How to Prove Mormonism Scientifically

According to the scientific method as I understand it, in order to be accepted by science, an hypothesis has to be proven by performing a real world experiment that demonstrates it to be true by direct observation in an experiment that can be repeated by other investigators, preferably many others. Only by demonstrably repeatable results can a claim be regarded as proven by the evidence. It is also helpful if there is some way that the claim can be proven false. Or in other words, a scientifically provable hypothesis has to be something that could be proven false if it were in fact false. Perhaps there is more to the scientific method than this, but that is my understanding of the gist of it.

Fortunately, the scriptures contain a way to use this method for proving whether or not the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is correct and true. All one needs to do to prove it to himself is perform the experiment.

Keep the commandments of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and see what the results are. Are there promised blessings? Do they ensue from performing this experiment? Can others perform the same experiment and achieve the same results? Can performing the experiment prove the claim to be false?

The Savior himself said that if we will do the will of the Father we will learn whether or not the doctrines are from a man or from God. Alma made a similar claim in Alma 32:26-34. Consider an agricultural scientist, if he should find himself with an assortment of seeds, and he wanted to find out which ones among them were alive and fertile, how could he more scientifically determine which were alive and which were dead than by planting them to see which ones sprout and grow? Is this not the scientific method? Is not the growth of the living seeds scientific proof that the seeds are alive?

I don’t know the mathematics behind this principle. I am not a mathematician or a trained scientist. But I imagine that if the principle is true, there is some what to express it mathematically. And for my own purposes, it is self-evident truth. This is the way that I have scientifically proven the gospel to myself. And I know many others who have performed the same experiment and achieved the same results.

Parenthetically, I have also performed a negative of this experiment. I set out to violate the commandments of Jesus Christ to see what would happen, and I found out that personal disaster ensued just as my religious leaders said it would. I know many others who have performed this experiment too and achieved the same results. The gospel is actually quite provable by the scientific method.

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24 Responses to How to Prove Mormonism Scientifically

  1. cadams says:

    Jeffrey,
    Good point. Some mathematical logic might be a “proveable” system (because you might not need to have all evidences). I’m not for sure, but Einstein might have disagreed with you.

    John,
    Good point. I believe, as you mentioned, that we are limited by the evidences we have. But I also believe that through the power of faith and the priesthood we can know certain things beyond all doubt, even without all the evidences (Alma 28:12). Many of these truths can’t be shared with anyone else, though.

    I still call the scientific method and faith both proof systems. Faith proves higher truths (through the spirit) and science proves lesser truths (even if it only falsifies).

    Faith (1 Thes. 5:21; Alma 28:12)

    Science (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 267)

  2. I agree with Jeffrey that neither science nor religion, or anything else for that matter, can “prove” anything beyond all shadow of doubt. All of us just struggle along with the best results we are able to achieve given the information that is available to us. It seems to me that which system we use is more a factor of our personal experience and natural inclination than anything. Obviously a person with more math aptitude is going to place greater weight upon math based approaches to knowledge than a person such as myself who is deficient in math skills. And we don’t all have equal intelligence either for reasons of both nature and nurture. This too will affect our approach to knowledge aquisition and processing. I have been quite pleased with my faith-based, religious approach to making sense of the universe, and my relative deemphasis on science and mathematics. But I don’t for a minute feel that my method is more likely to bring me closer to an ultimate understanding of the truth. However, I have to approach the problems of life and the resulting confusion from were I am, not from where someone else is. What choice do I have? A workman can only work with the tools that he has.

  3. My point was that neither science nor faith are proof systems at all for neither can offer definitive proof of any positive affirmation at all. Really the only proof system we have is mathematical logic and the like, in which science is ideally based.

    I do wonder, however, if your brother knows that you consider him “powerfully handicapped” or that he “choose” to be the way he is. These statements are pure specualtion meant, it would seem, at covering a very uncomfortable gap in your families understanding.

  4. cadams says:

    Clark asked me what “Herzenberg” meant; and generally speaking, as I tried to compact a lot of information into a little space it was too dense. Let me try to simplify and clarify.

    Clark, I meant to say “Heisenberg uncertainty principle”. A brief intro to this subject is found at http://www.answers.com/topic/uncertainty-principle.

    I am not an expert on this subject. I brought up this example from subatomic physics to say that
    (1) it’s hard for a scientist to precisely know for sure the exact nature of any evidence he examines
    (2) when an observer (scientist) observes an object or group of objects, the nature of the object or group of objects will inevitably change
    (3) and finally, all this suggests we live in a world of appearances where ultimate physical truths are presently unknown with total precision

    That said, what Jeffrey says about science is very good. With almost 100% precision it can falsify previous conclusions in controlled environments. This is limited in scope, but you just have to look around at the good this has produced in the world to see its benefits. And as Jeffrey says, science is good because it is a collaborative effort.

    Science is one necessary proof system. Faith is another necessary proof system.

    I said that faith is like the scientific method because, like science, its impossible for us (presently in earth life) to gather all possible facts and variables to “physically prove” any spiritual conclusion. Because of our lack of all facts we can’t
    fully: (a) deduce general conclusions from all facts (because we don’t have all of the facts); (b) induce all specific facts from general conclusions (because we don’t have all of the facts). Because of this, as Clark said, with the proof system of faith we must rely on (c) abduction. Abduction, meaning hypotheses to explain observations, seems to be simply another way to explain good old common sense and reasoning from our life experiences.

    Another limitation with faith is collaboration. While science can be fully collaborative, faith is only partly collaborative. I mentioned the example of a testimony. Testimony can be partly shared (such as children believing their parents’ testimony), but there is always a part of our religious experience that can never be shared (and shouldn’t be shared even if it could). I explained this in my (probably obtuse) explanation of the hermetic seal.

    I think some truths are never meant to be shared, because we live in a probationary state where we are meant to live by not only facts, but also by faith. This is because God is doing a closed (or sealed) experiment with us, not us with Him. Just as the control variable sometimes can’t know about what other variables are doing (which would mess up the experiment), so we can’t know everything our Experimentor is doing with us, as we are the experimented not the experimentors.

  5. cadams says:

    First, Anonymous, then in the next comment I’ll get back to the Science discussion.

    Suspecting you of having a being a “damned fool” or having a “lying spirit” was uncalled for. I’m publicly sorry; I hope you’ll forgive me.

    I feel that some of your views are very wrong, as far as I may understand them. I think you might underestimate the strength of our religion – it’s much more than a “few nifty ordinances”, and calling a “boozing” person happier than the “massive majority” of Mormons seems outrageous. I probably know as many members as you do, and on the whole as compared with most others I’ve known in the world, I come to a totally different conclusion.

    But the central issue seems to be you homosexual friend, who does many good works that Christ would have done. I don’t castigate anyone for having those tendencies; I have a brother with similar tendencies. On the contrary, in our family we believe he may have been among the most noble before he came to this world because of the way he chose to condescend. I won’t celebrate homosexuality to any degree, but like those with other powerful handicaps, their handicap, if lived with righteously, is meant to glorify God. I will go even further and say you may underestimate the potential of your friend. You shouldn’t be satisfied with any of your friends getting less than celestial glory. Remember Proverbs 22:6 – and how Orson Whitney said wayward children taught correctly would eventually come back to the fold. Your friend chose to condescend to this world in a difficult way, but if taught the truth powerfully by his friends will eventually come back to the fold, in this world or the next. That’s not doctrine, but it’s my belief.

  6. I should also point out that my comments concerning suicide aren’t entirely accurate. The suicide rates in Utah are very high, but remain fairly low for active LDS. This does not mean that Mormonism is totally off the hook but it does say that things are more complicated than many might try to portray them.

  7. I do agree with Clark that there is a definite similarity between the method that Alma advocates and the scientific method in general, however John’s position goes well beyond this. Before I go into his position, let me first clarify what these similarities are and are not.

    The scientific method uses experiments to primarily falsify hypotheses. While Popper’s philosophy isn’t the most accurate account of the scientific method his ideas concerning falsification and verification are more or less on target. But this is exactly where Alma’s experiment goes off track, for I don’t think that any Mormon would consider a failure here as falsification of the hypothesis in question. Instead, they call into question every other variable except the one in question. While this might be science, it is terrible science, a disgrace to the title.

    As I said before, while religion is based primarily in trust science is based in criticism. Hence the emphasis on falsification. Scientists aren’t trying to prove things true as much as prove other things false. This is definitely not what John is talking about: “All one needs to do to prove it to himself is perform the experiment.”

    All this “experiment” really “proves” is that many people will feel good under the circumstances described by Alma. Does this surprise anybody at all? It would be far more shocking if NOBODY felt good under these circumstances.

    What John’s position is, is that the Mormon religion IS science to a certain degree. With this I don’t think that much anybody can really agree. If it is science, it is terrible science. Criticism is discouraged. Almost every topic is based, ultimately, in mystery. Rigor is simply nonexistent.

    This doesn’t mean that Mormonism is false or that it is incompatible with science, only that it is not science by a long stretch of the immagination.

  8. Clark Goble says:

    Who is “Herzenberg”?

    While there are differences between the scientific method and Alma 32, there are some surprising similarities as well. So I think those pushing either extreme here (Alma’s teaching science or Science has nothing to do with this) are both wrong.

    I think it might be better to characterize Alma 32 as utilizing a lot of what we’d call abduction, which is a key aspect of science. That is we hypothesize a cause and then try it. Now science is typically more refined about how one tries things out. But that doesn’t mean the basic method isn’t the same.

  9. jared,
    the FAIR article mentioned only differences between various religious groups.. there was no mention of either athiests or agnostics at all.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Am I wrong in thinking that one sin is just as likely as another to prevent a person from entering the Celestial Kingdom? Are Mormons free from sin? Is sin wickedness? If one is perfect in all aspects of life, save for a single sin, is that person wicked? Does that person live a life of wickedness? Is a person engaged in much sin, but in the slow, livelong process of repentance and improvement, is that person wicked? Does that person know any happiness? I won’t mention blessings, because even my castigator agrees that the wicked may be blessed (which gets back the original topic of the post, and evidence supporting a specific theology or way of life.)

    My gay friend is gay. He has strong habits of self-improvement; when it comes to caring for others, sacrificing for others, he is as Christ-like as any I person I have ever met. He strikes me as genuinely happy, experiencing “the long-term combination of peace, and joy.? I suppose if he doesn’t have a change in heart regarding the gay thing in this life or the next, he won’t be in the Celestial Kingdom. But aren’t we taught that in not making it, he will be in the company of many, many members of the church who were good people but just didn’t go that extra little mile? But don’t listen to me. Apparently, I’m a damned fool.

  11. cadams says:

    I like John’s and Will’s characterizations of “proving all things” in the gospel (1 Thes. 5: 21) to the scientific method, and bringing up verses like Alma 32:27, Moro. 10:4; and I would add Ether 12:6 (“trial of your faith”).

    The prophet Joseph probably had some of this in mind when he published (speaking of the Book of Mormon):

    The extract below, comes as near the real fact, as the four Evangelists do to the crucifixion of Jesus.–Surely “facts are stubborn things.” It will be as it ever has been, the world will prove Joseph Smith a true prophet by circumstantial evidence, in experiments, as they did Moses and Elijah. (TPJS, 267). [This is assuming the original document wasn’t tampered with by early Church historians, but I’ve seen no evidence in this case.]

    I also respect statements such as by Jeffrey that distinguishes between the scientific method and the search for spiritual truth. I personally don’t see them both as exactly the same, but I do see them as highly similar proof systems. Hopefully without threadjacking, let me make a few comments about each.

    Scientific method

    Hopefully everybody gets the basics on this method, so I won’t go over it. I see one main problem with the scientific method: it is the lack of quarantine which may distort the final results. As I see it there’s three main stumblingblocks why scientific trials can’t ever be fully quaranteened [sp?]. (But I also think we all know that the scientific method is essential [D&C 88:118]).

    (1) Inability to include all possible variables. We can’t ever put all possible variables into an experiment, because if we can’t explore and catalogue all known items in the Universe (at least for right now) we can’t know for sure whether other variables should be put into the experimental soup. So we may be missing variables needed in our quarantine.

    (2) Herzenberg Uncertainty Principle. I’m satisfied with Einstein’s and other scientists’ views that the observer inevitably distorts the observation in a scientific experiment. It’s as simple as this: take the example of light. One of our most important senses is the eyes, which takes in information from light. I don’t know that we’ve ever fully established what light is; and who can fully know what happens to information between the time it passes from stimuli to our brain? I know this is an old argument, but still obviously applicable.

    (3) Similar to the previous argument, there’s no hermetic seal to a scientific experiment, which could ruin the experimental quarantine. Hermetically sealed means no outside influence comes into an experimental environment except when allowed to. If an outside ifluence gets into an experiment, we may never know if the results of such experiment actually prove anything. I don’t know if we’ve ever found a way to eliminate all outside influences from an experimental environment in the physical world.

    Learning Spiritual Truths

    Of course, this is the method discussed most in Sunday School. It includes prayer, faith, obedience, repentance, experience, work, etc. This method seems to also be not totally sufficient in and of itself, because the Lord doesn’t seem to teach us all things through it, but also by academics, experience, and experiments (D&C 88:118). Let me compare this proof system with the three problems I see with the scientific method, previously mentioned.

    (1) Inability to include all possible variables. When we experiment upon the word of God, as with physical experiments, we are also not able to include all variables. As in Alma 32:29-34, we may know a phenomenon is true in one instance, but still not know it is true in all instances yet, because we haven’t yet included all variables in the experiment. Yet Alma tells us spiritual truths can be deeply satisfying, even if only known in one instance.

    Learning spiritual truths is better than the scientific method, in this point, I believe, because after repeated, sincere effort to learn the truth, the spirit finally and fully certifies and confirms the truth of a major concept (Atonement, the Church, the Prophet, etc.) You may ask, How do you know that? I’ll go over that question in my third point.

    (2) Observer distorts the observation. The main problem with this is when Satan deceives us into thinking we are feeling the spirit and receiving revelation, when in reality we are only experiencing feelings that would have been merely the after-effects of revelation that we felt on previous occasions. An example of this: the adrenaline rush we felt learning the Church is true, a day after we prayed and got our answer, may be a similar feeling we felt after our first kiss (not really but I hope you get the point). In each experience there may be profound experiences of feeling; how do we know which feeling teaches truth?

    Fortunately, we have been blessed by the scriptures to know with certainty on this issue. For me it’s clear enough from Galatians 5:22-23 that we know the spirit is present, and consequently that truth is being taught, when those fruits or influences are present that Paul discusses. When those influences are not present, the spirit isn’t there and we’re not being taught truth. Yet you ask, How can you really know that for sure? I’ll discuss that in my next point.

    (3) The hermetic seal. We previously mentioned that outside influences can get into the variables of our experiment, and totally prevent us from knowing whether an experiment proves anything or not.

    In our search for spiritual truth, in contrast with physical experiments, I believe there is a hermetic seal placed on our search for truth, provided we follow the standards of that proof system – great faith, obedience, understanding and following the spirit, etc. We can know for sure in spiritual things that the experiment is being conducted without distortion.

    How is this done? I don’t know how this done, but I’m sure it pertains to the Spirit of Elijah. What is the Spirit of Elijah? It has the power to seal and bless, and bind and curse (D&C 132:45-49; 68:12; many other verses in scripture). Thus, we may say it has the power of a hermetic seal, because it contains the gift of sealing. Seal means no outside influence can penetrate the inner core of an entity. We usually think of this entity as a family, or family generations. This is a great blessing! But it also, I believe, involves our search for truth. This same Spirit and priesthood allows us to learn a truth perfectly and knowingly even without having all the facts. It allows us to discern truth by blocking out false information and clarifying what is true.

    Another thing about this hermetic seal: because some truths are sealed up and bound, these particular truths cannot be conveyed to anyone else. It can only be shared between you, and God and angels. That’s why we say everyone must get his own testimony, and eventually we will not be able to rely on anyone else in the day of tribulation. So, to answer 2 questions I asked previously (something like, “How do you know for sure?”), my answer, to a certain extent, must be:

    I know, and I know that I know.

    I can’t explain right now how or why I know.

    Even if I could I still might not tell you (lest I come under condemnation).

    To conclude this lengthy comment, let me briefly address the first comment by anonymous, the only comment I have a real problem with. I don’t have a problem with the fact that Hindus, Jews, and atheists can live good lives and be blessed. Obviously. Of course the Lord causes the sun to shine on the just and unjst. But he claims that “people who lie and cheat and steal and yet manage to have a blessed life, loving families, and so forth…” He also claims “I know boozing homosexuals with no religion who have magically learned how to be good to others and live a good, happy life and are better examples of living the gospel than a massive majority of Mormons I’ve known.”

    What the hell’s he talking about, or is he a damned fool? Has he not read Alma’s words that
    “Wickedness never was happiness”? While I believe the unjust can receive blessings in life (and God even blesses us when we don’t deserve many blessings), I don’t believe wicked persons (or even alcoholics [if boozing means alcoholic], who may not necessarily be termed wicked in some ways) can be happy. I define happiness as the long-term combination of peace, and joy (temporary exultant feelings combined with the fruits of the spirit).

    Happiness, well, now that’s a strong word! It never came easy to me in any long-term sense! I hope he will get a clue and get rid of his lying spirit; or else change his tune and explain himself better.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Though Chuck Norris has sent many evil-doers and ne’er-do-wells to an early grave, I know of no Chuck Norris adherents who have commited suicide. The Chuck Norris system builds mental confidence, improves self-esteem, and can turn one’s hands into lightening fast tools of destruction.

  13. Jared says:

    This FAIR article suggets that John might lose the bet.

  14. will says:

    Question, John: If it turned out that Mormons are more prone to suicide than atheists, what conclusion would you draw from that?

  15. This brings to mind the accusations that due to the expectations inherent in the Mormon lifestyle, suicide rates in Utah are *supposed* to be very high in comparison with the rest of the country. I don’t have anything to back this assertion up. I;m only passing on information as I recall it.

  16. Matt Witten says:

    Hmm, While I don’t think Science is at a state to add or detract from the veracity of mormonism, Adherents does have this article on religion’s relation to decreasing levels of suicide.
    http://www.adherents.com/misc/religion_suicide.html

  17. Yeah, one can always point out exceptions to every rule. That doesn’t mean that the rule is not generally true. A person with a wooden leg could kick a cinder block wall too, and it wouldn’t hurt. The point is, living life out of harmony with the truth brings pain. And some religions much better teach the truth than others.

    I wonder if anyone has ever done a study to see if there is any relationship between religious beliefs and suicide. I’ll bet that agnostics and atheists commit suicide a lot more often than devout Mormons and Catholics, for instance.

  18. will says:

    John said: Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Because it is true, it is part of the Mormon gospel.

    Ironically, the evidence against the above claim is much, much stronger than the evidence against evolution. I therefore conclude that evolution is part of the Mormon gospel.

    Sorry for the derailment.

  19. Jared says:

    John,

    Your cinder block analogy has a problem, and that is it involves an immediate consequence. Much of the gospel concerns consequences far removed from now–the next life. Trying to establish that exposure to substance A will give you disease B 50 years down the road is no piece of cake.

    I’m not poo-pooing the similarity between Alma’s experiment and science, it is a useful analogy. I just wouldn’t claim that a rigorous scientific approach proves that the gospel is true.

  20. Anonymous says:

    My friend used to practice the Chuck Norris system of karate. He can still kick through not one, but two cinder blocks with his bare foot and feel no pain. He kicks through boards as well. I guess that means Chuck Norris is true.

    As others have noted, there are too many variables in life to easily prove Momonism is true. In various areas of science, researchers struggle to prove things with far fewer variables. They look true, but without controlling for those variables it is difficult to make concrete statements.

    If you could prove religion as easily as kicking a brick, it would have happened centuries ago. Whatever the case, my friend once met Chuck Norris and gave me his personal witness that Chuck Norris lives.

  21. There is truth in all religions, even Satan worship. Those who comply with truth reap benefits from so doing. Those who violate truth reap negative consequences. Some religions contain a lot more truth than others. Therefore, practicing some religions brings much greater positive results than some others. Some religions, by contrast, contain very little truth. Those who practice such religions run afoul of negative consequences far more often.

    Consider the truth: Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Because it is true, it is part of the Mormon gospel. To test it, try kicking a cinder block wall with your bare foot. See what happens. Great pain will ensue, not just for you, but for anyone regardless of his religious beliefs.

    The rest of the commandments of Jesus Christ as taught by the Mormons are similar. Conform with the truth or suffer the painful consequences. That is the fundamental choice facing everyone regardless of his beliefs. The search for a “true” religion, is at its root, a search for happiness, ie. an avoidance of pain. Some religions are much more successful at this than others. This can be demonstrated to any ones satisfaction just like the cinder block kicking experiment.

    You may not believe my anecdotal story. But that does not matter because it still hurts a lot to kick a cinder block wall with your bare foot. If you don’t believe me, try it and see what happens.

  22. Will put it very nicely. The so called “experiment” advocated by Alma can hardly be considered an example of rigorous science by much any definition. There is no placebo control, it is utterly subjective and introspective, it ignores conflicting cases usually with ad hoc justifications, it fails to consider alternative explanations, it makes strong appeals to mystery, it refuses to acknowledge such “evidence” when it favors other hypotheses, etc. This use of the scientific method can be used to establish pretty much anything one wants to e.i. the existence of Santa Claus, that the earth is center of the universe, that evolution is false, that blacks should be subordinate, that Adam is God, that man will never reach the moon, that all native Americans descend primarily from a small semitic group which lived 2,600 years ago and so on.

    The scientific method is actually fairly complex involving far more than mere “testability” or “falsibiability.” The form of the hypothetico-deductive model is as follows:

    1. We observe O1
    2. We formulate a hypothesis (H) which, if true, would explain O1.
    3. Then we ask, if H is true, what additional observations (O2 … On) ought we be able to make?
    4. Finally, if O2 through On are observed, H is tentatively confirmed.

    We can’t ever really confirm H’s absolute truth with 100.00000% accuracy due to the inability to exhaustively prove the non-existence of something, in this case conflicting Oc. Nevertheless, the more observations which pan out without any conflicting observations the less we have any reason to doubt the H in question. With this model in mind, Alma’s “experiment” can hardly be considered all that scientific. Whereas religious claims are strongly based around trust and authority scientific claims are based squarely in experience and criticism, lots and lots of criticism.

  23. will says:

    John, characterizing Alma 32, Moroni 10:4, or John 7:17 as a scientific experiment is a common mistake. At best, they will give you personal anecdotal evidence, which isn’t sufficient to establish a theory.

    A valid scientific experiment along these lines would have to include a statistically representative sample of the population separated into a control group and an experimental group, with all variables held constant between the groups except for replacing the gospel with a convincing placebo. Needless to say, this would be very difficult to pull off.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Does this prove Mormonism true? or general Christianity? And Hindus blessed as they live their religion, does that prove Hinduism true? What about Judaism? According to the Mormon view, before Christ came, living by Judaic law brought blessings and happiness; did those blessings stop when Christ came?

    What about the atheists who try to live good lives and are blessed, does that make atheism true? Finally, what about the people who lie and cheat and steal and yet manage to have a blessed life, loving families, and so forth?

    On the whole, I agree. Alma’s allegory of the seed is the scientific process. You prove the gospel to yourself; but the gospel is not unique to Mormonism. You find it in many religions, in humanitarian philosophy. I know boozing homosexuals with no religion who have magically learned how to be good to others and live a good, happy life and are better examples of living the gospel than a massive majority of Mormons I’ve known.

    We have the authority to administer a few nifty ordinances that other groups don’t have. That’s what sets Mormonism apart. That’s it. So far, we’ve been good at maintaining activity of the membership, but time will tell.

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