I recently was reading about George Washington Carver again in a wonderful book written in 1955 by Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn. The book does a wonderful job showing us that there need not be a conflict between faith and science. This passage from the book, about the life of George Washington Carver moves me deeply. I thought many of my readers would also,appreciate it so here is a passage from the book, Little Lower Than The Angels, on the life of Dr. George Washington Carver.
“George Washington Carver was one of America’s greatest heroes. This despite the fact that he never wore a uniform or piloted a plane or carried a gun. He was a great hero of science. The son of Negro slaves in the south, he overcame unbelievable handicaps in his search for a scientific education, and despite poverty and discrimination, advanced to the point where he became an outstanding chemist and college instructor in science.
Greatly worried over the fact that the South was entirely dependent upon its cotton crop– and the price of cotton was so uncertain – he set about to discover possible unsuspected uses for the peanut, another crop wide–spread in the South. Up to that time, the peanut was considered almost a waste product of the soil. Dr. Carver, to begin with, found the peanut to be one of the most nutritious foods in the world; it contains very nearly every food element required to sustain human life. Then through patient research and experimentation, he discovered more than 100 commercial uses for peanuts and peanut oil. As a result, the agricultural economy of the South was practically revolutionized.
The peanut became a major crop in many southern states, chiefly because of the scientific genius of a Negro chemist who wasn’t even recognized as a human being by many of those whom he most greatly benefited. To the end of his life, when Dr. Carver lectured at a convention of distinguished white scientists anywhere in the south in order to share with them the results of his work, he was forced to use rear entrances and freight elevators, and could not eat publicly with those whom he was instructing. All because his skin happened to be a little darker than theirs!
Another person might have become angered or embittered by such experiences. But Dr. Carver retained a sweetness of character which was quite as remarkable as his scientific genius. He was also a very deeply religious person, which brings us to the point of discussing him in this chapter. He wrote a number of statements which can help us greatly in our present search to discover whether or not there must be a conflict between religion and science. For example: “I discover nothing in my laboratory. If I come here of myself, I am lost… I am God’s servant, his agent, for here God and I are alone. I am just the instrument three which he speaks, and I would be able to do more if I were able to stay in closer touch with him. With my prayers I mix my labors, and sometimes God is pleased to bless the results. “
That, you will admit, is quite a remarkable statement, especially coming as it does from so imminent a scientist.
But there were many equally impressive sentiments voiced by Dr. Carver. On one occasion he said, “Without God to draw aside the curtain I will be helpless.” Another time he said, “What I have done, I have done in communion with God. He has revealed all these marvelous things to me. I deserve no credit for them whatever….My laboratory has been called God’s workshop by Dr. Glenn Clark and so it is.”
Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn – A Little Lower Than The Angels – copyright 1955 by Union of American Hebrew Congregations