I recently saw the movie Angels and Demons. One of the main themes in the movie was the conflict between science and religion. It’s not the only medium where such a theme exists — “Science and Religion” has its Wikipedia entry.
As I walked from the theater after watching the movie, I reflected that I was glad I belonged to a religion where we can be assured that science and faith can coexist.
A few weeks later, I overheard someone here arguing that we wouldn’t need science anymore once we were exalted. The next week, I learned of a person who left the Church because he couldn’t reconcile obvious evidences that pointed to evolution and his religious beliefs.
I think we may need to step back and look at what both science and religion are, and I think that we Latter-Day Saints might find the two a little more friendly than we might think.
Science is based upon theories, upon things we can see. It’s our quest to understand the world around and inside us through trial and error. Truth in science is established through finding proof.
Religion is based on a belief on a higher power, a sense of purpose. Like science, it’s our quest to understand the world around and inside us, and it’s also a little more: it’s our struggle to overcome the mundane and become more than we already are, also through a little bit of trial and error. Truth is established through faith.
They have their differences and their similarities, but can these estranged stepbrothers coexist?
For example, we know for a fact that the earth (or the parts thereof, at least) is at least billions of years old. Tradition, including a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 77:6), tells us the earth has a temporal existence of only seven thousand years. It would seem that two dates contradict one another.
However, I firmly believe that because God works through science as well — but a higher form a science, one we don’t quite understand yet — that both statements may easily be and probably are true. Firstly, we might not even understand the basic statements as well as we think we do — who knows what exactly “a temporal existence” means? — so who are we to say they don’t match up?
Maybe the parts of the earth are billions of years old, but the formation of those parts as we now know it has only been around for a few thousand years or so. I don’t know. That’s just one explanation, and by no means the most authoritative one. Men a lot smarter and more educated than me could probably come up with better ones if they applied their knowledge of both science and theology, using both methods in their respective places to fill in aspects of the final truth.
Both science and faith have their places. The Book of Mormon isn’t going to help us much with the formation of limestone, and science won’t tell us whether abortion is right.
But when you put them together, you have a nearly complete picture, and even those places where they seem to overlap with a little discrepancy can be accepted as testaments to God’s use of natural laws to which we simply don’t have access.
It’s completely possible to live in harmony with both science and religion, as long as we recognize that they both have their place and together they give us different pieces of that great eternal puzzle that is ultimate truth.