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Science, Faith and the Glory of Ignorance

June 24, 2017

Why is it assumed (please forgive the passive voice) that if one believe’s in a Creator then one must not globe-73397_960_720believe in science? Who has decided that these two sources of information are mutually exclusive?

I am a Christian. I have believed and been taught all my life that I am a child of God, that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh and my Savior and Redeemer. I have studied the Bible as well as other sacred writings. They have strengthened my faith and deepened my conviction. I have also been taught that scientific method is the best way mankind has come up with to date for understanding our world. Some might call this a dilemma.

To those without it, faith is a copout. A way to explain anything we can’t explain. But stop for a moment. Faith is described by Paul as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)  Substance and evidence are real. Not always tangible, but real nonetheless. While non-believers will scoff, there are many things in our existence that are real but difficult or even impossible to adequately describe to one who has never experienced it. For example, try to describe the taste of salt to one who has never experienced it.  salt-51973__340Using the word “salt” is ineffective because it requires familiarity. Referring to sea water or other comparisons still require that experience of having first tasted it. So, does that mean it’s not real? Only in the minds of those who have never tasted. But in no way does that negate the reality of salt nor its value. That’s how it is describing faith. To those of us who have experienced it and come to value it, it is as real as the chair I’m sitting in. But trying to help someone understand it who has no common base to start from is virtually impossible until they have an experience of their own.

On the other hand, to many Christians, science is the work of the faithless or even of the devil himself, blinding people to the works of God.  Is that not as limiting as the other?

Sure, science doesn’t always get it right, yet we still hold on to it. How long did we “bleed” disease out of people, killing more with the cure than the disease itself? We are historically an ignorant species that seems to grasp at whatever information we think we have and cling to it like it’s a life raft in the north Atlantic. But that does not devalue the real knowledge we are acquiring. Brilliant men and women who spend their lives in dissecting substances, experimenting with chemical reactions and basically playing with fire have learned incredible things about our world. Sure, a great deal of “knowledge” has been thrown out as our understanding grows. Much more will continue to be thrown out as new information comes to light. But that does not discount the very real store of knowledge that we have. How many of us would discount germ theory or throw away our cell phones because it was knowledge acquired through scientific research? Personally, I enjoy being able to fly when I need, keep informed on world and local events, and talk to my sister halfway across the country any time I want. These discoveries weren’t found in the Bible or Book of Mormon. They were found through scientific research and brilliant engineering.

Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely credit our Father in Heaven for enlightening the minds of those who brought this knowledge to light. That’s the thing – these two disciplines were never supposed to be mutually exclusive. Faith leads one to action and reminds us to be humble enough to give honor to the One who gives us minds to think and air to breathe. Science is one vital way we use those minds. To discount knowledge gained by scientific study because we believe in God or to discount faith because it can’t be proven is ridiculous. “Truth is truth no matter where it is found.” To ignore enlightenment or research and only hold to a single source is blindly ignorant.

The question then comes, what about when the two conflict. For some, if it seems to contradict scientific theory then it must be false. For others, if it seems to contradict the Bible, then it must be false. How arrogant are we when we think so! I first attended college at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. There, I studied biology under a professor who was not of my faith. I don’t know if he believed in God at all or not. But when we talked about evolution, the discussion was fast, furious (literally) and very one-sided. The students, most around 18-20 years old, were certain that there was no such thing as evolution. The teacher, employed by a church not the state, was treading on very delicate ground.

In this case, I hold to the scriptures which tell us that God spoke and Creation obeyed. So, does that mean that I discount all the science? No. What that professor said has stuck with me ever since. homo-erectus-2242425__340“I believe that when all things are made known, there will be a lot of very surprised people on both sides of this argument.”

I couldn’t agree more. And no one yet has been able to sufficiently tell me how the dinosaurs fit into all this. They don’t disprove religion. They only show how much we don’t yet understand. The hazard in using a single example of conflict is that it narrows the focus too much on this topic, evolution. Please don’t miss the point. There is room to acknowledge on all sides that we are sorely ignorant.

What I recognize, and what I would love others to recognize, is that we mortal humans do not understand a fraction of what we are certain about. Not about science and not about God. We have research, we have scientific method, and we are often wrong. We are often right, too. We have scriptures, we have prophets and we have historical records. We are often wrong. And we are often right as well. I may believe in God, but that doesn’t mean I understand all things about Him or His ways. As an eternal being I am in embryo.

This I do know: that God lives. That He created us in His image. That He gave us minds to think and reason and search. That He wants us to learn of our world as much as we can. “The glory of God is intelligence.” – that’s a sign on the campus of BYU.

I also know that mankind is a proud, self-centered race that glories in his own achievements. That is, in my belief, one of our most blinding weaknesses. We can’t seem to form the words, “I could be wrong.” Or “Maybe you’re right, too.”

My plea to both the scientific community and the religious community is to take a breath! Relax about who’s right and who’s wrong. Quit calling names and ridiculing each other, and allow that perhaps there is room for all of us to grow a little.

 

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Trail of Tears – a Brief History

February 11, 2013

America needed land, and the Indians were in the way, especially regarding some 5 million acres in the new state of Georgia.  No matter how “civilized” the Native Americans became, state and federal governments used economic, cultural and political pressure to force them out.

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Economically, the Indians were having problems.  In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s the deerskin trade that had previously been so lucrative had begun to fade. One answer was to concede in some degree to becoming civilized and learn farming in hopes of being able to feed their people.  (28-29)

The people of Georgia had problems of their own. Soil tapped out by cotton farming and a growing population brought demands for more land, and the Cherokee had it – about 5 million acres of it.  One tactic of the Americans was to put in a trading post called the US Factory.  The Factory extended credit to Indians, allowing them to develop a taste for consumer goods.  The Indians went into debt and some had to sell their land to pay it off.  (29-30)      Instead of being ruled by materialism as Americans had expected, however, the Indians developed their own businesses, then used the money earned to invest.  The process didn’t make the Cherokee more willing to sell their land.  Instead, it gave them the funds to better protect it. (36)

Culturally, Indians and Caucasians couldn’t have been more different.  Where European Americans bought and sold land as a commodity, Cherokee saw themselves as spiritually attached to the land. (6, 19)  They owned it in common among their tribe.  White Americans may have acknowledged the Cherokee right to the land, but since they weren’t Christian, Anglos considered the Indian claim to be weak.  (12)

The only way to bridge the gap, according to Secretary of War Henry Knox, was to “civilize” the Indians –  to teach them to read, write and speak English, wear white man’s clothes, give up hunting and become farmers, and above all, become Christians.  This was the only way Knox could see the war ending.  In so doing, the Indians wouldn’t need so much land for hunting.  They could sell their hunting grounds and have investment capital for their farms and businesses. (24-25) This goal was seen as the great answer to preventing all out war.  Congress funded missionaries to teach the Indians how to become civilized.  The Cherokee, for their part, weren’t too excited about the blatant attempts at religious conversion.  Many liked the idea of having their children learn to read and write, but they generally rejected Christianity.  (32-33) Since conversion was key to being accepted by white society, once again, the great plan to convince the Indians to willingly give up their land had failed.

By far, the greatest pressure the government used was political. Various treaties had been signed between the British or American governments (whichever happened to be in power at the time) and the Indians were expected to honor them, regardless of whether the whites did or not.  While the Brits promised no settlers would cross the Appalachians, many did anyway. The crown paid for the land, and the settlers got a piece of Indian Territory.  (17)

Several US presidents saw the Indians as impediments to American progress and prosperity.  Thomas Jefferson believed that the future of the republic depended on speedy land acquisition. The importance of obtaining land outweighed the goal of civilizing the Indians. (31)  James Monroe felt that the Indians were sovereign and had the right to refuse to sell their land; but he also thought the Indians would be better off if they moved away.

Since Georgia had been the chief “thorn in their side” so to speak, in 1824 the Cherokee turned the tables and used Georgia’s own argument against them, saying that they (the Cherokee) couldn’t recognize the sovereignty of a state within their territorial boundaries. (54) Then, in a grand step towards the very civilization the whites claimed to want, the Cherokee nation drew up its own constitution in 1827. (57)

This was the final blow that removed the gloves.  Georgia’s legislature was incensed, calling the Cherokee constitution outrageous and their claim to sovereignty unconstitutional.  They blustered and threatened, then revealed their true colors saying, “The lands in question belong to Georgia.  She must and she will have them!”  Georgia then proceeded to pass legislation subjecting the Indians to white laws, but denying them the protection of the same. They also declared the Cherokee government and all its actions null and void.   The road to removal was set. With Andrew Jackson elected president in 1828, the fate of the Indians was fairly sealed.  Jackson was a known loather of Indians and made it his mission to get rid of them as quickly as he could without regard to any so-called rights or sovereignty. He gave them only two options: “emigrate beyond Mississippi” or “submit to the laws of those States.” (58-61)

There were those who fought against Jackson’s policy of removal.  In fact, most of the Republicans in Congress opposed it simply on party lines.  Jeremiah Everts, chief administrative officer of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, was a key opponent of removal.  He published 24 essays in defense of Cherokee rights and condemning removal. Others responded in both camps, and the debate was on.  In April, 1830, a bill for removal was passed.  The Cherokee had lost. (61-63)

While the economic and cultural pressures certainly contributed, the removal became a matter of politics, both in the Cherokees’ attempts to remain sovereign and the US government’s determination to have the land. In the end, only one could win.

 

Source:

Purdue and Green, The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears, Penguin Library of American Indian History, 2008

The Emergency Banking Relief Act of 1933

January 30, 2013

At the height of the Great Depression, FDR took extreme measures to halt massive bank closures with the Emergency Banking Act of 1933.

By Elizabeth Linehan

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From the opening years of the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover had hoped for individual and private solutions for the economic difficulties faced by Americans. Many – but by no means all – who have studied his choices have labeled them “laissez-faire” (literally “leave to do” or more commonly “hands off”). Regardless of public christening, there is little doubt that Franklin Roosevelt was elected for exactly the opposite aim – direct, decisive and drastic intervention. He delivered.

Again, history would remember Roosevelt’s New Deal measures in many and varied ways. Considered in equal measure heroic and disastrous, there is little room for argument that many of his measures made vast and immediate differences.

Thousands of Bank Closures

In the first four years following the collapse of Wall Street on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, banks had been closing by the thousands. In 1931 alone, 2300 banks shut their doors. In 1933, that number almost doubled to more than 4000. Panic was universal, and there was no end in sight.

As soon as FDR took office in 1933, he took sweeping action to try to turn around the plummeting economy. One of his first actions in March of that year was to halt massive bank closures by declaring a banking holiday. From Monday, March 6 to Thursday, March 9, 1933, all banks in the US were closed for business. Then, on March 9, in what some would see as retroactive CYA, Roosevelt quickly wrote and pushed to Congress an amendment to the “Trading with the Enemy Act” (TEA) passed during World War I, legalizing the closures he had just enacted. This was the Emergency Banking Act of 1933.

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Emergency Banking Act of 1933

Title 1 Section 1 of the Emergency Banking Act confirmed the President’s actions/rules/etc taken since March 4, 1933 under the TEA, also called “Act of October 16, 1917”. In other words, it legalized things the President had already done but without renewing proper legal consent. It extended the President’s powers under the TEA to include persons within US or any place under its jurisdiction, rather than just foreign countries.

Sections 2 and 3 prohibited hoarding, melting, etc, of gold by private citizens and gave the Treasury the right to confiscate all privately held gold, paying for it with cash. That cash was not backed by gold, as it had been before.

Section 4 made doing business with banks during a declared emergency illegal, except by permission from the President of the US.

Title 2, called the “Bank Conservation Act”, provided for a Comptroller of the Currency and essentially put the national banking system in receivership. Of course, the official title for the “receiver” was “conservator”. The controller had the ability to take control over the banks and set the rules for running them, limiting withdrawals and debt payments under the direction of the President in an emergency. Title 2 also gave the rules for reorganizing banks. This effectively gave the President absolute control of national finances during a declared emergency.

Title 3 governed the handling of shares of bank stock, common and preferred. It outlined the notification and treatment of shareholders, protecting the interests of the holders of preferred stocks first and foremost over those of common stocks. Banks could then absolve themselves of their debts as long as the Comptroller of Currency and the majority of their stockholders agreed.

Title 4 allowed banks to convert their debts into cash, and any checks or drafts into cash but at only 90% of their value.

Finally, Title 5 set aside $2,000,000 for expenditures incurred by the Treasury in executing this act.

Lasting Effects

It could reasonably be argued that simply to use the “banking holiday” to halt the race to bankruptcy would have been sufficient, that the confiscation of gold and outlawing private ownership of it was unnecessary and unconstitutional. The gold standard which had backed US currency since the founding of this nation was gone, never to return. Fortunately for Americans, the right to privately own gold was restored on January 1, 1975.

One other banking act passed in 1933 that lives on today more appreciated by private citizens. The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (not to be confused with the first Glass-Steagall Act, passed in February, 1932), provided for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. At its onset, the maximum amount a single depositor could have insured in a single bank was $2500. Today that amount has grown to $250,000, protecting checking and savings deposits and certificates of deposit, but not mutual funds, annuities, stocks, bonds, treasury securities and other investment products. In time, even those standards may evolve.

Sources:

Documents of American History, Emergency Banking Act of 1933, Web

United States Treasury, Trading with the Enemy Act, Web

Internet Archive, Glass-Steagal Act (1933), Web

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Insured or Not Insured? Web

 

Copyright Elizabeth Linehan

 

What is a History Lizard?

January 7, 2010

This article has been moved. I can’t figure how to move the whole thing, comments and all, so they just get to keep this seat warm.