Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why we need to stop asking if science and religion are compatible.

The following is a comment I wrote in response to Mormon Heretic's question of whether science and religion were compatible.


I think that in most cases, asking if science and religion are compatible is like asking if mathematics and poetry are compatible. The question really doesn't make sense. Sure, perhaps they can probably share the same room, but in most cases unless one is trained in both, they usually have no idea what the other is talking about.

To ask if the Genesis account of creation is compatible with evolution is to totally misunderstand the Genesis account. It was never meant as a scientific or literal account of creation. Anybody who goes through the LDS endowment should be acutely aware of that (though unfortunately most are still too obtuse to realize it). The seven creation periods are no scientific accounts, but is simply a means to use the numerically significant seven (which means totality) to break apart the known world into seven parts and show that for God the totality of creation was good.

Much of the same can be said about the two accounts of the creation of man in Genesis. Neither are meant to be scientific accounts, but are rather religious accounts used to point out the fallen nature of all of us. Again, the LDS endowment should make it clear to LDSaints that the Eden myth is not about two naked humans running around a magical garden and talking to snakes, but is meant to show that each of us has fallen and is in need of redemption. This is why I believe the Book of Moses teaches that God says "And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many" (1:34). Adam was not meant to be understood as a real naked person in a magical garden, but representative of all of us.

I think we could all find a greater use of our time if start recognizing the categorical differences between religion and science and realizing that in so many cases the question of their compatibility is simply nonsense.


  1. Loyd, as usual, your thoughts align with my own. However, what do we do with the latter day prophecies which presuppose a literal Adam and picture him arriving, with his priesthood keys, at Adam-ondi-Ahman for the final grand council meeting? I have a tough time with this one. Looking forward to your explanation.

  2. I disagree with your math/poetry analogy. First, Religion nuts have killed and suppressed scientists for eons (Not true with poets against mathematicians). Second, Science is increasingly making religion obsolete because it is showing the lies found in most religious myth. As science grows, religion ignorance shrinks (not true with math/poetry).

    I appreciate science for dancing on the grave of ignorance, exposing falsehoods, and providing a true path to knowledge.

  3. BiV,

    A few possibilities. One is that it is just a continuation of the Eden myth, though most LDSaints would probably reject that. A better understanding for LDSaints would be that Adam was simply another patriarch like Noah or Abraham--or perhaps the first patriarch to hold the priesthood--and that the Eden myth was simply attributed to him.


    you obviously don't understand my analogy or are reading way too much into it. The analogy is that religion and science, like poetry and math, are categorically different and that therefore talk of compatibility is nonsensical. Sure, religious nuts have misread their own religious myths and used it to trample on science. In the same manner too many scientists misunderstand religion and think that they have something to say when they really don't either. Your claim that science shows the lies in most religious myths simply just shows that you are another confused ignoramus who is making the same foolish mistake that religious nuts are making.

  4. Loyd,

    I loved your last sentence in comment #3! LOL

    I think your science/poetry analogy makes a lot of sense. I think the problems are more problems of language, than true differences between religion and science.

  5. The problem with the question is that science and religion overlap in some areas and not in others.

    For example, religion asks questions like "does my life have any transcendant meaning," about which science has nothing to say.

    Religions also makes historical claims. Science can weigh in on some of these and not others.

    Religions also make contemporary claims (like claims to miracles), and science can be of value in evaluating those claims.

    IMO, the biggest problem today is that people confuse science as a method with science as a worldview. These need to be kept separate.

  6. "Your claim that science shows the lies in most religious myths simply just shows that you are another confused ignoramus who is making the same foolish mistake that religious nuts are making." Huh???

    It is science, not religion, that is exposing the falsehoods of religions myths. Was it religion or science that determined the world was round and not the center of the universe and isn't held up by 4 pillars and doesn't have water above, etc. etc.?

    Does religion constantly corrected itself? Science does this self correction daily - old theories are proven wrong and tossed out. Religion clings to age old stories.

  7. Again dbd, you are exhibiting the same ignorance as religious nuts.

  8. Repeatedly responding with unsubstantiated statements instead of showing logical conclusions does not demonstrate the truth. I ask questions and receive no answers. I'm unable to learn here. I bid you farewell

  9. Dbd,

    You are only asking ignorant questions which I already addressed in my initial post. You are just like the religious nuts who want to think that religious beliefs are meant to answer scientific questions.

  10. Good post brotha'

    As a scientist (more or less) its always good to get a reminder of how things were written in the scriptures, especially the hebraic ones.

  11. I think a big part of the difficulty in the suggestion that we stop asking whether science and religion are compatable is that the two areas are forced together whether they like it or not: we have to live in the same house, if not share the same bed, so issues of compatability are inescapable.

    Issues of evolution vs. creation are 19th century science issues. Science has moved into far more significant portions of "religious turf" since then -- including areas of mystical experience, ethics, etc.

  12. @dbd:

    I would like to point out that science is also guilty of killing believers: consider the Nazis, the Soviets, and the Maoists. Yes, it's true (especially in the case of the Nazis) that they sometimes intermingled myth and philosophy with their science, they also relied heavily on science to justify their many atrocities.

    Religion is important because it helps us to be moral, in a way that science cannot.


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