How I spent my summer vacation

Hello to my readers, and welcome back to the Book of Works. It has been a long, sometimes relaxing and sometime productive summer. In July, I went to the ASA annual meeting near Boston, where I gave a talk and moderated two sessions, but of course the best part (as it is with all conferences) was getting to spend some time with so many friends and colleagues in the science and Christian faith community. The highest point was hearing the talk by Francis Collins and then attending the informal sing-along he led. He is a remarkable man in so many ways.

The rest of the summer was busy with writing, teaching, and sending the last kid off to college. Finally, two weeks ago, my wife and I took off for our first-ever duo vacation. It was a somewhat unusual agenda I had planned. One of our goals was to carry clothes and other essentials to my stepson in Cambridge, so we drove. Along the way we stayed at places I had lived in or had once had family from. Nyack, NY and Winthrop, Mass were two of these places. Then from the Boston area we drove up to the mid-coast of Maine, where I used to spend the entire month of August during my first marriage in the 1980s.

I don’t usually post personal stuff on this blog, but I am going to make an exception and talk about a year that was pivotal in my life story. It was 1992, I was about to turn 45, and at a crossroads both in my marriage and in my professional scientific career. I considered myself an agnostic – I wasn’t sure about God, but I did think that there might be something beyond the materialistic view I used to have of the world. Something spiritual, something not quite explainable. But I wasn’t sure.

Near the end of our family sojourn in a cabin on the coast, I took my small (12 ft) outboard-powered boat out for a solo ride. For some reason, and for the first time, I ventured pretty far out from shore, past the islands that usually marked my limit of exploration and into a broad channel in the open Atlantic Ocean. All of a sudden I saw a dark and ominous shadow in the water right next to the boat. It was bigger than the boat and moving fast. I was terrified when, a few seconds later, I saw another one on the other side of the boat. Then one of the shadows rose and broke the surface. It was a dolphin. I slowed the boat down and began to relax. The pair of dolphins were not just playing – they were swimming next to me, then crossing in front of the boat, and soon I realized they were guiding me. They were aware I was too far out for such a small boat and were leading me back toward the shore. I followed them. Heading back in, with my wonderful escort, I began to feel not only calm but a sense of gratitude and love for these creatures of nature. After a short while, when I was back where I belonged, they disappeared, and I returned to shore in a state of wonder.

The spiritual sense that I felt from that experience on the sea stayed with me. My life changed, radically, in every way. I left my terrible marriage, moved to Italy, changed my research direction, started attending church, and so on.

A week ago, my wife and I were in Camden, Maine, not far from where I used to vacation two and a half decades ago. We signed on for a two-hour scenic cruise on a schooner. As we sailed out into the ocean, the day was gorgeous and the views spectacular. And then somebody pointed sternward. The captain turned and announced, “We are very lucky. folks. We have company.” I looked out just past the stern and there they were: two dolphins, breaking the water in plain view and putting on a small show for the passengers. But I know better. They were there for me. I had been gone for 26 years, and now I was back, a different man, and they were there once again, to give me a sign. I took it as a sign of encouragement and of affirmation.

I am still a spiritual person, but now I know that God is the source of that spiritual power. And I know that God has shown me signs of mercy and hope my whole life, even when I scorned His existence. I don’t know if I have made the right choices or lived according to His will, but I am hopeful that this sign of His favor might mean my path has not been in vain.

Thanks to all for your patience in reading this very personal account, and for your continued support of this blog. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.

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15 Responses to How I spent my summer vacation

  1. Jon Garvey says:

    Hi Sy – welcome back.

    There’s richness in your dolphin story for me, because over at the Hump I’m working on a theology of nature in umpteen episodes.

    It’s been easy for that to be coloured by recent discussions with Josh Swamidass about whether (or not) God is hidden in nature… broadly the anti-ID thing that if you take nature apart you find ambiguity, randomness and so on, so the theological conclusion is that God is disguising any presence he has.

    But of course, nature is actually the world we live in, not just the world we dissect, and in your story is an intriguing idea not only of dolphins benevolently looking after your physical interests, but being intimately (and presumably unwittingly) involved in your spiritual journey. That’s two ways in which “nature” (or at least a pod of dolphins) was acting providentially as God’s agent.

    And it’s one way in which you accepted that episode simply as a gift of love, rather than filing it away as anomalous data!

  2. Jon, your comment is spot on, as related to how i viewed the appearance of the pod, both before and after I acknowledged my belief in God. And you’re right that in writing this post, I was focused entirely on the world I live in, with no attempt at analysis (dissection).

    But Im not sure there is any relationship to pro or anti ID here. The Biologos and other EC folks testify that God is present in our lives and in the world. And I think many, (certainly myself) are certain that this presence manifests itself in ways we can detect (though generally not prove). Perhaps the solution is to simply avoid too much dissection. As you know, in complex systems, such as everything alive, reduction to components destroys the true picture of the system.

    I need to get back to the Hump, and will do so soon.

  3. James Maloy says:

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful event in your life. Put a smile on my face.

  4. afghanvet18f says:

    God is transcendent and the energy that binds all matter. Think expansionist instead of reductionist. Dolphins, and their cousins whales, are a higher order intelligence and in my opinion have souls. Would not the spirit of God guide them to do his will? In fact I think they would be more receptive than man in that regard. Peace and blessings. kevin h

    • Kevin

      Thanks for your comment and welcome to the Book of Works. I agree with you about dolphins, although I never thought about it quite that way. But it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Thanks again.

      • afghanvet18f says:

        Jon proposes the same possibility in his “Hump” blog. 😉 At least that’s my interpretation. There is vastly more that is unknown in the universe, than is known.

  5. Steve says:

    I’d like to share something with you and get your feedback please…

    During the horror of WW2 (When so many people were filled with grief, fear, and despair), most individuals naturally asked questions like:  Is there really a God?  …If so, how could He let such horrible things happen?  Does God even care about people if He does exist?  

    The greatest writer of his time (C.S. Lewis) responded by giving several short, 10-15 minute radio sessions on the BBC.  I encourage anyone who may have doubts about God to look at the following Lewis clips (That a cartoonist recently added pictures to).

    I promise you wont be disappointed.  I guarantee it’s the most intelligent response you’ve ever heard (They are meant to be watched in sequence because each video builds on the previous one).











    Feel free to message me for further infomation, or if you have any questions.

    PS:  If you really want to know what God is truly like, I strongly recommend the audio books on this website ( ) that you can download for free.

    • Steve, I listened to the first broadcast. It is superb and so timely. I cannot thank you enough for posting this here, and I will spread the word as much as I can. Lewis is of course one of my favorite Christian writers and thinkers, but this is the first time I heard his voice. This is such a wonderful resource for the issue of morality, which (God be praised for His daily miracles) is the subject of my next post. Thanks again.

  6. Baldscientist says:

    Dang it man, you made me cry! (:’-)

  7. ElectricBlue91 says:


    It’s great to see another post here. I’ve missed reading your thoughts this summer. I hope you had a wonderful July and August. September is here, and I’m currently taking a Biology class in school, my first one since high school, believe it or not.
    I always thought I wasn’t smart enough for these classes but it looks like God might be pointing me towards some sort of future in mathematics or science (coupled with music and writing, of course). Thank you for your ongoing inspiration in my life and your friendship.
    P.S. This biology class isn’t nearly as exciting as the stuff I read on your blog.
    Peace of Christ.

    • Thanks, Ethan. I agree that God is pointing you where you need to go. Btw, since we did a lot of driving, I finally had time to listen to your CD. Loved it!!
      The first biology class could be a bit dull, but wait till you get to the molecular biology of gene expression – you will be enthralled. Think of it as learning God’s methodology for creation.
      One thing is for sure, whether you pursue science, math, music, or whatever, God is with you, and you will always have your music.

  8. Pingback: Love and the Ocean | The Book of Works

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