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Five tips to faithfully approach the intersection between faith and science

At the dedication of the Life Sciences Building, President Russel M. Nelson said, "There is no conflict between science and religion. Conflict only arises from an incomplete knowledge of either science or religion, or both." No one knows everything about religion or science, yet. We must patiently learn from religion and science as we address uncertainties as the two converge. Biology professor Jamie Jensen provides five tips to faithfully approach the intersection of faith and science.

Faith and science infographic
Photo by Dylan Smith and Audrey White

1. Understand that science is agnostic
Many people mistakenly believe that science is inherently atheistic. Science confirms its agnostic nature because it can't prove the existence of God, and it can’t prove the absence of God either. Remember that knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of scientific explanations doesn't require you to disregard your religion, and the same is true vice versa. Look to your faith, not science, to prove that there is a God.

2. Do not pin your faith on a "God of the gaps"
Pinning your faith on a “God of the gaps” relies on God as an explanation for anything that science can’t currently explain. In ancient Greece, deities were created to explain weather patterns, but as soon as science provided reasonable explanations, their Gods disappeared. When science can finally account for these "gaps" in your knowledge, you enter problematic territory that has the potential to minimize the power of faith. You must build a foundation of faith in God's ability to provide spiritual understanding, not His ability to fill the gaps in your current understanding.

3. Take time to learn the nature of science
In order to accept the truth in science, you must learn the nature of science. Educate yourself on the formation of scientific theory by familiarizing yourself with scientific exploration and justification methods. Doing so will help you recognize truth when you see it, be skeptical when it’s warranted, and reduce the intimidating presence of the scientific field.

4. Take time to learn your religion
You may likely encounter a scientific principle that is contrary to what you have been taught in Sunday school. Before putting your faith on the line, the best course of action is educating yourself on official Church doctrine. The theory of evolution is a classic battle between religion and science. A little research can provide you with the response that explains that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official stance on the subject. Avoid misunderstanding by taking time to learn how doctrine is established.

5. Remember that your salvation does not depend on your understanding or acceptance of science
When it comes to faith and science, it is important to prioritize your faith. You don't need to understand or accept everything in science to achieve salvation. Jensen says, "Science is great, but if you struggle to reconcile it with faith, choose your faith until you can better understand science." Faith and science can and should coexist in harmony.