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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Heber J. Grant's 1931 comment about science: Part 1, Ambiguity

This is the first in a series of posts that will examine the context of Heber J. Grant's 1931 comment about science:

"Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church."

Some of my blogging friends understand the above statement very differently than I do. That's because the statement is ambiguous, similar to the classic ambiguous illustrations below. Look at them. Do you see a white vase or two faces looking at one another? Do you see a young girl or an old woman?

Now consider these statements:

   • I saw her duck. (Did she lower her head quickly, or does she own a duck?)

   • They fed her dog meat. (Did she eat dog meat, or did her dog eat meat?)

The ambiguity in statements like these is resolved by learning more about what was happening at the time. Context brings clarity.

Does Heber J. Grant's comment about science mean, "We preach the gospel and we don't preach science?" or does it mean "We preach the gospel and we don't preach against science?" In the next few posts, we will examine the circumstances surrounding Grant's comment. With enough context, we should be able to see clearly what Heber J. Grant meant.

5 Comments:

Blogger Tim said...

"Does Heber J. Grant's comment about science mean, 'We preach the gospel and we don't preach science?' or does it mean 'We preach the gospel and we don't preach against science?'"

There are four possible options.

1. He meant the first interpretation.

2. He meant the second interpretation.

3. He meant both of the interpretations.

4. He meant none of the interpretations.

Is it possible that more than one of these interpretations is correct?

The most likely scenario is that he meant to say what he actually said--and that three of the possibilities (1-3) are correct.

3/26/2013 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

I saw her duck. (Did she lower her head quickly, or did she own a duck?) Yes she could have done both. But without more information, we're just guessing aren't we!

3/26/2013 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Of course, the truly observant person sees both images in the picture--the lamp AND the faces. Why does it have to be just one or the other?

3/26/2013 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stick around, Tim. This is only the first in a series of posts that will examine the context of Heber J. Grant's 1931 comment. With enough context, we should be able to see clearly what Heber J. Grant meant.

3/26/2013 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous DB said...

The two illustrations were drawn with the intention of depicting two possible interpretations. The two ambiguous sentences you wrote were written with the intention of having two possible meanings. Since you are comparing President Grant's statement to those illustrations and your sentences, are you suggesting that he wrote that statement with the intention of it having multiple possible meanings? I don't think he did and I think your comparisons are inappropriate. If his statement is ambiguous, it’s not because he meant for it to have multiple possible meanings.

3/27/2013 01:18:00 PM  

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