Sunday, June 29, 2008

"My faith did not come to me through science"

One of the most science friendly apostles of this dispensation explained the origin of man this way:

"Man is the child of God.... He is born in the lineage of Deity, not in the posterity of the brute creation" (James E. Talmage, "The Earth and Man," 1931, 13-14).

Elder Talmage thus speaks against the scientific theory of his day (still current today) about the origin of man's physical body. I thought about Elder Talmage's above quoted statement as I read a blog article on the Word of Wisdom today. The article argues that it is ill-advised to expect that science will prove our faith.

"As a convert, I can see the danger in encouraging people to think that science has (or soon will) prove the veracity of all of our doctrines and practices. It isn't going to (in our lifetimes) and expecting it to is to build on the sandiest of foundations." (Julie M. Smith, Times and Seasons article, June 28, 2008)

One of the comments expanded on Julie Smith's thoughts:

"Though usually someone who believes very strongly in what science has to teach us, relying on it for support to validate eternal principles is truly relying on the 'arm of flesh'. It changes all the time, even if in small increments." (AHLDuke, Times and Seasons comment, June 29, 2008)

President Thomas S. Monson also believes it is ill-advised to expect that science will confirm our faith:

"I acknowledge that I do not understand the processes of creation, but I accept the fact of it. I grant that I cannot explain the miracles of the Bible, and I do not attempt to do so, but I accept God’s word. I wasn’t with Joseph, but I believe him. My faith did not come to me through science, and I will not permit so-called science to destroy it." (Thomas S. Monson, BYU speech, Nov 13, 2007)

On three previous occasions, President Monson said the same thing (click here). So why, I wonder, do so many of us insist that science is right about man having come "in the posterity of the brute creation?"


Blogger S.Faux said...

One thing is for sure: I don't go to Church to learn science. And, I don't.

It is true, our faith is NOT science, but does it need to be anti-science? No.

If the fossils clearly say that life changed over time (such as the appearing and disappearing of the dinosaurs found in Utah), then why does theology need to be stained to do battle with them? Anti-science arguments are red herrings. Why are they important? Somewhere I am missing something, I suppose. Then again, maybe not.

6/30/2008 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Thanks for your comment, S.Faux. Here are my thoughts about "the appearing and disappearing of the dinosaurs found in Utah." And this is not to open a debate on the subject of fossils, but merely to state my point of view on fossils as they relate to human origins.

It is my opinion that fossils prove nothing about human origins. Whatever fossils infer about human origins depends entirely on what one chooses to imagine or believe about human origins in the first place because it is from that point of view that the evidence will be interpreted. I understand that fossil evidence can be convincingly supportive of human evolution for those who approach the evidence with that point of view. But there is an official Church position statement on the subject which says:

-------------- quote --------------
Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal Himself or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam's race—God alone can reveal them. ("The Origin of Man," Ensign, Feb. 2002, 30.)
-------------- end quote --------------

President Boyd K. Packer emphasized that point when he said: "It is my conviction that a full knowledge of the origin of man must await further discovery, further revelation." ("The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990, p.8.)

Scientists cannot travel back in time to actually observe the earth as it was millions or billions of years ago. We cannot observe the earth as it was even yesterday. We can take photographs, but the very next day those photographs are only evidence (granted, sometimes strong evidence) for what really happened the day before. In the same way, Utah dinosaurs are just that—evidence. I like Hugh Nibley's description of this problem:

-------------- quote --------------
My own children, long before they could read, write, or count, could tell you exactly how things were upon the earth millions and millions of years ago. But did the little scholars really know? "What is our knowledge of the past and how do we obtain it?" asks the eminent archaeologist Stuart Piggott, and answers: "The past no longer exists for us, even the past of yesterday.... This means that we can never have direct knowledge of the past. We have only information or evidence from which we can construct a picture." The fossil or potsherd or photograph that I hold in my hand may be called a fact—it is direct evidence, an immediate experience; but my interpretation of it is not a fact, it is entirely a picture of my own construction. I cannot experience ten thousand or forty million years—I can only imagine, and the fact that my picture is based on facts does not make it a fact, even when I think the evidence is so clear and unequivocal as to allow no other interpretation. (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, vol. 1, ch. 2, 25-27.)
-------------- end quote --------------

There is no such thing as direct scientific knowledge about the origin of man. All of the scientific evidence that does exist is subject to interpretion and the interpretation itself is not fact.

6/30/2008 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jared* said...


I must be brief:

1. There's a bit of difference between the Word of Wisdom and evolution. Whether it makes any sense or not (and mostly I think it does), the WofW is a requirement for full fellowship in the Church. In that sense, the science is irrelevant; you either live the minimum standards (most likely because you believe God wants you to) or you don't. Conversely, no such action turns on the question of science and the creation.

2. Does acceptance of evolution indicate a destroyed faith? Perhaps in regard to limited questions, but broadly speaking, I don't think so, and I believe you would agree. I take President Monson's statement broadly--don't let science destroy your faith in the kinds of things asked in temple recommend interviews--rather than the narrower question of who is right about evolution.

7/01/2008 09:07:00 PM  

<< Home