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05/01/95

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What matters to me and why: Richard Bube

STANFORD -- Among the academic subcultures in a university, physical scientists may find it easiest to believe in God, materials scientist Richard Bube told a gathering of graduate students in Memorial Church on Wednesday, April 26.

"In the humanities and social sciences, you are taught that everything is relative," he said. "There is no reason to believe. But the [physical] scientist can have a sense of awe and humility [about the natural world]. You know you don't know all the answers. You know you shouldn't say, 'I know.' "

Bube, professor emeritus of materials science, spoke to a group of more than 25 at the biweekly lunchtime "What Matters to Me and Why" session in Memorial Church. A Princeton-educated physicist who spent 15 years at RCA before joining the Stanford faculty 30 years ago, he was introduced as "one of the few speakers [in the series] who was not surprised to be speaking in church." He has written 12 books on scientific topics and 12 on science and Christianity. For 25 years he taught a seminar on issues in science and religion.

Bube listed five things that mattered most to him: excellence; work that comes from listening to nature; work that is useful to humanity; personal relationships; and "living life as a Christian, without apology."

He said there are two ways of measuring excellence: by a single achievement that stands above all other work in a field, or by high achievement in all phases of life. Einstein is the model of excellence in scientific achievement, but, Bube said, "Einstein's personal life was a tragedy."

A graduate student said he was struggling with how to integrate the dual aspects of his life. His work and the fun of discovery seemed almost selfish, he said; he enjoyed the work for his own sake, but he also felt a call to community service. ' 'You have summed up [the dilemma] very well," Bube replied. "Statements like 'just do the best you can' are not enough. The 'best you can' takes your whole life. [Keeping balance in life] is an act of faith. ' 'Every important life commitment is an act of faith," he added.

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