Science, Religion, and Mormonism

This post is belongs to a series of posts on Reality and Mormon theology.

Traditional Christianity, Islam, and Judaism believe in the Absolutism of God. This view implies that consciousness has primacy over reality. Traditional Christians (Catholics and protestants) believe that God literally has all power to do anything. They also believe that God communicates through revelation. Therefore when they receive revelation they assume that it is absolutely true simply because God said it. If their revelation contradicts what they observe in reality, they will still believe their received revelation and they will reject their own experience. Also, since God has power to do anything, contradictory revelations must also possible.

Only a few religious thinkers have rejected this view. Thomas Aquinas was one of them (even though he still inconsistently believed in the Absolutism of God). Aquinas was influenced by Aristotle. He believed that revelation/scripture is the word of God and what we observe are the works of God. If the words do not correspond to the works, then the words must be reinterpreted. So for example, if we observe that the creation of the earth took longer than 6 days, then we must reinterpret the words of God to be figurative and not literal. Therefore God's revelation is not the standard of truth, but it is a source of truth. It is checked by our observations of reality.

In the case of Christianity, this view undermined the absolute authority of the Bible and the Pope. Scriptures and religious authority can only be taken seriously insofar as they reflect observation. Systematic observation is science. Therefore if a contradiction exists between revelation and science, we must accept science and reinterpret revelation. This was one aspect of the contention between the Catholic church and Galileo. The authorities of the time feared that science would replace the need for religious authority. Some tried to halt the progress of science.

So do we need revelation? From the point of view of the Absolutism of God, revelation is necessary because one can never know that they know until God says. This creates an unhealthy dependency on God. There is no room to think for oneself in this view because all thought that do not have specific revelation are contingent. From the point of view of the Absolutism of Reality, revelation is still necessary. Why? Because science takes a very long time. Science is difficult to pursue without an affluent society. Revelation is therefore a shortcut to find out what science would likely have only discovered after a very long time. Asserting that science will replace the need for religion is like saying that children who think have no need of a teacher since they could eventually figure things out on their own.

Since Mormon theology rejects the Absolutism of God and accepts the Absolutism of reality, there will never be any contradiction with Mormon religion and science. Mormon theology categorically accepts natural law. According to Brigham Young:

“In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is a true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its professors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts—they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made this earth out of nothing is pre-posterous and impossible. God never made some-thing out of nothing; it is not in the economy or law by which the worlds were, are, or will exist,” —Brigham Young (JD 14: 116).

As far as I know, Mormon theology is the only theology that accepts the Absolutism of Reality. Therefore Mormonism is the only religion that can fully and consistently embrace science.

When there comes a time when you must choose between religion and reality, which would you choose? If you reject reality and choose religion, you will be a danger to yourself and others.