In a world of confusion and false information, how do we figure out what is true?
Don Sleight, manager of AgReserves in Salt Lake City, Utah spoke at the University Forum last month and shared tips on how we can know for ourselves what is true through both science and faith.
Sleight set the stage by sharing two photos: an image from the Hubble space telescope and an image of a quilt. He asked the question of which of the two was real. The answer might have surprised some because out of the two images, the quilt was the real one. The Hubble only takes pictures in black and white.
Through various examples of events in world history, he explained how our life spans have a big impact on the different viewpoints of our lives. He used the Berlin Wall, 9/11, and the astronomical event of man walking on the moon as examples of events that occurred. But if someone wasn’t alive at those times, their life most likely wouldn’t be affected by them, and they’d have a different viewpoint of life.
“Our view of reality is greatly influenced by the amount of time we’ve been alive,” Sleight stated.
Sleight also shared his thoughts on scientifically proven facts and data. When viewing scientific information, Sleight says he questions its validity if there is no research to back it up and prove it.
Sleight explained that there is a more advanced scientific method than what most students are taught in elementary school, and that it is important to follow it when conducting a study or experiment.
According to Sleight, doing a thorough review of scientific literature, designing and executing an experiment, conducting a statistical analysis, writing experiment results, and aquiring peer reviews are steps of the scientific method that often get overlooked but are very critical for
“It’s easy to offer an opinion. It’s more challenging when we look at a problem, analyze it, and make our best conclusions,” Sleight said.
Next, Sleight related how we discern scientific truth to how we discern spiritual truth. He noted that “Just as there’s a proper method of experimentation for scientific research, there’s a proper way to experiment upon spiritual matters.”
Sleight listed out how we can “experiment upon [God’s] words” by using a similar method to the scientific method. First, ask a question by picking a commandment or gospel principle that you want to know is true. Second, perform an experiment by obeying the commandment as if it is true. Then, through data and analysis, examine the results of the obedience and make a conclusion of the truthfulness of that commandment or principle. Sleight advised that there is still a measure of faith that is required when we say that something is true from this experiment.
Sleight posed a question that we will have to ask ourselves throughout our lives: “When we have spiritual feelings or impressions, are they real?” He invited everyone to continue to exercise the knowledge we receive.
“Scientific truth and gospel truth are largely lost in the same way: through disuse,” Sleight said.
Sleight concluded the forum by sharing a story of his childhood when he found out he shared a birthday with one of his favorite baseball players. He thought very highly of the athlete until he found out information that made him less of a good role model.
He contrasted this story to his experiences with getting to know brethren in General Authority positions in the Church. Through faith and his personal experiences, he testified that, “they are exactly who we sustain them to be.”
In conclusion, Sleight encouraged students and faculty to determine for ourselves whether to use science or faith as the best tool for different situations in our lives.