Saturday, September 27, 2014

Science and Faith

As a philosopher, I often think about what many people around the world see as two paths that are ultimately irreconcilable: Science and Faith. Comedian and talk show host Bill Maher said recently on his talk show "Real Time with Bill Maher" "You cannot reconcile science and faith. In science, everything has to make sense, in religion plainly not." He also said in an interview with Ralph Reed that faith was "The suspension of critical thinking."

While many people of non-faith may not be as vitriolic as Mr. Maher, many do seem to believe that faith is simple credulity, utter myth, and man-made fiction. And to be fair, the religious deserve some of the blame for this by not being properly educated on these matters. This is especially true in my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Lets begin by defining our terms on what we mean by science and faith. According to the Oxford Dictionary, science is "The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment." Faith is "Complete trust or confidence in someone or something."

These definitions themselves prove that science and faith are not incompatible. Why? Because scientists (whether religious or not) are all men of faith by this definition. They have complete faith in the scientific method, believing that it will bring them results and answers to their questions. I know that Richard Dawkins may not want to hear this, but he is very much a man of faith.

Ok, the anti-religious will say, but science cannot prove that a God exists. This is true, however it misses the point in a way for the anti-religious. If science cannot prove something, it remains neutral on it. So at best science could lead a person to agnosticism, but not atheism because it is not scientifically provable whether there is a God or not. So when people say their is no God, they are not making a scientific claim at all, they are making a philosophical claim.

Faith is not, as Maher has said, simple credulity. Rather it is a belief that is indeed based on evidence. It is based on experiences and witness of God. For instance, thousands of people put the promise of Moroni to the test each year by praying to find out if the Book of Mormon is true. If the Book of Mormon is true, then there most certainly is a God. But one can only know that through the power of the Holy Ghost, which is not irrational but supra-rational; meaning it cannot be explained by reason alone because it is beyond reason.

That being said, the religious must realize that science and faith are not incompatible either. That means that when reading religious texts, we cannot be fundamentalists. We must have reason in our revelation and revelation in our reason. In other words, use modern science in the reading of the scriptures, as well as philosophy. As people of faith lets look to people like Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and Blake Ostler, men who proved that faith is not irrational and compatible with all forms of science.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Word of Caution

Every time I watch any sort of news dealing with the 2016 Presidential election, two names seem to re-occur regularly: perennial candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton and Dr. Ben Carson.

It is understandable why both of these people are frequently mentioned. Both are exciting, energetic orators. Both are minorities. Both are educated, articulate, and driven. Both seem to have ideas to move this country in on e direction or in the complete opposite direction.

As a philosopher, may I offer a brief word of caution on both these candidates? First, allow me to offer a brief critique on Mr. Carson. A look at recent history would show why we should be very cautious in regard to this man. Remember that in 2004 a young man named Barack Obama delivered a amazing speech at the Democratic Convention. Stunning the entire country, this unknown man went from a lowly Illinois State to Democratic Nominee all the way to the White house. How has that worked out? I will leave that to the reader to decide.

Yes, some will say, but Dr. Carson is not Obama. He may not be, but he will have to deal with very similar circumstances to him if he were to take office in 2016. Also, Carson has no political experience; this would be a complete learning on the job for him and the Presidency of the United States is not a job to learn on the run (again, look at Mr. Obama).

The only reason that Carson is even mentioned in this race is based on pure potential. None of his merit is based on actually accomplishing anything, except telling off the president while he happened to be sitting there. Our next Commander in Chief needs to be someone who has proven to be a leader in crisis, someone who has been successful in an executive position, and someone who understands the Constitution of the United States. Dr. Carson has only proven to do one of those things, and there are others who can do the job much better than he can who are prepared.

Now in regard to Mrs. Clinton, she is the exact same as Obama, having served in his cabinet. She has not criticized the President at all and has not indicated that if elected she would drastically change what is currently happening. In essence her election would be a third term for President Obama. Lets follow the words of Mrs. Clinton's husband at the 2008 Democratic National Convention : "Thanks, but no thanks. In this election the third time is not the charm." Well said Bill.

I urge both liberals and conservatives to look seriously analyze all potential candidates and look for the candidate who would be the strongest leader and clearest thinker, not just the person who is most popular.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Why I am a Mormon

5 years ago today Bishop Richard Tjaden, acting for and in behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, laid his hands upon my head and confirmed me a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and offered the priesthood injunction for me to receive the Holy Ghost. I felt as though fire were burning in my bones, and I had no desire or even a thought of ever doing wrong again. While that obviously did not happen, the experience itself was engraved in my soul and will always be one of the spiritual highlights of my mortal probation.

But that aside, the purpose of this post is for me to convey, in the spirit of testimony how I feel about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and my current feelings and beliefs about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Simply put, this blog is for people to know why I am and continue to be an active Mormon.

 I am a Mormon because I believe that their is a God. Even as a person who loves and accepts modern science, I see science as an evidence of God's existence and as a way to bring mankind closer to divinity. It amazes me to look at nature and see how balanced it is and how the laws of nature allow life itself to exist. As a man of reason, I do not accept the premise that this all happened by chance. It is clear to me that a Creator was involved.

I am a Mormon because I have a testimony of and faith in the Jesus of Nazareth. I believe he was, and is, the Son of God. The nonsense of the secular world that says that the babe of Bethlehem was a great man, a moral teacher, but not the Son of God is ludicrous. One cannot accept a man to be a great moral teacher if the foundation of his teaching was built on a lie. One must accept him as the Son of God or dimiss him as a charlatan and a fraud. I accept the former.

I am a Mormon because I believe in the divine authenticity of the Holy Bible. Within its pages are contained the words of many prophets, and most importantly the life and mission of Jesus of Nazareth himself. If the world would study the Bible more and adhere to the principles taught within it, we would be in a much different place than we are in now.

I am a Mormon because I believe that Joseph Smith, Jr. was and is a prophet of God. I believe that he was visited by God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. He was instructed that he would be an instrument in their hands to bring forth sacred scripture and restore the true church of Jesus Christ to the Earth. Not only that, I believe that one cannot truly know Christ unless he knows and accepts the teachings of his chosen vessel, the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I am a Mormon because I believe that the Book of Mormon is true. The Prophet Joseph Smith testified that a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book. I know that to be true. While the Bible is a testament of Christ and will bring men to God, it does not have the testimony of Christ and of his Atonement with the clarity and power of the Book of Mormon.

I am a Mormon because of temple worship and salvation for the dead, a work not carried out in any other Church. As I have participated in this work both as a patron and as an ordinance worker, I have felt the love of God for me as well as the spirits of those who have passed on. At times this has driven me to tears, and I am not a very emotional person. I know that the work done in temples is real.

In regards to the leaders of the church who came after Joseph Smith, I regard them as good men who God has used to lead his church, and they have done a good job in many respects. I do not however, believe these men are Joseph Smith's equal. They do not have the authority to change what he taught or apply honors given to him to themselves. I also believe that many things that early leaders did plague the church today, and to some extent erase much of the good that could have been accomplished had they followed the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I will leave you to interpret what I am talking about.

5 years have passed since the day I became a member of the Church. I bear witness of the truth of the doctrines that are taught within this church. Only by believing true doctrine can a man be saved, and the only church that has a fulness of truth is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of this I bear witness.