There is a quote from the prolific author Isaac Asimov that reads: “I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.” (Asimov, The Roving Mind, 1983, p. 43; as cited by http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Isaac_Asimov)
Asimov was an atheist and obviously skeptical of things that fall outside scientific observation and explanation. While this is not the forum for a discussion of the potential problems of the scientific method as that branches into the philosophy of science (start here for an introduction of dualism, which is the foundational philosophy of our scientific method), there are many people (here’s one example) who question the assumptions at the philosophical foundation of modern science. I bring this up because Asimov stated, “I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers.” That is precisely the scientific method but that method has its limitations.
So why write about this on a website devoted to basic doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I’ve written previously on belief and evidence. I will summarize that post and apply it to this current one. There is plenty of evidence for the existence of God, we just have to be willing to accept that evidence and the methods by which we acquire it. This means that we have to be willing to try a different method of knowledge other than the scientific method. In other words, when one states that the only way to know something is through “observation, measurement, and reasoning, [with] confirmation by independent observers” (in other words, the scientific method), then that individual is making the assumption that the scientific method is the only way to understand truth. That’s a big assumption. This is not an attack on the scientific method but rather a recognition that it just might not be the only way to discover truth (and I argue that it isn’t).
Even with this, I agree broadly with what Isaac Asimov said. I too believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, with the confirmation of independent observers. I believe in God and in His Son Jesus Christ because I’ve made observations and measurements of the effects of following the teachings of Jesus in my life and in the lives of others around me. I have had many experiences with the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, that confirm the truths of the gospel. These experiences have been verified by independent observers – others who have similar experiences, thoughts, and feelings at the same time as me or in different circumstances. I believe the Bible in part because the teachings in it are testified and clarified by the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, which both serve as additional, independent “observers” (witnesses) of truth. I have the teachings and experiences of prophets, teachers, leaders, parents, siblings, and friends who all confirm my own experiences.
Now, I know that many people do not accept those experiences, they do not accept such evidence as valid. However, this is because they make assumptions that because they cannot use the scientific method to gather these evidences (although you can use methods similar to the scientific method), then such evidence is invalid. Many people are unwilling to even try to find out for themselves if God exists, if Jesus is the Christ, if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s true church, and then act surprised when they don’t have any evidence – as if evidence comes without searching. We have to be willing to discover the truth using God’s method rather than the scientific method. Doing this yields real results, real evidence. What’s beautiful is that anyone can know for themselves, in fact you have to know for yourself, you just have to be willing to accept evidence that might fall outside the scientific method.