Education Week: Light exemplifies compatibility of scientific findings and religious doctrines

John D. Lamb speaks at Education Week on light in science and theology. (Nicole Peterson)

John D. Lamb dimmed the lights in the Joseph Smith Building auditorium and put on a light show.

His was not a show of flashing bulbs, nor was it a smoke-and-mirrors illusion. Lamb, professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry at BYU, demonstrated how light works on a scientific level for Education Week attendees.

From combining hydrogen peroxide with a luminol-based mixture to make a liquid that glowed neon blue, to creating light drawings on phosphorescent paper that glowed in wake of a laser pointer, Lamb’s experiments demonstrated various scientific principles of light, including its wave-particle duality and electromagnetism.

Lamb dons a wizards hat to perform an experiment for Education Week attendees. (Nicole Peterson)

Light, Lamb taught, is just one area of scientific study which coincides perfectly with religious teachings, despite the ongoing “science vs. theology” debate that much of society engages in.

“Light turns out to be a key to understanding, both in science and in theology,” Lamb said. “A key to understand the world around us, a key to understand our Heavenly Father and our place in the universe.”

To prove this claim, Lamb reference Doctrine and Covenants 88, which he said is just one of 453 references to light in scripture.

Lamb makes a case for the complimentary nature of science and theology at Education Week. (Nicole Peterson)

The text reads, “This is the light of Christ … and the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings.”

Lamb said that scientists in the time that Joseph Smith received this revelation did not know how light functioned nor how it interacted with people’s eyes and brains.

“If you were to substitute for the word ‘light,’ the words ‘electromagnetic phenomena,’ you would realize that what is being taught here is perfectly compatible with twenty-first century science,” Lamb said. He further explained how light, as scientists now understand it, governs nearly all other processes that allow the universe to function.

This, Lamb said, is consistent with the doctrine taught in Doctrine and Covenants 88 — that “light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space — The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed.”

According to Lamb, science and religion teach — and seek — the same truths, and neither method is superior or of more worth to humanity. He also maintained that scientific and religious views are not in competition with one another.

“To a scientist, (it) is very reassuring that the activity that we undertake to find truth in nature is just part of the effort of our Heavenly Father to reveal truth to His children in the latter days,” Lamb said. “There is only one truth, and science and theology and religion need to harmonize within that circle of truth, both revealing amazing new insights.”

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