Posted by: rusch | November 5, 2004

Science and Religion

(The following Represent the views of the Blogger and should be regarded as such)
Science and Religion
Science and religion are two schools of thought that have been at odds with each for as long as can be remembered. Members of the clergy in all ages of human existence have persecuted individuals in an effort to eliminate any debate about what they are saying. The gods have spoken, and their word is enough. The religious feel threatened by science, and can you blame them? Prominent scientists make statements and support ideas that go against doctrines and beliefs that many hold dear. The religious feel a need to defend themselves and their beliefs.
I should know. I used to fall into the camp of the theologically threatened. After having served a mission, it seemed blasphemous that such things as organic evolution would be taught at a church university. It seemed as though there was need to drive these ideas out of the minds and off of the campuses of church schools. But something happened that would change the way that I would look at science and religion forever. This change of heart came in of all places a geology life of the past class. This class was devoted to studying life throughout the history of the earth, and even dealt with theories that attempt to explain how the earth itself and the very universe we live in was formed.
The class seemed interesting because it would cover the idea of organic evolution in great detail. We would learn about Charles Darwin and his amazing voyage on the S.S. Beagle as the ship’s naturalist. For the first time, I would understand that there is room enough for science and religion, and that the religious can believe in what is dear to them and not feel threatened when a scientist is making a statement that goes contrary to what the faithful hold dear.
I hope to share my ideas.
Science is not founded upon fact, but theory. Natural scientists seek to find ways to explain why things in the world happen the way they do. After much experimentation and observation of natural phenomena, the good scientist will come up with a theory that will attempt to explain why certain things happen the way they do. Scientific theories become more and more accepted when different scientists conduct experiments and come to the same conclusion that was reached by previous experiments.
If, over long periods of time, the theories hold true, they can eventually be taken as fact. The theory of gravity remains the best way to explain why things stay on the earth instead of floating off into space, even hundreds of years after Newton was beaned on the head by the apple. But more often then not, one theory will give way to another. An example of this is Einstein’s theory of general relativity. For years this was held as an important theory that was indisputable. Then the study of quantum mechanics came along and in many respects supplanted much of what Einstein did. This happens over and over in the history of science. A very good theory will come along that is very good at explaining why certain things are, and then days, months, or years later, a new theory will replace the old theory and will be touted as the answer. But eventually that idea gives way to a new one.
The problem with organic evolution, like gravity, is that no one has been able to sufficiently come up with a way to explain the opposite. It could come tomorrow, next week, next year, or next century, but the possibility remains that it could happen.
With the transitory nature of science, all sciences in mind, it stands that the religious can breathe a sigh of relief as I have. Organic evolution is a good theory, but a theory nonetheless. It has stood for hundreds of years, but there is a possibility that it could be disproved.
Another reason that the religious should breathe a collective sigh of relief is that God will always know more then any scientist, or collection of scientists. No think tank can come up with an explanation for everything, and even if all the scientific minds were gathered together, they would still know nothing compared to what God knows. God reveals to men knowledge about things as he sees fit. I see certain scientific innovations as ways of furthering God’s purposes and the spreading of his word. Imagine if we never figured out how to get an aircraft off of the ground, or generate electricity, or any number of things that we take for granted. Perhaps God is really working behind the scenes to make the lives of his children better through technology.
Many quote Einstein as saying that the more that he studied, the more he is convinced that there is a God who is really the author of a universe that is filled with so much order. The religious can breathe another sigh of relief to know that there are people who live in both camps. Who can spend all day in the lab and then come away with a greater appreciation for God and his creation. At the same time, the religious should take a look at themselves and ask why are Catholic priests, people who are supposed to be in touch with the divine, sexually abusing young boys, and why can’t the Vatican come up with an acceptable way of dealing with the offenders.
Holding to one of the articles of faith, we should realize that there are many things that God has yet to reveal to his children regarding his kingdom, which can be defined as pretty much everything that is on Earth, or in the heavens above. The story is still unfolding, and it is necessary to realize that God will justify the righteous. If you want to study science, go ahead and study science, if you want to be religious be religious. But understand that both have their limits. Science cannot explain everything all at once, and God has not revealed all that he knows with relationship to what is on earth and in heaven.
Presidents David O. Mckay and Spencer W. Kimball were two men who held this point of view, and ever since I took this point of view life has, become so much easier with regards to the question of science and religion. On the other hand, President Brigham Young, and Joseph Fielding Smith, and Elder Bruce R. McKonkie had a different point of view. Who is right and who is wrong? We must simply wait and see, but we must also understand that while prophets should be revered, we must also realize that they are men, albeit holy men, but men just the same. And they are not infallible in all that they say. When they are speaking as prophets, seers, and revelators is when we should not question what they are saying. But when they appear in T.V. interviews, when they asked about their opinions, we are not bound.
President George Albert Smith was a vegetarian. He made it clear that this was a personal preference, and that as prophet, he would not expect anyone to change their diets to reflect a personal preference that he had. When President Hinkley speaks about pornography in general conference, it should be clear that this is not only his position but God’s position on the matter, and that the saints would do well to follow the council that is given.
Have prophets spoken out against science in an official context? The only official statement that I can think of that has any bearing on the matter is the statement of the first presidency about the origin and destiny of man. With that taken care of, it still leaves allot of room for every other question that science attempts to explain through the theory making process of experimentation and observation.
In fact, the religious should pursue the study of their fait with the same rigor that scientists treat an experiment in the lab. It is amazing that there are people who have gone to church for years and know relatively nothing about the faith, while a biology, or chemistry student, by putting forth the effort can learn what would have taken years to learn with only casual perusal with which many treat their faith.
I have to keep studying and learning about my faith, for in the moment I say that I have it all figured out is when I am the most vulnerable to losing my faith. The same is true for science. The minute that they choose to think that they know it all is about the time when a new theory comes along that will show the error in what was previously held.
In the camp of religion, there is also widespread laziness. The members of most faiths do not take the time to figure out why their faith is right, but simply accept it based on the words of higher authorities. While religious leaders, who are worthy, should be venerated, it should not negate the need for study on the part of the disciple.
Really, what is science? Here are some definitions:
The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical

explanation of phenomena.

Such activities applied to an object of inquiry or study.

Knowledge, especially that gained through experience.

An activity that appears to require study and method: the science of purchasing.

With these definitions in mind, science does not merely include what we traditionally think of as science, but should include art, literature, history, economics, politics, and even religion. A new category could be created called the theological sciences.
In conclusion we should believe all that god has revealed, all that he does now reveal, including that which he reveals, that comes out of the laboratory, and we should believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things that will explain why things are in the heavens and in the earth. This is my own modified article of faith, and both the scientists and religionists would do well to give this some thought.

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