Dr. Dean Nelson, professor of journalism, co-authored Quantum Leap: How John Polkinghorne Found God in Science and Religion, a book on John Polkinghorne, the famed physicist who helped explain the existence of quarks and gluons, the world’s smallest known particles. Quantum Leap discusses Polkinghorne’s contributions to research at the interface between science and religion.

Nelson had read Polkinghorne for years and was “drawn to his clarity.” When he became a staff writer for Science & Spirit magazine, Dr. Karl Giberson, the magazine’s editor at the time, had the idea to write a biography about Polkinghorne, and he shared the idea with Nelson. Despite the fact that Polkinghorne himself had written over 30 books, no one had written more than a magazine article about the world-class physicist and theologian. That was when Nelson decided to write the book on Polkinghorne.

“[Polkinghorne] committed his professional life to believing in unseen realities – quarks and gluons – and then committed the second half of his adult life to other unseen realities – the existence of a loving God,” said Nelson “I find that compelling.”

Nelson began “literary speed dating,” meeting with Polkinghorne in Cambridge and around the world at conferences where he spoke. Nelson read everything Polkinghorne wrote. Quantum Leap slowly morphed into the story of not just Polkinghorne, but about the larger relationship between science and religion. 

“By telling the John Polkinghorne story, that gave an entre to talk about bigger issues like, ‘How does a scientist think about prayer?’ or ‘How does a scientist think about miracles or the resurrection or eternity or creation for that matter?’.”

When the book began to take a scientific twist, Giberson, previously a professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College and executive vice president of the Biologos Foundation, began to serve as an expert voice to explain some of the more difficult concepts in the book, thus the shared byline. 

Nelson completed his writing over a sabbatical and through a grant from the Templeton Foundation, from which Polkinghorne received the prestigious Templeton Prize in 2002. 

The experience was both enlightening and encouraging for Nelson. 

“My IQ went up by 80 points just by being in his living room,” said Nelson. “The reason you know [Polkinghorne] is a genius is that he can take really complex ideas and state them clearly. This is one of the things he’s known for – he took the presence of a quark, which no one has actually seen, and explained its presence mathematically.”

Nelson says Polkinghorne exudes the same clarity when it comes to articulating his thoughts on faith and spiritual questions. 

“He can be talking about the Heisenberg Principle one moment and talking about why the resurrection is worth believing at another moment with equal clarity,” said Nelson. “That is what’s so unusual about him.”

Bridging the gap between science and religion – two subjects that are often at odds – is what has made Polkinghorne such an interesting individual. In fact, he would say his science makes him a stronger believer and visa versa, Nelson said. 

In his book, Nelson explains that since both science and religion are searching for the truth, Polkinghorne values that they can inform each other. 

For example, Polkinghorne’s view on creation is one that embraces the possibilities of both faith and science. He articulates the prospect of an ongoing creation story – that perhaps everything is still in the process of being created – a different way of looking at the world than either six 24-hour days or the Big Bang.

In the process of writing Quantum Leap, Nelson says both his scientific knowledge and his faith were strengthened. It also encouraged Nelson that conversations around religion and science don’t have to be unnerving. 

“Hanging out with John Polkinghorne or reading Quantum Leap can show us that science and faith don’t have to be afraid of each other… If you’re really searching for the truth, Polkinghorne would say, then why do you have to be afraid of any of it?”



Read Nelson in USA Today: Why certainty about God is overrated

Listen to an interview with Nelson about his book on KPBS's Midday Edition.

Literature, Journalism & Modern Languages, PLNU

Point Loma Nazarene University’s 2011 Fall Festival will take place Saturday, Oct. 22, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
PLNU and presenting sponsors Bartell Hotels and Waste Management are extending an invitation to the entire community to enjoy a day of free food, fun and festivities on the university’s spectacular ocean-side campus.
Activities include:
Ice cream social and grand prize drawing with university president Dr. Bob Brower at 2 p.m.
Hayrides, pumpkin patch, live music
Pony rides, puppet shows, bounce houses and a climbing wall
Free Taste of Point Loma restaurant area from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Electronics recycling drive for computers, cell phones, TVs and batteries
Community booths featuring university groups and local nonprofits
Scooter giveaway at the 2 p.m. ice cream social (no cost to enter, must be present to win), and lots of other great giveaways
Bring a new or gently used children’s book (ages 4 – 9) to benefit Rolling Readers.
The 2011 Fall Festival is being presented by Bartell Hotels and Waste Management. 
For more information, visit or call (619) 849-2298. 


At the 2011 Dealmakers of the Year Business Breakfast, hosted by PLNU's Fermanian Business and Economic Institute, awards were given out to "unique individuals, firms, and collaborations that exemplify creativity, innovation, and ethical practices that create long-term value for the business community in the San Diego region." Guest speaker Dr. James Bullard, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank in Saint Louis, was the keynote speaker.

Read more about the event here.

Fermanian Business & Economic Institute, PLNU

PLNU recently welcomed two new graduate site chaplains to our Mission Valley and Bakersfield campuses. 

In Mission Valley, Rev. Nancy Pitts began her work as graduate site chaplain this week.

Pitts is an ordained Nazarene minister who has served as a counselor, teacher, congregational care pastor, and most recently a missionary in Kenya.  Her compassion for graduate students comes out of her own experience finishing her master's in marriage and family therapy while working full-time for Alaska Airlines and trying to balance family life with four of her five children still at home.

Rev. Daren Pitcher recently joined the staff as graduate site chaplain at the Bakersfield regional center.

Pitcher grew-up in Pismo Beach and graduated from PLNU in 1988. Daren served in youth ministry for over 13 years before planting Rancho Hills Community Church in Rancho San Diego. He is currently in his seventh year as lead pastor of Ridgeview Community Church in Bakersfield. Throughout his ministry career, Daren has been actively involved on school campuses.  Daren obtained his teaching credential through Azusa Pacific University and taught at the middle school level at East L.A. Light & Life Middle School in Boyle Heights.  Daren also worked in the after-school, grant-funded program through the Chula Vista School District.  He has over 15 years of high school & club volleyball coaching experience and four years of high school golf coaching experience. He currently coaches volleyball at Independence High School and golf at Bakersfield Christian High School. Daren’s wife, Amy, is the girls’ dean at Bakersfield Christian High School. Daren and Amy have two sons, Dawson, 12, and Noah, 10.


To learn more about our regional centers and the graduate program offered at each, please visit the Regional Centers main page.


Bakersfield Regional Center, Mission Valley Regional Center, PLNU

From Sept. 12-17, PLNU celebrated its annual Creation Care Week, sponsored by Waste Management, Inc. 

Highlights of the week included:

  • Presentations by Jim Ball, author of Global Warming and Risen Lord
  • Sustainability Fair 
  • Farmer’s Market Top Chef Cook-Off
  • Networking with professionals working in sustainability
  • Beach clean up at the border in partnership with I Love A Clean San Diego

PLNU is highly committed to creation care and is recognized as a leader in sustainability, especially among Christian universities, Jim Ball pointed out. Some of PLNU’s sustainable practices include the installation of solar panels, composting food waste, a comprehensive recycling and donation program, and water-saving measures (such as a tray-less cafeteria, dual-flush toilets, waterless urinals, and water-saving showerheads). Students also voted to create a “Green Fund” to which they contribute each year, and students also operate a community garden on campus.
For its efforts, PLNU has been a perpetual winner of recycling awards since 2004. The university also won a San Diego Excellence in Energy Award For A Non-Profit in 2009 and the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Orchid Award for Sustainable Design in 2008. PLNU was also named one of America’s 100 greenest schools in both 2010 and 2011.


PLNU was ranked 15th in the category Regional Universities - West in U.S. News & World Report's 2012 Best Colleges guide. This is PLNU's highest-ever ranking in Best Colleges, and it is representative of the university's academic quality, strong graduation and retention rates, selectivity, and alumni giving rate, among other factors. PLNU was also ranked 15th in the Best Value category for Regional Universities - West. The Best Value category takes into consideration an institution's academic quality, cost, and available financial aid.