Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scientist and Believer

There has been a flurry of conversations about the DNA "proof" that the Native Americans are not descended from Israelites, and how this "proves" that the BoM is not true or is, at best, inspired fiction. I don't think it proves anything of the sort. I don't want to write exhaustively on my entire process of faith development, unless someone really wants to hear it, but I will sum-up.

We are taught that the Lord does not do things the way a man would do them, any more than a child would eat her vegetables first if left to her own devices. God works in ways that are mysteries to us, but I know that He is loving, true and just, and that He has my eternal interests at heart. Since I do not understand what is best for me the way He does, I am willing to submit to His will and His teachings. Part of those teachings includes how to find truth. I believe that spiritual confirmation has much more to do with truth than with fact. It is intended to guide me back to Him. This is the believing part of me.

We are also taught that the doctrines of men easily creep into spiritual teachings. If you substitute "science" (a reasonable substitution for "precepts of man"), you can read: "For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto science, save their science shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost."

Here we are given a way to parse spiritual knowledge from scientific knowledge. Science, to me, is a way for man to find out about the world around him. It is not meant to replace faith. Science deals in Fact, religion deals in Truth. Most people, excepting most of the scientific geniuses, seem unable to differentiate between the two.

If the Facts don't seem to fit my knowledge of the Truth, it is because I don't have enough facts or am not understanding them properly. This may seem counterintuitive and even obstructive to a scientific method (which is why I don't use it when I'm actually performing scientific experiments), but in reality it is highly intuitive. Just like an investigator finds facts and often interprets them correctly through a "gut feeling", evidences like DNA only serve to show me there is more to the story than the Book of Mormon covers. That isn't surprising, considering it abridges over 1000 years of history and leaves out everything in the 1600 years after that. It helps to put it all into perspective when you consider the USA is only about 250 years old. Try abridging all of our salient history into a book as small as the Book of Mormon, and I'm sure you'd miss a few things, too. The Book of Mormon is not concerned with proving its factual veracity. At the risk of sounding rude, I think those who try are wasting their time. Especially when the title page itself states its purpose as "to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations", not to "convincing the Jew and Gentile that Mormons are not insane and really know more than anyone else about history."

I personally feel that the Lamanites—indeed, most if not all of us—are "remnants of the house of Israel". I think their DNA is seeded throughout the world. That is why there was a scattering. It has to do with the Lord tying the whole of humankind together physically as well as spiritually through Adam and Abraham. The mere lack of definitive genetic marker doesn't change that one iota.

Lack of proof proves nothing, even according to scientific method it only indicates more study is needed. Assuming the reality of Israelite blood in Native American history doesn't mean we are able to genetically trace it. There are just too many variables. With what I understand about DNA marker tracing, we don't know nearly as much about it as we'd like to think. DNA doesn't even prove direct paternity/maternity 100% of the time, let alone a few generations back. Skepticism of scientific findings is the scientist part of me.

I just don't think we humans are as smart as we'd like to think.

1 comment :

  1. Isn't it interesting that scientists are skeptical and question every aspect of a given theory resulting in further research and learning but if that theory is published to the general public we take it as truth.

    I agree, in the end it will all fit together so nicely and I'm willing to wait it out and trust my Heavenly Father in the meantime.


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