Ask anybody in almost any field of science how and why they got into their work, and the answer, more often than not, involves a favorite teacher somewhere along the way.
That’s certainly the case for Leonard Scott, who has been practicing dentistry in Indianapolis since 1973. A high school biology teacher inspired the young Scott to pursue a career in medicine, and not too much later, he had a doctorate from Indiana University’s School of Dentistry.
But Scott does more than just clean teeth and fill cavities. He’s also a respected figure in gospel music with songs that have charted on Billboard’s charts, founder and CEO of the oldest black-owned record label Tyscot, and a writer and pastor of Rock Community Church, in Indianapolis.
I talked to Dr. Scott about how his faith and science have intersected over the years.
ORBITER: Please share about your faith background and path to science.
Leonard Scott: I was inspired by a high school biology teacher to go into medicine, and my dad always wanted me to be a physician. However, I had a fear of blood, so I chose dentistry instead. I was quite naïve and uninformed to think that dentists don’t see blood in their work. Most dentists probably see more blood than most physicians unless they are surgeons. Nearly all my fears concerning the human body were eradicated during gross anatomy lab and cadaver dissection.
Science has been an intriguing subject for me because it is constantly changing and uncovering new information previously unknown. As microscopes and telescopes become more powerful, the worlds that were hidden become more revealed. When you believe that God is omniscient, there can be no conflict between the study of science and theology.
There’s an irony in your fear of blood in that much of the Christian gospel concerns the blood of Jesus. How does the biology of blood theologically affect your understanding of Christ’s blood?
Blood is a fascinating study. The Bible says the life of the flesh is in the blood. It is the only tissue in the body that comes in direct contact with every other tissue and organ. It is responsible for nourishing, oxygenating, and removing waste products from the cells. It has elements that help repair breaches in the skin and fight bacteria and other bugs from infecting the body. When the blood stops flowing and working, the organism soon dies.
The blood of Jesus is special in that it was sinless and pure. When it was offered as a sacrifice, it accomplished miraculous things like removing guilt and shame.
As both a pastor and medical doctor, you’ve said that you believe in both “God’s healing power as well as supporting medical advances.” Please elaborate on that.
I believe God is the ultimate healer, but he gives us knowledge to help in the process. God does not need us to accomplish anything, but he chooses to use us to assist in what he wants performed on Earth. He can choose to heal through medicine or without. It is his choice. Or he can choose not to heal.
My daughter Melanie, who had been healthy all her life, came down with leukemia in her early thirties. [When it got really bad one day], she was immediately taken to the hospital where blood transfusions were started and other procedures to temporarily reverse the disease process. There was no cure for the type of leukemia she had except a bone marrow transplant—or a direct miracle from God. Unfortunately, there was no match for her in the bone marrow bank.
As her condition deteriorated, a discovery was made that the stem cells in the blood from an umbilical cord could be used for a bone marrow transplant. A mother had just donated the umbilical cord from her recent childbirth, and it was a direct match for our daughter. It is interesting that prior to the recent discovery of the uses of the cord blood, umbilical cords had been considered as refuse, useless, to be discarded. I wonder how many other things we discard as worthless because we have not discovered the true value it has.
You donated the proceeds of your album Greatness of Your Love to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to honor the medical research that helped save your daughter’s life. What message might that send to the church about science and the scientific community about the church?
I think we have missed it when we view science and theology as opposing ideologies. Science is knowledge. Theology is the study of God who has all knowledge. When we obtain knowledge, it is merely a revelation of what God already knows. I believe science and theology are complimentary disciplines of study.