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Who cares most about science?

You may be surprised.


I did not write the following article. I found it on the now defunct "United Order" Digest archive in 1997. I can no longer find it on-line, so I cannot contact the author. I took the liberty of copying it in the meantime. The main source for the article appears to be "Saints and Scientists," published in 1992 by EduTech, Mesa, AZ., 3066 So. Mollera St. 85210. Soon you should be able to get hold of "The Year 2000 Update of the Sixty Year Utah Scientist Study." For more discussion relating to science and the restored gospel, visit the 'Eyring-L' mailing list archives at

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I'm sure that many of us, in our youth, especially during our educational phase of life, experienced a troubling conflict of religion and science. Often, attempts to reconcile religious teaching with scientific reasoning can be troubling to young people, and still can be a sensitive subject to adults. Part of the answer, I believe is in looking at those who are comfortable with both, having no conflict. Especially those who themselves are scientists, and have a background in religion. When I dug into this topic, I found some very striking, and yes, satisfying information.

First, we know that Christian churches have been in conflict with science in the past. The prior conflict of the Roman Catholic Church with science ended up placing Roman Catholicism in a losing position with regard to potential progress. Now, some fundamental and evangelical churches in America, taking a literalistic and narrow view of the Bible are rejecting science more and more. Instead, they encourage and incorporate new Special Creation "science" and modern interpretations which are plugged into the Bible to make it appear to fit certain scientific facts. They are also discouraging interpretive aspects of scientific problems within the Bible.

The revealing part of my inquest was the shocking number of scientific production in the U.S. per state. At the bottom end of the collection are mostly the states considered the "Bible Belt." The ones with the "fundamentalist," and literalistic accentuation. Their production is only about one-fourth that of the high end (per million white population according to the Thomson report; the other numbers of minorities were too low at the time apparently), which is the Northern states.

But far and above all the rest is a surprising find. In fact the top state is so far above all the others, it's currently a full 21 percent higher, even though all the others are merely a few percentage points in between. What's even more revealing and unusual is the fact that one state could maintain such a lead for over fifty years. What's more surprising is the fact that this state, Utah, is one which the cultural force reveres God, Christ, Scriptures, missionary work, and a strong sense of religious tradition.

In 1990, the top scientific production states were:
Utah (1886 per million),
Idaho (1421 per million) and
Colorado (1246 per million).

And church affiliation of the Utah scientists were even more lopsided for the Latter day Saint population, Catholics, Unitarians, Orthodox, and Lutherans combined were smaller than the percentage of non-Mormon population. At the bottom was Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas. (164, 162, and 160 per million.)

In 1995, the numbers for Utah were still impressive. Utah was still a significant leader in the production of scientists with 1685 (per million) while the second place state was Delaware with 1380. The median was Rhode Island with approximately 600 (on a graph) and Virginia was last with 295.

Moreover, the percentage of Utah LDS scientific production was still higher than the LDS population percentage; 75.9%. (Only 54.6% of Utah is LDS; essentially 36.6 percent MORE than it's share.)

Thus, it became obvious to me that Mormons hold not just a lead in scientific production, but hold a *very high* lead. So the significant question might be why this is so. I think looking at the responses of LDS scientists is a good way to find such an answer. In fact, such a study was conducted by a professor of Arizona State University, who was intrigued by the lopsided LDS scientific population. The results are rather conclusive. In brief, there are many reasons; Mormon leaders have always been pro-science, Mormon philosophy encompasses knowledge as a godly attribute, and the Mormon culture's acceptance of continuing revelation from God and openness to new insight.

The Mormon Factor, thus, is the only conclusion for the high scientific numbers. There are no other factors which would lend such a high number. In fact, such a factor has been proven. Even the percentage of the LDS Utah share confirms this.

But do the Mormon scientists have a strong faith? That question was also answered in this interesting study. Of the LDS scientists polled a significant 83% considered themselves strong believers, while those of other Christian faiths were significantly less, the next highest being 44%.

Further, the conviction within these believers that Jesus is a divine person of the Godhead was put to the same scientists (LDS and non-LDS Christians) and results were extremely lopsided. Of the LDS believing population, 91% had a "Very Strong" conviction of this, while all the others maintained a spread between "Weak" and "Very Strong," most of which was under a "Fair" conviction. (Catholics were the next highest.) Also, among these LDS scientists, over eighty-five percent felt that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

Of the "Strong Believers" category of the scientists, almost ninety percent of the LDS felt that their religious doctrine and science could be harmonized. And even of the "Non-Believers" category, only 34% said no. Only 64% of "believing Christians" felt that religion and science could harmonize.

Also, of those questioned if their religion had an influence on their perusal to become a scientist, 88.4% of the LDS said "yes," while only 42% of the other Christians felt that their religion had any influence. And twice the percentage of the LDS attended worship services, and twice the percentage of LDS scientists had a favorable attitude toward their church compared to all others.

Interestingly, the places where one might think that there would be the biggest conflict of religion and science, we actually find stronger believing LDS. (This, opposed to those who are not within the physical sciences are less believing among the LDS.) The largest percentage of Utah scientists are those in the physical sciences (biology, chemistry, geology, etc.) Of those in the physical sciences of the non-LDS faiths (Christian) only about 41% were strong believers, while over twice this percentage of the LDS physical scientists were strong believers. It was in the social sciences that the drop of LDS believers was noticed, where the larger portion considered themselves "Nominal." The percentages of all other Christians was still about half of that of the LDS in these categories.

What I found insightful was the fact that 89.9% of the LDS believers felt that religion and science could face each other. And also nearly three times as many non-LDS Christians as LDS said that they were "Intensely Troubled" by the conflict of science and religion.

So it's obvious that Mormonism has a distinguishing position in the world as a science-producing and supporting religion.

But do these scientists hold their "scientific" convictions? Absolutely. Of the 214 LDS scientists who participated in the recent Utah poll, "only three of them supported a young earth belief," (that the earth is only a few thousand years).

Compare this with nearly five times as many non-LDS scientists who believe in a young earth. And of the strong believers, only 10.6% of the LDS agreed with a non-evolutionary view of man's origin. Interestingly, some of the comments by LDS scientists who accepted organic evolution, demonstrated how small the conflict between science and religion really was. One LDS biologists said, "My religion is not biologically related." And another said, "There is no revelation specifically on how God created man; since religion does not explain it we are left to use what the evidence provides." Of the scientists who were "Strong Believers," only 15.5% of the LDS accepted the story of Noah and the flood literally. Twice as many non-LDS scientists ("Strong Believers") accepted the literal story. While most of the LDS believers felt that there was a literal flood, the details of the flood remained interpretive; only half as much of the non-LDS believers accepted this position, in spite of the conflict that such a rejection might hold scientifically.

Of an interesting note, in the 1955 study, less of the LDS scientists had strong agreement with scriptures being inspired and not inerrant (only a tentative agreement), where the recent study shows that a higher percentage (nearly five times more!) agree strongly with this.

The study also concluded that the LDS scientists had a higher percentage of conviction in their faith than before, as opposed to less for the non-LDS.

Ironically, both LDS and non-LDS, including non-believer scientists felt that religion has an important roll in the scientific community. Most of the Utah educated scientists, even the non-Mormons and Nominal Mormons, looked at the Church favorably as an institution for human welfare and support for the scientific community. None were antagonistic.

A clear 85 percent of the Mormon scientists believe in Jesus as the Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. *To me, this affirms the testimony of over fourteen hundred scientists about the truthfulness of Gospel;* and that Mormonism excels as a religion dedicated to science. The study left no doubt about this. Mormonism has distinctive doctrines which not only encourage mental development and service, but has produced a value system for family solidarity, healthy living, and a style which facilitates productive achievement. This, to me, is a corollary of spiritual aims, because such good fruit is not just the purpose, but comes as a side benefit of the spiritual nature of God's influence. At least that's how it seems to me.

J.A. Thomsom, _Science and Religion_, NY, 1877;
W.A. Whitehouse, _Christian Faith and Scientific Attitude_, NY, 1952;
Alfred North Whitehead, _Science and the Modern World_, NY, 1925;
Harvey C. Lehman, _Scientific Eminence and Church Membership_, NY, 1931;
_Encyclopedia of Mormonism_, "Science and Scientists," MacMillan, NY, 1992;
E.L. Thorndike, _Science_, "Men of Science," August 1940;
Richard T. Wootton, _Saints and Scientists_, Mesa, 1995;
_Historical Statistics of the U.S._, US Dept. of Commerce, part 1, pp 18-52.

---------------------- From a post on United-Order ----------------------

Conclusion: science and religion in harmony

Psalms 19:1-4: The heavens declare the glory of God
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Job 12:7-8: And so do the animals, the fish, and the earth itself!
But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.


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