Professors at BYU Discuss the Relationship Between the Gospel and Science Through Research
In the eloquent words of John A. Widtsoe, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an early professor at Brigham Young University, “The Church supports and welcomes the growth of science . . . [and is] not hostile to any truth, nor to scientific search for truth.” The truth of Widtsoe’s words is seen in the College of Life Sciences and throughout BYU. While members of the college are involved in various disciplines and possess diverse talents, they all investigate the complexities of life through scientific inquiry, and they all seek for truth within an educational environment that is based on gospel principles.
Within the College of Life Sciences, the realms of religion and science coincide on a daily basis. Dr. Byron Adams, professor of evolutionary biology, describes how the gospel and science converge for him into faith. Dr. Adams describes, “If faith is something you do, just like you do an experiment, then faith is no longer something that you just hope for. Instead, it’s a way of knowing that is not all that different from science—you act on something with the full expectation that the outcome is knowable.”
Dr. Joshua West, a professor of public health, describes how the Spirit can influence scientific progress as it pertains to his field: “In public health, we are learning how to use our mortal experience. We’re talking about improving quality of life, and that invites the Spirit. It is very service-oriented. We are talking about how to make life better for human beings.”
The gospel and the sciences both encourage a search for truth and motivate the human mind to investigate complex issues. Growth and development can become an enabling power for scientific investigation. Dr. Joshua Udall, a professor and researcher with a specialty in plant genetics, says, “One of the wonderful things about our gospel is that we have a very open mind. I think all scientists are curious by nature, and I think it would be very difficult to do research if there were constraints on what truth you were allowed to discover or any truth you were willing to accept.”
Professors in the College of Life Sciences express great faith in their students and recognize the value of teaching them to consider scientific principles within the framework of their beliefs. Dr. Adams adds, “I think the best thing we can do for our students is give them a solid foundation in critical thinking and reasoning. And we can do it here, at BYU, where they can explore perceived challenges to their testimony in a safe environment, where spirituality is nurtured and welcomed into scientific discussions. There are many, many, plain and simple scientific truths that are universal, incontrovertible, and that do not diminish but instead strengthen our appreciation for the grandeur of life.”
Within the College of Life Sciences we are able to see the benefits of exploring science through the framework of gospel principles. Thus, college faculty and students are prepared to investigate the infinite realm of scientific possibility with the gospel as their foundation.
1. Widtsoe, John. "Evidences and Reconciliations." Vol. 1. 129.