My background within the Mormon “intellectual” community is primarily within the science community. Even now, most of my friends have ties to the science community and despite the “personae” I might convey as a philosopher-geek, I’m really much more of a physics-geek in my own mind. One thing that I’ve long wondered about was the relationship between science and Mormonism. I don’t just mean among active, or even inactive Mormons, but rather the effect Mormon culture has on engendering a scientific mindset.
This may seem an odd thing to bring up, since I know among many the stereotype is that Mormonism has a strong anti-intellectual streak. Yet I noticed while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory just how overrepresented Mormons were. At that time, in the early 90’s, two of the three main figures at the lab were Mormon. I don’t recall the exact figure, but something like 1/4 of all group leaders were Mormon as well. Just for people in the lab area, two very small towns, there were two very large wards. I’ve been told that at other labs, like Lawrence Livermore, there were quite a few Mormons as well.
Now such anecdotal evidence doesn’t establish much. Further, the studies on the production of scientists within Mormonism are somewhat problematic as well. (I blogged on the oft mentioned study by Wootton here way back in the beginning days of my blog)
So here’s my question: does Mormonism engender a respect or interest for science? All you folks who took physics or biology or so forth chime in with your experiences. Why did you go into the sciences and did Mormonism have anything to do with it?
My own experience is that Mormonism was directly tied to my interest in science, although the fact my Dad was a professor at Dalhousie University undoubtedly helped as well. I grew up having a view that religion was fully explainable and that the notions within religion were ultimately scientific and not “metaphysical” or “supernatural.” Further had a strong belief, from my Mormon heritage, that we were to seek knowledge and that knowledge was part of the glory of God. Indeed seeking it was part of being a good Mormon and a duty as much as charity or righteousness was.