Steven L. Peck on wrestling and wondering about science and faith

10.27.2015 | Guest

Today the Maxwell Institute is pleased to announce the publication of the latest book in our Living Faith book series, Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist. This guest post is from author Steven L. Peck. You can pick up a copy of Evolving Faith at Amazon, Deseret Book, the BYU Bookstore, and other fine LDS booksellers now. It’s available in paperback and digital formats (Kindle, Nook, and iBook).—BHodges
EvolvingfaithR3I’ll be right up front. I’m a huge fan of evolution. I’m a professor at Brigham Young University where evolution is a big part of the curriculum. In fact, people are often surprised to learn that BYU actually has one of the best evolutionary biology programs in the nation. But I wasn’t always such a fan. When I was on my mission in Arkansas, I can remember, I was talking to a guy who said he believed in evolution and I said “Well, you can’t be baptized until you let go of that.” Because I was under the impression that evolution was definitely something forbidden. And I regret that now! After my mission when I got to BYU I was looking at textbooks in the bookstore. I came upon an evolution book and I thought “Oh, they’ll take this baby down!” And I was so shocked to find that it was just a straight-up evolutionary biology book. Soon I began to take classes in biology from some of the greatest professors I’ve ever had. They were men of faith (all of them were men at the time) who had a deep passion for evolution and who showed me that our faith and evolution were compatible. I think the most important thing I got in becoming a scientist was the sense that I didn’t need to choose between the two. This is important when you’re at a university presented with the massive amount of evidence for evolution and how beautiful it is—it’s really a beautiful theory. In fact David O. McKay said that. ((David O. McKay, “A Message for L.D.S. College Youth,” printed in BYU Speeches of the Year 1952 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1952), 5–6.)) Of course, there are some sticking points when we get down to particulars. But I think they’re worth wrestling with and wondering about. I don’t want watered down science and I don’t want watered down religion. I really want the fullness of both to inform my perspective. There’s a great quote from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf which I included in Evolving Faith‘s introduction that sets the stage for what I’m trying to do with this book:

Brothers and sisters, as good as our previous experience may be, if we stop asking questions, stop thinking, stop pondering, we can thwart the revelations of the Spirit. Remember, it was the questions young Joseph asked that opened the door for the restoration of all things. We can block the growth and knowledge our Heavenly Father intends for us. How often has the Holy Spirit tried to tell us something we needed to know but couldn’t get past the massive iron gate of what we thought we already knew?” ((Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Acting on the Truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,”  February 2012 Worldwide Leadership Training address.))

When I read that it stunned me. That quote expresses the goal of Evolving Faith, a book that includes some of my attempts to wrestle with a variety of scientific and theological ideas like evolution, consciousness, and the environment. I may not have all the answers, but I like to find God in the very process of wandering and wondering.   NOTE: This post is based on Steven L. Peck’s recent interview on KSL Newsradio. A recording will soon be available on our YouTube channel.