In April’s Faith + Works lecture, School of Communications professor Kevin John discussed how people can overcome the notion that there is an inherent gap between religion and science and instead use both to discover truth.
In his signature quirky fashion, John started out the lecture by showing a clip from “Nacho Libre.”
“You only believe in science, that’s probably why we will never win,” said actor Jack Black in the clip. John then used the clip to point out that the hostility that so many people see between religion and science.
“There is no room for moderation,” said John. “There’s extreme this side and extreme that side and they call it a conversation. But it’s not a conversation; it’s a shouting match.”
At that point, John switched gears. He said at first he had been planning on discussing science versus religion and the friction between them, but he didn’t feel like any argument pitting the two against each other is ever really conducive to any growth.
“The perception is that there’s a deep division, but there’s a lot of room for unity and there’s a lot of room for conversation,” said John. “Truth is truth, whether it’s labeled science or religion.”
John went on to say that the only conflict is in the interpretation of fact and that there are different kinds of truth: Truth with capital “T” and truth with lowercase “t.”
According to John, capital “T” truths are universal and unchanging, such as gospel principles. In contrast, lowercase “t” truths are contextual, provisional and perspective based, such as individual case studies.
“Conflict occurs here because we’re comparing little bits of contextualized truth, hoping to hit at some of the larger principles that can give us a hint at the capital ‘T’ truths,” said John.
This process of getting closer and closer to capital “T” truth is the practice that many people learned in grade school: the scientific method.
John pointed out, however, that his process has its flaws. “There’s so much in science that we can’t measure,” said John. “[Scientists] don’t get to the nuts and bolts.”
He continued by saying that we shouldn’t get so caught up in the scientific-method way of proving things that we let intellectual pride lead us to believe that we know everything because we’ve “proved” it.
“Science is the best that we can do with what our eyes can see,” said John, adding that that doesn’t mean that we should ignore other ways of finding truth.
“The Lord encourages us to use our brains and to use our faith,” said John. “We should use both — we need both.”
“With the knowledge of the gospel, we realize that there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye,” said John. “Our vision — our perspective — is flawed because it is terrestrial.”
John described finding out his father had cancer as a time when he had to learn not to rely on his secular knowledge.
“My mind was a storm. At that moment I had two narratives that were fighting for space in my heart and my mind: my dad is going to live, or my dad is going to die,” said John. After doing all the research he could about his dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, he said he was left with no hope.
“For that time, the Lord was my teacher, and he taught me, ‘guess what, these are opposites to you, but they are not to me. Your dad will die, but he will certainly live, and he will live because of me,’” said John.
“Sometimes we encounter things that shake our faith, or sometimes we encounter things where we don’t see a solution because it seems impossible to us,” continued John. “At that point, it becomes essential for us to turn to the Lord.”
At the end of the day, there is capital “T” truth that people can count on said John. “Knowledge is great, knowledge is fantastic, but knowledge will not save us; faith will save us,” said John.