Wednesday, March 14, 2012

True Science. True Religion.

I was reading over at Fred’s Spiritual Corner the other day about science and religion, and it got me thinking…

100_0079If I haven’t mentioned it before, I studied mathematics and physics at the university level. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and a minor in physics. I love math. I love physics. I am a lover of science, and a lover of religion.

I am not all that unusual. There are lots of Mormons (Latter-day Saints) who love science. In fact, President Ezra Taft Benson once said, “Religion and science have sometimes appeared in conflict. Yet, the conflict can only be apparent, not real, for science seeks truth, and true religion is truth. There can never be conflict between revealed religion and true science. Truth is truth, whether labeled science or religion. All truth is consistent.”

In 1973, President N. Eldon Tanner wrote, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always taught that the glory of God is intelligence and that a man can be saved no faster than he gains knowledge.” Not only are many members of the Church well educated and lovers of science, but the gospel even teaches us to be lovers of science.


(image credit: euthman)

President Tanner went on to say, “Scientists who acknowledge God as a personal God and who accept the scriptures as the word of God may enjoy all scientific principles and scholastic training and progress as rapidly and as far as any other scientist.” We do not need to disregard religion in order to understand science. Nor is it necessary to separate the two.

The Lord has taught us that we should teach each other and learn “words of wisdom” out of the best books (not necessarily just scripture) by study – but also by faith.

It’s important that we don’t disregard our faith while we are studying. The most influential principle in my course of study in physics and mathematics has been learning that “by the power of the Holy Ghost [I can] know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5; emphasis added) Notice the quantifier used here – all. The lack of any other descriptive term in this promise gives us a clue that Moroni doesn’t mean “all spiritual things” or “all things pertaining to the gospel of Jesus Christ”, but truly that by the power of the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things – even “secular” things. I have also come to realize that what President Benson said is true  - that “truth is truth, whether labeled science or religion.” There can be no truth that is not religious, because all truth leads us to our Father in Heaven.

We also need to be careful that we do not neglect to prioritize our study of the gospel. Surely we are encouraged to gain a knowledge of the way things work in this world, but these will do us no good if we don’t have a deep understanding of the most important things – things like our relationship with God and Jesus Christ, and our responsibilities in the plan of salvation.

President Tanner concluded his article with this statement, “Anyone who, with an open mind and a prayerful heart, will give as much attention to the teachings of Jesus Christ as to scientific and academic studies will keep his faith.” And, I would add, their understanding of those scientific and academic things will be multiplied.

There has been a lot of debate in the public eye recently about religion and it is very interesting to see how those who are not religious accuse those who are religious of being close minded. But how are those who ridicule religion not being close minded themselves? President Tanner said of these people, “They say one should keep an open mind and learn all the truth one can, yet they close their minds when it comes to the subject of religion.” It is also interesting that those experts in fields of science should feel bold enough to comment on religion, when if a religious expert comments on science they are ridiculed and mocked. Just because I lack an understanding of the principles of chemistry or biology does not mean those principles are not true. Similarly, a lack of understanding of religion does not make religion false or any more preposterous than the principles of evolution.

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300<br /><br />Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)<br />Acknowledgment: P. Knezek (WIYN)<br /><br />The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute conducts Hubble science operations.<br /><br />Goddard is responsible for HST project management, including mission and science operations, servicing missions, and all associated development activities.

(image credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video)

It is interesting to observe how the “truths” of science have changed over time. As we discover “new” truths in science they frequently over turn other “truths” we thought we knew for sure. The whole method of science is that you can never prove something isn’t you can only prove that it is – or, in the absence of a convincing conclusion, you can say there isn’t enough evidence to prove that it is – but just because you can’t prove it is true doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Why would we not extend this method of thinking to religion? And yet people devote a lot of their time and energy to proving that God does not exist, or that one religion or another is not true when in fact, we should be simply dedicating our energies to finding out what is true.

The same scientific method that is used to prove countless scientific principles can be used with religion. The only difference is that the “measurement” can only be found in your own heart and soul. Only you can measure the results from your experiment (although the “fruits” of your experiments may be seen by others – Matt 7:20) President Harold B. Lee quoted Dr. Henry Eyring who said, “I have often met this question: ‘Dr. Eyring, as a scientist, how can you accept revealed religion?’ The answer is simple. The Gospel commits us only to the truth. The same pragmatic tests that apply in science apply to religion. Try it. Does it work?”

I testify that I have tried it. I have tried the gospel. I know that it works. I have also studied science. I know that many of the principles science has discovered are true. I believe that understanding the principles of science can bring us closer to God. I know that we can believe in true science and true religion – and indeed, that is our purpose as Latter-day Saints – to come to understand all truth.

How do you view science and religion? How did you decide that God is real? Did you experiment, just as you would have experimented on an scientific principle?

For more reading on knowledge, science, and religion, see these books/articles:

Find the Answers in the Scriptures – President Harold B. Lee, Dec 1972 First Presidency Message
Right Answers – President N. Eldon Tanner, Oct 1973 First Presidency Message
Your Charge: To Increase in Wisdom and Favor with God and Man – President Ezra Taft Benson, Sept 1979 New Era
Chapter 27: Learning by Study and by Faith – Brigham Young; Teachings of the Presidents of the Church 1997


  1. I love this. LOVE. :)
    I was a biology nut in high school and part of college until I was sucked into the English/Humanities vortex. :) I still love science of all kinds and reading up on the latest discoveries.
    It's interesting, I have a very good friend from high school who is an atheist. She says that science is her religion. She simply can't reconcile things in religion with what she sees as the infallible facts of scientific thought. I wish I could persuade her to see that faith can be tested and proved as well. It's like what the Savior taught-- if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine! :)
    So glad I finally got the chance to stop by-- I'd been meaning to for a long time. ♥

  2. Here are a bunch of quotes from Mormon authorities on the compatibility of our religion with science and technology:

  3. Amen Sister, I love this post. Last night I watched a show on the science channel concerning the recent "discovery" of earth like planets beyond the milkyway. The scientists were so excited about this "discovery" and I was too, for them, because I know and we know that the Lord has told us that he has created "worlds without end". He has created many "earths" just like this. I love archaeology. And I love when they find ancient civilizations, and "proof of Life" because the scriptures validate these finds. So many questions, the science community would like to find answeres, I believe that those answers are in the scritpures. Let him who has eyes to see, see. And him who have ears, hear.


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