September 16, 2015

Science and Religion

Well, howdy friends! Its been a long time since I've written anything in my blog. Though it was originally created to document my adventures as a missionary in Brazil, I've come to the conclusion that miracles actually happen to all of us, all the time, and there is no reason to stop sharing stories about the role of faith in my life just because I am no longer a full-time representative of the Savior. Missionary, student, in Brazil, in Provo - the role of God and religion in my life is exactly the same.

Disclaimer: Everything I say in this article is my personal opinion. It doesn't necessarily reflect official Church doctrine, and shouldn't be taken as such.

So...Science and Religion!!!!

I'm taking my last-ever GE this semester and instead of sitting through physics, chemistry, or geology I opted for the DINOSAUR class. Yes, I am in a class 100% revolving around dinosaurs. Its basically my dream come true. (No really....I've been talking about being a paleontologist since before I could read. Its a thing.)

And over the course of this science class cleverly disguised as a fun class, some interesting topics have come up. Namely, dinosaurs and fossils, the theory of evolution, the age of the Earth. One might wonder, how are such topics treated at a religious university? Taught in a cursory manner? Labeled as junk? Swept under the carpet? Set up as alternate theories to the Biblical creation account?

Hello! We're at a university for crying out loud, and that means science. We are in the business of discovering truth. A new building was built on campus recently, and in the dedication Elder Russell M Nelson (a man who we believe to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, like the ancient apostles of the New Testament) said, "This university is committed to search for truth, and to teach the truth. All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from the Lord, it is compatible."

Also, "There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from either an incomplete knowledge of either science, or religion, or both."

Wow. Can you just read that statement again? Those are powerful words.

It is a fundamental belief of members of the Church, and myself personally, that we should try to understand the world around us - find patterns, discover laws, create, invent, try to make sense of the universe. Clearly, it is a process. I happen to study the political and economical laws of the universe (in my humble opinion, a much more daunting task than studying the laws of nature). However, I have the utmost respect for the research and discoveries of those in the fields of physics, biology, astronomy, medicine, and the like.

Just after a few weeks in this class, I have a greater appreciation for this beautiful Earth that we live on. The flora and fauna that we see right now only represents a TINY part of what has ever existed on this planet. To me, it is just another testimony of the love God has for us. Look at all the work he put into creating a world just for us - the different ages, different species, different continent arrangement. All this has culminated in the earth that exists today - our Earth, with breath-taking mountains, soaring eagles, delicate roses. I don't have time, nor will I ever have time, to express my gratitude at each individual creation that makes my life better just for its simple existence. I'm just beginning to comprehend the vast expanses of time that have preceded life as we know it - and I am in awe.

To quote Carl Sagan, a respected astronomer AND self-declared agnostic, "How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is way better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed?' Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.' A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge."

I would like to claim the privilege of participating in such a religion, one that welcomes the advances of science and the insight they give into our universe - all this only serves as further evidence of the greatness, power, and wisdom of God. As we learn more about our world, we learn more about His creations, and we learn more about Him. God created the earth and works miracles by obedience to the natural laws of the universe - so why not seek to understand these natural laws?

A word of caution - not all science is created equal, and just because a discovery is new does not make it truth. Every proponent of the scientific method can agree with me on this fact! There is still quite a bit that we, as the the human race, do not know and new discoveries in the next 20-30 years will most likely disprove a great deal of "truths" preached today in the scientific community. Change and development is a fact of life! I have very low tolerance for anyone, scientist or preacher, who claims to have all the answers to everything. We don't. Humility, or the ability to admit our own limitations, is a dying virtue. Again, any apparent conflict between science and religion returns to this powerful statement: conflict only arises from incomplete knowledge.

I'll end my little rant (and thanks to you that have stuck around until the end) with an elegant scripture found in the Book of Mormon, Alma 30:44: "Yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator."

I know that God lives. I know that he created the heavens and the earth, and he did so because he loves us. They were created for us. I know that He created them through the power of His Son, Jesus Christ, but I don't know exactly how He created it all. I believe that through study, research, the scientific method, combined with the influence of the Holy Ghost, we will be able to understand the "how" a little bit better. And I am grateful that He has given us this opportunity to learn from the world around us. And that, friends, is what I believe about science and religion.

Another few fascinating links for anyone interested on additional reading on Mormons and Science, here are a few:
One of my professor's views
Official Church stance on evolution
Dedication of the new Life Sciences building at BYU
Man was created in the image of God

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