Bruce Roe on Science & Spirituality
  Bruce Roe     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2003

That’s really a great question. And part of the question is because I’ve been every much interested in our similarities and our differences, okay. And the second part of it is that I’m actually one of the few scientists that will stand up and say that he’s a Presbyterian, okay? And I’ve been an elder in Presbyterian churches and we go to church every Sunday in Norman, Oklahoma. And I think that it’s important for people to have some sort of a feeling of something outside of them. Nowadays people tend to be me, right? And they forget that we are a culture, that we are a society, that we are all a group of individuals. But a group of related individuals. And I think that the phrase that I really like and by the way I did go to a small, religious affiliated college in Michigan called Hope College and it was Dutch-reformed. And I have a minor in religion and bible. And here I am a geneticist, you know. And, you know, what do you mean? You’ve got God over here and you have genes over here and what’s going on and how can you believe in one and the other? And I go, well, one tells one story and one tells another story, okay? Theology is a story of telling a history of humans thinking outside of themselves. And how they’re to interact with each other, all right? I really love one phrase that I will paraphrase part of and that phrase is a phrase that somebody that was born two thousand years ago said, and he said [that] the role of people is that they should love God. And what that means “to love God”, I’m not defining God, you know, is love your neighbor as yourself. Well, I think genome project has proved that you’re me and I’m you. That we are each other. And it amazes me when the Baptist minister, we’re not Baptists, but when the Baptist minister stands up and says, “Brothers and sisters” I want to know he knew that we were brothers and sisters. He might have read it someplace. So we’re all related. I don’t care where you come from. We’re all related to each other and so we should love each and we should care for each other and we should take care of the least of them, right? So, religion tells us how we are to live our daily lives. And the primary dictum is [to] play nice with others, that’s what our mom taught us when we were little kids. That’s what we tried to teach our children. You know, play nice with Mary and John, you know, don’t pull her hair even though we did that. But play nice with others. That’s what love your neighbor as yourself is. Okay, is play nice with others. Science, on the other hand, tells us truths about the physical, biological kind of universe. The whole universe. It’s a truth that thirteen point something billion years ago the Big Bang happened. It’s a truth that evolution happened. That’s true. These events occurred. We call them theories because we don’t know the exact details of how they occurred. I’m not going to get into an argument about what God is. But the idea—let me just say, the idea is that religion speaks to one issue, right? How you are to relate to other people in the world and the universe. And science speaks to an understanding of how the universe happens. What’s there, okay? And I think that’s an important distinction. And I don’t have a problem with them. And when some people say the word “God” they think of some things and other things. And I think of God as the force behind the universe and I can’t put it in a box and I don’t think of him as an old man in a chair. Sometimes I think of God as “ην” the energy behind the universe. Okay? You know, I don’t know.

Bruce Roe is a George Lynn Cross Research Professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a Ph.D in biochemistry from the University of Western Michigan and received a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship to research at SUNY Stony Brook. He spent his 1978-79 sabbatical at Fred Sanger’s lab, where he helped develop the renowned method of DNA sequencing currently used today.

Roe is founding director of the Advanced Center for Genomic Technology (ACGT) at the U. of Oklahoma, one of the first large-scale sequencing facilities in the US. At present, the ACGT innovates computational and robotic methods to analyze DNA sequence results and is currently determining the nucleotide sequence of five microbial genomes. In 1999, Roe’s research led to the elucidation and publication of the complete sequence of human chromosome 22. This was the first human chromosome to be sequenced in its entirely.

He has attended genome meetings and symposia at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for over 20 years.