I was raised a Catholic, but I became an atheist somewhere between eleven and twelve years old. By college, I had evolved into an arrogant, militant, abrasive atheist. You’ve probably met the type.
In my junior year as a physics major at Berkeley, I realized that the belief system of an atheist had at least as many unproven assumptions as—and fewer explanations than—the belief system of any adherent of faith. Explain the Anthropic Principle, or what preceded the Big Bang. The unprovable idea of a Multiverse? That won’t even pass for a theory, much less a scientific hypothesis—it’s untestable, so by definition is not science.
So which is the more assumptive, i.e., non-scientific belief system?
I cast around for an alternative: Islam, Daoism, Buddhism—but avoided off-shoots of where I had come from and had already rejected. Around a year later was talking with the girlfriend of a high school buddy—they had both become Mormons—and I asked what drew her to this. Her answers struck me in several ways: LDS doctrine proposed a testable approach for confirmation of its truthfulness. It is a belief framework that was amazingly self-consistent, and also consistent with my observations of the world—including life and death, and vague memories and recognitions that I now realize are an imperfectly opaque Veil.
As I investigated the startling claim of receiving and translating golden plates, I nearly blew it all off. However, after I read through the Book of Mormon, I was amazed at the details. I read the Testimony of the Three Witnesses and that of the Eight Witnesses. As I pondered the utter improbability of gathering eleven people from my neighborhood to sign such affidavits—and never renege on them—I got my first taste of something I had never experienced before: the touch of the Holy Ghost. It nearly knocked me down—I was crying. I once heard a friend compare this experience to taking a teaspoonful of honey and feeling the warm glow suffuse through your entire body. Subsequently I learned of how closely 1 Nephi describes the Frankincense Trail, and how closely 3 Nephi 8 describes a volcano-tectonic event an order of magnitude greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens. None of this information was available to a 22-yr-old with a third-grade education in 1827. There are lots of others, but I have direct personal experience with these.
As I have grown older I have had many, many “coincidences” happen. A man in a coma for four days sat bolt upright as I gave him a blessing. I was warned exactly when to depart with my family from a lucrative job in Saudi Arabia—nearly five hours before I received orders, otherwise out of the blue, to stop practicing my religion. The departure time I was given (October 1995) made absolutely no sense—but I later learned that this saved me from a Reduction in Force in the USGS, allowed a son to start and complete high school in Switzerland, and permitted two daughters to complete college in Montreal. I’ve had unusual success in a long career as a scientist—I have never had to waste time knocking around in a dead-end research path. Some of these miracles were small, some were big . . . but together they make a compelling, cumulative pattern. The aggregate of all these miracles and answers to prayer has become so overwhelming that I could never deny my faith—I would have to ignore my entire previous life experience to do so.
I once listened to Don Lind (the astronaut/astrophysicist) give a lecture at the University of Arizona. In that lecture he made an interesting point, which I paraphrase here: “This is the only religion I can follow and not have to believe one thing on Sunday and something else the rest of the week. This is the only religion I can adhere to as a scientist.”
I suppose this is why we use the word “Amen” —Yes! Exactly.
Jeffrey C. (“Jeff”) Wynn earned an A.B, in physics and mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.S. in solid-state physics from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. in geoscience and electrical engineering from the University of Arizona.
Dr. Wynn is a research geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). He is currently based in the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, one of the five USGS volcano observatories in the United States.
During his professional career, Dr. Wynn has served as vice president for research and development of Zonge Engineering and in several rotational management positions within the USGS, including terms as Chief Scientist for Volcano Hazards, Chief of the Office of Geochemistry and Geophysics, and Chief of the Venezuelan Guayana and Amazonas Exploration Mission (“Jefe del Grupo Asesor”), where he was lead author of the first complete geologic map of southern Venezuela and also published a full assessment of discovered and undiscovered mineral resources for the roadless southern half of the country. Dr. Wynn also served for four years as the Deputy Chief for Science of the USGS Saudi Arabian Mission. He has been awarded the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award for “his outstanding career in geophysics and . . . scientific leadership of the US Geological Survey.”
Author of more than 250 articles, books, and maps in fields as diverse as geophysics, archeology, and astronomy, Dr. Wynn has studied and published on the historical era Wabar craters asteroid impact event in Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, and has done extensive geophysical mapping in southeastern Alaska.
He developed a new technology for mapping sub-seafloor minerals, buried wrecks, and migrating hydrocarbon plumes in the open ocean using a physical property called induced polarization (IP). He has been awarded two patents on marine IP, with one patent pending for mapping hydrocarbons in the open ocean. A commercial version of the towed-streamer technology was successfully tested in the Bismarck Sea in February 2005 and off the east coast of South Africa in a successful large-scale seafloor-mapping deployment during May and June 2007.
He also co-developed an airborne electromagnetic technology to rapidly map groundwater deep beneath arid basins in 3D. Using this technology, he successfully mapped the groundwater of the San Pedro Basin in southern Arizona and northern (Sonora) Mexico in three dimensions.
A past president of the Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society (2002–2003), Dr. Wynn has also served as Special Editor of Geophysics and is currently an Associate Editor of Exploration Geophysics.
A certified Advanced Open Water diver, Dr. Wynn also holds a fifth degree black belt in Japanese-origin Jujutsu. As a community service, he has taught numerous free self-defense clinics for women in northern Virginia and southwestern Washington and provided self-defense training to agents of the Washington State Department of Revenue. He currently serves as a counselor to the bishop of the Grass Valley Ward in the Vancouver Washington East Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In 1999, Asteroid “9564 Jeffwynn” was named for him by the International Astronomical Union.
Posted November 2011