|1. Revealed Truth|
|1.1 God created all life|
|1.2 We are children of God|
|1.3 The Lord knows future|
|1.4 Man has free agency|
|1.5 The Soul is immortal|
|1.6 The Spirit World|
|1.7 The Age of the Earth|
|1.8 Health Laws|
|1.9 Medicinal Herbs|
|1.10 The Great Flood|
|2. Scientific Method|
|2.5 Everyday Science|
|2.6 Enduring Science|
|2.8 Organic Evolution|
|3. Weaknesses in Modern Science|
|3.1 Confuse Theory with Truth|
|3.2 Disallowing Human Observations|
|3.3 Not-yet-measured Non-existent|
|3.4 No better theory|
|3.5 False Assumptions|
|3.7 Special Interests|
Before attempting to answer these questions, we need to be able to distinguish true science from false because science which is built on a firm foundation should endure throughout the millennium, whereas false science might well be swept away by the coming flood of truth. Science has been so successful that now everyone wants to share its official stamp of approval. Every day we see commercials claiming that scientific evidence proves that their product is best. Our news is filled with research claims of new discoveries and court testimony relying on scientific evidence. How are we to know what really is science and what is only someone's speculation or even deception disguised as science so that we will accept it without question?
This article provides some simple keys which you can immediately begin to use to recognize true scientific results. Often all that is required is simply to think about it yourself rather than feeling intimidated into accepting even absurd claims because they are "scientific." We can become like the four-year-old who, when told by his older brother that no two snowflakes are alike, stumped him by asking, "Who matched them all?" On the other hand, we do not want to ignore a well-founded discovery simply because it is counter-intuitive.
The following proposed methods to distinguish true from false science are divided into three categories: 1) using the scriptures as a standard of truth, 2) understanding the strength of science, and 3) recognizing the weaknesses of science.
The Lord has revealed many truths in the scriptures which can be used as an absolute standard against which scientific theories may be measured. If any theory denies a truth which the Lord has clearly told us, then that theory is not likely to endure through the millennium. The two obvious outcomes are that either a false theory will be abandoned or we will find out that we had misunderstood the revelation. To avoid this latter case, it is extremely important to make sure that the meaning of the scripture is unmistakable so that we do not reject a true scientific discovery. Let us consider some examples of both cases.
1.1 God created the earth and all life on it. The scriptures are clear in declaring that there is a supreme intelligence which created the earth and all the plants and animals found on it. We are not given much detail as to how it was done, but there is an unmistakable assurance that it was not the result of blind chance. Thus any theory, such as organic evolution, which postulates that life arose spontaneously will probably not be taken seriously during the millennium.
1.2 We are children of God. Man is not just another animal; the scriptures are clear that man was created separately after the other animals, and that we were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). In fact, we are the literal children of God, not the descendants of animals (D&C 76:24). Thus, any theory that proposes otherwise, such as organic evolution, will not endure.
This is extremely important to keep in mind because we are continually bombarded with statements implying that we are nothing more than animals with instincts to be gratified. Some run their businesses using "survival of the fittest" to justify unethical conduct. Abortion is condoned as merely disposing of a "fetus," rather than killing an unborn child of God. We must be on our guard at all times because Satan will use any means he can, including science, to convince us to sin. This particular example demonstrates the need for revelation especially well because even the most righteous scientists may never have been able to discover that we are the offspring of God.
1.3 The Lord knows the end from the beginning. The Lord knows the future and can reveal it to whom he will. When you find out that scholars have deduced that parts of the Book of Isaiah could not have been written by Isaiah because it clearly prophesies of things which occurred after his time, you need not feel compelled to accept that "evidence."
1.4 Man has free agency. The scriptures are clear that not only does man have the ability to choose and determine his destiny to a great extent, they also explain that that is one of the reasons we are here on earth. This topic has been influenced by science. A century or two ago it was believed by many scientists that the universe was deterministic. They thought that if the position and velocity of every particle were known, that the laws of physics would dictate the entire future of the universe, and that the belief in free will was an illusion. Now the pendulum has swung the other way. It is now believed that the position and velocity of even one particle cannot be known with total precision by anyone. This theory has led to the strengthening of the theory that chance rules the universe because it is assumed that no one can know what science cannot measure. The truth seems to lie between these two extremes: man is independent to act for himself even though God can know beforehand what he will choose (D&C 93:30-32).
1.5 The Immortality of the Soul. The scriptures are clear that there is a spirit which gives life to living things and which lives on after death. When some scientists conclude that after-death experiences must all be hallucinations they are merely demonstrating their ignorance of the spirit.
1.6 The Spirit World. During the millennium, when scientists hopefully will be free to study previously forbidden areas, they should discover that the spirit world is every bit as physically real as the easily recognized world of coarser matter (DC 131:7). Anyone not believing in the spirit world during the millennium might be like someone today believing the earth is flat.
1.7 The Age of the Earth. One example of a forced interpretation of scripture is the belief of some that the earth was created in seven usual 24-hour days. This belief has no support from either science or scripture; the Hebrew word translated "day" in the creation account can mean simply "period of time." Seeking a solution by taking other scriptures out of context may only compound the problem. For example, we are told elsewhere that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8, Abr. 3:4). Some have interpreted that statement to mean that the earth was therefore created in seven periods of 1,000 earth-years each. But neither Peter nor Abraham is talking about the creation of the earth, in fact, the same Book of Abraham simply calls the periods of creations "times" rather than a "day of the Lord," which argues strongly against that interpretation.
William W. Phelps, who was a scribe for the Prophet Joseph Smith when he translated the Book of Abraham, said that according to the Egyptian records our system (not the world) was created nearly 2,555,000,000 years ago. When he wrote that in 1844, scientists believed that the earth was only hundreds of thousands of years old, so here was a case where religion was saying that the solar system was thousands of times older than science thought. Today science believes that the solar system is about 4,700,000,000 years old, which is in much closer agreement.
Dr. William Lee Stokes, head of the Department of Geology at the University of Utah, offered an insightful explanation of the curiously precise figure which Brother Phelps cited. If God created the earth in seven days of creation that were each 1,000 years of the Lord, and if a year of the Lord is 365 days of the Lord, each of which is 1,000 earth years, then the total would be 7 x 1,000 x 365 x 1,000 = 2,555,000,000 years. Interesting as that may be, the real point here is that the scriptures do not tell us the age of the earth, but rather teach us that God created the heavens and the earth in seven time periods.
1.8 Health Laws. The Lord has given health laws to man long before their science was advanced enough to warn them of the dangers of certain foods and drugs or of the benefits of others. When he tells us that tobacco "is not good for man" (D&C 89:8) we can know not to believe the tobacco industry when it insists that there is no scientific evidence that tobacco is harmful. We can also follow the recommended diet in the word of wisdom without waiting for scientific evidence to explain why it is best. We may also discover in the millennium that the health law in the Law of Moses (Lev. 11) has many features which would still be a good idea to follow.
It might also be discovered that man was designed to be a vegetarian. In the millennium, the lamb and the lion will be at peace. Do you suppose that if a man approached them, that the lamb would need to flee for its life, for fear of being eaten? If the lion will be eating straw (Isa. 11:7), it would not be surprising to find that man is eating only plants also. Adam was told to eat vegetables for his food (Gen. 1:29), but Noah was told he could also eat meat as long as he did not eat blood (Gen 9:3-4). The Lord's word today is clear that it is not against his law to eat meat (DC 49:18); however, it may turn out that in the millennium we learn why the Lord said he created animals "for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger" (DC 89:15).
1.9 Medicinal Herbs. The scriptures teach that God has prepared many plants and roots to remove the causes of diseases (Alma 46:40). Many modern medicines were found first in herbs. They became commercial medicines when drug companies learned how to synthesize, or at least extract, some of the chemical compounds. It will probably be discovered in the millennium that the modern practice of trying to extract the one "miracle ingredient" from a plant has overlooked the fact that the Creator has put a combination of chemicals and enzymes together for a certain purpose. Note also that the scripture does not say "to mask symptoms," which seems to be the modern quick-fix method of taking medicine for relief without getting to the cause of the problem.
1.10 The Great Flood. The Book of Genesis is a revelation from the Lord to Moses (Moses 2:1). It is not a collection of campfire stories, nor was it originated by Moses to represent the best of his knowledge. The Prophet Joseph Smith corrected several mistakes which have crept into that record, so we now have what should be a fairly good version. Knowing that Genesis is a true account written by the Lord sheds a lot of light on several issues, such as the flood.
Genesis makes it clear that there was a great flood which covered all the high hills and mountains that were under the whole heaven, and that all flesh died that moved upon the earth, including birds, beasts, and man (Gen. 7:19-21). Peter prophesied that in the last days scoffing men would be willingly ignorant of the great deluge because they would say that "all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4-7). What could "willingly ignorant" mean? That sounds like there is some obvious evidence that we are purposely ignoring. Could it mean that we have ignored many eye-witness testimonies that the remains of the ark are still to be found 14,000 feet up on Mt. Ararat? Could it mean that even though most fossils were formed because animals were quickly buried in mud, we refuse to consider the Biblical Flood as a possible cause? We shall most likely learn what Peter meant in the millennium, but until then, we would be unwise not to believe that there was a great flood.
In summary, we can learn a lot from the revealed truth in the scriptures, but we must be extremely careful to interpret them correctly and not to base our belief on one isolated reference nor on scriptures taken out of context.
There is a rock upon which true science is built. To some degree, we can know in advance which parts of science will survive the piercing eye of the Creator's scrutiny, and which are likely to be cast aside. What is that rock? It is the "scientific method." Most of the tremendous strides in understanding the world around us have been made by using the scientific method. It lies at the foundation of science, and most scientists would agree that the best part of our science is based on its use.
2.1 Steps of the Scientific Method. The scientific method is a systematic way of dealing with observations, explaining them, and predicting the outcome of future observations. It is usually described as having at least three steps.
1. Observations are made. The first step usually involves observing something either in nature or in a controlled experiment. For example, you might observe that the stars seem to rise at night as the sun does in the morning. Sometimes the observations need to be accurate and precise so scientists often observe with instruments, which also eliminates human bias.
2. A theory is proposed to explain the observations. The explanation can be anything from a tentative hypothesis to a full blown mathematical theory which has resulted from analyzing thousands of experiments. One should try for the simplest and most general theory that explains all of the observations. In the example of the stars rising, one explanation is that the sun and stars are connected to an invisible sphere which rotates around the earth. Another theory is that the earth is rotating, which makes it appear that both the sun and the stars rotate around the earth. The latter theory is preferable because it much simpler and explains all the observations.
3. The theory is used to predict the results of future observations, which might prove the theory false. These future observations are often in the form of carefully controlled experiments or more refined observations. Often an experiment is set up especially to disprove one of two or more competing theories. In the current example, if the sun and stars are attached to a sphere, one would predict they would remain in fixed positions on that sphere. More accurate observations would show that such is not the case because the sun moves about twice its diameter among the stars each day, which disproves that theory. That does not prove the other theory to be correct because it could also be wrong. A disproven theory can either be abandoned or revised to explain the new observations. For example, one could postulate that the sun and stars are on different invisible spheres, which is just what some ancient theories proposed.
These three steps are usually repeated over and over, often refining the theory after each set of new observations or experiments, with increasingly difficult testing hurdles for the theory to overcome. The most valuable theories are those which make precise and risky predictions, which could easily disprove the theory if they failed. A classic example was the experiment that convinced many people of the worth of Einstein's general theory of relativity. He theorized that a beam of light would be very slightly bent by gravity and he predicted that two stars on either side of the sun during a total eclipse would appear 1.75 arc seconds farther apart than usual. The experiment was performed and the measurement vindicated his risky prediction. If the observation had shown there was no deviation of the star light, and if the observation were confirmed by several observers or several repetitions, then the theory would have been abandoned or corrected.
Note that an extremely important point is that if no experiment could possibly disprove a theory, then it is not scientific. It might still be true, but it is beyond the realm of science, and has become a personal conviction or a religious belief, like those in the "Revealed Truth" section above. The famous philosopher of science, Karl Popper, noted that a theory which explains everything really explains nothing, and hence is not scientific. In other words, if the experiment does not come out as predicted, a scientific theory will be shown to be false, whereas an unscientific theory will be able to explain the result anyway.
It is this predictive power of science that is so powerful, and which has led to much of the marvelous technology we now enjoy. When we know the law of gravity, we can build bridges and even send rockets to the moon. Without the ability to predict future results, we do not have science, we have only speculation about what happened in the past. Perhaps the greatest achievement in chemistry was the periodic table, which predicted the existence and properties of several elements before they were discovered. The existence of the planet Neptune was predicted because it would explain why other planets deviated slightly from what the law of gravity would predict.
Note also that no experiment ever proves a theory to be "true," but only that it has survived one more possible falsification test. If the prediction succeeds, it could have just been luck. For example, the planet Pluto was also predicted and discovered. After the celebration died down, many scientists realized that it had really just been luck because when the mass of Pluto became known, it was too small to have caused the observed effects.
2.2 Laws. Theories which have survived the test of time are sometimes honored with the name "laws". The theory is never proven true because there is always the chance that a new experiment will be devised which will require more than a minor revision to explain the result. A scientific law is really just a theory that has been inducted into the scientific hall of fame.
2.3 Truth is what "really" happened (or is happening or will happenD&C 93:24). It deals with ultimate causes, which experiments cannot test. It is the subject of religion, where God can tell us the real story of what is going on, or just how he did it. Theories answer questions such as "how," "when," and "where," but truth answers the question "why." Thus, truth is totally beyond the realm of science, which deals only with observations and theories, and does not claim to know truth. In no way does that diminish the usefulness of science; in fact, it gives scientists a feeling of freedom to know they can always discard a disproved theory without apology, whereas someone professing to have the truth has no such luxury to change his story.
As an example of the interplay of the three concepts of observations, theories and truth, consider the courtroom. The observations may be that a man was seen shooting a gun and that the person hit by the bullet died. The theory may be that it was cold-blooded murder, but the truth may be that it was self-defense. Truth tends to be invisible and hidden, such as someone's motives, whereas observations are usually visible. Courts are very interested in truth, where the motive (the ultimate cause) for actions is given considerable weight. The distinction between first degree and second-degree murder is based on intent. Motives are not as yet observable in science, and hence are beyond science.
When studying science, it is an excellent idea to always try to distinguish observations from theories. When you do, you will find that it will be difficult because very few writers differentiate between them for you. Instead, they often present theories as facts.
2.4 Facts. The word "fact" has several meanings, which can be very confusing. It can mean either "observation," "theory," or "truth." As an example of each, one can say, "it is a fact that every time I have dropped this ball, it fell to the ground." That is what has been observed so far, and the word "fact" can be replaced with "observation." One can also say, "it is a fact that every time I have dropped this ball, gravity pulled it to the ground." Even though this statement appears very similar to the first, "gravity" really refers to a theory proposed to explain why the ball is observed to fall. Finally, if one so thoroughly believes that the theory of gravity is really "true," he could replace "a fact" with "true," which would take the meaning beyond science into the realm of his personal convictions.
This confusion can often be avoided by always replacing the word "fact" with "observation," "theory" or "truth," whichever seems to convey the intended meaning best. Remember that if the meaning is "observation," then it is as fallible as the observer. If it is a "theory," then it also could be disproven someday. If it is claimed to be "truth," then it is a statement of the personal conviction of the speaker, which is outside the domain of science.
2.5 Everyday Science. We actually apply the scientific method often. If your grass is not green, you might theorize that it needs fertilizer, and predict that if you fertilize it, it will turn greener. Suppose your car stops running. You theorize it is out of gas, but the gas gauge says you have plenty. Finally, after disproving several theories, you replace the gas filter and then it works again. You haven't proven that it was the gas filter, but you will believe it was until something convinces you otherwise. That's the scientific method at work. As you go through life, try identifying these steps of 1) making observations, 2) explaining them and 3) using your theory to predict future observations. Now let us practice using the scientific method in a brief analysis of what is probably the single most influential theory in all of science, to see if it will endure the millennium.
2.6 Enduring Science. The purpose of this entire review of the scientific method and the interrelation of observations, theories, truth and facts has been to give the reader some tools with which he can make his own evaluations of which sciences are likely to endure through the millennium. Begin by making a concentrated effort to separate the observations from the theory. This can be the most difficult step because we tend to believe the theories to be "true" and hence confuse them with the facts (observations). Then ask the following questions.
1. Observations. What are the observations upon which this theory is based? How reliable are the observations? Have they been repeated by several experimenters? If not, were there several witnesses? Could the observer, even if it is a scientific instrument, be biased or otherwise in error? On what hidden assumptions are the observations based? Are you dealing with the original observations or those of a secondary commentator? Are the observations partially dependent on a theory being correct?
2. Theory. Is the theory a tentative hypothesis or a mature theory with verified predictive powers, which has already survived many assaults? Does the theory explain all of the observations or only some? Could it be modified to explain all of the observations? Is it a simple theory? Is it a general theory which would explain related observations or was it custom made only for certain observations? Does it explain observations which otherwise appear to be unrelated? Is it speculation about the past which may sound convincing, but which really cannot be tested? What are the hidden assumptions upon which this theory is based?
3. Predictions. Does the theory have predictive power? How risky (precise) are the predictions? Have the predictions been verified by several experiments? If the predictions fail, would supporters of the theory really be willing to abandon or modify the theory? Are the predictions so reliable that technology has been invented based on the theory? If not, why not? If it is not useful for bettering mankind, what is the purpose of the theory?
Let us consider two brief examples of applying these questions to two sciences to see how they might fare in the millennium.
2.7 Genetics began with the observation that plants and animals tend to reproduce after their own kind, but there are variations within every species. The number and frequency of such variations were carefully studied in breeding experiments, which led to the discovery of the science of genetics. The theory basically says that many of the traits of plants and animals are contained in molecular codes found in the genes in each living cell. When plants and animals reproduce, the offspring contain genes from the parents; when there are two parents, then some traits can come from each parent. An interesting discovery was that sometimes a trait such a blue eyes would be "recessive" in both parents, who both may have brown eyes, but that it could appear in their child. The theory that some observed traits are dominant and others recessive has been tested and verified in countless predictive experiments. The predictions are very risky (precise); for example, "25% of the offspring produced from these two sheep will be white and 75% will be black." Breeders have created new breeds of plants and animals by selecting mates which have certain desired traits. Some have been extremely beneficial, such as vegetables which are resistant to insects or disease, or cows which produce more milk. The theory has been expanded with the discovery of genetic codes, which has led to the technology of genetic engineering, already a great benefit to mankind. Genetics makes excellent use of the scientific method and will clearly endure throughout the millennium when the Author of the genetic code might even be available for consultation.
One extension that might be discovered about genetics in the millennium is another example of chance not ruling the universe. Even though on the average the distribution of genetic traits follows the laws of chance, the particular traits of each individual may be found to be governed not by chance but by intelligence. That is, it may turn out that the particular combination of genes which gives you your physical traits was influenced by your unborn spirit, or the Spirit of God, or by the intelligence in the cells which combined at the time of conception. Moreover, in accordance with the foreknowledge of God, it could have been known centuries in advance that you would be the one of your parents' children who would have blue eyes. More importantly, we may find that there were specific trait which we needed to inherit from our parents in order to perform our particular mission on earth, whereas our sibling may have needed other traits. We may learn that when we prevent certain spirits from being born to us, that they might be required to take other bodies which genetically could not have the traits needed to fulfill their missions. There is certainly much yet to be discovered in this important field, where the hand of the Creator is so apparent.
2.8 Organic Evolution has probably affected the thinking of all mankind more than any other theory. It is an all pervasive theory that has affected the other sciences and nearly every aspect of our lives. Atheism is no longer ridiculed as indefensible because evolution supposedly explains how the variety of life found on earth could have just happened. Even those who believe in a creator often assume that there is such overwhelming scientific evidence supporting evolution that the Lord probably used some form of "directed" evolution to create life on earth. The revelations of the Lord assure us that he created the earth and all the plants and animals, but they give precious little detail about how he did it. Lacking more precise revelation on the matter, to me the key to understanding is to apply the test of the scientific method.
The observations which the theory of organic evolution attempts to explain include not only all living plants and animals, but also the entire fossil record. The theory proposes that life gradually changed to produce the myriad of species we see today. Let us consider, from the perspective of the scientific method, three of the main predictions made by the theory.
Missing Links. Some of the strongest opponents of the theory when it was first proposed were fossil experts who pointed out that there is no evidence for species changing, but on the contrary, both extinct and surviving species appear unchanged for millions of years. The theory addressed this issue by predicting that some transitional forms, or "missing links," would be found. That qualifies as a risky prediction because critics had argued that none were known. On the other hand, it was not a falsifying experiment because if no transitional fossils were found, evolutionists would not have abandoned the theory. They could have argued that all fossils are formed in unusual circumstances, such as being instantly buried, and perhaps no missing links were ever fossilized. But soon evolutionists were elated with the discovery of archaeopteryx: a feathered, toothed reptile, which looks like a perfect transition between reptiles and birds. This discovery did not prove the theory true, but it convinced many scientists to take it seriously.
Natural Selection. A second principal prediction of evolution is that adaptations can accumulate to produce structures like heads, legs and wings. That definitely qualifies as a risky prediction. The mechanism first proposed to accomplish this feat was "natural selection," meaning that surviving members of a species mate naturally, as opposed to "artificial selection," where breeders choose the mates to enhance a given trait. As genetics matured as a science, it became clear that there were limits to the variations which could be produced in a species because of a finite gene pool. Animals have a lot of adaptability already programmed into their genes: finches can have big bills or little bills and peppered moths come in light and dark varieties, each of which is better adapted to survive in different environments. That is genetics; it explains how the same species could survive unchanged for millions of years through environmental changes. The huge leap of faith that evolution proposes is that these changes can somehow accumulate to produce totally different kinds of animals. Genetics refuted the notion that natural selection alone could effect such changes. For example, no amount of breeding dogs will produce a new breed with wings because there are no genetic codes for making wings in the gene pool. In the spirit of the scientific method, evolutionists either had to abandon their falsified theory, or modify it to explain how the genetic code could be changed to produce new structures such as wings.
Random Mutations. Accordingly, the theory was modified which led to a third prediction: random genetic mutations can account for the gradual formation of new structures like heads, legs and wings. That qualifies as a really risky prediction because in nature the evidence is that mutations only produce deformed or missing existing structures, rather than innovative new creations. Random mutations can occur when genes are hit by radiation (which is why pregnant women avoid X-rays), so experiments were done irradiating fruit flies. As expected, a lot of deformed flies were produced, but the hope was that what appears to be a freak might happen to be better adapted to live in a new environment. Be that as it may, there is no evidence from experiments that random mutations have ever produced any new structure in a species.
The problem with organic evolution is that no one has proposed a detailed mechanism, which can be tested and falsified, that explains, for example, how a fish could evolve into a bat. There are even some who have argued that organic evolution is a religion, and not a science, because there is not any experiment which could disprove the theory to atheist scientists. All that evolutionists need to do to refute such a claim is to propose a definitive, falsifying experiment. It seems very likely that because of a lack of supporting evidence, the theory of organic evolution will be rejected in the millennium on scientific grounds alone.
So what is the alternative to organic evolution? It could well turn out that what happened at the creation of the earth is very similar to the repopulation of the earth after the great flood. Noah took a huge ark full of animals with him, from which those living today are descended according to the laws of genetics. That was probably about the minimum number of animals required to produce the great variety of species that we now see. The scriptures tell us that worlds without end have been created, so both animals and man have been around for a long time. It seems possible that we will find that the Lord created several "kinds" of animals on the earth, approximately the same number as were required to be on the ark. He could have created them in a number of ways, perhaps even by transplanting them from other worlds. In any case, he would have chosen the correct gene pool so that the plants and animals could multiply and replenish the earth after their own kind and yet not go beyond the limits of adaptability programmed into them. We could discover that the reason that so many animals have four legs is because that is a good design, not because they are all related to each other. The principle of reusing a good design provides a much simpler explanation of why a fish, an ichthyosaur (extinct fish shaped reptile) and a porpoise (fish shaped mammal), all look so similar: their shape is a good design for a water animal. That is much simpler than having to believe that mutant reptiles and mammals both crawled back into the water and kept mutating until they looked just like the fish from which they evolved. And what about the archaeopteryx? We might find it is just another creation of God which uses good designs, such as the platypus (a duck-billed, egg-laying mammal) which is hard to explain by evolution but easy to explain by a creator reusing proven designs.
Thus, one of the big breakthroughs of the millennium might well be that the theory of organic evolution will be exposed as built upon sand. Millennial scientists might be as amazed that the whole scientific world had refused to accept the much simpler theory that there is a Creator as we are surprised that people used to believe that the earth is the center of the universe. In the coming age, when biologists look at a butterfly, or hear a meadowlark, they will more likely recognize the hand of God and praise his glorious name.
There are many weaknesses in modern science and with a little practice one can recognize examples of these weakness in scientific reports and claims. Hopefully all of these weaknesses can be corrected in the next millennium. As you are bombarded in television commercials and news reports with scientific claims, or even science and nature educational shows, ask yourself whether any of the following weaknesses flaw the presentation.
3.1 Scientists Confuse Theory with Truth. When a theory proves extremely successful in predicting observations, even scientists forget that they are supposed to be ready to discard the theory objectively and without regret when it fails. This is probably because they have come to believe their theory is actually "true" rather than just a successful model. The big steps in science have been taken by those bold enough to believe the observations rather than the theories. In astronomy, for example, Kepler believed the observations of Tycho which showed that the planets move in elliptical orbits around the sun, rather than perfect circles as Copernicus had postulated. Even though Newton had not yet formulated his theory of gravity to explain why the orbits would not be perfect circles, Kepler's bold step resulted in what are now known as Kepler's laws.
3.2 Disallowing Human Observations. While it is true that often an instrument can be invented which surpasses the ability of humans to observe both accurately and precisely, there is a tendency to disallow all human observations. That seems extreme, especially in the cases where no instrument has yet been invented because the phenomenon is not well enough understood. If most people were blind, would it be "scientific" to ignore all observations by the few who could see only because blind scientists could not invent a camcorder and connect it to their optic nerves? The study of extra-sensory perception, acupuncture, and the aura is finally beginning to advance in Western science because this unreasonable restriction is beginning to be relaxed. In the millennium, instruments will probably be invented to observe and record these phenomena, which will put them more directly into the realm of science.
3.3 Not-yet-measured Equated to Non-existent. Even worse than ignoring the observations of those who can see something which you cannot is the tendency of science to declare that something does not even exist if cannot be measured by an instrument. This extra step into ignorance compounds the problem.
3.4 Rejecting Theory-Invalidating Observations Because of no better theory. Even when observations are made which invalidate a theory, it is the nature of most researchers not to reject the former theory until a new model is proposed that explains all of the observations so far. A modern day example of this is that quasars are still believed by most astronomers to be located extremely far away, even though there is strong evidence that they are shot out of nearby galaxies. The problem is that current theory does not explain how quasars coming toward could be "red-shifted," a phenomenon only expected to occur for objects moving away from us. Until someone can explain how quasars moving toward us can be red-shifted, astronomers are not likely to be convinced that they are nearby, no matter how strong the evidence is.
3.5 False Assumptions. All of science is based on various underlying assumptions. Often these are so deeply rooted that the scientists are unaware of just what they are. If they turn out the be wrong, then the entire edifice built upon them could fall. For example, for millennia it was assumed that the plane geometry of Euclid was "true," but then Einstein and others proposed "curved space" which has proven to be a very fruitful theory. Similarly space and time were believed to be absolute and matter was believed to be different from energy, and again it was Einstein who has argued convincingly otherwise. When the underlying foundations are wrong, it often requires rebuilding the entire scientific edifice, as was the case with Einstein.
3.6 Science Need Not Be Atheistic. In our day, the world teaches that scientists should be atheistic so that they are not prejudiced by the false traditions of religion, which hamper progress. A century ago the name of God appeared in many science books, but now his name has systematically been removed. We are taught that the thought of mixing God into science is "unscientific."
It seems very likely that in the millennium, the pendulum will swing back to allowing God to do science along with us, his creations, because it may be discovered that the real problem is the "false traditions" rather than the "religion." Future books may note that the false traditions of atheism hindered progress even more than false religion because it forced man to propose very unlikely mechanisms for the universe somehow to create itself. When the Lord reigns during the millennium, we can expect that the typical scientist will believe like Louis Agassiz, probably the greatest naturalist of his day, who said, "In our study of natural objects we are approaching the thoughts of the Creator, reading his conceptions, interpreting a system that is His and not ours." He was among those who appeared to Wilford Woodruff in the St. George Temple, requesting that his temple work be done.
3.7 Government and Special Interests. Most scientific research done today is funded by governments, so scientists must tailor their agenda (and even findings?) accordingly, or be out of work. This is particularly unfortunate in countries where secret combinations are in control. Similarly, large corporations hire scientists to prove that their products are safe to use or superior to their competitors. We can hardly expect an unbiased report of their findings. When the Savior reigns during the millennium, restrictions and falsifications caused by conspiring men should be greatly alleviated.
Overall, I expect the greatest changes in science in the millennium to be made in the areas where the scientific method has been difficult to use. New instruments will probably be invented to measure phenomena now beyond our observational powers. The repeatable observations of experimental science will still be repeatable, but the explanatory theories could be modified greatly as new light comes. To some extent, we can judge right now which sciences will endure throughout the millennium by comparing them to revealed truth, by seeing how firmly they are built on the foundation of the scientific method, and by noticing how much they might be affected by the weaknesses in science. It will be a time when it is acknowledged that the first word and the last word in science is the Savior.
Anderson, Vicki J.,The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff (Arizona: Zichron, 1994).
Becker, Robert O. and Selden, Gary, The Body Electric (New York: Quill, 1985).
Brown, Tom, Jr., The Journey (New York: Berkeley Books, 1992).
Johnson, Phillip E., Darwin on Trial (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993).
Sellier, Charles E. And Balsiger, David W., The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark (New York: Dell, 1995).
About the Author
Dr. John P. Pratt was raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, and served an L.D.S. mission to Southern Brazil. He was named the Outstanding Student of Physics at the University of Utah for 1968, where he received an Honors B.A. in physics and another B.A. in mathematics in 1969. He received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Arizona in 1976, where he also taught at the L.D.S. Institute of Religion. He and his wife, Ruth McOmber Pratt, have five children and live in Orem, Utah. His current research interests include religious calendars and ancient astronomy. He has had articles published in the Ensign, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, and astronomical journals such as the Astrophysical Journal and the Quarterly Journal of the Royal AstronomicalSociety. Some of those articles can be found on his internet web site at www.johnpratt.com.