One of the perks I enjoy of being a Mormon is the expanded enjoyment I get from the world of science. Members of other religions may feel their beliefs conflict with science, or vice versa, and perhaps some Mormons may feel this way. I can understand how some members of other religions would feel there is conflict, but when I hear of a Mormon who sees a conflict between their beliefs and the world of science I have to wonder how much they know about their own religion or science.
My dad is a rocket scientist. Ok, not a rocket scientist per se, he built satellites that went into space on rockets. He worked at NASA, Caltech, and a number of other science-related companies. He worked on the Hubble Space Telescope for 10 years. He is an amateur astronomer and I grew up looking through telescopes and had the opportunity to visit some famous observatories.
I was brought up to see science as men, with their limited minds, trying to understand the unlimited mind of God and His creations. Everything science discovered was mere toying around and playstuff compared to what God knew and what God was capable of. And asking questions made it amazing. How did God create all the stuff we see around us? How did he create the universe with all the planets and stars, galaxies, black holes, etc.? From the largest star to the smallest atomic particle, it all made me that much more amazed at God’s intelligence and power, that not only did he have control over all this stuff, but he was aware of each and every particle, its exact location, movement, etc. To think of all of it has happening by chance isn’t amazing to me. And since I, as a Mormon, believe I am a child of God and have the potential to become like Him someday, there is the grand question of how in the world will I be able to change from what I am today into a being like Him.
I find inspiring scriptures such as this:
And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. — Moses 1:33
My father has a huge framed picture of the Hubble Deep Field image with that scripture hanging in his house.
I also love videos like this:
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And then there are books like The Life of a Scientist, a biography of the reputed LDS scientist Henry Eyring, father to current apostle Henry B. Eyring.
One profound experience I had that juxtaposed my belief in the gospel with science was a presentation I attended while a student at BYU-Idaho in which I learned about the golden ratio or golden mean. I saw in the golden mean and its use amongst great artists and common “use” in nature to be another sign of the hand of God. Although I don’t believe the golden mean is used anywhere in this video, the video does a great job of communicating what I felt while attending that presentation on the golden mean.
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Now, does any of this prove the existence of God, or that Jesus Christ lives, or that the LDS Church is true? No, not at all. They are witnesses, evidence–not objective proof. To one, they are witnesses and evidence of God’s hand, and to another they are merely the way things happen naturally, without any need for a God to be involved. How can intelligent, intellectual, educated people be exposed to the same evidence and come to different conclusions? I believe God set things up that way on purpose, that is, he wants us to be in limbo–not forever, but at least temporarily. Only by being in limbo, in a state of not-knowing, can we be free to choose what we want to do and who we want to be. Because nothing is 100% sure, we each end up believing not what is fact, but what we want to be fact.
Thus, if you want to know what someone wants to be true, you need do nothing more than look at what they believe is true, or the decisions they make. If someone wants to believe in God, they will see evidence of his existence. If someone wants to believe there is no God, they will see evidence of his non-existence. Nobody can prove either case to another individual, and so we are free to believe what we want until such time as we receive absolute knowledge. For someone to say “I have learned there is no God…” is to engage in illogical reasoning, since to know such a thing one would have to either be, or be in communication with, a being that knows everything, in which case one would be in touch with God and the statement would be proven to be false. If someone does not believe in God it is because they do not want to. It is, shall we say, a matter of faith.
Likewise, those who believe in God exercise faith. The difference is that if God is real, then he can prove it to individuals, thus removing their faith in the matter as they are granted absolute knowledge. The atheist can look forward to no such experience to confirm his belief. This does not mean the atheist does not occupy a logical position when he says “I do not believe in God” but rather only if he says “I know there is no God.” Differently, he who believes in God can make the logical claim “I know there is a God” because he can claim to have been given that knowledge by God.
For my part, I first choose to believe in God. For me, perhaps nature and science would not cease to be amazing if there were no God, but it would cease to have much meaning. If I am not a permanent being but life ends with the death of my body, then I see no meaning in life other than temporary entertainment. Happiness itself is a fleeting illusion, a mere chemical coincidence. For something to have meaning to me today, it must have meaning 100,000 years from now. If something is not permanent, or permanent in its effect, then I am not interested in it, or at least I shouldn’t be. I have to admit there are probably a large number of non-permanent things that interest me. I choose to believe in God, in his permanence, and in my own permanence and potential to become like God, because anything less is not very motivating or exciting, and I want to be excited about life.
Second, I do know God exists because he has given me that absolute knowledge. I can’t prove his existence to anyone else because that would frustrate God’s plan, but for me it’s enough for me to know what I know and to be able to share the formula for obtaining that knowledge with others. Just as I know God exists, I know the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the fact of Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet, and the legitimacy of the LDS Church as being God’s church upon the earth. I know those things because God has told me those things in a way that I don’t just believe them but know them to be true.
Because I have this knowledge, which even a young child or “stupid” person can obtain (and thus God is fair to everyone), it allows me to look at science and know that where there appear to be conflicts it’s only a matter of gaining all the information. How does the story of Adam and Eve jive with evolution? What about dinosaurs? Can God travel faster than the speed of light? What about DNA studies that don’t show any relationship between Native Americans and Jews? None of these questions, nor any others, has ever given me a problem with my religious beliefs. Have they given me questions? Sure. But they are usually easily answered, and where they aren’t easily answered it’s not difficult to think of potential answers. I’ve never felt like I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, or that I had to do mental gymnastics in order to reconcile science with my religion. I don’t really understand Mormons who do feel that way, unless they are limited in their understanding of Mormon doctrine or science, or as I stated above they simply don’t want to believe the gospel is true.
Science makes my religion more interesting, and religion makes science more interesting, because for me they’re really one and the same. My religion is nothing more than obtaining a knowledge of all truth, and whether that comes through the scriptures, revelation from God, or men performing scientific experiments or digging things out of the ground or making observations, it’s all truth, it’s all knowledge, and it’s all good.