LDS Perspectives #50: Prayers and Pterodactyls with Steven Peck

Prayers and Pterodactyls with Steven Peck

Steven L. Peck is a BYU professor who has emerged as a powerful advocate for science and evolution, publishing two books about the topic in as many years.

His latest offering, Science the Key to Theology, is an impassioned plea to members of the LDS Church to teach the compatibility between science and religion, rather than their supposed conflict. Too many feel they need to make a choice between believing science and believing in religion, and are choosing science.

Steven himself became less active as a youth after learning that his Seminary teacher didn’t believe in dinosaurs. Then Steve went to BYU and found professors who modeled a healthy fidelity to both scientific and religious truths. These professors helped Steve appreciate how science speaks to the “how” of creation, but religion is still needed to speak to the “why.”

Laura Harris Hales and Steven Peck talk about the harm caused by maintaining a faulty tension between science and religion.

2 thoughts on “LDS Perspectives #50: Prayers and Pterodactyls with Steven Peck

  1. I generally agree with Steven Peck that the clash between religion in science is unnecessary. The Bible and the other scriptures are not scientific textbooks, and they tell the story of the spiritual creation of the Earth, not the scientific, engineering story of how the world was built.

    I also agree that is has been proven beyond a doubt that evolution exists in the world. Evolution is a basic building block of biology, and living beings definitely change and evolve. The fact of evolution has been proven through the scientific method, ie, observation and measuring of the evidence over time. The results have also been repeatable, meaning under the same conditions the same result will take place again.

    Now having said that, I am sorry to say that Brother Peck is also guilty of “scientism” in the sense that he worships his interpretation of science and worships many scientific claims that are impossible to prove. He claims it has been proven that human beings came from a primordial ooze and that we evolved from apes. Science is based on observation and measurement, and that is impossible to do with human origins, so the scientific method clearly cannot prove how human beings were put on the Earth. It is impossible to repeat the exact conditions of human beings’ creation on the Earth because we don’t know exactly what those conditions were. The scientific method simply cannot under any circumstance prove human origins.

    Smart and respectable scientists are also humble enough to admit what they can and cannot know, and Brother Peck does not do this. He claims to know things that he cannot know, and this is simply unscientific and should not be taken seriously.

    Note: this does NOT mean that we must, therefore, accept the story of Adam and Eve as scientific. It clearly is not. It is a story given to us to help us understand the role of human beings on the Earth, the institution of the priesthood, the role of the Savior, the importance of the Atonement, the importance of free agency and the importance of individual advancement toward God, among other things. Were there literally two human beings named Adam and Eve on the Earth? I don’t know for sure, but I think prophets have said there were. Is it possible that God used the process evolution to help create human beings? Certainly it is possible, and it would not surprise me at all. But notice that honest human beings must be open to the things they can and cannot know, and Bro. Peck does not seem to do that imho.

    But I would like to point out that I completely agree with him that many people spend WAY too much time thinking that religion and science are incompatible, and that is a huge mistake. There is no reason to fear the true results of science, which certainly are compatible with a religious worldview.

  2. To borrow from a certain movie, it’s as if God is saying:

    “You want the Truth? You can’t handle the Truth. (At least not yet.)”

    I think there are some formidable truths about the creation story, that are so formidable to our human condition that we just couldn’t handle them. Sort of how we shield small children from many adult truths, not just because they “can’t handle them,” but also because it would mess up their growth, with some permanent repercussions.

    There are just many facts/truths available in heaven, but are “unlawful to utter” (to other people) even when prophets see them. But if we were to advance to the degree that Moses, Abraham, and Joseph Smith did, we could likely see/know many of the same things.

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