I wrote about atheists recently, but I thought a new post was warranted on the subject of science and religion – two great tastes that taste great together, if you ask me. I most strenuously object to atheists’ expropriation of science as their exclusive domain. I love science! I know there are some religions that take a dim view of science, or which believe things that appear to be in direct contradiction to established scientific facts, but I don’t think The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is among them. In fact, I believe that science and religion have fundamentally the same aim, namely, the pursuit of truth, and truth is never contradictory. Pure religion and true science will agree completely, and it is embarrassing when one must contort itself in order to correspond to the other. Mormons do not have our heads in the sand with regard to scientific progress and discovery, and we need not compartmentalize our religiosity and our understanding of the natural world. As Brigham Young said,
“In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its professors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts – they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made this earth out of nothing is preposterous and impossible. God never made something out of nothing… If we understood the process of creation, there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant.” (The Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 491)
Mormons do not fear secular education. On the contrary, we embrace it! We seek after it hungrily, eager to learn everything we can about the world around us. We’re one of the only religions where religious commitment increases the more educated we become. Watch this:
Science is not the sole domain of the atheists, and they are not entitled to wield it like a stick against the believers. Why do we Mormons have to get lumped in with those who believe that the universe was created in six 24-hour periods a few thousand years ago? Or with those who believe in the 3-in-1 Godhead of the Nicene Creed? Or that unbaptized infants are condemned to hell? Or any of the other fruits of the Great Apostasy which, like shackles, were cast off in the glorious light of the Restoration? I align myself with virtually every scientist on Earth about climate change. To be a climate denier in the face of the overwhelming and indisputable evidence to the contrary is not to be purely religious, but rather, willfully ignorant. And I am not some outlier in these views; why else, for example, would we be building solar powered chapels or making LEED certified buildings a priority?
I likewise believe, as many Mormons do, incidentally, that the principles of evolution have been conclusively, scientifically demonstrated. (Please note that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, unlike many other Christian churches, has no official position on evolution, allowing members to decide the issue for themselves.) I have read Bill Bryson’s “A Brief History of Nearly Everything” twice, and once skipped school in Junior High to go listen to a hero of mine, Sir Stephen Hawking, deliver a lecture. My lovely Latter-day Saint wife has two university degrees, one in Science and the other in Chemical Engineering. Mormons are not afraid of science.
Some people who wish to discredit the Church (usually atheists, but also occasionally those from other faiths – we get it from all sides) point out that DNA evidence taken from Native Americans fails to demonstrate that North America was populated by a few families that crossed the Atlantic from the Middle East 600 years BCE. No duh. What these critics fail to point out when delivering this evidence is that there are hardly any Mormons left who actually believe that Lehi and his family washed up on the shores of an entirely unpopulated ghost-continent. There is certainly nothing to suggest that is the case in the Book of Mormon itself; on the contrary, Mormon scholars have for decades been pointing out passages in the Book of Mormon which seem to indicate that North America was considerably well populated by the time Lehi arrived. (Simple math discounts the idea that Lehi and his family formed the entire genetic basis for the indigenous peoples of North America.) So once again, critics beat a drum about science disproving an entire religion, but it is based on one assumption made a long time ago (i.e. that every North American Indian is a direct descendent of the Nephites and/or Lamanites), and which has since been both discredited and abandoned among Mormon scholars, and most Mormons, too.
An Article of Faith given to us by Joseph Smith asserts that,
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
66God has not stopped speaking. His Church has been restored to the earth, with a prophet of the Lord at its helm. We do not eschew science in the name of religion – to Mormons there should really be no distinction. We humbly acknowledge that we, like science, do not have all the answers yet, but one day we will, and in the meantime, we continue to learn along with everyone else, including our friends the atheists.