Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"It's because people are stupid!"

It was reported that when Dr. Willard Richards ... first saw a copy of the Book of Mormon he opened it in the center and read a few pages. He closed the book with this statement: "That book was either written by God or the devil, and I am going to find out who wrote it."
A Marvelous Work And A Wonder, pg 81
By LeGrand Richards
I've occasionally played catch up with BYU's Tuesday Morning Devotionals. Recently I read "Scholarship and Faith" by Ross Spencer. I'd like to start off with his introduction to Dr Henry Eyring and Dr Eyring's comments:
Dr. Henry Eyring, the great LDS chemist and father of President Henry B. Eyring, was a great example of how to combine professional excellence with faith and humility. He was world-famous for his work on chemical reactions and was also known both to his scientific colleagues and to members of the Church as a man of faith and devotion. He said:
...
So this, then, is sort of the picture that I would give you and end on the note that I can’t see any difference between the kinds of arguments that you make to support religion and the arguments that you make to support science. I understand, of course, that there are contradictions of all kinds in science, and there are contradictions between science and religion, and there are contradictions between various parts of religion in every human mind (but not in God’s mind; in a billion years you’ll have your problems solved, if you can wait).
[Henry Eyring, “You Don’t Have to Make All the Mistakes There Are,” speech given at Brigham Young University, no date, Henry Eyring Papers, Manuscript Division, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, box 20, folder 23;quoted in Henry J. Eyring, Mormon Scientist, 302]
I know that there is a God. I do not feel the need to conform my religion to science or science to my religion. I feel confident in holding two views in my mind that some may feel are opposite. I've not always felt that confidence and sought to bring them together but I've come to understand that of the vast universe I have an insignificant knowledge of both and that it would be futile for me to take my limited and incorrect perception of God and His Laws (moral and physical, if they can even be divided like that) and conform it to my misunderstanding of a bunch of observations and mathematical predictions we've made about the world around us.

Even if I interpret the written and spoken word to be contradictory to established theories of Science I still see value in learning from those theories for even if they happen to be incorrect they provide valuable insight into how God's creations work.
Sometimes it seems both "religious communities" and "intellectual communities" are far from learning the valuable lesson that Ross Spencer learned from Isaac Asimov:

I received a similar message from a rather unlikely source early in my career. When I was just out of graduate school, I attended my first meeting of the American Physical Society in New York City. It was a heady experience, and a highlight was a special event arranged by the conference organizers: the great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov had been invited to speak to us.

He began by telling us about something that had happened to him when he was a young student. He was hired to help a historian do research on social resistance to technological change. Hour after hour he wrote down the stories he found in books in the university library about people protesting the invention of things like machines to spin thread and to weave cloth, steam-powered trains, automobiles, airplanes, etc. All of these advances were perceived by the general public either to be physically dangerous or to be a threat to the livelihoods of workers in trades that were about to be destroyed by these advances.

He regaled us with these stories for a long time, and they were very funny, but it went on so long that I began to wonder where he was going. Finally he got to the point. He said that when he started to write science fiction, he remembered all of this work he had done. So while his fellow writers were all rhapsodizing about the thrill of rockets and space travel (long before such things were possible), he wrote a story about how the local populace showed up at the launch site with torches and pitchforks in opposition to space travel. Years later, when rockets and travel outside of the earth’s atmosphere became possible, there were protests, and many of Mr. Asimov’s colleagues were astounded that he had predicted so far in advance that this would occur.

“Why,” Mr. Asimov then asked us, “among all of these talented and visionary writers, was I the only one who was able to predict that this resistance to change would occur?” He let us think about the question for an uncomfortably silent minute, then leaned into the microphone and said in an intense voice that I still vividly remember: “It’s because people are stupid!” And he included himself. He said that if he hadn’t had this idea pounded into his head daily for several months, he was sure that he wouldn’t have been able to foresee it either.