What is the value of a human being?
Science holds plenty of answers to this question. For example, if you were chopped up into different bits, your heart could sell for a hefty £425,000 on the black market. You’d get another £5,000 for your skeleton and £15,000 just for your corneas. All in all, as an illegal (and probably reluctant) donor of organs and other body parts, you’re worth rather a lot.*
Someone has calculated the value of our brains by working out that we can store about 100 terabytes of data. That’s the same as 25 4-terabyte hard drives, at a total cost of £2,500 - so we could argue that your brain is worth £2,500.
You wouldn’t be worth as much if we broke you down into your chemical elements, though. We all have a tiny bit of gold present in our bodies, but it would take 40,000 of us before we had enough gold for one UK sovereign coin. Not much value there.
When students have the opportunity to discuss science and faith, a common assertion is that science holds all the answers we need. But when I presented the above question to a Year 10 class at Beaumont this week, they weren’t at all satisfied with the answers that science could provide. Students often tell me that they only trust what can be scientifically proven - yet they won’t hesitate to declare that human life is of infinite value. They look positively horrified when I suggest testing that hypothesis in a lab!
A chap called Professor John Lennox noticed that there can be many true explanations for things. For example, we can look at a kettle and ask, “Why is the water boiling?”
a) Because the heat is being conducted through the base of the kettle and that’s agitating the molecules of water
b) Because I’d love a cup of tea
One of these answers is a scientific explanation, and the other is a personal explanation. Both are true. Both are important.
Christians look to their faith for answers to life’s biggest questions. We may know for a fact that your organs are worth a lot of money, but our iMatter page holds a very different answer to the question, ‘What is the value of a human being?’.
Sir William Bragg won the Nobel prize for physics in 1915 and was one of many Christians who feel that the different answers offered by science and faith complement, rather than contradict, one another. When asked whether science and religion are opposed to one another, he said:
“They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”
*Please note that Step does not condone the illegal chopping up and sale of human beings.