Gamers Help Out Scientists with AIDS Research

This news article is really pretty remarkable.  Scientists have been trying to discover the structure of a retrovirus protein that would create increased opportunities for AIDS research.  Apparently they have been stuck for over a decade and decided it was time to turn to the one source they had yet to tap into – gamers.  You know, boys and girls who sit around and play Xbox 360 all day long.  The gamers were able to help out the scientists with the protein structure and then get back to shooting people with machine guns.  Read the article to learn how it all came about. 

This got me thinking about a couple of things:

1.  It is entirely possible that a life, or perhaps millions of lives, may one day be saved because a young person spent too much time in front of a television playing video games.  Before you get the wrong idea, don’t mishear me.  I’m not suggesting we should just let our children waste their lives away in front of a T.V.  What I am saying is that in spite of what may be some poor choices on the part of young people (and older folks) to forgo positive opportunities in lieu of the couch, a t.v., and a gaming system, something remarkable has come of it.  This points directly to God’s providence over absolutely everything.  Parents need to be encouraged that when their children are at times in the seemingly darkest corners of their lives, it may very well be that God is about to do something dramatic.  In other words, never give up hope that God will turn things around.  We find this wonderful truth all over the place in Scripture.  Folks will be in situations where, from our point of view, they would be hopelessly lost.  Then, God sends the right person or the right circumstance and causes them to come to faith and turn in a different direction.  It is in stories like a gamer who helps with AIDS that Romans 8:28 really hits home.

2.  I just couldn’t help but give a little chuckle when thinking about the whole “Science trumps Scripture” argument.  For those of us who are committed to the truthfulness of Scripture in every area of life but who also recognize that God has created a universe that can be studied and partially understood, we do not see any conflict between science and faith.  For many, however, science becomes the harbinger of absolute truth and they make law out of philosophy.  In other words, faith in Scripture is for the mindless, but faith in science is for the intelligent.  Granted, the place where science needed help was in the utilization of a certain portion of the brain, that being spatial reasoning, and gamers are at the top of the game in that area (pardon the pun).  But that’s the whole point – science needs help.  There is no such thing as “science” in and of itself that we look at like we might look at a well manicured lawn and say, “well, there it is.”  In this case, science was in the skills of a dude eating potato chips and playing with a game controller.  And as Nancy Pearcey argues so effectively in her book “The Soul of Science”, it is all dependent on the knowledge that this thing called the universe is even capable of being measured and studied.  We know that because a perfect God spoke it into existence and then called it “good.”

So this story gives us great hope and additional clarity.  Should our confidence in science be shattered because a gamer is an important part of the equation?  No.  But our view of science should be sharpened as to what it really is.   

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4 Replies to “Gamers Help Out Scientists with AIDS Research”

  1. Saying that the purported irony in this story points directly to God’s providence over everything is a bias in selectivity. For every hopeless circumstance that was turned around, there is a hopeless situation that ended tragically. One might explain this by saying that something good eventually sprouts from tragedy because it is part of God’s plan. That is still selection bias because one would be ignoring the tragic event that occurred.

    If there is no conflict between science and faith, then why do organizations like the Discovery Institute (which Pearcey promotes) and Answers in Genesis exist? “Teach the Controversy” would have never existed had it not been for a perceived conflict. Science and scripture are only compatible when scripture is not taken literally. If one decides that the creation story is not true, then what process did one use to come to that conclusion?

    Science doesn’t need our help; it is a tool we use to understand things. Science is a process involving observations, continuous testing, and rigorous peer-review. We rely on science, not the other way around. Science was being used by the scientists in this article, not the gamers. The creative way in which the scientists went about finding the protein’s structure is what is most important here.

    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I typically avoid accepting comments that do not leave a name or contact info, but I appreciate your response to my article and am happy to provide two simple comments in return.

      1. I am biased. I am biased to the teachings of Scripture, which I would assume you realize from the content and description of my blog. You are right, I absolutely do believe that God’s providence works things for His purposes and for a good result, and yet you are mistaken to suggest that I, or anyone else to holds to such a position, ignores tragedy.

      2. The forming of an organization does not negate my statement of no conflict between science and faith, and your wording later in your comment is correct – “perceived conflict.” I assume you realize I was not suggesting that folks do not disagree about the two. Answers in Genesis does not attempt to place a wedge between science and the Bible, but just the opposite, to show that the two can and do sit hand in hand.

      Lastly, you say science doesn’t need our help, but in the same sentence you call it a tool. That is surely strange wording. I have yet to see a tool that can do anything without the help of the one wielding it.

      Blessings to you and thanks for reading!

      1. When I say “ignore,” I mean it in a statistical sense of ignoring a particular data point because it does not fit your conclusion (or similarly, how a polling company could self-select participants in its studies to get results to its liking). I do not mean to say you are cruelly ignoring that tragedy occurs in everyday life.

        You say that the positive outcome of what was thought of to be negative points directly to God’s providence. By saying this, you are selectively choosing which points to include as evidence and failing to address any examples of instances where something good didn’t come about. For example, it would sound strange to say, “The increased medical knowledge ascertained from the test subjects during the Holocaust points directly to God’s providence over absolutely everything.” You probably agree that any possible good that came from the Holocaust did not justify it happening. If God’s providence works for His purposes and toward a good result, do you believe that the outcome has to be good overall? If so, what was the overall good that came from the Holocaust? If not, why would the Holocaust not be evidence against God’s providence over everything? How can God’s wrath be considered moral?

        Answers in Genesis claim that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. They say the earth is 6,000 years old and that the sun was created a day after plants were; apparently the plants could survive without a source of heat. There is nothing scientific about that. If AiG are trying to show that science and the Bible sit hand in hand, they do not seem to care about science. It is impossible for one to believe a literal interpretation of Scripture and also hold a scientific worldview.

        Science is helping us; we are the ones benefiting. Scientists, not science, needed help in the example. The fact that a video game was being utilized by the scientists to obtain information does not in any way devalue the findings. I am sure the gamers will not be the ones analyzing the results.

        1. For your “Holocaust” question, I recommend John Piper’s book “Spectacular Sins.” As for your next to last paragraph, you lay out your own biases rather nicely.

          That’s it for me – best of luck and blessings to you.

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