Last blog I claimed science and religion can and should coexist. This one I want to suggest how and why.
In the search for knowledge, asking ‘How’ and ‘Why’ are effective ways to focus our minds and to help us get to the root of a matter. Sometimes used interchangeably, they actually lead us down different paths.
For example, “How does a bird flap its wings?” can lead to “How does the muscular structure of a bird interact with its skeletal structure?”, whereas “Why does a bird flap its wings?” could lead to “Why are there animals that fly?”, a much more philosophical question than the first.
Despite writing In the Beginning, I don’t really know how God created our world. Most of our knowledge of cosmology, the study of the origins and fate of the Universe, is still theory and will probably remain theory for a long time. The giant impact theory that I used to describe the formation of the moon is a relatively recent theory, and although it is the only one accepted at the moment, it could easily be overturned by the discovery of evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t even thought of until discoveries from the Apollo missions disproved the three theories that were prevalant about the formation of the moon at the time.
But I enjoyed weaving the little we know about how our world was formed with what little we know about why it was formed.
Most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints do not believe that the events described in the book of Genesis refer to the creation of the Universe. We believe they refer to the creation of our world. We also believe some of the descriptions are not meant to be taken literally. For example, the use of the word ‘day’ is taken by some religious people to mean a 24 hour time period, as might be measured by something like the NIST-F2 atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado, which is accurate to one second in 300 million years. However I believe that the word ‘day’ might be better represented by the phrase ‘period of time’, and could represent periods of time up to a few billions of years or so. I know the concept of billions of years blows my mind, and I imagine it was quite outside the understanding of someone who lived at the time of Moses. It would be simpler for God to describe the creation in terms Moses could understand.
I believe what was revealed about the creation to Moses, to Abraham, and to Joseph Smith was not about how God created our world, but why he created it. I also believe that the attempt by many to extrapolate how God created our world from his description of why he created it, suggesting that the entire Universe was created in a 518,400 second period of time as measured by NIST-F2, and that done about 6,000 years ago, is why many people who believe in science ridicule and dismiss people who believe in religion.
I believe that if one studies the scriptures in terms of why God created a world for us, and studies science to understand how things work, realizing that religion will never explain unusual fields that exist throughout the Universe that cause particles to acquire mass, and yet the discovery of the Higgs boson will never explain why our Universe exists in the first place, science and religion can get along.