To help me better understand this complex issue, I reread in “Science and Your Faith in God” a talk given years ago by Harvard alumni Dr. John A. Widtsoe, an esteemed scientist, theologian and university president.
Widtsoe defined the “law (not theory) of evolution” as the “regularity of progression in the universe from the simple to the complex. The law of evolution, thus stated, does not require that all things, all life, shall have a common origin. It merely declares that everything in the universe is moving onward.”
This expanded understanding of evolution is similar to the theological “law of eternal progression,” theology here being defined as the study of divine law, with religion the practice of a belief.
In his book, “Earth, in the Beginning,” Dr. Eric Skousen, an earth scientist, explains there are times when “scientific facts are insufficient. This is because science, by its own rules, excludes anything that cannot be tested with the five senses — touch, taste, smell, hearing or sight.”
“This exclusionary process,” he wrote, “is science’s greatest weakness. Metaphysical realities such as the soul, of life before birth, life after death, and of God himself, must be included in any complete analysis of scientific ‘facts,’ or the analysis will be incomplete, and possibly just plain wrong.” Is it now possible that the science of theology, the study of God’s mysteries, could become an ally to science, the study of nature’s mysteries?
Parley P. Pratt in “Key to the Science of Theology” defines theology “as the science of all other sciences and useful arts, being in fact the very foundation from which they emanate. It includes philosophy, astronomy, history, mathematics, geography, languages, the science of letters; and blends the knowledge of all matters of fact, in every branch of art or of research.”
Pratt includes three other sciences — “revelation, resurrection, and agency” as sub-sciences to the science of theology. The science of revelation is involved every time someone prays to a higher being, regardless of which religion that someone belongs to.
The Bible, when read for what it is, God’s textbook for both mortal and eternal life, is more than just a religious text. It is, when read carefully, a scientific journal on health, (Lev. 15) geography, history, and a code of laws for judging relationships between society’s members and, as the apostle James declared in James 1:20, the “perfect law of liberty.”
If science and religion could learn to co-exist peacefully, how would this affect the education of students, where “education” is defined as “the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work (force), and the power to appreciate life?” It would bless the lives of all students, especially talented students, by allowing them to be taught by skilled and artful teachers who would motivate and inspire them to their highest potentials without the teachers being caught in the cross-fire of these two intellectual opponents. The students could then be motivated, as never before, to explore ways to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide.
But we must never lose sight of America’s unique foundation, a foundation inspired by the science of theology through the study of God’s “perfect laws of liberty.” Remember what Washington declared: “A primary object (of government) should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty (is) more pressing ... than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country.”
Our educational system can, and must do a better job of teaching why America’s 56 Founding Fathers were willing to sign their name to a document using these words: “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” “Creator,” “Supreme Judge of the World,” and “divine Providence” embedded in it. This would not be teaching religion — it would be teaching the foundation of America’s freedoms.
I’m optimistic the day will come when these two powerful societal forces, science and religion, will no longer be divided over semantics, and “become one” in their search for truth, becoming the means for students to reach heights they never dreamed possible. A truly worthy goal for America.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.