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Astronomer has faith in science and religion

By Stephanie Moreton

For Mormon Times

Published: Monday, April 25 2011 3:00 a.m. MDT

First in a series

As an astronomer, J. Ward Moody is not unfamiliar with having faith in the unknown.

As a former LDS bishop, he is not unfamiliar with that either.

“All of us will have faith,” he said. “The only choice we have is where we put it. Faith is the source of all progress in this world."

Moody, a BYU physics and astronomy professor as well as a member of the publication board of the largest astronomical journals in the world The Astrophysical Journal and The Astronomical Journal, studies the universe: how it began and how it is unfolding.

In a field where controversy arises in the seeming disparity between science and religion, Moody holds fast to the belief that both fields are about the pursuit of truth individually.

“I do not expect my studies of science to teach me about God, nor do I expect my studies of God to teach me about science," he said. "They're different lines of reasoning."

Yet, conflict arises between science and religion, Moody said, because there's a philosophical difference between the two. Religion begins with faith and you then learn from that faith. Science, on that other hand, gets faith from what you learn.

"Because the approaches are so different, it's natural then when you learn about the other discipline, it can seem wrong," Moody said. Moody helped edit the recently-published “Converging Paths to Truth: The Summerhays Lectures on Science and Religion,” published by Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, which includes eight lectures from scientists how how religion meshes with knowledge from the sciences.

Another cause of conflict is ignorance from both sides of the argument.

"Any difficulties that arise between science and religion are artificial and arise in the mind of people that don't understand," he said. "It's what you dwell on when you're still in your infancy of understanding. We can learn both ways."

Early scientists such as Galileo and Newton saw religion and science intertwined and used both to uncover truth about the universe. Moody agreed that truth could be found from both ends of the spectrum.

"Scientific discovery delves into what God has done," Moody said. "Science is reasoning in the world around us through the process of discovery and should also lead us to truth."

True religion additionally, Moody said, encompasses all truth, and in that way is greater than science.

"Whenever I apply my trade and look into the heavens, I am filled with the wonder of God. What I see as a scientist helps me to learn who God is and who I am as his son. I do not see how you do not see his hand in it."

Mysteries of the universe remain because of God's ultimate purpose that man should seek to learn and investigate. Whether astronomy or religion, God's purpose for man is to seek to find truth in all aspects of life.

"He has hidden his face to us for a season as more glory to him. It's marvelous as we look around at the things we have learned."

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