When I was a child and lay out under the stars at night, I saw the Milky Way and some of the closer planets. It certainly looked to me that the universe revolved around the earth. I knew enough about science at the time to know that the earth was one of then-nine planets revolving around the sun. I did not understand until later that the earth was not only traveling around the sun, but it was spinning on its axis causing the seasons of the year. It was this spinning of the earth that made it appear that all things were revolving around the earth. I learned even later that the sun and the entire solar are moving through space and that the universe is actually expanding.
I have been confused over the years by bits of information coming from the scientific community that did not seem to agree with scriptural teachings. This information included the creation and age of the earth, the existence of dinosaurs, and evolution. I slowly gained knowledge and was able to understand some bits of information differently, and other bits I “put on the shelf” for more information.
I did not have much difficulty with changing my understanding about the age of the earth. Genesis tells us that God created the earth and everything on it in six days and rested on the seventh day. Since other scriptures tell us that a day in the life of God is like a thousand years to us, I begin to think that the year was only 7,000 years old. This thinking caused confusion when scientists began to put dates on the age of the earth, dinosaurs, etc. Then I began to think in terms of periods of time rather than days. A period of time could be of any length – day, week, year, thousand, million, or whatever was needed. With this thinking, I realized that the scientists could be correct about the age of the earth being about 4.5 billion years old.
I had more difficulty accepting the Big Bang Theory for the creation of the earth. I just could not wrap my brain about an idea that anything other than a mess could be created by an explosion. Besides, I have a firm belief that Jesus Christ, under the direction of Heavenly Father, created the earth through priesthood power. Over the past few weeks I learned that scientists have traced the creation of the earth back to a time when the universe was about the size of an atom. They know that something caused the atom-like object to explode, but they do not know what that power was or why the atom-like object abruptly exploded. Scientists were later astonished to learn that the universe continues to expand. This is where my faith and religious understanding helped me to align my biblical knowledge of the creation to the scientific one. I could see how Jesus Christ could take a small piece of matter and command it to become something else. I firmly believe that He has power to do such a thing. Learning about how the law of gravity and other laws work in space, I could understand how the earth – indeed the entire solar system – could come to be. Thus, I no longer have any problem with accepting the Big Bang Theory for the creation of the universe.
Along with many other people, I have questioned when the dinosaurs lived. I have actually seen the bones of dinosaurs, so I know that they were once alive. My question was when and on what planet. Because I had not yet aligned my knowledge with scientific knowledge about the age of the earth, I wondered if their bones came from another planet that had died or been destroyed. I recently saw a statement put out by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about dinosaurs. Basically, the statement said that there has been no revelation received on the matter, and scientists seem to be sure about their knowledge. In other words, the Church is accepting the research of scientists, so I can accept it also. This continues to be one of those things sitting on the shelf waiting for more information.
The jury is still out on evolution – at least for me. I can see how evolution works in small matters. All living matter is forced to adapt to the circumstances in which they live, or they die. The ones that are able to adapt and live are also the ones that pass on their genes. Therefore, it is possible for gradual change to take place. However, I refuse to accept the theory that mankind evolved from apes. If people really did evolve from apes, then people would still be evolving from apes. I have not heard of anyone claiming to have been an ape!
In spite of the obvious problem with the theory of evolution – or my understanding of it, science and my religious training have become more compatible. This acceptance of scientific research has been helped by statements such as the following one given by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the dedication of the new Life Science Building at Brigham Young University on April 9, 2015. “There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both.” Elder Russell continued his remarks by saying, “This university is committed to search for truth, and teach the truth. All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether truth comes from a scientific laboratory or by revelation from the Lord, it is compatible.”
That second sentence is certainly true for me. There was conflict in my mind until I gained greater knowledge of science and better understanding of the differences in science and religion. Science works in the physical world and discovers when and how things happen – such as the creation of the earth. However, science does not have the ability to answer the question of why the earth was created or who is behind the creation. This question is answered by religion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the earth was created by Jesus Christ, under the direction of Heavenly Father, for a place where the Father’s spirit children could gain physical bodies, necessary knowledge and experience, and start eternal families.
Ascientist agrees with Elder Nelson’s comment about science and religion. Brazilian Marcelo Gleiser recently received the annual Templeton Prize along with $1.5 million for his outstanding contributions to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” Gleiser is a theoretical physicist who is devoted to proving that there is no conflict between science and religion. This fact is interesting because Gleiser is an agnostic who does not believe in God but refuses to say that there is no God. He is interested in how to answer questions about how the universe and life began and appears to blame atheists for the contention between religion and science.
The first thing you see in the Bible is a story of creation…. Everybody wants to know how the world came to be.
Science can give answers to certain questions, up to a point.
This has been known for a very long time in philosophy, it’s called the problem of the first cause: we get stuck.
We should have the humility to accept that there’s mystery around us.
[About people who believe that the Earth was created in seven days, he says] They position science as the enemy … because they have a very antiquated way of thinking about science and religion in which all scientists try to kill God.
Science does not kill God….
[About atheists he says] When you hear very famous scientists making pronouncements like … cosmology has explained the origin of the universe and the whole, and we don’t need God anymore. That’s complete nonsense.
Because we have not explained the origin of the universe at all.
Most scientists understand that they cannot be certain when they have discovered absolute truth. They also understand that science can only work in the physical world. Gleiser is one scientist who admits that the search for the origin of the universe continues. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints testify that “by the power of the Holy Ghost [we] may know the truth of all things” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni 10:5). The Holy Ghost testifies of truth whether it is spiritual or physical truth. There is no conflict between science and religion now, and I believe that the time could come when science supports religious beliefs. Meanwhile, I will seek for truth wherever I can find it.
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