How Can Religion and Science Work Side by Side?

By Cynthia A

“The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth.”

I was brought up by parents who are both scientifically-minded and devoutly religious. As I grew older, I was surprised to discover that many people believe that science and religion must, by definition, contradict each other. It sees a false dichotomy to my view. They don’t need to be at odds because they serve almost entirely separate purposes. Science is largely concerned with uncovering the what and the how of the universe—the mechanisms that govern matter, energy and life. Religion seeks to answer the why—the purpose of the universe and our role in it. I believe that seeking both types of knowledge is a way of partaking of the glory of God. He delights in knowledge and truth and encourages us to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” My Church teaches there is nothing to fear in the pursuit of further knowledge, whatever the subject, as long as our purposes are good.

I believe that there is much in common between scientific exploration and religious study. Both require a humble acknowledgement that you don’t know everything; there is always more to learn. A scientist cannot make new discoveries while convinced that we’ve already uncovered all there is to know. And religious faith cannot be developed if we set up our own boundaries on who God is and what He can do, rather than allowing Him to reveal to us His true nature.

Both types of knowledge, in addition, are obtained by observation and experimentation – scientific, by the evidence of our senses and by logical deduction; and religious, by the evidence of spiritual promptings and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. My parents encouraged me to pursue both of these types of knowledge, allowing me to discover things for myself as I built upon the foundation they had laid for me.

Knowledge is given to us piece by piece. You wouldn’t teach a child calculus before teaching basic arithmetic. Similarly, our conception of God is limited by the capacity of our mortal minds. But He encourages us to learn as much as we can comprehend about Him and about His universe. Science will never prove or disprove the existence of God. That’s not its purpose. My faith in God is gained through spiritual means. Yet with that faith, I can view His creation with greater gratitude and wonder.

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