Science and Religion

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In the late 1800s Edwin Abbott wrote a satirical novella called Flatland. While written as a commentary on Victorian society, physicists and mathematicians have used the concepts of the story to help explain higher dimensional space. In Flatland there are only two dimensions. Imagine the world as 2D – there are x and y axes but no z. The world would be like an infinitely thin sheet of paper. While such a world could be beautiful and rich, there is a depth missing that those of us who live in a three spatial dimension world (like we all do; 3 dimensions suffice for our discussion now unless we want to get into a discussion of some of the theories or propositions of theoretical physics, in which case there are some who believe that our universe has a number of other dimensions than the viewable three {and non-viewable one of time}). We, in our 3D world, can easily comprehend all of the 2D Flatland. However, Flatlanders cannot comprehend 3 dimensions. If a 3 dimensional being passed through Flatland, the Flatlanders would only see cross-sections of the 3 dimensional being. This would allow a glimpse of the being but not a full comprehension of him or her.

My point with all of this is that science is like Flatland. Religion turns the world of Flatland into our world – a world of 3 rich dimensions. The three dimensions fully encompass the 2 dimensional world of science. Science and religion are complementary. Let me qualify that statement – true science and true religion are complementary. Science has breath and height; religion adds depth. Science teaches us much but religion allows us to understand the world from a greater perspective. Having the 3rd dimension offers a perspective of and purpose for science that science cannot achieve by itself.

If (true) religion is inclusive of (true) science, why do we need science? Why then does religion not answer all the questions about the world and universe around us? Why does science provide so many answers that religion does not answer?

This stems from science and religion asking different questions. Science asks “Why?” and religion asks “What for?” Science uncovers knowledge, religion teaches wisdom. That is not to say that knowledge cannot be obtained from religion – it can, even to a greater extent than from science – but wisdom are seldom drawn from science.

Science teaches us about the world, the universe, our bodies, and all that is around us. Religion does this but with added meaning and morality. Science does not address meaning; it is also inherently amoral. That is one reason with human and animal research we have ethics boards to review research. Ethics are philosophical replacements for morality and religion. It is telling of science that we require additional philosophical frameworks (e.g., ethics) to provide guidelines for what is appropriate science when applied to human and animal research subjects. This shows that science without a foundation of morality (ethics are a branch of morality; someone can personally be amoral or immoral while still being ethical but ethics would not exist without morality; morality only exists because of religion and inspiration from God. Morality exists because of our consciences given unto us by God).

Science is important. There are few things in life that I love more than science. Science is what I do. However, I recognize its limitations. Religion, particularly the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, adds a richness to my life that science never could add. My religion and my faith teach me to be a better person, science just teaches me. I see no contest between science and religion – they are parts of the same whole. Science adds to my faith and my faith adds to my science. They are not separate spheres, they are overlapping and inseparable. For me, science would lose much richness without religion and my life would lose much richness without science.

The more I learn about the world, particularly the human brain – my own particular field of study – the more in awe I am of what God has created. Can we really fathom the human brain? Can we truly understand the 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections between neurons in the human central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)? What’s even more amazing is the ability of the brain to change – to learn and grow. It has infinite storage capacity. Think of that, our brains have the ability to continue to learn new things indefinitely. That does not happen in this life because of degeneration due to age but there is still no limit on what we can learn. In the post-mortal life we will have the ability to continue to progress in knowledge infinitely – spirit and body inseparably connected in an immortal form will be able to learn more faster than we now can.

I believe that science and religion go hand in hand. When there are clashes, that just demonstrates that we have more to learn doctrinally or scientifically. This means that if I ever had to choose between my faith and my science, I would choose my faith. Thankfully, I get to choose both because both add to my understanding of life. This is all why ongoing revelation and sensitivity to the Spirit of God is so important – it will guide us in all things. All things will be revealed at some point, most likely not in our lifetimes but in the post-mortal world. Then we will see with eyes unfettered. As our faith and even science are founded upon the rock of Christ we can continue to grow and progress to become more like Him, including knowing what He knows.

One thought on “Science and Religion

  1. Liz

    I liked what you wrote here. I personally think (after reading a book about life after death, written by a Member and talking to another member who died while undergoing surgery, and then getting revived) that Paradise puts us into a 4 dimensional world, with more colors than we know here, and a lot more abilities than we have here. I think we can’t see or understand it, because it has that 4th dimension that we just can’t relate to on the sphere we are on at the present. My Mom and I were talking about a book written by a Frenchman who was born blind, in the 1920s. But being blind he still could feel the ‘pressure’ of objects around him, even while driving in a car, and could tell the person driving where to go, and how to navigate, just from this feeling of ‘pressure’ (his word) for feeling the objects around him. So, that’s another sense we don’t know about, but that is real. There’s so much we have no clue about. It’s very exciting to think of all the discover awaiting us!

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