Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Henry Eyring exemplified both science and faith’

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Published: Thursday, Nov. 7 2013 8:00 a.m. MST

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Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

As we contemplate data now becoming understood regarding the universe we see more and more of the cosmology outlined in the Pearl of Great Price.

Faith and Science are not enemies (unless we seek to make them such).

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"In this church, you only have to believe the truth."

Therin lies the key...

I have no problem with those who choose a path of faith...there is great comfort that comes from believing in something beyond oneself. The problem is that some people claim "truth" when they actually mean "belief." Believing in something does not make it true or cause it to be a fact. And the danger with "belief" is it can replace evidence and sidestep the use of our reasoning powers.

It's frightening to be pushed out of our comfort zone given our powerful inner drive to hold our attitudes and beliefs in harmony. As a result, many scientists have found a way to look past the conflict that exists between science and faith and surrender to their cognitive dissonance.

However, living an authentic life requires one to bravely make self-honoring choices in both thought and action. Reason can become an enemy of faith to those who demand the acceptance of the supernatural.

And those demands can become downright repugnant when dogmatist claim non-believers will suffer eternal damnation unless they surrender their reason.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

I think Eyring has the right approach (his “over-belief” notwithstanding) that we should examine the handiwork of creation. I would add that we should do so without bias or presupposition and let the evidence take us wherever it will (i.e., which would not be in the direction of a Creationism Museum).

@Twin Lights – “Faith and Science are not enemies (unless we seek to make them such).”

When properly understood, I would agree. The problem comes when Faith tries to do Science (as it has for thousands of years) - when it tries to do so, eventually it (Faith) always loses and with each loss goes more credibility.

If these areas were parsed and people embraced science (not as having all the answers, but as the best means for obtaining answers about the natural world), faith would stand on much more solid ground… even if that ground seemed to cover far less territory than it did in the past (which perhaps is the main cause of distress for the faithful).

Cletus from Coalville
Coalville, UT

"As we contemplate data now becoming understood regarding the universe we see more and more of the cosmology outlined in the Pearl of Great Price."

And how long will it take for science to catch up with the claim in the Pearl of Great Price that the Sun borrows its light from another planet rather than through nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium at its core?

Mountanman
Hayden, ID

Science is so fleeting. Everything we think we know will eventually be proven to be either wrong or at least very incomplete. As our grandparent's science is to us, so will our science be to our grandchildren. Religion is also very incomplete. I refer you to the 9th Article of Faith. I personally could not belong to any religion that teaches me otherwise.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

"Science is so fleeting."
______________________________

Science is tentative is how I would put it. It builds of the shoulders of what came before and is forever subject to revision, as any honest scientist will readily admit. Faith, on the other hand can become mired and stagnant in its refusal to reconsider tenets it places beyond human understanding.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Weber State Graduate,

I cannot speak for others, but in my over 35 years in the church, I do not feel that I have ever been asked to surrender reason. Actually (in terms of actions and consequences) I sometimes see what I might term an over-reliance on reason vs. faith as the motivation for certain religious adherence.

Tyler D,

I generally agree. Science is a tool. At one time not that good (due to limited data) now much better. The accusation that science is always changing and incomplete misses the point - of course it is (and always will be).

I have no problem letting science be science. Nor any fear thereof. I honestly don’t comprehend why folks get all in a knot over it. So many discoveries evoke wonder and amazement. And, if I find in them no proof of my religious views, neither do I find them to be contrary thereto.

But, then there are the tantalizing discoveries such as the current estimates of how many earth-like planets there may be and that some building blocks for life afloat in space and what all of this means for life in the universe.

Mountanman
Hayden, ID

@ Craig. Thank you for your astute input. I would only add that it depends on how faith is defined. The scriptures teach, "Faith is the evidence of things not seen that are true". I like that definition very much! Real faith isn't blind, its believing and accepting the evidences. Not everything can be proven, many things require faith. Faith keeps us moving forward in an unproven future. Imagine not moving forward unless the future can be proven.

IsaacsTM
Huntingtown, MD

Henry Eyring was my father's mentor at the University of Utah and was a great man. My father taught thermodynamics for many years at the U of U. He is also a faithful member of the church. Many times, he would be inspired in his research and his discoveries. When we put science and religion on separate boxes we miss the opportunities to use our faith to receive inspiration and receive new objective knowledge about the world and how it works.

BeSmart
Cheyenne, WY

@ Weber State Graduate
I think if you look at many of the best scientists they believed in a higher power.
Even when you statistically analyze many of the scientific theories about the creation of the Universe, Earth, and such it is pretty much a statistic impossibility.
A mathematic representation of the big bang theory actually working and causing the universe we have today (i may be off by a couple zeros)
1 in 27,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is for the universe to even exist.
Having a scientific background and working with scientists I would say most scientists believe there is a higher power whatever it may be that helped in the creation.
Having a geologic background that I do. The periods of creation actually align very well with science (time differs) but the attributs of the periods are similiar. D&C also talks about the earth "temporal" life being 6,000 years (that is not saying the definite age).
Saying science and religion destroy eachother is not a great point mathematically. Now the probability of one person being in the exact spot where they are now is that much greater.

joe5
South Jordan, UT

Twin Lights wrote: "I have no problem letting science be science. Nor any fear thereof. I honestly don’t comprehend why folks get all in a knot over it."

I have no fear of science. My undergrad degree is in electrical engineering and I've made my career in the field of science and technology. However, I do push back on the blind adherents to science that reject any other data or input. I can't even tell you how many times I've heard that "the matter is settled" from those who rely completely on science and reject faith. Invariably in turns out that the matter is not settled at all and further scientific analysis proves it. But these same blind believers then trumpet that the new data means that "the matter is settled." At some point, if they were honest, wouldn't they realize and concede that their faith in the constantly changing God called "Science" is insufficient to explain the universe?

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Twin Lights – “So many discoveries evoke wonder and amazement.”

Good comments…

Science (starting with science fiction) has always had that effect on me. By contrast religion almost never has – with the exceptions of examples of pure love and redemption stories (but as a kid the Anakin Skywalker redemption story affected me more than any religious one I heard *haha*).

Maybe this is just a function of how we’re wired… different strokes.

I remember watching Cosmos as a kid (it came on in episodes so we had the added effect of anticipation) and was just blown away. The universe Sagan was describing seemed so much larger, mysterious (but potentially knowable), breathtaking and awe inspiring than any stories I heard in Sunday school.

By the way, I hear Neil Degrasse Tyson is hosting the remake set to come out next year. Given current special effects, that should be amazing – and without the somewhat cheesy (in retrospect) spaceship Carl Sagan was riding around in.

@Mountanman

Even though I don’t share your faith I really enjoyed your comment. How often have I ever said that before? haha

Peace brother…

maclouie
Falconer, NY

Cletus from Coalville:

"And how long will it take for science to catch up with the claim in the Pearl of Great Price that the Sun borrows its light from another planet rather than through nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium at its core?"

Nuclear fusion = man's explanation

Borrowing light from another planet = God's explanation. We just don't understand this yet.

There is nothing wrong with utilizing and understanding nuclear fusion with an eye towards knowing there is more to learn.

Man's criticism towards God's Word is caused by man's inability and impatience to comprehend. As far as statements about "those who lack faith will be damned" is so true no matter how you slice it. There has not been any discovery without their being faith initially. You would not insert you keys in the ignition switch if you did not think the engine would start (or unless you wanted to listen to the radio, but you know what I mean).

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

The parameters of faith generally encompass sacred tenets that are not to be questioned if faith is to be maintained. Science, on the other hand, exempts nothing from questioning, indeed requires that everything be subject to questioning in seeking truth. These radically different approaches are not easily reconciled.

That’s not to say that it can’t be done. Henry Eyring is a stellar example of one who was both a man of faith and a man of science. If there is a common ground shared by faith and science, it is that both require enduring patience.

Louis Midgley
Provo, UT

When I arrived at Brown University to begin my doctorate at Brown University, I was escorted by the Chair of Political Science to a to a reception held for new graduate students by Robert Bruce Lindsay, the Dean of the Graduate School. Each new graduate student got perhaps ten seconds. I got perhaps five minutes. The reason was that I got a lecture from Professor Lindsay. When I introduced myself, he asked me if I was Mormon and whether I knew Henry Eyring, whom he described as the greatest human being he had ever met, and also the best scientist then alive. Lindsay admonished me to follow as closely as I could Eyring's example.

I did not study under Henry Eyring, but that I had heard him lecture and debate. He could hold his own with anyone. Lindsay indicated that Eyring defended his faith with the same passion and precision that he devoted to his science. Lindsay was impressed by both Eyring as a scholar and as a Latter-day Saint. And he urged me to follow in his footsteps. Given my limited gifts, I have striven to be a scholar Saint in the pattern set by Henry Eyring.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

I was told once upon a time by a very well educated [7 Doctorate Degrees, 3 of them in biology surrounding evolutionary theriy] and religous and failthful LDS Bishop ---

Science explains HOW God does things,
Religous explains WHY God does things.

Those who get confused are the ones attempting to do just the opposite.

[for example - believeing the Earth was created in 6 (24 hour) days].

Dr. Eyring

Sensible Scientist
Rexburg, ID

I think Henry Eyring would caution you about the "science is fleeting" argument depending on where you think that would lead. If you have creationism, a young earth, or "evolution is bunk" in mind, he'd chastise you roundly. If, however, you simply have in mind scientific uncertainty, fine.

Every Mormon should read "Mormon Scientist," published a couple of years ago by Eyring's grandson. It's an eye-opener.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@joe5 – “wouldn't they realize and concede that their faith in the constantly changing God called "Science" is insufficient to explain the universe?”

Nope… because it’s not about having an explanation for everything – it’s about what is the best method for getting the answers, which I can only assume you agree with when you say, “Invariably in turns out that the matter is not settled at all and further scientific analysis proves it.” Right… it was further explained by science.

Given religion’s track record at explaining the natural world (vs. science it is abysmal) science is by far the best method we have - but you’re right to say it should not be dogmatic (i.e., stating a matter is settled when there’s still work to be done).

Conversely, religion should stop trying “fill in the gaps” of what science cannot yet explain.

@maclouie – “There has not been any discovery without their being faith initially.”

True… but a red herring, because that is not the kind of faith atheistic scientists argue against, but I’m guessing you already know that.

Cletus from Coalville
Coalville, UT

"Nuclear fusion = man's explanation"

"Borrowing light from another planet = God's explanation. We just don't understand this yet."

And the latter is correct because someone said that's what God claimed in spite of the evidence to the contrary? Wow, now that's a tough one to swallow for anyone with rudimentary scientific understanding.

When religious dogma demonstrably clashes with science, it's easy to rely on the old fallback--"we just don’t understand this yet." This is nothing more than a clever dodge designed to keep the "faithful" in check. Granted, such a copout seems to work with apparently intelligent people.

By the way, accepting the faulty notion that the Sun borrows its light from another planet is tantamount to believing the power from your car engine came from a rock in Himalayas rather than through internal combustion inside the engine.

Is it any wonder why reason simply gets high jacked by such pious nonsense?

joe5
South Jordan, UT

Craig: On of the foundational tenets of Mormonism is Article of Faith 9 that says "We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." In the words of Hugh B. Brown: "That is a challenge for the ages."

Further, I have always been taught that revelation comes as the result of questions. We are taught from our primary days that JS's first vision was the result of a question; Moroni's visit was the result of a question; the Aaronic PH was restored because JS had a question about baptism; the vision of the degrees of glory was the result of a question. In fact, many sections of the D&C were the result of a question. From our youngest years, we are taught to ask questions.

However, we are also taught that not all questions are answered immediately so we need to have faith until they are. This is similar to adhering to a scientific hypothesis while we wait for data to come in to either verify or disprove it.

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