Thursday, February 16, 2006

Science Reporting and Religion

On the subject of loyalty, how would you report a story in which scientific results conflict with religious beliefs?

This is far from a hypothetical exercise.

Consider, for example, this current story from the Los Angeles Times...

Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted

DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture. The church says the studies are being twisted to attack its beliefs.

By William Lobdell
Los Angleles Times Staff Writer

February 16, 2006

From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.

"We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people," said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. "It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God."

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East.

"I've gone through stages," he said. "Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness."

For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error.


More at the link.


Kat said...

This is a very interesting article, and a very interesting question. The obvious answer to this question is that a journalist would write objectively...they are simply reporting, not taking sides. The problem is, that is often easier said than done. I am LDS, so my reaction would be defensive. If I were writing this story, it is very possible that even with attempts to be neutral, I could make these scientists look like bad guys, just with quotes and descriptions I would choose to use. I think that is the true problem... An opinion doesn't have to be stated for a reader to be able to sense what it is. So is it even truly possible for a person to be completely neutral in a controversy like this one?

Moulton said...

Religion, politics, science, and culture often clash.

The controversy over 'Intelligent Design' is perhaps the most obvious one in the news.

If sorting fact from fiction were easy, many of us would be out of job.

At times it's hard to know who or what to believe.

Perhaps we need to learn how to believe in a way that permits a more graceful revision of our evolving system of beliefs.