Yourself, being a man of steadfast faith and having been a prominent scientist, do you have any thoughts regarding people such as Stephen Hawking and their belief that God does not exist? ( Keeping in mind that Latter-Day Saints believe in allowing people their free agency in all aspect of mortal life). A person has but to do a Google search to find numerous scientists that believe God HAS to exist. Why the disparity in people?
The short answer is that all people are free to believe whatever they choose. However, the situation you bring up is not only very real, but probably one that will not be resolved until Christ himself returns.
Speaking of the LDS Church itself, we accept truth wherever it is found. The reason we do so is that we understand that the ultimate source of all truth is Heavenly Father. It doesn’t matter what part of the human experience the truth fits into, whether scientific, mathematic, or musical, just to name some examples. Because we understand our need to learn all we can in this life to prepare for what happens when we’re finished here, whatever truths we gain are part of the true purpose of our time and essential to our eternal education.
While there are similarities between science and religion, there are differences as well. Science depends upon direct impirical evidence. The truths revealed through science deal, for the most part, with the physical aspects of life and the universe we are in.
Religion depends upon faith. The truths revealed through religion deal, for the most part, upon the spiritual aspects of life and the universe we are in.
I like to say it this way; Religion tells us who created everything we see and understand. Science tells us how we think it was done, and how it all works.
While both sides have broad implications in their pronouncements, there is very little overlap in their respective fields. Regarding God’s existence, I’ve read several noted physicists over the years. More than one has said, essentially, that Science as an intellectual endeavour is not really interested in whether or not God exists. Science is more directly concerned with examining the universe we live in, from the smallest of subatomic particles, to the intricate workings of the human psyche, to the massive universe this home we call Earth travels in as a grain of sand in the sea.
In other words, it’s a non-issue because the concepts surrounding God are not approachable on a scientific basis. There’s no real scientific method for searching for God according to our understanding and capacity right now.
With this in mind, it makes sense that Dr. Hawking (one of my favorite living scientists today) sees the universe as a place that does not need a God to exist. According to our best scientific understanding, it is entirely possible that the universe came to be without divine influence. Remember that science isn’t really concerned with religious truths. As such, because of the focus on the physical, it is a rational conclusion.
However, this conclusion requires a complete disregard, or temporary setting aside, of religious beliefs of any kind. You are more than correct in stating that numerous scientists believe that God has to exist. What the question then becomes is; how many scientists allow their religious beliefs to color their scientific conclusions?
Yet another would be; how many scientists isolate their scientific work from their religious beliefs, and then compare the two?
Neither science nor religion has all the answers. We don’t know specifically how prayer works. We understand what it does, and what we may expect from using it, but as to the actual mechanics of it, we’re in the dark. This is where we rely upon faith and trust in the promise from Heavenly Father that our prayers will be answered.
We also don’t know how gravity works. We understand what it does, what the general effects are that flow from its operation. But we still don’t know precisely what generates gravity. We simply trust that it works because it always has, back to the beginnings of human history.
The interesting thing to consider in this example is that I believe that when the day comes that we trust in prayer as unfailingly as we trust in gravity, we’ll begin to find answers to these and many more questions we’ve been researching through the centuries. I also believe that Heavenly Father is eagerly anticipating that day.