Charlie is not sure what point we should stop taking the Bible as literal truth, which worries him. Overall though, he is comfortable with science and religion coexisting in his life.

Charlie’s beliefs have changed in some ways as he pursues his scientific vocation. Generally,  he has stayed in the middle of “hyper science” and “hyper religion.” Charlie believes that his faith has grown in some ways in college, but has been weakened in others. However, his understanding of science has improved, so Charlie believes that his understanding of “what everything means” has increased overall. He sees crossovers between philosophy and science, and he says that by learning more about science he has coincidentally learned more about his philosophical side. Pursuing his vocation has strengthened Charlie’s faith more than it has weakened it. He says that his beliefs haven’t changed, but his reasons for believing have.

Charlie’s faith has informed his scientific vocation. He says that increasing his understanding of science “has strengthened my reasoning for faith”. In his Biology classes Charlie is learning how much coincidence is involved in a species getting or not getting a trait. However, he can’t help but feel that that the world is too intricate to have just ended up the way it is. Charlie’s faith also encourages him to pursue medicine and to learn how to care for people’s bodies. Although there are a few issues where Charlie has difficulty reconciling his faith and scientific knowledge, overall the different facets of his life inform each other rather than competing with each other.

 

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