Science is based on the idea that you take all of the information that you have, create a hypothesis, and then, taking what you know, you test your theories and learn what fits and what doesn’t. It’s a beautiful pursuit, and the best and most successful scientists are those who work with open minds, letting the data guide them.
With this in mind, it goes without saying that throughout human existence, information has been gathered, hypotheses tested, and theories debunked or confirmed a million times over. One of the most simple examples of this is the concept of what our earth is shaped as. Did you know that many ancient cultures shared the idea of a flat Earth, but each had its unique twist? For instance, in ancient Greece, famous poets like Homer and Hesiod and thinkers like Thales and Democritus all talked about a flat Earth. It’s interesting to note that Thales is often considered one of the first philosophers, and Democritus is known for founding atomic theory.
Even in more isolated cultures, like the Mountain Arapesh people in Papua New Guinea, there were unique ideas. They believed the world ended at the horizon, where giant clouds gather. Each of these cultures, while sharing the flat Earth concept, had their own fascinating stories and explanations about the world and the universe. It really shows how diverse human theory can be!
We take for granted now that we have copious amounts of information, satellite images, and first-hand experience of the reality of Earth’s spherical shape. There was a time, however, when the information we have now wasn’t available. But, now that it is, we adjust our knowledge and theories.
The God of the Gaps
It’s easy for us to accept that the theory that the Earth is flat is a bygone system of thought. But what happens when new scientific discoveries and developments upend the ways we’ve been taught to think, especially in a religious setting? Jamie L. Jensen addresses this very quandary in her BYU Speech, Faith and Science: Symbiotic Pathways to Truth. She explains it like this:
“This brings me to another important principle I would like to discuss that, if understood correctly, can help to save your faith. This principle is to avoid a “God of the gaps.” What is a God of the gaps? It is when an individual inserts God as an explanation for anything that science cannot currently explain. For example, the ancient Greeks created gods to explain weather patterns for which they had no current explanation (for example, Zeus was the god of lightning, and Poseidon was the god of earthquakes and hurricanes). However, once science became advanced enough to explain these phenomena, their gods disappeared.
It is dangerous to believe in God because His existence resolves uncertainty, or His existence explains things that you cannot explain. (For example, How can lifeforms be so complex? They must have been created in their present form by God.) What happens when science comes up with a reasonable and even testable explanation for this “gap” in our understanding? (For example, evolution has led to the great diversity of life we see.) Does your faith disappear just because something you attributed to God can be explained by science? It shouldn’t, and it won’t if your belief is not based on gaps. A paradigm shift must occur such that your belief in God is for an entirely different reason—not because He can explain the gaps in your current understanding but because He gives you spiritual understanding and you have felt His presence in your life (again, this is spiritual evidence, not scientific evidence).”
Synergy of Faith and Science
The interplay between faith, science, and LGBTQ+ advocacy is a multi-dimensional discourse that necessitates a delicate balance of respect, understanding, and empirical inquiry. Faith, often guided by millennia of tradition and deeply held beliefs, can sometimes exist in tension with the scientific method, which relies on evidence and reproducibility.
However, when addressing LGBTQ+ advocacy, a synergy between these domains emerges as vital. Science provides a framework for understanding the complexities of gender and sexuality through biological, psychological, and sociological lenses, grounding advocacy in the realities of human diversity.
Meanwhile, faith communities are increasingly called upon to reconcile doctrinal interpretations with the imperative for compassion and human dignity. An inclusive perspective that honors both spiritual and empirical truths can foster a more accepting environment in which individuals are free to express their authentic selves without fear of judgment or rejection.
This intersection of faith and science enriches LGBTQ+ advocacy, empowering voices that champion equality and love and illustrating that belief systems and knowledge can co-evolve toward a more enlightened and empathetic society.
Intersecting Paths: The Science of Faith
As I spoke with Dr. Greg Prince, I learned of his relationship with science and faith and how it represents a unique intersection where rigorous academic inquiry meets deep-seated religious heritage. As a 7th generation Latter-Day Saint, Prince grew up in a family deeply rooted in the LDS Church. His professional journey in pathology and research science, however, endowed him with a cognitive skill set that empowered him to adopt a data-driven approach to Mormon studies.
Prince upholds the value of following the data where it leads and emphasizes both deductive and inductive reasoning—a methodology derived from his scientific background. This approach has led him to address complex questions within the Church, emphasizing the importance of tackling challenging issues with empirical evidence and scholarly rigor. Despite the resistance that intellectuals like him sometimes face within religious communities, his contributions aim to stimulate ethical growth and understanding within the LDS Church, bridging the gap between faith and reason.
Challenging Traditions: Intellectuals in Religion
As someone with a deep background in dentistry and pathology, Prince brought a scientific approach to Mormon studies, emphasizing the importance of following data and utilizing both deductive and inductive reasoning. Despite this rigorous analytical perspective, he recognized that many religious institutions, including the LDS Church, are often in tension with their intellectuals, showing resistance and a lack of appreciation for their contributions.
Intellects like Prince, who tackle thorny issues and carry a lot of water for their church, face the irony of their vital work being at times resisted and at other times begrudgingly acknowledged long after their findings and efforts have proven to be beneficial. This paradoxical relationship between the church and its scholars signifies the complex dynamics that intellectual members like Greg Prince navigate within their religious communities.
Beyond Prop 8: Progress and Pitfalls in LGBTQ+ Advocacy
The progress and pitfalls of science in relation to LGBTQ+ advocacy within the LDS Church are a tale of complex interplay between advancing knowledge and institutional resistance. On the one hand, the progress of scientific understanding, particularly in the fields of psychology, biology, and gender studies, has provided emerging data supporting the inherent nature of LGBTQ+ identities.
The work of individuals like Greg Prince, who leverages his scientific background to inform and challenge discussions around LGBTQ+ issues, reflects this progress. Prince’s articulation of the biological underpinnings of homosexuality, for example, offers a more nuanced and compassionate perspective that urges the LDS Church toward greater acceptance and inclusiveness.
However, the journey has not been without its pitfalls. The LDS Church’s historical involvement in political measures against LGBTQ+ rights, such as Proposition 8 in California, highlights a discord between emerging scientific consensus and the Church’s doctrinal positions. While the advancement of science has shed light on the natural diversity of human sexuality, the Church has often exhibited a reluctance to integrate these insights into its policies, leading to significant challenges for LGBTQ+ individuals within the faith community.
As you listen to the discussions between Dr. Prince and I, I hope you’ll see that there remains hope that continued advocacy and dialogue, informed by robust scientific research, will encourage a more reconciling approach in the future.
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