Here is a list of quotes on the topic of religion and science showing how the two can work together. Note, it is not my intent to claim that religion and science are necessarily compatible in all ways (certain forms of of religion and science certainly are not). Nor is it my goal to show that religion or science are false. But it is my intent to show that certain formulations of science and religion can find harmony and be mutually beneficial.
I will update this page as I run across more quotes. The quotes are more geared towards a Mormon perspective, but are not exclusively Mormon.
The pressing need of the age is a system of religion that can recognize, at the same time, the truths of demonstrated science and the doctrines found in the pages of sacred writ, and can show that perfect harmony exists between the works and words of the Creator; a religion that will reach both the head and the heart–that is, will both the intellect and the conscience… Nothing short of this can satisfy the demands of this age of independent investigation and research, when men are not satisfied to take, unquestioned, the opinions of uninspired, self-constituted ministers or priests.
(Thursday, December 1, 1898, “Science and Religion”)
There are lots of things, of course, that science does not know, but to me the saddest thing I see is people who feel that science threatens them religiously. It could not possibly threaten us religiously, because the same God who ‘made’ our religion, that same God is making the universe. Science might threaten our understanding of religion. I am not doubting that – that some of us, including me, have such a faulty understanding of our religion that almost anything might threaten it. But the thing that is important about that is if we want to influence our sons and daughters, we must get our religion in the kind of shape that it cannot be threatened by anything that science discovers or does not discover.
(Mormon Scientist, p. 241)
“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
(as cited in Hildebrand 1988)
Leonardo da Vinci:
To develop a complete mind,
Study the science of art;
Study the art of science;
Learn to see;
Realize that everything connects to everything else
“I am more than ever now the bride of science. Religion to me is science, and science is religion. In that deeply-felt truth lies the secret of my intense devotion to the reading of God’s natural works… And when I behold the scientific and so-called philosophers full of selfish feelings, and of a tendency to war against circumstances and Providence, I say to myself: They are not true priests,they are but half prophets — if not absolutely false ones. They have read the great page simply with the physical eye, and with none of the spirit within. The intellectual, the moral, the religious seem to me all naturally bound up and interlinked together in one great and harmonious whole… There is too much tendency to making separate and independent bundles of both the physical and the moral facts of the universe. Whereas, all and everything is naturally related and interconnected. A volume could I write on this subject…”
(From an 1844 letter to Andrew Crosse printed in Betty A. Toole’s “Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers”)
True science is a discovery of the secret, immutable and eternal laws, by which the universe is governed; and when practically applied, sets in motion the mighty wheels of useful engines, with all the various machinery which genius has invented, or art contrived. It ameliorates the condition of man, by extending the means of intellectual, moral, social, and domestic happiness.
(Times and Seasons, vol. 4, pg. 46, 15 Dec 1842)
The study of science is the study of something eternal. If we study astronomy, we study the works of God. If we study chemistry, geology, optics, or any other branch of science, every new truth we come to the understanding of is eternal; it is a part of the great system of universal truth. It is truth that exists throughout universal nature; and God is the dispenser of all truth.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, pg. 157, 12 Feb 1860)
How gladly would we understand every principle pertaining to science and art, and become thoroughly acquainted with every intricate operation of nature, and with all the chemical changes that are constantly going on around us! How delightful this would be, and what a boundless field of truth and power is open for us to explore!
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, pg. 168, 26 Jan 1862)
Every discovery in science and art, that is really true and useful to mankind, has been given by direct revelation from God, though but few acknowledge it. It has been given with a view to prepare the way for the ultimate triumph of truth, and the redemption of the earth from the power of sin and Satan. We should take advantage of all these great discoveries, the accumulated wisdom of ages, and give to our children the benefit of every branch of useful knowledge, to prepare them to step forward and efficiently do their part in the great work.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, pg. 369, 31 Aug 1862)
Yet I will say with regard to miracles, there is no such thing save to the ignorant–that is, there never was a result wrought out by God or by any of His creatures without there being a cause for it. There may be results, the causes of which we do not see or understand, and what we call miracles are no more than this–they are the results or effects of causes hidden from our understandings.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, pg. 140 – p.141, 11 Jul 1869)
Science reveals the beauty and harmony of the world material; it unveils to us ten thousand mysteries in the kingdom of nature, and shows that all forms of life through fire and analogous decay are returned again to its bosom. It unfolds to us the mysteries of cloud and rains, dew and frost, growth and decay, and reveals the operation of those silent irresistible forces which give vitality to the world. It reveals to us the more wonderful operations of distant orbs and their relations to the forces of nature. It also reveals another grand principle, that the laws of nature are immutable and unchangeable as are all the works of God.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, pg. 224, 6 May 1870)
The origin of life whether human or inferior, must be lodged in some character whom I have not seen! Follow it back, no matter whether it be for six thousand years, six millions, six million millions, or billions of years, the figures and numbers are immaterial, I must have come from some source, my natural philosophy teaches me this. But, leaving the natural philosophy of the child free from false tradition, let us inquire. What does the philosophy of the Christian sects, or many of them, not all, teach? “God made the world in six days, out of nothing!” This is very wrong; no child should be taught any such dogma. God never did make a world out of nothing; He never will, He never can!
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, pg. 248, 25 Sep 1870)
It is hard to get the people to believe that God is a scientific character, that He lives by science or strict law, that by this He is, and by law he was made what He is; and will remain to all eternity because of His faithful adherence to law. It is a most difficult thing to make the people believe that every art and science and all wisdom comes from Him, and that He is their Author.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, pg. 302, 13 Nov 1870)
Our religion embraces chemistry; it embraces all the knowledge of the geologist, and then it goes a little further than their systems of argument, for the Lord almighty, its author, is the greatest chemist there is.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 15, pg. 127, 11 Aug 1872)
The idea that the religion of Christ is one thing, and science is another, is a mistaken idea, for there is no true religion without true science, and consequently there is no true science without true religion.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, pg. 51, 3 May 1874)
Parley P. Pratt:
Among the popular errors of modern times, an opinion prevails that miracles are events which transpire contrary to the laws of nature, that they are effects without a cause. If such is the fact, then, there never has been a miracle, and there never will be one. The laws of nature are the laws of truth. Truth is unchangeable, and independent in its own sphere. A law of nature never has been broken. And it is an absolute impossibility that such law ever should be broken.
(Key to the Science of Theology, 1891, pg. 102)
Parley P. Pratt:
The science of geography will then be extended to millions of worlds, and will embrace a knowledge of their physical features and boundaries, their resources, mineral and vegetable; their rivers, lakes, seas, continents and islands; the attainments of their inhabitants in the science of government; their progress in revealed religion; their employments, dress, manners, customs, etc. The science of astronomy will also be enlarged in proportion to the means of knowledge. System after system will rise to view in the vast field of research and exploration! Vast systems of suns and their attendant worlds, on which the eyes of Adam’s race, in their rudimental sphere, have never gazed, will then be contemplated, circumscribed, weighed in the balance of human thought, their circumference and diameter be ascertained, their relative distances understood. Their motions and revolutions, their times and laws, their hours, days, weeks, sabbaths, months, years, jubilees, centuries, millenniums and eternities, will all be told in the volumes of science.
(Key to the Science of Theology, 1891, pg. 161-162)
James E. Talmage:
Miracles are commonly regarded as occurrences in opposition to the laws of nature. Such a conception is plainly erroneous, for the laws of nature are inviolable. However, as human understanding of these laws is at best but imperfect, events strictly in accordance with natural law may appear contrary thereto. The entire constitution of nature is founded on system and order.
(The Articles of Faith, pg. 220)
B. H. Roberts:
I believe also that with this flood of knowledge concerning these highly spiritual things, there has come into the world, almost imperceptibly, a more generally diffused and brighter spirit of intelligence than was known before; like collateral rays shooting off to right and left from the more direct light of God’s revelations which ushered in the great work of the last days. By those collateral rays of light men have been led to those great discoveries in the arts and sciences and in mechanics, which make our age so wonderful as an age of progress and enlightenment.
(LDS Conference Report, Oct 1903, pg. 73)
Stephen L. Richards:
I believe it to be a generally accepted proposition in our church that no man’s standing is affected by the views which he may honestly hold with reference to the beginning of man’s life on the earth and the organization of the universe, or the processes employed in the working of the miracles of the Bible.
(“Bringing Humanity to the Gospel,” LDS Conference Report, April 9, 1932)
Stephen L. Richards:
The time of creation has ever been a subject of much comment and dispute. Yet I challenge anybody to produce from the Bible itself any finite limitation whatsoever of the periods of creation. By strained inferential references and interpretations men have sought to set the time in days or periods of a thousand years, but I feel sure that no justification of such limitations is warranted by the scriptures themselves. If the evolutionary hypothesis of the creation of life and matter in the universe is ultimately found to be correct, and I shall neither be disappointed nor displeased if it shall turn out so to be, in my humble opinion the Biblical account is sufficiently comprehensive to include the whole of the process.
(“An Open Letter to College Students,” Improvement Era, vol. 36 (June 1933), pg. 451-453, 484-485)
John A. Widtsoe:
Truth is truth forever. Scientific truth cannot be theological lie. To the sane mind, theology and philosophy must harmonize. They have the common ground of truth on which to meet.
(Joseph Smith as Scientist, originally published in 1908, Bookcraft, 1964, pg. 156)
B. H. Roberts:
On the other hand, to limit and insist upon the whole of life and death to this side of Adam’s advent to the earth, some six or eight thousand years ago, as proposed by some, is to fly in the face of the facts so indisputably brought to light by the researcher of science in modern times, and this as set forth by men of the highest type in the intellectual and moral world; not inferior men, or men of sensual and devilish temperament, but men who must be accounted as among the noblest and most self-sacrificing of the sons of men — of the type whence must come the noblest sons of God, since “the glory of God is intelligence” (D&C 93:36); and that too the glory of man. These researchers after truth are of that class. To pay attention to and give reasonable credence to their research and findings is to link the church of God with the highest increase of human thought and effort. On that side lies development, on the other lies contraction. It is on the former side that research work is going on and will continue to go on, future investigation and discoveries will continue on that side, nothing will retard them, and nothing will develop on the other side. One leads to narrow sectarianism, the other keeps the open spirit of a world movement with which our New Dispensation began. As between them which is to be our choice?
(The Truth, the Way, the Life, originally written 1931, published by Smith Research Associates, Salt Lake City, UT, 1994, pg. 364)
James E. Talmage:
According to the conception of geologists the earth passed through ages of preparation, to us unmeasured and immeasurable, during which countless generations of plants and animals existed in great variety and profusion and gave in part the very substance of their bodies to help form certain strata which are still existent as such.
… Geologists say that these very simple forms of plant and animal bodies were succeeded by others more complicated; and in the indestructible record of the rocks they read the story of advancing life from the simple to the more complex, from the single-celled protozoan to the highest animals, from the marine algae to the advanced types of flowering plant — to the apple-tree, the rose, and the oak.
What a fascinating story is inscribed upon the stony pages of the earth’s crust! … This record of Adam and his posterity is the only scriptural account we have of the appearance of man upon this earth. But we have also a vast and ever-increasing volume of knowledge concerning man, his early habits and customs, his industries and works of art, his tools and implements, about which such scriptures as we have thus far received are entirely silent. Let us not try to wrest the scriptures in an attempt to explain away what we cannot explain.
The opening chapters of Genesis, and scriptures related thereto, were never intended as a textbook of geology, archaeology, earth-science or man-science. Holy Scripture will endure, while the conceptions of men change with new discoveries. We do not show reverence for the scriptures when we misapply them through faulty interpretation.
(“The Earth and Man,” address delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, 9 Aug 1931; published by the LDS Church)
David O. McKay:
Whatever the subject may be, the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ may be elaborated upon without fear of anyone’s objecting, and the teacher can be free to express his honest conviction regarding it, whether that subject be in geology, the history of the world, the millions of years that it took to prepare the physical world, whether it be in engineering, literature, art — any principles of the gospel may be briefly or extensively touched upon for the anchoring of the student who is seeking to know the truth.
(“Gospel Ideals — Life’s Surest Anchor,” BYU Speeches of the Year, 30 Oct 1956)
Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr.:
Even the most devout and sincere believers in the Bible realize that it is, like most any other book, filled with metaphor, simile, allegory, and parable, which no intelligent person could be compelled to accept in a literal sense. …
The Lord has not taken from those who believe in his word the power of reason. He expects every man who takes his “yoke” upon him to have common sense enough to accept a figure of speech in its proper setting, and to understand that the holy scriptures are replete with allegorical stories, faith-building parables, and artistic speech. …
Where is there a writing intended to be taken in all its parts literally? Such a writing would be insipid and hence lack natural appeal. To expect a believer in the Bible to strike an attitude of this kind and believe all that is written to be a literal rendition is a stupid thought. No person with the natural use of his faculties looks upon the Bible in such a light.
(Doctrines of Salvation, Bookcraft, 1956, vol. 3, pg. 188)
Pres. David O. McKay:
On the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position. The book “Man, His Origin and Destiny” was not published by the Church, and is not approved by the Church. The book contains expressions of the author’s views for which he alone is responsible.
(letter to Prof. William Lee Stokes, 15 Feb 1957)
John A. Widtsoe:
We may go further. Every person born into the earth has claim upon the assistance of the Spirit of God. That is a species of revelation. Consequently, all good achievements of man, in science, literature, or art, are the product of revelation. The knowledge and wisdom of earth have so come.
(Evidences and Reconciliations, Bookcraft, 1960, pg. 101)
John A. Widtsoe:
The Church, the custodian of the gospel on earth, looks with full favor upon the attempts of men to search out the facts and laws of nature. It believes that men of science, seekers after truth, are often assisted by the Spirit of the Lord in such researches. It holds further that every scientific discovery may be incorporated into the gospel, and that, therefore there can be no conflict between true religion and correct science. The Church teaches that the laws of nature are but the immutable laws of the Creator of the universe.
(Evidences and Reconciliations, Bookcraft, 1960, pg. 139)
John A. Widtsoe:
By recognizing our universe as one of law, order, and intelligence, science has driven fear from the hearts of men. Intelligence acts in intelligent ways. The intelligence at the head of all things may be trusted to act intelligently. There arises therefrom a trust in the things about us. The age-old horror, called fear, which has so long distracted humanity, vanishes. Superstition is laid low. Men come to understand better the love of God, and his offerings of goodness. Certainly, in so doing, science has contributed to religious faith.
(Evidences and Reconciliations, Bookcraft, 1960, pg. 171)
John A. Widtsoe:
As science advances and increases, as new discoveries are made, as more complete command is obtained over the forces of nature, the more necessary it becomes that we have a religion to guide us in employing these discoveries. To save the world from science, and to make science the builder of a good world, we must hasten our progress towards the fuller acceptance of God. So, the answer to the question at the head of this article is very simple. In an age of science we have greater need than ever before of religion. A conscience of science is a present need.
(Evidences and Reconciliations, Bookcraft, 1960, pg. 178)
Hugh B. Brown:
With the tremendous strides that science is making in our day, there is dawning upon this age what might termed a scientific spirituality — a new type of mind that studies the truths of faith with the care and caution and candor of science, yet keeping the warmth and glow and power of faith. Spiritual insight is as real as scientific insight. Indeed, it is but a higher manifestation of the same thing. The saint as well as the scientist has witnessed the truth of reality. One may redeem his knowledge revelation, and the other, intellectual conclusion, but in both cases it is insight — the conviction reality.
(LDS Conference Report, Apr. 1967, pg. 49)
Hugh B. Brown:
Both science and religion beget humility. Scientists and teachers of religion disagree among themselves on theological and other subjects. Even in our own church men and women take issue with one another and contend for their own interpretations. This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences.
We should all be interested in academic research. We must go out on the research front and continue to explore the vast unknown. We should be in the forefront of learning in all fields, for revelation does not come only through the prophet of God nor only directly from heaven in visions or dreams. Revelation may come in the laboratory, out of the test tube, out of the thinking mind and the inquiring soul, out of search and research and prayer and inspiration. We must be unafraid to contend for what we are thinking and to combat error with truth in this divided and imperiled world, and we must do it with the unfaltering faith that God is still in his heaven even though all is not well with the world.
We should be dauntless in our pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. No one would have us become mere tape recorders of other people’s thoughts. We should be modest and teachable and seek to know the truth by study and faith. There have been times when progress was halted by thought control. Tolerance and truth demand that all be heard and that competing ideas be tested against each other so that the best, which might not always be our own, can prevail. Knowledge is the most complete and dependable when all points of view are heard. We are in a world of restlessness and skepticism, where old things are not only challenged but often disappear, but also a world of miraculous achievement, undreamed of accomplishment, and terrifying power.
Science offers wonderful tools for helping to create the brotherhood of humanity on earth, but the cement of brotherhood does not come from any laboratory. It must come from the heart and mind and spirit of men and women.
Peace and brotherhood can be achieved when the two most potent forces in civilization — religion and science — join to create one world in its truest and greatest sense. We should continue to become acquainted with human experience through history and philosophy, science and poetry, art and religion. Every discovery of science reveals clearly the divine plan in nature. The remarkable harmony in the physical laws and processes of the universe, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, surpasses mortal understanding and implies a supreme architect, and the beauty and symmetry of God’s handiwork inspire reverence.
One of the most important things in the world is freedom of the mind; from this all other freedoms spring. Such freedom is necessarily dangerous, for one cannot think right without running the risk of thinking wrong, but generally more thinking is the antidote for the evils that spring from wrong thinking.
More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgment of our own shortcomings. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without learning anything. In this age of speed there seems to be little time for meditation.
While speak of independence and the right to think, to agree or disagree, to examine and question, I need to remind myself not to forget that fixed and unchanging laws govern all God’s creation, whether the vastness of the starry heavens or the minute revolving universe of the atom or human relationships. All is law. All is cause and effect, and God’s laws are universal. God has no favorites; no one is immune from either life’s temptations or the consequences of his or her deeds. God is not capricious.
(“A Final Testimony,” from Edwin B. Firmage, ed., The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown: An Abundant Life, Signature Books, 1988)
When one contemplates how different our understanding of religion must be from the Creator’s omniscience, one realizes that nothing but growth, reinterpretation and generally widening horizons is appropriate in fields of religion. If we interpret the world precisely as the Prophet Joseph did, we are entirely unworthy of his tremendous precedent-breaking example. The Church, from its top-most councils to the man in the street, is at its best when it is undergoing thoughtful change.
Abraham Joshua Heschel:
“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion–its message becomes meaningless.”
(God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism)
The position of the Church on the origin of man was published by the First Presidency in 1909 and stated again by a different First Presidency in 1925:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, declares man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. … Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes (see Appendix, “Doctrinal Expositions of the First Presidency”).
The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded,
Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church. …
Upon one thing we should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: “Adam is the primal parent of our race.” [First Presidency Minutes, Apr. 7, 1931].
(“Evolution,” from Daniel Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillian, NY, 1991)
Gordon B. Hinckley:
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.
(LDS Conference Reports, Apr. 1999)
Larry A. Witham:
Few American theologies are more complex than that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but its flagship Brigham Young University teaches off-the-shelf, industry-standard evolution. That has been the case since 1931, when the church officially said: “Leave biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research.” … What the church requires is only belief “that Adam was the first man of what we would call the human race,” says Gordon Hinckley, the church’s living prophet. Scientists can speculate on the rest, he says, recalling his own study of anthropology and geology: “Studied all about it. Didn’t worry me then. Doesn’t worry me now.”
(Where Darwin Meets the Bible, Oxford University Press, 2002, pg. 176-177)
The truth about science is, then, that it flourishes when scientists show faith in their theories: they embrace them because they are beautiful, and they put up some resistance to abandoning them. They take seriously serious counter-evidence, but they require it to prove its credentials.
It is not hard to make the case that faith is involved when scientists launch out on their voyage of discovery, whether in picking research directions, or intuiting concepts before investing in the effort to elaborate them, and when they publish and promote their ideas. I am not trying to imply that this simplifies the more subtle question of religious faith, only that one should not regard the idea of ‘faith’ itself as an unworthy part of human nature. Faith is not contrary to reason, nor is it an alternative to reason. Faith, in the sense of engagement and eagerness for the journey, is a partner to reason. . . . Faith is not irrational, but it does go beyond what can be proved by reason.
(Faithful to Science: The Role of Science in Religion [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014], 15–18.)
Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
(“Science and Religion” in The Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion © Jewish Theological Seminary, 1941)
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.
(De Genesi ad Litteram I, xix, 39, 4th century AD)
Accurate dating of events by radioactive elements decaying in the rocks and in textile fibers and elsewhere makes possible an accuracy in chronology which was undreamed of a generationago. In effect, clocks are set going whenever these materials are laid down. These clocks can often be read with great accuracy. Such data, with many kinds of cross-checks, leads to an antiquity for life on this earth of at least some six hundred
million years and an age of the Earth of upwards of two billion years. These conclusions are well known and will surprise no one.
My conception of the gospel is that the scriptures record the dealings of God with His Prophets and His People. By living in accordance with their teachings we may expect to reach the Celestial Kingdom. To be understood, the Lord must reveal Himself in a language His Children can understand. Of necessity, many things not necessary for their immediate progress are omitted, to be revealed later, and to be discovered by man’s own enterprise. There are some people who throw away the scriptures and restrict themselves to science and related fields. Others use the scriptures to the exclusion of other truth. Both are wrong. Latter-day Saints should seek after truth by all avenues with earnest humility. There is, of course, no conflict in the gospel since it embraces all truth. Undoubtedly, however science is continually challenging us to think through again our conceptions of the gospel. This should work both ways, of course.”
“Since I think we don’t accept Archbishops Usher’s chronology as final, it seems to me of interest to check it against other available time scales. Such an investigation won’t affect fundamentals but it will help us as teachers.”
(in response to a March 26, 1952, request from the First Presidency for insight into the age of the Earth)
There is no harm in attempting to resolve apparently conflicting points of view [speaking of science and religion], providing one is not taken in by one’s own sophistry. There are a few good ways in which good people do more harm to those who take them seriously than to defend the gospel with arguments that won’t hold water. Many of the difficulties encountered by young people going to college would be avoided if parents and teachers were more creful to distinguish between what they know to be true and what they think may be true. Impetuous youth, upon finding the authority it trusts crumbling, even on unimportant details, is apt to lump everything together and throw the baby out with the bath.
(in a speech titled “What Are the Things That Really Matter?” quoted in Mormon Scientist: the Life and Faith of Henry Eyring)
‘Mormonism’ embraces all truth that is revealed and that is unrevealed, whether religious, political, scientific, or philosophical.
(Journal of Discourses 9:149)
How long it [the earth] has been organized is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As for the Bible account of creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses, or rather Moses obtained the history and traditions of the fathers, and from them picked out what he considered necessary, and that account has been handed down from age to age, and we have got it, no matter whether it is correct or not, and whether the Lord found the earth empty or void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he gives revelation on the subject.
(Journal of Discourses, 18:231)
Since the Gospel embraces all truth, there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion…. I am obliged, as a Latter-day Saint, to believe whatever is true, regardless of the source.
(Faith of a Scientist, 12, 31)
Max Planck (1918 Nobel laureate in physics, widely considered the founder of quantum theory and one of the most important physicists of the twentieth century):
Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.
There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.
(“Religion and Natural Science” [lecture, 1937], Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor [New York, 1949], 184)
At the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena. So people stop short at natural laws as something unassailable, as did the ancients at God and Fate. And they are both right and wrong. But the ancients were clearer, in so far as they recognized one clear terminus, whereas the modern system makes it appear as though everything explained. What is disastrous in the scientific way of thinking (which today rules the whole world) is that it wants to respond to every discomfort by giving and explanation.
Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.
(The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark)
The study of science is the study of something eternal… it is truth that exists throughout universal nature; and God is the dispenser of all truth”
(Journal of Discourses 7:152)
Parley P. Pratt:
“The laws of nature are the laws of truth”
(Key to the Science of Theology, 102)
Werner Heisenberg (1932 Nobel laureate in physics):
In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.
(“Across the Frontiers” Chapter XVI, pg. 213, 1974)
Richard Lewontin (Geneticist at Harvard):
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
(“Billions and Billions of Demons”, Lewontin’s review of Carl Sagan’s book “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” which appeared in the January 9th 1997 edition of “The New York Review of Books”)
But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
(July 3rd. 1881 correspondence to William Graham)
Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.
(Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers as translated by F. Gaynor (1949), p. 184)
Some treat science as if it were a sort of infallible oracle, like a divine revelation–or if not infallible, at any rate such that when it comes to fixing belief, science is the court of last appeal. But this can’t be right… science doesn’t address the topics where we most need enlightenment: religion, politics, and morals, for example. Many look to scientists for guidance on matters outside of science, matters on which scientists have no special expertise. They apparently think of scientists as the new priestly class; unsurprisingly, scientists don’t ordinarily discourage this tendency. But of course a scientist pontificating on matters outside her field is no better than anyone else pontificating on matters outside her field.
(Where the Conflict Really Lies)
The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it’s comprehensible.
(widely attributed to Einstein)
J. B. S. Haldane:
It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.
(“Possible Worlds”, 2001)
H. G. Wells, Walter Warren Wagar:
Though much as been written foolishly about the antagonism of science and religion, there is indeed no such antagonism. What all these world religions declare by inspiration and insight, history as it grows clearer and science as its range extends display, as a reasonable and demonstrable fact, that men form one universal brotherhood, that they spring from one common origin, that their individual lives, their nations and races, interbreed and blend and go on to merge again at last in one common human destiny upon this little planet amidst the stars. And the psychologist can now stand beside the preacher and assure us that there is no reasoned peace of heart, no balance and no safety in the soul, until a man in losing his life has found it, and has schooled and disciplined his interests and will beyond greeds, rivalries, fears, instincts and narrow affections. The history of our race and personal religious experience run so closely parallel as to seem to a modern observer almost the same thing; both tell of a being at first scattered and blind and utterly confused, feeling its way slowly to the serenity and salvation of an ordered and coherent purpose. That, in the simplest, is the outline of history; whether one have a religious purpose or disavow a religious purpose altogether the lines of the outline remain the same.”
(“Outline of History”, 1920)
1910 LDS Church Christmas statement:
Diversity of opinion does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other. … Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense.
Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or to good common sense. But everything that tends to right conduct, that harmonizes with sound morality and increases faith in Deity, finds favor with us no matter where it may be found.
(“Words in Season from the First Presidency”, published in “Deseret Evening News” (17 December 1910), part 1: 3)
Orson F. Whitney:
[God] is using not only his covenant people, but other peoples as well, to consummate a work, stupendous, magnificent, and altogether too arduous for this little handful of Saints to accomplish by and of themselves.
(Conference Report, Apr. 1921, pp. 32–33)
B. H. Roberts:
While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established for the instruction of men (and women); and it is one of God’s instrumentalities for making known the truth yet he is not limited to that institution for such purposes, neither in time nor place. God raises up wise men (and women) and prophets here and there among all the children of men, of their own tongue and nationality, speaking to them through means that they can comprehend. … All the great teachers are servants of God; among all nations and in all ages. They are inspired men (and women), appointed to instruct God’s children according to the conditions in the midst of which [they] find them.
(Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 2 vols. (1907), 1:512–13 — parenthesis added)
Mormonism is truth; and every [one] who embraces it feels [oneself] at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from [their] neck; and [their] eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft . . . in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. . . . The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of [humans], or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.
(Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, Mar. 22, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, published in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, pp. 53–54; (spelling and grammar modernized))
Morris S. Petersen:
Among the life forms God created were apparently many species now extinct. Fossil-bearing rocks are common on the earth, and these fossils represent once-living organisms, preserved now as part of the earth’s rocky crust. The existence of these animals is indisputable, for their remains have been found in rocks all over the earth. What eternal purpose they played in the creation and early history of the earth is unknown. The scriptures do not address the question, and it is not the realm of science to explore the issue of why they were here. We can only conclude, as Elder Talmage did, that “the whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.
(1987 September Ensign “I Have a Question: The Earth and Man.”)
I see science as a way of exploring the universe with a limited set of tools, and religion as another way of exploring with a different set of tools. Science uses telescopes and computers and differential equations. Religion uses music and painting and meditation and ritual and worship. The two ways of exploring show us the same universe, but from different points of view.
Adam Gifford in his will establishing the Gifford Lectures ordained that the subject should be “Natural Theology.” The words “Natural Theology” have a technical meaning. According to Christian doctrine, God gave us two books in which his actions are recorded. One book is the Bible, the other is the Book of Nature. Be reading the Book of Nature we can obtain knowledge of God’s work, whether or not we also read the Bible. That is what Adam Gifford meant when he wrote his will, Natural Theology is the reading of God’s mind as expressed in the words of Nature.
Science and religion can live harmoniously together in the human soul so long as each respects the other’s autonomy, so long as neither claims infallibility. Conflicts occur when organized science or organized religion clams a monopoly of truth.
There is no easy solution to the conflict between fundamentalist Christian dogma and the facts of biological evolution. I am not saying that the conflict could have been altogether avoided. I am saying only that the conflict was made more bitter and more damaging, both to religion and to science, by the dogmatic self-righteousness of scientists. What was needed was a little more human charity, a little more willingness to listen rather than to lay down the law, a little more humility. Scientists stand in need of these Christian virtues just as much as preachers do. The children, over whose hearts and minds the battle is fought, need to see that there is good on both sides, that both their parent’s faith and the wider vision of science are worthy of respect.
Diversity is for me the chief source of beauty and value, in the natural universe around us, in the governance of human societies, and in the depths of our individual souls. The profusion of stars and galaxies in our skies, the profusion of bugs and beetles in our gardens, and the profusion of human genius in our arts and sciences, all proclaim that God loves diversity. Diversity is the spice of life, and the prevalence of evil in our world is the price we pay for diversity.
(“Infinite in All Directions” – various excerpts)
Dialogue between science and faith also belongs to the work of evangelization at the service of peace. Whereas positivism and scientism “refuse to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences”, the Church proposes another path, which calls for a synthesis between the responsible use of methods proper to the empirical sciences and other areas of knowledge such as philosophy, theology, as well as faith itself, which elevates us to the mystery transcending nature and human intelligence. Faith is not fearful of reason; on the contrary, it seeks and trusts reason, since “the light of reason and the light of faith both come from God” and cannot contradict each other. Evangelization is attentive to scientific advances and wishes to shed on them the light of faith and the natural law so that they will remain respectful of the centrality and supreme value of the human person at every stage of life. All of society can be enriched thanks to this dialogue, which opens up new horizons for thought and expands the possibilities of reason. This too is a path of harmony and peace.
The Church has no wish to hold back the marvellous progress of science. On the contrary, she rejoices and even delights in acknowledging the enormous potential that God has given to the human mind. Whenever the sciences – rigorously focused on their specific field of inquiry – arrive at a conclusion which reason cannot refute, faith does not contradict it. Neither can believers claim that a scientific opinion which is attractive but not sufficiently verified has the same weight as a dogma of faith. At times some scientists have exceeded the limits of their scientific competence by making certain statements or claims. But here the problem is not with reason itself, but with the promotion of a particular ideology which blocks the path to authentic, serene and productive dialogue.
(EVANGELII GAUDIUM OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS, “Dialogue between faith, reason and science”, 242-243)
James E. Talmage:
Is it unreasonable, is it unphilosophical, thus to look for additional light and knowledge? Shall religion be the one department of human thought and effort in which progression is impossible? What would we say of the chemist, the astronomer, the physicist, or the geologist, who would proclaim that no further discovery or revelation of scientific truth is possible, or who would declare that the only occupation open to students of science is to con the books of by-gone times and to apply the principles long ago made known, since none others shall ever be discovered?
The chief motive impelling to research and investigation is the conviction that to knowledge and wisdom there is no end. “Mormonism” affirms that all wisdom is of God, that the halo of his glory is intelligence, and that man has not yet learned all there is to learn of him and his ways. We hold that the doctrine of continuous revelation from God is not less philosophical and scientific than scriptural.
(The Story of “Mormonism”)
Bell inscription at University of Buffalo (discovered by Cliff Stoll):
All truth is one.
In this light, may science and religion endeavor here
for the steady evolution of Mankind:
From darkness to light,
From narrowness to broadmindedness,
From prejudice to tolerance,
It is the voice of life that calls us
To come and learn.
Alfred North Whitehead:
The worship of God is not a rule of safety — it is an adventure of the spirit, a flight after the unattainable. The death of religion comes with the repression of the high hope of adventure.
(Science and the Modern World)
Despite the seeming success of science and rational thinking in other areas, our present state of scientific knowledge cannot begin to answer such questions about God, the eternal world, and matters of faith and revelation with any degree of confidence.
(Of Heaven and Earth: Reconciling Scientific Thought with LDS Theology, 1998, 169.)
In the natural sciences and industrial arts it never occurs to anyone to try to refute opinions by showing up their author’s neurotic constitution. Opinions here are invariably tested by logic and by experiment, no matter what may be their author’s neurological type. It should be no otherwise with religious opinions. Their value can only be ascertained by spiritual judgments directly passed upon them, judgments based on our own immediate feeling primarily; and secondarily on what we can ascertain of their experiential relations to our moral needs and to the rest of what we hold as true. Immediate luminousness, in short, philosophical reasonableness, and moral helpfulness are the only available criteria.
William James (Varieties of Religious Experience)
There are, it is true, other things in religion chronologically more primordial than personal devoutness in the moral sense. Fetishism and magic seem to have preceded inward piety historically—at least our records of inward piety do not reach back so far. And if fetishism and magic be regarded as stages of religion, one may say that personal religion in the inward sense and the genuinely spiritual ecclesiasticisms which it founds are phenomena of secondary or even tertiary order. But, quite apart from the fact that many anthropologists—for instance, Jevons and Frazer —expressly oppose “religion” and “magic” to each other, it is certain that the whole system of thought which leads to magic, fetishism, and the lower superstitions may just as well be called primitive science as called primitive religion.
(Varieties of Religious Experience)
Ursula Goodenough, et al:
Whereas reductionism has yielded splendid results in science, there is an important sense in which it is articial, and in this sense false. By starting from wholes and moving ‘down’ into parts, one is moving in the opposite direction from the way matters arise. To grasp how matters arise, one must run the muscle movie backwards, from the subatom to the atom to the amino acid to the protein to the polymer to the cell to the muscle to the contraction. To make such a movie, it is essential to begin with reductionist understandings—otherwise, there is no way to know what to put in the movie. But once the cast of characters is identifed—once it is understood how proteins fold and myosin hydrolyses ATP and so on—it is possible to narrate such understandings in the correct temporal and spatial sequence, moving ‘upwards’ from one level to the next.
Traits common to all organisms include such non-depressing and religiously fertile capacities as end-directedness and identity maintenance; traits common to all animals include awareness and the capacity for pleasure and suffering; traits common to social beings include co-operation and meaning making; traits common to birds and mammals include bonding and nurturance; traits common to humans include language and its capacity to share subjective experiences, and thus to know love. Transmission of genomes is the steady background drumbeat; emergence is the music.
(The Sacred Emergence of Nature)
Terryl L. Givens:
Mormons ironically find an unlikely (and surely unwilling) ally in the arch-atheist Richard Dawkins. In his controversial critique of religion, he wrote that: “Any creative intelligence of sufficient complexity to design anything comes into existence only at the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution.” Elaborating this point, he said that: “you have to have a gradual slow incremental process [to explain an eye or a brain] and by the very same token, God would have to have the same kind of explanation. … God indeed can’t have just happened. If there are Gods in the universe, they must be the end product of slow incremental processes. If there are beings in the universe that we would treat as Gods, … that we would worship … as gods, then they must have come about by an incremental process, gradually.”
(Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity, 2014, p. 216)
James E. Talmage:
According to the conception of geologists the earth passed through ages of preparation, to us unmeasured and immeasurable, during which countless generations of plants and animals existed in great variety and profusion and gave in part the very substance of their bodies to help form certain strata which are still existent as such. …
Geologists say that these very simple forms of plant and animal bodies were succeeded by others more complicated; and in the indestructible record of the rocks they read the story of advancing life from the simple to the more complex, from the single-celled protozoan to the highest animals, from the marine algae to the advanced types of flowering plant — to the apple-tree, the rose, and the oak. What a fascinating story is inscribed upon the stony pages of the earth’s crust! …
(from a talk titled “The Earth and Man,” delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, 9 Aug 1931; Originally published in the Deseret News, Nov. 21, 1931; subsequently published as a pamphlet by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1931; later published in The Instructor, vol. 100, no. 12 (Dec. 1965), pg. 474-477; continued in vol. 101, no. 1 (Jan. 1966), pg. 9-15)
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
(Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina)
John A. Widtsoe:
Earth, stars, and the vastness of space; yesterday, today and tomorrow; and the endlessly increasing knowledge of the relation of forces, present an illimitable universe of numberless phenomena. Only in general outline can the universe be understood. In its infinite variety of expression, it wholly transcends the human mind. . . . In the midst of this complexity man finds himself. As he progresses from childhood to manhood, and his slumbering faculties are awakened, he becomes more fully aware of the vastness of his universe and of the futility of hoping to understand it in detail. Nevertheless, conscious man cannot endure confusion. Out of the universal mystery he must draw at least the general, controlling laws that proclaim order in the apparent chaos; and especially is he driven, by his inborn and unalterable nature, to know if possible his own place in the system of existing things.
The origin of life, whether human or inferior, must be lodged in some character whom I have not seen! Follow it back, no matter whether it be for six thousand years, six millions, six million millions, or billions of years, the figures and numbers are immaterial, I must have come from some source; my natural philosophy teaches me this. But, leaving the natural philosophy of the child free from false tradition, let us inquire. What does the philosophy of the Christian sects, or many of them, not all, teach? “God made the world in six days, out of nothing!” This is very wrong; no child should be taught any such dogma. God never did make a world out of nothing; He never will, He never can!
(Journal of Discourses, 13:248; 25 September 1870)
But as an intelligent being, if I have a mind capable of reflection, I wish to contemplate the works of nature, and to know something of nature’s God, and my destiny. I love to view the things around me; to gaze upon the sun, moon, and stars; to study the planetary system, and the world we inhabit; to behold their beauty, order, harmony, and the operations of existence around me. … everything is beautifully harmonious, and perfectly adapted to the position it occupies in the world. Whether you look at birds, beasts, or the human system, you see something exquisitely beautiful and harmonious, and worthy of the contemplation there was a God, [even] if there was no such thing as religion in the world.
(Journal of Discourses, 1:151-52.)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
(“The Evolution of Chastity,” in Toward the Future, 1936, XI, 86-87)
People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature-the laws of physics-are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as law-like order in nature that is at least partly comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview.
(as cited in, “The Historic Alliance of Christianity and Science”)
Charles H. Townes (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1964):
Science has faith. We make postulates. We can’t prove those postulates, but we have faith in them.
(Christian Science Monitor, March 10, 2005)
the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as a creator and governor of the realm of matter…
(“The Mysterious Universe”, 1930)
[Neo-Darwinism] is a comprehensive, speculative world picture that is reached by extrapolation from some of the discoveries of biology, chemistry, and physics… that postulates a hierarchical relation among the subjects of those sciences, and the completeness in principle of an explanation of everything in the universe through their unification. Such a world view is not a necessary condition of the practice of any of those sciences, and its acceptance or nonacceptance would have no effect on most scientific research.
(“Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”)
Humans are addicted to the hope for a final reckoning, but intellectual humility requires that we resist the temptation to assume that tools of the kind we now have are in principle sufficient to understand the universe as a whole.
(“Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”)
Where apparent conflicts are found there must be error either in the investigation of the scientist or in the interpretation of the Scriptures. It is very probably that many conclusions arrived at by the scientists are erroneous, and is it not just possible that many of the theories of the expounders of the Scriptures are also in the same category? This is self-evident–that any scientific theory that conflicts with revelation or any interpretation of Scripture that is opposed to positively demonstrated scientific truth is error and must give way before the light of eternal truth.
Any form of religion that ignores these facts must be classified as superstition, and its devotees as fanatics. A scientific conclusion may appear to be correct, from all data at hand, but if more thoroughly investigated might prove to be an error; in such cases there may be apparent conflicts but not real ones.
(Thursday December 1st, 1898: Science and Religion)
Richard Feynman (video of him making this statement here):
We have a way of discussing the world, when we talk of it at various hierarchies, or levels. Now I do not mean to be very precise, dividing the world into definite levels, but I will indicate, by describing a set of ideas, what I mean by hierarchies of ideas. For example, at one end we have the fundamental laws of physics. Then we invent other terms for concepts which are approximate, which have, we believe, their ultimate explanation in terms of the fundamental laws. For instance, ‘heat’. Heat is supposed to be jiggling, and the word for a hot thing is just the word for a mass of atoms which are jiggling. But for a while, if we are talking about heat, we sometimes forget about the atoms jiggling — just as when we talk about the glacier we do not always think of the hexagonal ice and the snowflakes which originally fell. Another example of the same thing is a salt crystal. Looked at fundamentally it is a lot of protons, neutrons, and electrons; but we have this concept ‘salt crystal’, which carries a whole pattern already of fundamental interactions. An idea like pressure is the same.
Now if we go higher up from this, in another level we have properties of substances — like ‘refractive index’, how light is bent when it goes through something; or ‘surface tension’, the fact that water tends to pull itself together, both of which are described by numbers. I remind you that we have to go through several laws down to find out that it is the pull of the atoms, and so on. But we still say ‘surface tension’, and do not always worry, when discussing surface tension, about the inner workings.
On, up in the hierarchy. With the water we have waves and we have a thing like a storm, the word ‘storm’ which represents an enormous mass of phenomena, or a ‘sun spot’ or ‘star’, which is an accumulation of things. And it is nu worth while always to think of it way back. In fact we cannot, because the higher up we go the more steps we have in between, each one of which is a little weak. We have not thought them all through yet.
As we go up in this hierarchy of complexity, we get tc things like muscle twitch, or nerve impulse, which is an enormously complicated thing in the physical world, involving an organization of matter in a very elaborate complexity. Then come things like ‘frog’. And then we go on, and we come to words and concepts like ‘man’, and ‘history’, or ‘political expediency’, and so forth, a series of concepts which we use to understand things at an ever higher level.
And going on, we come to things like evil, and beauty, and hope…
Which end is nearer to God; if I may use a religious metaphor. Beauty and hope, or the fundamental laws ? I think that the right way, of course, is to say that what we have to look at is the whole structural interconnection of the thing; and that all the sciences, and not just the sciences but all the efforts of intellectual kinds, are an endeavour to see the connections of the hierarchies, to connect beauty to history, to connect history to man’s psychology, man’s psychology to the working of the brain, the brain to the neural impulse, the neural impulse to the chemistry, and so forth, up and down, both ways. And today we cannot, and it is no use making believe that we can, draw carefully a line all the way from one end of this thing to the other, because we have only just begun to see that there is this relative hierarchy.
And I do not think either end is nearer to God. To stand at either end, and to walk off that end of the pier only, hoping that out in that direction is the complete understanding, is a mistake. And to stand with evil and beauty and hope, or to stand with the fundamental laws, hoping that way to get a deep understanding of the whole world, with that aspect alone, is a mistake. It is not sensible for the ones who specialize at one end, and the ones who specialize at the other end, to have such disregard for each other. (They don’t actually, but people say they do.) The great mass of workers in between, connecting one step to another, are improving all the time our understanding of the world, both from working at the ends and working in the middle, and in that way we are gradually understanding this tremendous world of interconnecting hierarchies.
Messenger Lectures, The Distinction of Past and Future, ch. 5 ‘The Character of Physical Law’