Defending the Faith: Science, progress and religion

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  • rsnyder Draper, UT
    July 1, 2017 8:26 a.m.

    I agree that religion and science are not mutually exclusive. Of course some erroneously held beliefs have been corrected by science, but religion has progressed as well. I would argue that the reason we don't generally teach religion in school and colleges is because religion is a life-long learning experience where we learn about our own personal relationship with and responsibility towards God towards His children. Academics want to believe that intellectual learning is all that is needed. But science does not feed our spiritual side. The arts come close at times, but a complete person must fed spiritually in addition to science and the arts. Religion may even involve attending church but primarily involves using study, prayer and meditation.

  • Cheesecake Salt Lake City, UT
    June 19, 2017 8:41 p.m.

    Daniel Peterson opened this article by using the phrase "unthinking" to describe those who disagree with religious faith. That is what he wrote. I disagree with that sentiment, view it as insulting, and not helpful to his case.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 19, 2017 8:07 a.m.

    @ Skeptic. Basic Christianity(Born again). Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me I once was lost but now am found Was blind but now I see When we've been there ten thousand years Bright shining as the sun We've no less days to sing God's praise than when we've first begun Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come 'Tis Grace has brought me safe thus far And Grace will lead me home. E.g…

    The clearest sensation that a human being has when he experiences the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creature ness. Is 6:5 Woe is me! ..for I am a man of unclean lips(sinner). A higher devotion for Jesus and a thirst for the Bible. (Johnathan Edwards)

  • txadams Angleton, TX
    June 18, 2017 10:21 a.m.

    Herein lies the arrogance of religious apologists, that religion has a lock on morals and ethics with no nothing else contributing to society in the last 2000 years. My ancestors of the genus homo, some 250,000 years ago, passed on their genes to me because they evolved to realize killing, stealing and causing general malcontent within the clan didn't contribute to it's survival. Those that did were removed from that society. Later, individuals exploited fear and superstition to gain the upper hand and this evolved into religion. Pull back the threadbare veil of religion and you will see that love, moral and ethics are just the product of being human.

    June 17, 2017 10:02 a.m.

    "We socialists mostly want workers to control and own the means of production."

    One of the beauties of a free society is that workers, can, in fact, own the means of production. Of course they have to prove, by competing in an open and free market, that they are better at providing what the public wants than non-worker-owned companies, at least if they wish to remain in business. Or perhaps you're suggesting that government should take companies away from those who have built them proved they know what they're doing - by succeeding in a free market - and give them to those who haven't. I'm not sure why that would be a good idea. And I'm not aware of any nation or society that has flourished as a whole by eliminating freedom; it's usually the guys wielding the guns who flourish, while everyone else flounders.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    June 17, 2017 9:46 a.m.


    Thank you for your explanation. I would have preferred a simple example of your revelation powers, but perhaps that would be expecting too much. Nevertheless, your scenario reminded me of episodes of Star Trek. Good job.

    June 17, 2017 9:22 a.m.

    The thing we should all dislike is arrogance, whether in science or religion, as it prevents us from moving forward on the path of discovering truth.

  • CMTM , 00
    June 17, 2017 9:00 a.m.

    RE: G L W8. Atheists becomes Christian. Oxford don, C.S. Lewis on experience.
    “Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told "There is a ghost in the next room," and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost.

    It is "uncanny" rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply "There is a mighty spirit in the room," and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking—a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it.”

    In 2 Peter 19-21 People think that Scripture is confirmed by experience. Peter says, "No, experience is confirmed by Scripture."

    June 17, 2017 6:07 a.m.

    skeptic: I could give you example after example, but they would mean nothing to you unless you are willing to perform the "experiment" yourself--under the exacting conditions required. That's one of the "peer review" requirements.
    In my own training in science, I learned that conclusions for any experiment is only good for the time and exacting conditions when and where the experiment was performed. Anything beyond that requires extrapolation, AKA "educated guesswork." That's the purpose of further experimentation and peer review, which is IMO quality control but does not mean consensus without total agreement-which we often don't have.
    I have my own brand of skepticism: everything is open to question--including scientific theory, religious doctrine, politics, so-called reality, brainstorms, spiritual insights, etc.
    I can rely on my knowledge base, both from a physical and spiritual standpoint, only to the point where I obtain further knowledge--from either side of the equation.
    I frequently ask "what if" and "why" questions. It may seem contradictory to some, but it's who I am.
    Your other questions are valid & have possible answers, but no room here to reply!

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    June 17, 2017 6:06 a.m.

    There are enough straw men in this column to require a baler to get through it.

    Ethics: It isn't because of religion that we no longer treat as "possessed" those with epilepsy and schizophrenia. Science informs our ethics in a way that religion cannot.

    @ mhenshaw

    "They love to debate theories..."

    I agree that this is similar to religion. It's all just speculation. It would become just like religion if they started taking their speculations seriously and began to live as is they were true (and demanding that others do the same).

    "Any of those possibilities implicitly or explicitly depends on the existence of a being (or beings) so far beyond us as to be a god by any standard."

    First, let's acknowledge that speaking of gods in this way makes a whopper of an assumption: that gods exist outside the human imagination. No proof of this so far. (And lots of evidence pointing to "homo sapiens make them up.")

    But setting this aside for sake of argument, a similar disparity in power and intellect exists between us and creatures like gerbils or goldfish. Does this make us gods?

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    June 16, 2017 1:39 p.m.


    You post that: "To those critics who say science is open to discovery and religion is not: my religion tells me I can get further light and knowledge through revelation".
    Please give us an example of your extraordinar knowledge via revelation that is not common public knowledge . Perhaps you can tell us where to find the lost people of the BOM. Now that prove of revelation would merit the idroduction of revelation studies in all the universities.

    June 16, 2017 1:12 p.m.

    To those critics who say science is open to discovery and religion is not: my religion tells me I can get further light and knowledge through revelation.

    But it doesn't come easy. Like the strict requirements to conduct a valid empirical experiment, it must include some very essential steps. The basic ones are faith, repentance, baptism, and accepting the Holy Ghost. But getting answers on a continual basis goes beyond those beginning steps. One must be obedient, accept God's will, seek for personal answers in effectual prayer.

    He/she must also seek to validate the counsel of current prophets through the same process of prayer.

    I would not suggest a total equivalency to empiricism. But the pattern and elements of design are comparable. Those who have followed them can offer a conclusion ("testimony" in LDS vernacular) that compares to the standards of peer review in the scientific community.

    It's true that many religions believe in answers to prayer. But before lumping us with other religion's ideology and dogma, critics should remember that the LDS religion is the prime religion to insist upon modern prophecy and revelation of God's will to a modern world.

  • MintTee San Antonio, TX
    June 16, 2017 10:31 a.m.

    On the God of the gaps, science focuses on material things, yet some religions claim that God is pure spirit. Then, one could define science as exploring manifestations of God’s intellect. This assumes some things about who God is. That being said, I do believe God can't do contradictions.

    Also, we have basically solved the easiest problems. We don’t know if we can solve the harder problems. We may be unable to solve them, or it could be proved that a problem is unsolvable.

    One of those problems, scientifically speaking, is on miracles. Just because someone says miracle doesn't mean it is a miracle. I’m not talking about scientifically explainable miracles, but those that seem to defy scientific explanation. For example, bread and wine becoming body and blood.

    One scientist I am aware of observed in a microscope a piece of living heart. Yet, living heart cells aren't supposed to survive in an outside environment. The substance came from a Catholic Church (I’m Catholic).

  • kla2 dedham, ME
    June 16, 2017 10:02 a.m.

    While still holding a personal faith, I must side with the critics who use science for their comparisons. Science only continues to exists and progress by the results of its research and the model of scrutiny that underpins scientific credibility. Religion on the other hand, as understood by history and tradition, and contrary to their own scriptural record, offer no insight nor have 'results' to offer that can be directly and unambiguously attributed to God. I'm not making a case against God, but I don't think the potential of that very big idea, has been realized through any existing, and all too human theological construct of religious tradition!

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 16, 2017 9:00 a.m.

    RE: Twin Lights . “I know what you(Christians) believe. I just don't think that is what is described in the NT.” It’s Biblical:

    The Kenosis doctrine of Christ’s self-emptying in His incarnation. Philippians 2:7, Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." Jesus did not cease to be God during His earthly ministry. He also set aside His independent authority. During His earthly ministry, Christ completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father. E.g…,

    C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, ”that a painter pours his ideas out in his work, and yet remains quite a distinct being from his painting".

    The Hypostatic Union is the union of the two natures (Divine and human) in the person of Jesus. Jesus is God in flesh (John 1:1, 14, Phil. 2:5-8, Heb. 1:8). He is fully God and fully man (Col. 2:9). He has two natures: God and man.

  • Tyriana Logan, UT
    June 16, 2017 8:49 a.m.

    I'll add that the Enlightenment sprouted and bloomed in the culture of Western Europe, which was thoroughly Christian. Perhaps Science needed values that accompanied Christianity such as hard work and self-sacrifice, along with attitudes of wonder and love for God's creation, in order to be.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    June 16, 2017 8:05 a.m.

    Tyler D.

    I have found the center to be a lonely place of late. Yes, I think I would enjoy a chat. As to philosophers (though I believe him to be much, much more) I think Jesus Bar Joseph is superb to read.


    I know what you believe. I just don't think that is what is described in the NT.

  • Baccus0902 Leesburg, VA
    June 16, 2017 7:27 a.m.

    Professor Peterson,
    I am grateful that you published your opinion in this subject. Even though (I think,I'm not sure) I agree with your objective, I disagree with the way you have expressed your ideas.

    The beginning of Religion is the beginning of science, discovery and questions. The shaman, the priest, the medicine man was the source of wisdom and the one able to come up with the understanding of how the world work. Nowadays, we call most of those answers, myth!

    In the 21st century Religion and Science don't need to be in conflict. Humanity has developed and specialized in a variety of fields. The theologian/ spiritual man/woman no longer needs to answer how the sun or the weather works. Nor he or she is expected to heal a mysterious sickness. Do that make the spiritual man/woman irrelevant? I think most of us will agree that the answer is No!

    The sciences and all knowledge are what make us humans. In my personal relationship with God, science and knowledge reaffirm the vastness and greatness of our universe and generate more questions of my purpose and role in this creation. I find that religion helps me to get closer to the answer to those questions.

  • mhenshaw Leesburg, VA
    June 16, 2017 5:53 a.m.

    >>Now religion is relegated to the “god-in-the-gaps” and that gap gets smaller by the day.


    I love the process of scientific discovery--so much of it is awe-inspiring. But new discoveries describing "how X happens" do nothing to negate the idea that God exists or narrow the realms in which He can/does operate.

    Scientists themselves prove the point. They love to debate theories about whether there could be hyper-advanced civilizations out there that already understand how the universe works in its totality, with all the capabilities that level of knowledge would bestow; whether we might be living in a simulation designed and managed by some hyper-intelligent; whether we might be Boltzman brains or some other kind of engineered construct. Any of those possibilities implicitly or explicitly depends on the existence of a being (or beings) so far beyond us as to be a god by any standard.

    Given that, it seems to me that many scientists really have no qualms about the idea of there being a God; they just seem to have qualms about the idea of a God who might make some moral requirements of them.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 15, 2017 3:25 p.m.

    Twin Lights . “Here is the most pithy quote (from 1 Timothy) "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus," And with that, I wholeheartedly agree. “ Some Context,
    “…… God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.(1 Tim 3:16)

    Jesus is the Word who was God and was with God and was made flesh (John 1:1, 14). This means that in the single person of Jesus he has both a human and divine nature, God and man. The Word was joined with humanity (Col. 2:9).E.g...,

    regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David,(Romans 1:3)

    Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them proceeds the human descent of Christ, who is God over all, forever worthy of praise! Amen.(Romans 9:5)

  • Tyler D Prescott, AZ
    June 15, 2017 3:00 p.m.

    @Twin Lights – “That process requires us to ask a lot of questions.”

    You always have a nice way of bringing me back to the “center”… we should talk more. *wink*

    I take your points though I would chalk that up to our questioning nature rather than anything religion is bringing to the table. If religion did not encourage questions (at least early on) they would never get any converts.

    But we have to look at where they both end up to see the real distinctions.

    When I can spend a Sunday morning in my local Church of Hume or contemplate the Holy Writ of Wittgenstein, then I might be convinced.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    June 15, 2017 2:34 p.m.

    Tyler D.

    I think the comparison is apt. In my religious conversion, I was asked a lot of questions and encouraged to ask a lot of questions (of myself and of God).

    We are asked to "ponder" or meditate upon things. Several revelations in the various scriptures are the result of that process.

    Religion causes us to think of our place in the universe. I think the best point is in Moses in the Pearl of Great Price where he simultaneously realizes that man is nothing yet also a child of God.

    I think the best point for me is that with each passing year of progress we understand a bit better what we must do to be a little more like Christ. That process requires us to ask a lot of questions.


    Thank you for the quote. I am familiar with the got questions site. Here is the most pithy quote (from 1 Timothy) "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus," And with that, I wholeheartedly agree.

  • Tyler D Prescott, AZ
    June 15, 2017 12:49 p.m.

    And the comparison between religion and philosophy is equally vacuous.

    There’s a more pithy and provocative way to say this, but the DN censors wouldn’t allow it.

    Suffice to say that philosophy is about asking questions whereas religion is about giving answers.

    To suggest these are analogous undertakings is to violate the logical law of non-contradiction.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 15, 2017 12:39 p.m.

    Twin Lights." Religion addresses the who."

    Science and the Bible, The Universe had a beginning. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word(Jesus) was God.. (John 1:1 NIV) What is the origin of the things that are made? ”en arche” meaning as “the first cause.” “In the beginning” is referring to Genesis – “In the beginning.” (Gen1 1:1 )

    John is pointing his Jewish readers back to the O. T. where the Logos or “Word” of God is the personification of God’s revelation. Jesus as the Logos is drawing upon a familiar word and concept that both Jews and Gentiles of his day would have been familiar with and using that as the starting point from which He introduces them to Jesus Christ.

    But John goes beyond the familiar concept of Logos that his Jewish and Gentile readers would have had and presents Jesus Christ not as a mere mediating principle like the Greeks perceived, but as a personal being, fully divine, yet fully human. “

  • loweye salt lake, UT
    June 15, 2017 11:51 a.m.

    John Charity Spring.

    Why must you always put everything into some kind of war between left and right?Sometimes things are just disagreements between people.

    Daniel Peterson said nothing about left and right. There was no reason to bring it up. I feel this attitude is far too prevalent in Utah.

    For example, a friend of mine said to me, "You're a democrat, aren't you?" I said, "No, I'm an independent, but I do lean left." She said, "Then you must believe LDS women should have the Priesthood." I was taken aback about why my political beliefs were relevant to that at all.

    Some things just have nothing to do with politics.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    June 15, 2017 11:06 a.m.

    Dr. Peterson skirts the real issues of religion vs reality (science). Social science has few issues with religion on what is right and wrong, what is good and bad. Psychology of man and ethics of civilization are pretty much givens in both social science and religion. It is in the whelm of physical science where the myth of religion and the reality of science part ways. Such things as the earth is flat, bread and water becomes blood and flesh, direct conduits to god and haven, existence of mythical Hebrew nations here in the Americas, humans who never die, etc. etc. These are the real issues that religious apologist like Dr. Peterson never address. Is it because they can't, or is it because they feel more secure and comfortable under the umbrella of superstition, and the more people they can convince to join them the more they feel validated.
    Hopefully, one day they too may realize that even thought tens of thousands of people may believe in a fallacy, it is still a fallacy; and wake up and look for the true meaning of life: because organized religion is holding man back from his true future.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    June 15, 2017 9:51 a.m.

    @John Charity Spring "The left-wing seeks to turn this Country into just another European-style, post-Christian, socialist state. Part of this effort includes attacking the religious tradition of America."

    These statements are incorrect. We socialists mostly want workers to control and own the means of production.

    That said, we are wary of Soviet style autocracy. In the old Soviet Union religion was persecuted. We don't want that either. But most do not realize there were many, many locally controlled cooperatives in that system, and that according to polls is what people of the old Soviet Union miss most.

    We want the cooperatives without the dictatorship at the top. Can it be done? Let's hope so, because capitalism is failing to deliver all over the world.

  • John Charity Spring Back Home in Davis County, UT
    June 15, 2017 8:54 a.m.

    Sadly, many on the left attack any contributions of religion. Peterson is absolutely correct in standing up to that false ideology.

    The left-wing seeks to turn this Country into just another European-style, post-Christian, socialist state. Part of this effort includes attacking the religious tradition of America.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    June 15, 2017 8:26 a.m.

    An excellent piece Dr. Peterson. Thank you.

    In general, science answers the what and how. Religion addresses the who and why. There is certainly confluence (as in how scientific advances are to be addressed). But even with no religion, there would have to be such a conversation as few advances are without two edges (one beneficial, one less so).

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    June 15, 2017 8:18 a.m.

    Professor Peterson correctly points to the contributions of religion. But he fails to acknowledge the times science has corrected religion to our benefit, e.g. origin of the races and origin of the species.

  • Tyler D Prescott, AZ
    June 15, 2017 8:16 a.m.

    Dr. Peterson, you’re over thinking this.

    First of all, sonnets and symphonies never claim to provide answers about how the universe works and how we should live our lives. Fundamentally this has been religion’s grand project from the get go.

    For centuries it had an epistemological monopoly (enforced through violence) and like any monopoly it waded deep into the waters of hubris. Then science came along and began providing real answers (to the exact same questions religion had been “answering” for millennia).

    To truly see the power of science (and reason in general) and the impotency of religion, ask yourself the following questions:

    How many religions explanations about the world have been superseded by science?

    How many scientific explanations have been superseded by religious knowledge?

    The obvious answers to these questions are “countless” and “zero” respectively.

    Now religion is relegated to the “god-in-the-gaps” and that gap gets smaller by the day.

  • bass679 Novi, MI
    June 15, 2017 8:14 a.m.

    While I agree in principle with the article, I feel that many non-scientists see the advances only as technical achievements. Yes, some work may give you a faster cell phone but that's not why we do it.

    Robert Wilson was the physicist in charge of building Fermi Lab, in 1969 he was called to justify the costs to a Congressional committee. When asked how the particle accelerator would contribute to national security he said,

    "It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture... It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about. In that sense, this new knowledge has all to do with honor and country but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending."

    To me there is no better expression of what scientific advancement is and why it matters. In my eyes, scientific research is one of the purest expressions of the last sentence of the 13th article of faith, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

  • Michael_M Scottsbluff, NE
    June 15, 2017 8:11 a.m.

    This article does not correctly define my skepticism. It reads to me like straw man arguments and then rebuts them, but like I said, it isn't rebutting my actual positions.

    Attempting to use science, archaeology, genomics, etc. to defend the Book of Mormon can and does damage and destroy testimonies. My position is to keep religion and science separate. If Moroni's promise works for someone, there is no need to seek evidence with science. Claims of archaeological, genomics, linguistics, etc. findings inevitably fall short and are never presented in credible scientific publications. Fake evidence through pseudo means simply does not work.

    If a person has faith, that is all he or she should need to believe in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Going beyond that with science destroyed my faith.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    June 15, 2017 7:53 a.m.

    Ah, Mr. Peterson but religion does attempt to infringe on the world of science.

    Religion, may not say anything about how to build a rocket, but it certainly does attempt to say who "created" the universe.

    Religion may not say anything about how to develop a new drug, but it certainly says a lot about how humans develop.

    Religion doesn't say anything about the contents and functioning of the brain, but it certainly says a lot about what animates life.

    Get the point sir? Science doesn't by it's nature infringe on religion, but religion does by it's nature infringe on science.