Anti-Science Beliefs and Religion

I’m greatly concerned about of the anti-science stance associated with conservative Christians, tea party members, and the LDS Church.  I’m particularly troubled by the latter becaused I am a Mormon.  It is my heritage.

But science is also in my blood.  My father was a scientist (biochemist, nutritionist) and my brother is a scientist (biologist, immunologist), as is his wife.  And I’m an engineer.  Science and an optimism about the future are in my blood.

There are several examples of where science and some religious beliefs are currently at odds:

  • Sexuality, there is strong resistence to the idea that sexual preference may, in large part, be genetic.
  • Evolution, many conservative Christians continue to believe that evolution is a failed abstraction.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.
  • Climate, there is intense negative emotional reactions to the idea of global warming.

This dismissal, out of hand, of many parts of science is not healthy.  And I would like to see LDS Church leaders take a more proactive stand regarding the relationship between science and Mormonism.  LDS leaders should be discouraged from publically dismissing scientific findings, as has been done on issues like sexuality.  The Church needs to develop a coherent statement regarding LDS doctrine and evolution.  For example, something stating unequivically that LDS doctrine and evolution are not at odds, in fact, they are very compatible.  Additionally, all churches need to take a stronger stand on stewardship of the Earth.  And this stand needs to be based on reputable science, not scriptural conjecture.

According to Donald W. Viney in a presentation made at Claremont School of Theology, 11 Mar 2005:

They (Alfred North Whitehead and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) argued that religious concepts must often be rethought or reinterpreted in light of scientific progress and what this means at the level of metaphysics.  For Teilhard, the central scientific discovery of our age with which theology must deal is the fact of evolution.  Whitehead was clearly an evolutionist, but his concern . . . was the collapse of the Newtonian world-view.

Whitehead himself states (1925, 270):  “Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in the same spirit as does science.”  Mormon doctrine on change (eternal progression) is very relevant today and needs to be developed further in light of the rapid technological advances that are occuring worldwide.  Science and religion must not be seen as enemies.  Apostle John A. Widtsoe argued this point his entire adult life.

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6 Responses to Anti-Science Beliefs and Religion

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  2. rogerdhansen says:

    The following are comments that were posted on an expanded version of this entry that was published on (5 Feb 2011):

    According to Joshua Johanson: “The Mormon Church NEVER taught same-sex attraction was a choice. They have always taught that homosexuality was a choice. There is a difference. People can chose who they prefer to have sex with, or their sexual preference. They cannot chose their sexual orientation. Sexual preference and sexual orientation are not synonyms. One focus(es) on your orientation, the other on your preference. Mormon missionaries have a sexual preference of celibacy for two years. They CHOSE to lock their hearts.”

    According Nigel21: “Personally, I find much currently established thought lacking in totally persuasive evidence. The three areas mentioned being cases in point. What I see is some science, more politics and several cases of manipulated argument. As I get older I am becoming less, not more persuaded by the views of the world at large. I find myself interested in truth. As I find more truth I find that true science and true religion are colaborative not competitive. I also find that the politics of science and the politics of religion are as they have always been–at war with each other.

    According to jefeinoc: “I found Hansen’s commentary to be egregious its simplistic tirade. Putting aside illogical components of “if one then all” . . . He provides nothing more than limited anecdotal evidence which can be whittled down to nothing more than one man’s personal and unsubstantiated opinion. I did not realize opinion columns held such a low threshold for space. Apparently he also overlooks the many diverse opinions in the scientific community as well, whether it be regarding environment or other social issues. His entire column can be distilled to a simple sentence. “If you do not hold my opinion you are against science.” Not quite what I would consider the paradigm of scientific objectivity.”

    According to Richard Winwill: “LDS Apostles, Elder Richard G. Scott, a pioneer in nuclear engineering and Elder Russell Nelsen, a renowned thoracic surgeon, are they also anti-science? Ironically, Hansen uses distinctly (and thus unscientific?) analogical reasoning for the particular to the particular to establish his argument. Premise 1: Elder Packer’s statement shows him to be anti-scientific and Elder Packer is an LDS church leader. Premise 2: Elder Scott and Elder Russell are church leaders. Conclusion: Therefore. Elder Scott and Elder Russell are anti-science.

    My response to Johanson: I’m not sure what your objection is. Apparently we both agree that homosexuality has genetic components. Great. Hopefully, we can bury the alleged reprogramming attempts. I guess you are suggesting celibacy for gays. Why single them out for celibacy? Diversity is what makes the world an interesting place. What happens if one of your children turns out to gay?

    My response to Nigel21: Science and technology are progressing exponentially. You can drag your feet and selectively pretend that much of it is “politics,” but you would be wrong. There is a great deal of unanimity among scientists about the three examples I give; you need to deal with it. Of course, there are detractors, but they are the noisy minority.

    My response to jereinoc: There are space limitations on the op-ed articles. They are limited to 600 words. So I can’t provide lengthy proofs. You can pretend that there is no unanimity on the subjects I discussed, but there actually is. The scientific diversity of opinion you pretend is out there, just isn’t. Of course, as with any subject, there are holdouts, just watch Channel 20.1.

    My response to Winwall: The points I wanted to make were: (1) religious leaders should be careful what statements they make with regard to science topics and (2) we need a leader like Elder Widtsoe who can explain the relationships between religion and science. I think I read somewhere that 50 percent of Mormons do not believe in organic evolution (and I’m sure this number is equally high for other conservative religions). This figure is very troubling.

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