Science -vs- Faith and Works

In science, we are made aware of potential realities through discovery; studying; experimenting, testing, and observing; checking and interpreting results; drawing conclusions; and sharing the discoveries with others.
Add God to that process, and you have faith.  The scientific method is essentially the secular version of faith.
Discovery: I may have a spiritual principle brought to my attention – usually in the form of directions from my church leaders or through my own observations.  I formulate a theory about my observations.
Study: As I am made aware of a potential new truth, I can study the topic in my scriptures, find out what past and present church leaders have said on that topic, and can listen to the testimonies of other people.  I can ask questions in Sunday school or can bring up the topic with friends.  I begin to compile methods for testing my spiritual principle.
Experimenting, Testing, and Observing: This portion of the process is where faith truly is brought to life.  In the Book of Mormon (Alma ch. 32, v.28), an ancient-American prophet explains this concept.  I can view the effects of the principle in the lives of others, and I can act on the principles myself and observe my own results.  Sometimes, I even write about my experiences in my personal journal.
Checking and Interpreting Results: If I’m trying to learn about a principle like the Word of Wisdom, I can check my results from observing the principle, compare my before-and-after results, and can note outside influences that could affect my results (like having type-1 diabetes, for example).  I take my results and compare them with the results that I was told that I could expect from following that principle.
Drawing Conclusions: I often take my thoughts, my data, and my results to the Lord.  Sometimes I fast during this process; I nearly always pray and ask my Heavenly Father if I’m right; and, when I get confirmation from multiple sources (like my bishop, the scriptures, my actions and the actions that I observed of others, the prophets, and the Spirit), then I conclude that it must be a true principle.
Sharing Discoveries With Others: In LDS language, when we share our conclusions or knowledge about spiritual principles, we call this bearing testimony.  Once per month in church (in a meeting that we call Fast and Testimony meeting), we get to learn about spiritual truths that others have discovered or concluded to be true.  Many times, we can know that something is truth when people bear their testimonies, and those testimonies are confirmed by the Holy Ghost.
Through faith and works, I have come to know that God truly does exist, that Jehovah and Lucifer are His diametrically opposed sons, that the Word of Wisdom is true, that the Law of Chastity is true, that keeping the Sabbath day holy truly is a commandment of God, that fasting is a true and helpful principle, that tithing is important and a correct principle, that “The Family: a Proclamation to The World” was a document inspired of God.  I found that Joseph Smith truly did see God the Father and Jesus Christ in a vision, that he truly did reestablish Christ’s true church on the earth, and that I belong to that church.
When I was still a teenager, I was told that every worthy young man should serve a mission.  It always flew in one ear and out the other… until one day, for some reason, it stuck in my mind.  At that moment, my ears magically opened, and I heard and understood a new commandment.
I spoke with my bishop, spoke with some other people who had served missions, and prayed about it.  My girlfriend also noted how important it was to her to marry a man who had served a mission for the church.  I wanted to fulfill her expectations, be obedient to the commandment that I had been given, and felt that I had been blessed by God and that I owed Him one.  I also thought that God loved me with or without me serving a mission, that I could sweet talk my girlfriend into marrying me anyways, and that maybe the mission requirement and associated/promised blessings weren’t for me.  Was this a commandment that I needed to follow?
Well, I decided to go ahead and put it to the test.  I made it a goal to serve a mission and started preparing for it.

From the sparks of thought that initially touch our minds and imaginations to the completed scholarly articles containing mind-boggling theories in the scientific journals, the process of discovery can benefit everyone: regardless of field of scientific study or a religious affiliation. Seekers of truth research, experiment and test, observe, check and interpret results, then draw conclusions, and share the resulting discoveries with others.

Scientific discoveries and inventions have brought us mind-boggling theories like the transition rate theory, and revolutionary devices like the television, stereo sound, radio, the word processor, synthetic diamonds, and medical devices like the artificial heart and hearing aids.

All of us can have ideas, conduct experiments, and make discoveries that better ourselves and the world around us – even without being a scientist with a PhD.

This article demonstrates the ways that science relies on principles of faith to function, and that science uses faith to unlock the hidden laws that govern the Universe.  Biblical and Book of Mormon scriptures here demonstrate the validity of the scientific method, it’s application to the process of spiritual discovery, and man’s advancement into God’s spiritual presence.

Believe it or not, Atheists and religious people do have common ground.  This article also provides an introduction to some of the universal wisdom found in both Holy writ and in science.  Religious people need not fully embrace all of science or shun all of it to enjoy and appreciate the fruits of both science and religion.

To start off, if you know and use the scientific method, then you can also understand faith.  In fact, the scientific method is essentially the secular version of faith.

Based on Hebrews ch. 11, v.1-10 in the Bible, faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.  By acting on this principle of faith, people have accomplished some pretty amazing things throughout history.  If you need evidence of this, all of the scientific inventions and discoveries listed in the 2nd paragraph (above) were all pioneered by faithful, believing and practicing Mormons who were also scientists.

Henry Eyring Sr., who developed the transition-rate theory, was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout his life. His views of science and religion were captured in this quote: ‘Is there any conflict between science and religion? There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men.'” – Wikipedia: Henry Eyring

Science vs Faith & Works

The scientific method consists of discovery, study or formulating hypotheses,experimenting and observing, checking and interpreting results, drawing conclusions, and then sharing the results.

Discovery:

Before this paragraph, did you observe that this article was written in a 12-point black font on a white background or that this is the ninth paragraph?  Sure, you saw it, but did you consciously think about it?  Just in this article alone, there are countless observations that you could have already made that you didn’t.  Literally millions of things happen around us every second that might warrant a discovery: sights, sounds, smells, physiology and chemicals, etc.  How many of those happenings cause you to take notice?  If a thought stays in your head more than a second or two, what is it?

I may have a spiritual principle brought to my attention – in the form of words found in Holy scriptures, directions from my church leaders or observations that I make out during every-day life.  Every spark of attention has an origin – an involuntary pulse that enters into our consciousness.  Pay attention to what stands out to you – it could be divine revelation.

We don’t necessarily choose all of the signals that spark our attention, but we can often choose what we will do with our observations.  We can often influence or choose our environments and our circumstances to affect what goes in and out of our minds.   We gather our thoughts, emotions, and senses as initial evidence, and begin to formulate a theory about our observations.  I sometimes gather my thoughts and impressions together into a page or two of a notebook, on the back of a church-meeting program or even in an MS Excel workbook.

Study:

As I become aware of potential new truth or instructions that may be from God, I can do the following:

  • Address the topic with friends to see if they’ve observed the same kinds of things
  • Listen to the beliefs of others concerning my observations
  • Study the topic in my scriptures, in books or on the Internet
  • Find out what present and past church leaders or other experts have said related to the topic
  • Ask questions in Sunday school or on online forums
  • Begin to compile methods for testing my potential spiritual principle or instruction.

Experimenting, Testing, and Observing:

This portion of the process is where faith truly develops and comes to life.  Whether you gained your hypothesis via your own notions, from the testimony of others, from a science book or from holy scripture, testing it still works the same way.

In the Book of Mormon (Alma ch. 32, v.28), an ancient-American prophet objectively explains faith and procedures for experimenting on faith.  I can view the effects of a potentially God-inspired principle in my own life or notice it working good in others, and I can act on those same principles to obtain my own results.  Sometimes, I even write about these experiences in my personal journal.

Some principles may take years, months or weeks of experimentation, testing, and observation.  Other principles may take just an instant to test and observe.

Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1 is used throughout Christianity to describe faith – and verse 1 is core to the definition; however, don’t neglect the action of the rest of the chapter: Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice, Noah built an ark and was saved, Abraham obtained the land of promise, etc.  These people allowed their faith to control or dictate their actions.  Their actions became the prayer that invoked the blessings of God.

In other words, as James clearly repeated in James ch.2, v.12-26, “Faith without works is dead.”  The secular version of this can be summed up by a few famous words from public icons:

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” – Albert Einstein

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Many great ideas go unexecuted, and many great executioners are without ideas. One without the other is worthless.” – Tim Blixseth

Above quotes were taken from quotes compiled by Christian Frankplads.

A prayer of faith can also be vital to the Experimenting phase of this scientific process.  I pray silently, out-loud, and in my actions.  The old adage “actions speak louder than words” rings true to me, and is confirmed by the words of James in the New testament (James ch.2 v.19):

19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

In Matthew ch.7 v.20&21, Jesus Christ teaches us the following:

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.  

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

(and in John ch.7 v.17&18)

16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.  

17 If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Faith without works is the equivalent to words without deed or hypothesis without experimentation.

Checking and Interpreting Results:

If I desire to learn about a principle like the Word of Wisdom (a basic health code accepted by the Mormon faith as revelation from God), I can check my results, compare my before-and-after results, and can note any external influences that could affect the results.  I take my actual results and compare them with the expected results, and compare my results with others’ results.

In speaking of a metaphorical seed of faith, an ancient-American Christian Prophet named Alma in the Book of Mormon (Alma ch.32, v.28,32,38-39) related the following:

28 Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

32 Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good, but if it groweth not, behold it is not good, therefore it is cast away.

 38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.  

39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.

Alma notes that not only does a principle need to be correct in order to prove itself, but that the experiment has to be completed under the right conditions.  Conducting no experiment at all results in no confirmation or disproof at all either.

Drawing Conclusions:

I often take my work, my data, and my results to God in a silent or oral prayer.  Sometimes I fast during this process; I nearly always pray and ask my Heavenly Father if I’m right; and, when I get confirmation from multiple sources (like my church leaders, the scriptures, my actions, my observation of others, and from the Spirit), then I conclude that I must have found a true principle.  Here are some enlightening quotes from the scientific world on the subject:

“Don’t confuse hypothesis and theory. The former is a possible explanation; the latter, the correct one. The establishment of theory is the very purpose of science.”  – Martin H. Fischer

“One must credit an hypothesis with all that has had to be discovered in order to demolish it.” – Jean Rostand

“Truth in science can be defined as the working hypothesis best suited to open the way to the next better one.” – Konrad Lorenz

Quotes above were taken from quotes compiled by BrainyQuote.com.

Sharing Discoveries With Others:

In LDS language, when we share our conclusions or knowledge about spiritual principles (much like a scientist would gather together with associates to share findings), we call this bearing testimony.  Once per month in church (in a meeting that we call Fast and Testimony meeting), we get to learn about spiritual truths that our peers have discovered or have concluded to be true.  Many times, we can know that something is truth when people bear their testimonies, and when those testimonies are confirmed by the Holy Ghost.

When we share our discoveries with others, they may be able to accept our testimony as truth – they may also doubt our words.

Through faith and works, I have come to know that God truly does exist, that Jehovah and Lucifer are His diametrically opposed sons, that the Word of Wisdom is true, that the Law of Chastity is true, that keeping the Sabbath day Holy is a commandment of God, that fasting is a true and helpful principle, that tithing is important and a correct principle, that “The Family: a Proclamation to The World” was a document inspired of God.  I have found that Joseph Smith truly did see God the Father and Jesus Christ in a vision, that he did reestablish Christ’s true church on the earth, that I belong to that church, and that I can trust the current leadership of my church on other issues that I didn’t personally confirm through this scientific and spiritual process.

Where Faith and Science Differ

As I interact with secularists and religious people in my spare-time pursuits, I find that the words “faith” and “science” can be used diversely.  Science-oriented secularists consider science to be an absolute proven consistent math (in which case, scientific theories shouldn’t be accepted as science – only repeatedly proven natural laws should be accepted by these people).

These same secularists believe that a devotion to God is like someone calling on an invisible magician through some incantation to work  magic, and that believers who practice spiritual rites like communion or sacrament ,and who practice ritual worship like attending Sunday church meetings must all be vain in their actions – providing no true benefit to the worshipper.  They claim that a belief in God is ridiculous and can’t be proven.  The accusation that I face the most from Atheists and Secularists is that God-worshippers must either pretend to be happy or deceive themselves in order to find happiness.

But both religion and science are rarely tested or realized completely first hand by an average person of conviction.  Both followers of science and followers of religion rely on the words and work of others if they don’t engage themselves in the scientific process (or trials of faith).  Neither follower has first hand knowledge of what they believe.

People who lean towards science will give a fuller effort to studying the Big Bang and quarks & anti-quarks while denying the existence of the supreme creator of the Universe and governor of natural law.  And some people ignore fossils while accepting the same dating methods to prove archeological finds in the Middle East confirming the events and places of the Old Testament.  Both groups deny discoveries made every day that validate both religion and science.

The “prove-it” arguments fall apart when a religious person pops open their Bible or a science secularist pulls out a physics text book.  Both using unacceptable sources in the other person’s mind.  And the “show-me” argument falls apart when the science guy has no immediate proof for anything existing outside the range of the telescope or microscope, and when the religious guy has no immediate proof of spirit matter or the existence of Jesus.  Yet, both will try to convince each other without immediate proof, and will plea to the other person to dedicate time and effort to study the matter and learn for themselves.  What a rare treat it is when that kind of study actually happens.

What’s So Special About Religion

One unique benefit that religion claims is that of prayer: prayer for proof and answers that reach beyond our own capacity and understanding, and prayers for asking God to control and provide what we cannot provide by our own power.  Prayer allows people to have a direct communication line to Deity – communication that reaches outside of our environment and circumstances.

When Jesus Christ prayed in the Garden to commence the atonement process, God sent angels to comfort Him: Luke ch.22 v.41-43

41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,  

42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.  

43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

Jesus is not the only person to view angels or participate in miracles through prayer.  Many people – including ordinary people have had divine witnesses, miracles, and answers to prayers.  I have had many experiences in my life where prayers have been answered.

In 2011 during the great economic recession, I couldn’t find full-time work for several months – even rich people were out mowing their own lawns!  I was taking project work wherever I could; my wife was baking bread and making jam to make sandwiches for our children’s lunches; and both my wife and I were skipping meals and scrounging together whatever we could for food for ourselves.  Our children didn’t mind homemade jelly sandwiches, but it sure hurt me knowing that I couldn’t do any better than that.  With two days left before rent was due, I was still exactly $100 short on rent.

After checking my email one last time Saturday evening to see if anyone had responded to my online ad, my wife and I knelt down in our bedroom away from the children and prayed.  We told God that we were doing our best, but that our car was out of gas, that I had no work lined up for Saturday or Monday, and that we worried that we wouldn’t be able to pay our rent.  We asked Him to help us, and to make things work out.

The next day at church, during “Fast and Testimony” meeting, members were allowed to get up and bear their testimony about Jesus, the truthfulness of the gospel, etc.  I felt spiritually moved to go up to the pulpit and bear my testimony.  The odd thing was that what I felt inspired to say didn’t really relate to anything that had been on my mind, but I went ahead and did it.

I talked about enduring temptation and sin, and shared an economical principle called the law of diminishing returns and related it to how when someone is struggling the most that they feel they could possibly struggle to avoid sin, and are noticing no additional results from their efforts, that’s when they’re maximizing the returns on their struggle.  I said, ”  When the benefits become marginal, you need to to recognize your great manifestation of faith and strength. Don’t give up.  You’re at your strongest right now.”  I mentioned that strength and capacity increase as we endure, and as the great God Jehovah adds.

My own economical struggle was nowhere on my thoughts, and I didn’t mention it at all.  I simply bore the testimony that I had been prompted to bear, and sat back down and enjoyed the testimonies of everyone else who went up to the pulpit.

After the meeting, a few people came up to me, shook my hand, and thanked me for my testimony.  One man had teary eyes and said that it was helpful to him and that he had realized that same concept before, but was unable to put it into terms so clear.  I thought, “Whew – I did benefit somebody with my testimony”.

Someone else who we didn’t really know, who didn’t know our family, and who occasionally came to church with his family walked up, and handed us an envelope.  He said that he greatly appreciated my testimony.  When we got home, I opened the envelope.  Inside was a note that said, “thank you” accompanied by a $100 bill.  No – it’s not normal for someone to hand you money during church – especially not as a result of some good speech you just made.

I’m grateful for science, but I received strong proof that it was God who ensured that our rent was paid – to the penny.  That is one of many experiences that I can attribute directly or indirectly to God.

Morality is also not derived or decided by science – science has no “conscience”.  Science merely says that creating, governing or destroying are possible.  Whether we do any of those things is based on philosophies of man and the Word of God – which are for the most part derived from tradition, ancient Holy writ, and from spiritual promptings.

Science and Religion Together

Regardless of Man’s origin, whether he evolved from an ape, was created out of mud or was the literal offspring of deity, the oldest written history of man and the oldest archeological finds of civilization contain proof of worship.  This worship didn’t only seek to explain the unknown, but acknowledged the originator (or originators, depending on the culture) of all people and of all things on the earth, below the earth, and in the sky.

At various time periods throughout history, the greater or lesser part of man has

  • expressed desire to worship the great Creator of the natural laws that govern the universe,
  • recognized the essentiality of a supreme Creator but felt no need to worship it
  • or denied that powers governing the Universe have any conscious author at all

So, as a species, we have searched throughout time to discover and explain truth.  Can science get things right?  Yes.  At the same time, we can’t deny that man-made explanations of natural laws have been amended or that theories have evolved.  It’s not that truth has evolved, but that our understanding has.  And tomorrow, the science of today may not be the same as the science of yesterday.

And equally, religions and churches have adapted to the changing world, have  altered, added or subtracted policies and rules, and have not been constant perfect entities.  People are imperfect, and they generally run the affairs of every faith.  That doesn’t mean that God is imperfect or that He changes his laws or His requirements to go to Heaven.  It doesn’t mean that God has inconstant and fluctuating love for his children.

One concept taught by the LDS faith is that man hasn’t had a consistent and complete understanding of God throughout time.  God has revealed His character, His law, and His authority completely on earth at times, and has withheld enlightenment or understanding of those laws from mankind at other times.

When the whole world is void of the fullness of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the LDS faith refers to that as that as a period of Apostasy.  The reestablishment of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is referred to as a Restoration, Each reestablishment to apostasy is referred to as a dispensation.  Joseph Smith called the current dispensation The Dispensation of The Fullness of Times.  It is the last dispensation before the end of the earth and the Last Judgment.

From the start of this last dispensation (the restoration of Christ’s full gospel on the Earth), technological advances and scientific discoveries have sky-rocketed.  And although not everyone can agree completely as to which scientific studies and advancements are morally acceptable, we can all agree that many formerly hidden and mysterious laws are being revealed to mankind, and that all scientific advancement is based on obedience to those natural laws.

As far as science operating within the bounds of morality, we can all agree that human life, human consciousness, human dignity, and human potential are precious – regardless of Man’s origins and morality coming from God or an ape.