Science

(also see “Critical thinking”)

 

Pros of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
Many believers find great success in academic careers or fields that rely heavily on modern science. Some would say this is because Mormonism is pro-science. Mormonism encourages people to seek wisdom from the best books. General authorities frequently emphasize the importance of learning and gaining an education.  For the believer there might even be more motivation to learn, for when we die we will not lose all we worked for but rise again with everything we have learned.
 
Many believers feel blessed that they are not limited by the confines of scientific understanding and assumptions. Scientific views are limited by the observations that mankind has made over the course of a few short years. Man’s knowledge and depth of observation is limited, and thus will always fall short to God’s knowledge of all truth. God knows everything and will one day reveal the hidden things that no man knew, things which man will never be able to explain by scientific inquiry.
 
This is explained in an Ensign article about science: “It is therefore helpful to remember, when pondering the millions of years secularists postulate to explain the formation of the earth, that all current geological dating processes are based on the assumption that the present order of nature preceded us and will continue uniformly hereafter. This secularist view also holds that God, if he exists, never has and never will interfere. However, the revelations Latter-day Saints have about the earth and God’s dealings with it simply do not permit us to make those assumptions.”
 
Essentially, science is limited and simply can’t explain many of the important truths we know to be true. It seems unlikely that science will ever agree with some Mormon beliefs such as the resurrection. Mormons believe that with God nothing shall be impossible, and this is a belief that science will never be able to support. Mormons cannot and should not put all of their belief in science, and this is a good thing.
 
On the other hand, this is not to say that many believing Mormons do not appreciate the wonderful fruits of scientific advancement. Gordon B Hinckley said: “But in a larger sense this has been the best of all centuries. In the long history of the earth there has been nothing like it. The life expectancy of man has been extended by more than 25 years. Think of it. It is a miracle. The fruits of science have been manifest everywhere. By and large, we live longer, we live better. This is an age of greater understanding and knowledge. We live in a world of great diversity. As we learn more of one another, our appreciation grows. This has been an age of enlightenment. The miracles of modern medicine, of travel, of communication are almost beyond belief. All of this has opened new opportunities for us which we must grasp and use for the advancement of the Lord’s work.”
There are some teachings within Mormonism that encourage education, which even nonbelievers can value as positive: Mormonism encourages people to seek wisdom from the best books. General authorities frequently emphasize the importance of learning and gaining an education. 
 
Cons of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
Many believers can feel torn at the disconnect between science and religious belief. This can cause confusion at school, work, and other settings, and can cause uncomfortable cognitive dissonance. There are many things in Mormonism frequently taught that are not supported by science, such as the Earth only being 7000 years old, how there was a literal flood that covered the earth (also see this 1998 Ensign article), the Tower of Babel story in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the Jaredite barges, the literal existence of Adam and Eve (per Elder Holland 2015), and so on.
Science is one area that believers and nonbelievers have different assumptions and worldviews, which frequently prevent the two parties seeing eye to eye. This is a dangerous subject because to many nonbelievers it seems that Mormonism’s approach to science makes some believers irrational and unreasonable. This can understandably seem condescending to a believer. On the other hand, the way that believers entirely reject and dismiss many scientists can feel equally patronizing. Although this can lead to a contentious discussion, it seems like a discussion worth having if one viewpoint is leading to harm. To many nonbelievers, it appears that Mormonism’s approach to science can be harmful.
 
The scientific method aims to reduce bias as much as possible with strict controls, randomization, and so on. The goal of science is to perform experiments to discover truth, and to reject hypothesis or principles that evidence does not support. It seems that Mormonism can sometimes instill a set of biases and assumptions in its members that make it difficult to think logically in a way consistent with the scientific method. As an example, general authorities frequently cite research studies in talks when the findings support their beliefs. However, when the findings of scientific research are opposed to doctrines, principles, or policies of the church, the assumption seems to usually be that there is a flaw with the science rather than a flaw with the church. Apologists and sites like fairmormon.org are devoted to searching for ways to support church claims and preserve testimony, starting with the unshakeable conclusion that the church is true rather than open-minded investigation that it might not be.
 
Mormonism and religion in general can thus influence believers to develop testimonies that are unshakeable, even in the face of compelling evidence and reason that go against belief. This can be harmful when beliefs have real, tangible effects on how lives are lived. Every section in this document details different ways in which Mormonism, through policies and doctrines and commandments, affects lives for better or worse. Some members take a cafeteria approach to Mormonism, picking and choosing to do the things that seem good for them and not doing the things that seem bad for them (the cafeteria approach to Mormonism is discouraged and will lead to misery per Elder Nelson). It thus seems that a nuanced view of the gospel and the world is prohibited. Mormonism’s approach to the scientific method, however, can encourage people to start with the answers and ignore contradicting evidence. Mormonism can encourage some members to assume that many or even all of the things they are asked to do are good, and to not consider the idea that they might not be worth doing or that they are harmful. In other words, it can encourage members to only look at the pros of the church and its commandments and policies and doctrines, and refuse to consider the cons and possible harms. This mindset is dangerous.
 
Many nonbelievers believe in science and feel very uncomfortable attending church lessons listening to talks and reading scriptures that go against the findings of scientific inquiry. There are many things in Mormonism frequently taught that are not supported by science, such as the Earth only being 7000 years old, how there was a literal flood that covered the earth (also see this 1998 Ensign article), the Tower of Babel story in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the Jaredite barges, the literal existence of Adam and Eve (per Elder Holland 2015), and so on. When a nonbeliever feels that these and other things in Mormonism have reasonable scientific proof of being false, they can start to feel out of place and lose a desire to be part of the church community.

 

Comments relating to your lived experience with Mormonism are welcome. Although it can be difficult to distinguish at times, please focus on how the church helps and harms rather than it being true vs untrue.

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