Two Paradigms

by Allen Leigh, contributor

One thing that has been discussed in this blog is whether or not the scriptures should be interpreted literally. Persons who subscribe to a scientific view of the universe disagree with persons who subscribe to a religious view of the universe that is obtained from a literal interpretation of the scriptures. In this post, I am suggestion that the two views be considered two paradigms or models of the universe, and that the appropriate model be used when discussing the universe. I am not saying which model is closest to “real life”. That is something that each person has to decide for him or herself.

I am suggesting that considering the two views as paradigms allows both views to exist in my mind. For example, when I visit sciencedaily.com or read Discover magazine, I have the scientific view in my mind. But, when I attend priesthood meeting or my gospel doctrine class, I have the so-called literal view in mind. By allowing both views to exist in my mind and to use them appropriately, I am able to ignore differences between the viewpoints and focus on learning things that will help me in my personal and spiritual life. This means that I’m wearing “two hats” and that I change hats when I change from reading about science to reading the Ensign magazine, or vice versa. For example, the story of Noah and the flood. I am not concerned whether the flood was planet-wide or just a regional flood that covered a particular region of the planet, or that the flood even existed at all (I do have my opinion about this matter, of course). I am concerned about lessons on obedience and faith in God that I can learn from the flood-story, and I’m content to leave differences between the two views of the flood to future research and revelations from God. Truth is things as they are, and at some future time, we will understand the truth about the flood, the creation, and other “mysteries”. But, for now, I’m focusing on becoming a more loving person and giving service to others.

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This entry was posted in bible, Environment, mormonism, Philosophy, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Two Paradigms

  1. Michele says:

    I just realized this is exactly what I do, and that’s why it doesn’t bother me to sit in gospel doctrine and talk about Noah. Thanks for clarifying my own thought processes for me 😉

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    Your bifurcation between mythology in church and science elsewhere is difficult for me. It seems like the two ought to coexist. For that reason, I pretty much chuck the OT. In some places, I love the literature, but wonder about the history. Mormonism places a strong emphasis on studying truth wherever it is found. I believe that was Apostle John A. Widtsoe constant message. This places an increased burden on religion to accommodate the truths of science.

    Where you draw the line between scientific “fact” and scriptural “fact” is a very personal issue. Obviously science can’t explain the miracles of Christ. But I worry that a literal interpretation of Genesis doesn’t go well with education. Might not this gulf between Sunday School teaching and what they learn in ELHI and college have the potential to turn members off to Mormonism (or any other fundamentalist religion)? If we don’t face the issue of Biblical literalism head on, are we going to lose our youth? Are we going to discourage our more educated members?

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