Some say that science and religion are at odds. Dr. David Bailey would disagree. Dr. Bailey is a graduate of Stanford University with a Ph.D. in mathematics. He currently works as the Chief Technologist for the Computational Research Department at the prestigious Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He has published three books on computational and experimental mathematics, and has published 136 scientific, peer reviewed journal articles to date.  He is a strong believer in the theory of Organic Evolution…

…and he is also an active, believing member of the LDS Church. Dr. Bailey is also the founder of the “Science Meets Religion” web site, which seeks to bridge the gap between science and religion.

In this three-part series, we discuss:

  • Part 1: A Brief History of the LDS Church and Science, including the B.H. Roberts/Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie controversies regarding evolution in the 20th century.
  • Part 2: The state of science in the LDS Church today.
  • Part 3: How science has actually strengthened his faith in the God and the LDS Church.

P.S. The Duane Jeffery/Dialogue article referenced in the podcast can be found here.

Part 1

Download MP3

Part 2

Download MP3

Part 3

Download MP3


  1. Trevor Price June 17, 2010 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    John, have you been able to find a link to that referenced Duane Jeffery article?

    Good podcast, btw.

  2. Henri June 17, 2010 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    I have the same problem with David Bailey as I do with Francis Collins. They both firmly acknowledge that the science is valid and true (and they are both well qualified to do so), but then resort to apologetics to reconcile the religious inconsistencies. I listened to his interview and read the entire website, and found not one thing that said to me, “Wow, religion *does* fit perfectly into the natural world!” I just can’t make my mind wrap around things like that. I don’t know how these PhDs can do it.

  3. Trevor Price June 17, 2010 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    David was kind enough to email me a link to the aforementioned article:

  4. Trevor Price June 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Henri, when you say Bailey resorts to apologetics in reconcile inconsistencies, are you referring to his position of not using scripture as a science manual and avoiding fundamentalism?

  5. Henri June 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm - Reply


    No, I am finding no fault with him or his stance or how he explains himself. I have just lost the ability to accept explanations that stretch credibility in terms of nature vs the supernatural.

    Dr. Bailey mentioned in part 3 that he was *inocculated* against these problem areas from a young age. I was never inocculated, though I was able for a long time to force myself to ignore them. I thought that John tried to root it out of him the best he could, but he just wasn’t able to give an answer that I felt comfortable with. Everytime John mentioned something that was a problem, he could only answer that, for him, that wasn’t a problem and that he didn’t pay much attention to it. I just can’t do that.

    My point of view is that I would never trust the safety of my physical body to a bridge or an airplane built on the same foundation of *truth* that religion is, that is, unverifiable and unrepeatable. I don’t think anyone would. Yet, so many people can trust the fate of their eternal soul based on vague feelings and the words of people that they have never met, who just happen to claim that they received revelation from God.

  6. Steve June 17, 2010 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    John. Thank you! This was an excellent interview. After the second hour, I was worried that you were just going to throw soft balls at your guest the whole time – and I hadn’t heard Jesus mentioned once. But the third hour was all I could ask for and more. You really pressed him on some the critical issues. And, to his credit, he answered (or didn’t answer) the questions with honesty and dignity. I think that if you are going to treat religion and science as “non-overlapping magisteria,” then you end up with a very watered-down deist variety of religion – at best. And I would consider your guest a deist Mormon. I really admire how he makes that work: an ambiguous, higher-level view of the supernatural yet still actively enjoying the positive aspects of the church. He is right that the temple recommend interview questions are mostly about conduct, and non-specific about belief. But I was left wondering how he would answer this one: Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days? I guess it comes down to your interpretation of the word ‘testimony’.

  7. Glenn June 18, 2010 at 7:06 am - Reply


    Was that as hard for you to conduct as it was for me to sit through? I think your commitment to fair and empathetic interrogation exceeded it’s reach here. Towards the end, this felt like the delicate dance of disingenuous dismissive double-talk. Thumper’s mom always said if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I say it is time for some tasty rabbit stew.

    “I acknowledge those issues exist, they just aren’t helpful for me.”

    “Some might say don’t wiggle away from the question, but not me.”

    “Yes, I see that. That’s totally totally fair.”

    [insert the sound of me pulling out my hair]

    Man, this one really pushed my buttons, and the sleeping satirist is wide awake.

    “It’s just not important to me.”

    “I don’t lose much sleep over it.”

    “I just don’t get hung up on those kinds of things.”

    “Some people study this ad naseum, but I don’t really give much thought to it”

    If I ever use these cop-out expressions to excuse myself from open critical investigation of topics that might lead me to a different conclusion than I want to be lead to, please give me a really bad paper cut or something.

    And for those who might need some help following the discussion behind the discussion, I have provided for your convenience the following:

    A Glossary of Terms

    “I just don’t think that would be productive” means “That discussion would lead me to a place I am not comfortable going, so stuff it”

    “Those questions are just misplaced” means “I am not willing to seriously entertain any questions that could lead me to a conclusion other than the one that I want to accept (so stuff it)”

    “get hung up on” means “other people won’t advance their thoughts past a certain point — exactly the way that I am not advancing my own thoughts here”

    “you answered my questions with a lot of wisdom and poise” means “you demonstrated some pretty good dance moves sidestepping the issues.”

    And beginning a response with “well, again…” means “I have already expressed my scientific lack of scientific interest in these kinds of non-scientific questions and have nothing thoughtful or new to add to the debate, which is not even an important debate in the first place, so why don’t you just scientifically stuff it.”

    Sorry — the devil made me post this. David, don’t take this personally — it’s very good of you to come on and share your thoughts like you did. Some of your statements just remind me too much of my dad, and that has struck a chord.

  8. Henri June 18, 2010 at 8:34 am - Reply

    I think Glen has it right.

    It is the same approach with all the highly qualified scientists who try to justify religious dogmas and beliefs. I recently read Francis Collins The Language of God, which was painful. It was painful because his standard of discovering religious truth was so much in conflict with the standards he must live by as a scientist. His out was that God is outside the system and therefore he can do anything he wants.

    Since Mormon doctrine doesn’t put God outside the system, Dr Bailey has to take the approach that, either, all those things written in scripture and spoken from the pulpit are subject to interpretation, and the interpretations just keep changing, or it just doesn’t matter and is not worthy of thinking about.

    It all comes down to audience. Most religious people who don’t think much about nature and the universe will love these types of approaches. They will have a satisfied feeling knowing that there are some really intelligent people out there who believe exactly the same way they do, and will give it no further thought.

  9. John Dehlin June 18, 2010 at 10:01 am - Reply


    A few quick points:

    1) I think David did handle himself with wisdom and poise. These are hard issues to discuss for a believer, and you might be surprised to discover how hard it is to get credible, thoughtful believers to face the tough questions David faced. So given that virtually NO ONE at FAIR/FARMS is willing to take the heat (and they are supposed to be the professionals in apologetics), I think David deserves lots of credit….even if he didn’t have good answers for many of these toughest issues. For the record…good answers for the hard stuff DO NOT EXIST. Not even the brethren have them. So to face them with “I don’t know” or “I don’t worry about that” is (to me) a very courageous, honest thing to do publicly, as a believer.

    2) I think David’s main position with religion is one of pragmatism. It’s functional. Religion works for David, and for many like him. And even if all the facts and data don’t line up — for David, it’s still worth engaging with it. I think this is an acknowledgment that science falls short of filling many of our existential holes….and so we turn to religion for that. If science or secular humanism ever learns to fill those existential holes — I think that religion will be in real trouble. Until then…they/we are just going to have to live with them both co-existing.

    For the record…I challenge you, the other M.E. folks, and myself to keep trying to find credible, thoughtful apologists who will take the heat on the toughest questions. I think that the Kevin Barney and Jeff Lindsay interviews were on ok start…but fwiw….I think I was much tougher on David than the M.E. folks were on Kevin and Jeff. Not that it’s about being tough.

    All I’m saying is….ALL of us need to keep trying to figure out how to find sharp, thoughtful believers who are willing to take the really hard questions. I don’t think any of us have it figured out yet. But I’ll keep trying.

  10. scottro June 18, 2010 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    John Dehlin: “For the record…good answers for the hard stuff DO NOT EXIST.”

    That’s right. There is no way to get around it. When the correlated LDS materials absolutely and totally denounce evolution there is no amount of apologetics that can reconcile the church’s position with science. You can minimize the problem, squeak, squirm, hedge and re-define all day long, but that doesn’t address the core issue. Church, prophet, and “God” says X is totally false, the rest of the world and LDS scientists say X is totally true. Simply irreconcilable. It isn’t a problem of “what a handful of GAs said” or what Mormon Doctrine said. It is right there in the scriptures (all of them) and bible dictionary as well as in correlated materials. Downplaying the existence of the controversy was difficult to really believe.

    Sometimes we hear apologists who play scientists, but this was a scientist playing an apologist. I would have liked a bit deeper of a view as to how, specifically, in Dr. Bailey’s opinion as a believer and a scientists, the process of evolution and creation as we know scientifically jives with the mainstream church doctrine.

    The Dawkins comment was a bit of a cheapshot, IMHO, would have liked some more substance as to where Dr. Bailey sees flaws in Dawkin’s logic.

    I applaud you John, as always, for taking the time to make this happen. I hope this helps people out there. Like Glenn at times I was frustrated, wanting to pull my hair out, and literally laughing out loud with incredulity at the things Dr. Bailey had to say. I’m glad that he has found a way to make it work. I think innoculation is the church’s only hope, but hardly anyone I know is innoculated against science, I certainly wasn’t.

    Yes John, you had moments of being “tough” (not that its all about being tough…) in this podcast, but there were also some pretty big marshmallows being thrown Dr. Bailey’s way. It isn’t about holding people’s feet to the fire, but it is somewhat unfulfilling when you don’t get that magical answer that makes it all fit. I understand how hard it is to get people to talk about the tough issues, and I understand that your job as an interviewer isn’t to bust balls but to let the interviewee talk, and you have a fine line to walk with many listeners and with the subject.

    Thanks for representing and making the best out of a tough situation, you’re doing a great job!

  11. Todd Decker June 18, 2010 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    I haven’t even listened to this yet but I am so excited to hear it. I am a huge fan of David Bailey and I am so excited that you interviewed him.

  12. Glenn June 18, 2010 at 5:38 pm - Reply


    To your points:

    1) Agreed. David does deserve credit and it was good of him to come on to share his perspective. Especially since so many of your listeners requested it. David was fine. It was me as this one individual pain-in-the-neck listener who had the problems with what I was hearing.

    Good answers do not exist? “Good” is pretty subjective, but I disagree. Here’s a good answer in my world: “Yes, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, does it?” You can still choose to believe it even if it doesn’t make sense. I do that in many areas from my own desire to maintain faith in spite of my doubts. And that may have been what David said, but that isn’t how he said it. My biggest issue is the subtle dismissal of other people and the unwillingness or inability to explore alternative possibilities — “they are just hung up” or “they are missing the point” or “that just isn’t important.” That is where I have my problems. So if by “good” you mean “satisfying (to Glenn)” then there are certainly good answers. And you say “not even the brethren” as if they are at the top of the good answer food chain. I think Henri’s point about audience helps unpack that phrase a bit.

    2) Pragmatism… OK. No argument there. I am all about vernacular religion. I do wish that at the beginning of the interview you and David would have provided a working definition of “science,” especially regarding methods of inquiry, that could frame the discussion once it turned towards an analysis of religion. That would help me understand better what you are aiming at with your metaphor about science filling our existential holes. I could think of a few others to drag that one out, but I have done enough damage already, so I shall refrain (sort of).

    As for your challenge about finding more apologists, I have two responses:

    First, if we are keeping score, I can’t really speak to the Lindsay or Barney interviews on ME, but John Larsen’s recent interview with consiglieri on the bullseyes in the Book of Mormon was an excellent example of Skeptic vs. Believer dialogue — open and respectful on both sides. I was very impressed with both of them and pulled out not a single hair as I listened. I suppose there may be a few more of those in the future for both MS and ME.

    But second…. why? If you think that there are no good answers to these hard questions, even from the brethren, what is the reason to seek out more apologetic voices? You know that I am a long time fan of the Mormon Stories exploration of Mormon people and their different experiences within Mormonism — there is so much out there to focus on, and you have introduced me to so many valuable issues and people and perspectives — I love MS — but why is it important to find believers who will answer really hard questions? I ask that sincerely, with no predetermined conclusion in mind. I really want to understand it better.

    Thanks John.


  13. Glenn June 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    And hang on a sec — what do you mean that we need to find sharp, thoughtful believers (a new acronym is born STBMs) — Mormon Expression has Mike!!!

    (ok, maybe a little facetious on that one — but I really do love Mike. In heavenly father’s way)

  14. John Larsen June 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    I don’t know, Glenn. Asking tough questions to apologists is like yelling at your kids. They might deserve it, but no one comes out better and things seldom change.

    Keep on truckin’, John.

  15. John Dehlin June 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm - Reply


    I totally should have framed science before launching into the interview. I realized that right after the interview was done.

    And Glenn/John — I shouldn’t have even mentioned M.E. I LOVE M.E. LOVE it. It almost makes me want to retire my own microphone.

    I hope you know that.

  16. scottro June 18, 2010 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    If I can throw another $0.02 on the pile:
    “Good answers” – ones that make sense within the framework that is provided by the person/group making the claim.

    Glenn, your ‘Good answer’ -“Yes, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, does it?” might make sense in your framework that you’ve constructed for your faith (which is uber friendly to doubt and uncertainty), but in the framework provided by the church it makes no sense. Bailey’s religion and your religion are two different constructs for interpreting Mormonism. I think you’re ok with that, but neither of them are satisfying to people who are looking for the “good answer” that makes sense within the LDS church’s provided framework. It is like in the temple ceremony, I’m looking for the further light and knowledge, not for just some philosophy of Glenn, mingled with scripture. (I couldn’t resist throwing that in)

    This goes back to internet mormons vs. chapel mormons. You can re-create a new framework for beliefs that fits into your personalized religion, which is what Dr. Bailey, many apologists, and internet mormons have done.

    I think that is great, if that works for you, go for it.

    The problem that I see with this is that the church has its own integrated construct or framework of how it says you’re supposed to view it. John D made this point in the podcast, somewhat subtly, discussing bishops who might insist on people believing in an anthropomorphic god.

    To me it is like buying a car that runs on regular and putting diesel in it. The car says to put regular only in it, and anything else will ruin the car. The church says God is an anthropomorphic all-loving, omniscient God, and that evolution is wrong (CES Manual and Ensign, etc). I don’t understand how to discount the church-provided method of viewing the church and the world, taking a different view of God, historicity of the BoM, etc., while at the same time having any kind of faith in the church itself as a source of truth. To me that is just creating a new religion, albeit one that allows you to continue affiliation with the same organization that you grew up with.

  17. Glenn June 18, 2010 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    Scott, yep, I think you are right. I guess I’m pushing for some kind of hybrid prototype with lots of trunk space for all the baggage.

    John, no worries. I know how you feel about John Larsen’s efforts. I count myself lucky to be invited to play in his sandbox from time to time. I mean no disrespect to you or your guests. I just couldn’t resist the urge to be a little playfully snarky this time.

  18. David June 19, 2010 at 2:11 am - Reply

    Personally, I’ve always felt that the concept of biological evolution could fit in with LDS theology if looked at with eternal progression in mind.

  19. Aaron June 19, 2010 at 4:32 am - Reply

    Hey John,

    Thanks for doing this interview as this was something I was hoping for. I actually ended up being disappointed. Personally, and some of the commentators would probably agree with me, this felt more like faulty apologetics then what I was really hoping for. I think non-traditional Mormons have no issues with science and religion as we view science as the exploration of understanding our natural world and religion as connecting to God through myth. I think this guy wanted both good science and a much more traditional Mormonism. I guess I have a problem with this approach because I take a more Deistic approach to understanding God and how his creation works (through science) and take scriptures on a more spiritual/mystical ground (where scriptures helps us to experience God and not tell a literal history of how the cosmos operates). Of course, there are many guests you had that opinions don’t square with my own and that is something that Mormon Stories has been really good about; getting Mormons of different colors to come together. I think the only reason I was disappointed was that I was expecting one thing and got something completely different.

    Now, for a compliment. Part 3 was the best part because you did drill in the more tougher questions. I was fearing that you were going to let this guy get away with all kinds of logical fallacies, but I was proven wrong. You did ask the tough questions that I ask many believers when I get into intellectual discussions. I guess my personal view on the whole debate is this. Is science compatible with God? Absolutely! Is science compatible with religion? Not all the time, but a religion that finds a virtue in doubt and questions will have no issue reconciling the two.

  20. Steve June 19, 2010 at 11:39 am - Reply

    I think the drive for group identification plays a bigger role in all of this then we may think. Dr. Bailey said, “I don’t put a lot of stock in theology,” and he claimed to have “no clearly defined concept of god.” That sounds suspiciously like weak atheism. Or deism, depending on how much credence he gives to the idea of an “organizing force” in the universe. But calling yourself a Mormon, and giving off all of the social clues that you are a Mormon, provide huge social advantages. Then the problem becomes maintaining group identity among scientists. The way to keep this second social door open is to call your beliefs “non-literal” and your interpretation of religious claims “figurative” and “metaphorical”.

    I see this same drive in myself. I put on the tribal costume (white shirt and tie) and go to church. I make comments in Sunday school that indicate my understanding of our shared stories. I see myself naturally trying to give off the correct social clues to maintain group identity. Then I come to the various NOM blogs and forums and basically do the same goddamn thing!

    Look at what you do in your daily life and tell me a good portion of your time isn’t spent maintaining group identity.

  21. OzPoof June 19, 2010 at 11:50 am - Reply

    I listened to the first hour and was surprised that a believing LDS professed his belief in evolution, albeit as a tool for a god. I also believe that, (insofar as I believe there is a god) so I was exited to hear that such beliefs can exist within Mormonism, especially when Dr Bailey mentioned some high-profile Mormons who once openly believed in evolution.

    I was intrigued as to how Dr Bailey could reconcile other scientific discoveries that may challenge LDS doctrine, but was very disappointed when this scientist retreated to the use of faith and good feelings as the only way to affirm his belief system. I say the ‘only way’ because Dr Bailey failed to answer any of the questions he acknowledged were “difficult” for the average TBM that reads anything other than contemporary lesson manuals.

    Dr Bailey clearly advocates compartmentalization as a coping mechanism when scientific fact trumps faith. Indeed the term “non-overlapping magisteria” is simply a euphemistic phrase for the suspension of logical, scientific reasoning when your thoughts are in religious mode. Dr Bailey reiterated this way of thinking when he tacitly condemned those who are “confusing scientific issues with the realm of religious issues”.

    I consider truth to be universal. Something that makes perfect logical sense and is proven empirically must stand in all realms. For a theist to accept less is to admit that god is either presiding over a disorganized illogical mess, or is deceiving the curious and intellectual in order to separate them from those that do not seek for truth.

    I found Dr Bailey’s assertion that his rejection of inconvenient facts and his retreat into compartmentalization is a world view “of a significantly higher level” to be insulting and counterintuitive. How is turning off critical thought more noble than seeking for truth? His continual reiteration of this notion appeared to be part of his overall coping strategy – he claims that he has transcended pesky questions of whether the Book of Mormon is a revealed message from god and now determines its value by how it makes him feel. If that is how truth is determined, there are countless novels that should be moved to the non-fiction sections of libraries. A question that could have been asked of Dr Bailey was why, if he believes the BoM and BoA were revealed rather than translated, did Smith claim otherwise? Also, why does the church fail to abide by many of the teachings found in the BoM? How useful is this book really?

    Overall I found this interview brilliant. John, you waited until the last hour to hit Dr Bailey with some difficult questions, which I feel was a good idea given the sense of unease I felt coming from Dr Bailey. I began admiring this man but then felt sorry for him. As a scientist he must be aware of the problems with church doctrine, and the only way he can cope is to cripple his god-given intellect and ignore the truth. He doesn’t make any attempt to rationalize, he just switches off.

    I wonder what a god would think of that?

  22. Aaron June 19, 2010 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Hey John, another great interview.

    I appreciated the discussion about how religion sometimes over-reaches into the scientific realm, and how science sometimes over-reaches into the religious realm.

    Most of my personal “issues” with the church (the BOA, DNA, Prop 8) involve the interplay/conflict of the religous realm with the scientific, historic, or social realms. This interview was awesome in so many ways, but I was hoping there would be more insight or suggestions for how to approach the conflicts I see in the mormon doctrinal realm…..with the factual historical/scientific realm. For example, the doctrinal assertion that the BOA is a translation of papyrus, vs historical evidence that it’s not. What do we do with the conflict? “It’s not very useful to me”, frankly, well….you know.

    In Elder Oaks April 2008 conference address, he laid out kind of a similar theme….there are at least two realms, and we learn and know things in those different realms in different ways. But again, he provided no insight relative to how one should handle conflicts between spiritual realm and the scientific/historical realm.

    Again, great interview.

  23. AO June 19, 2010 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    The interview questions were great. The answers were insightful in that they offered one person’s perspective for dealing with difficult issues in the church. I’m always interested to know how others reconcile faith and reason, and I’m hopeful that I will be able to adopt some of Dr. Bailey’s attitudes. However, because his strategy for dealing with tough issues is to simply ignore them, he failed to offer deeper insights on the actual issues. His only answer to difficult questions is “I don’t worry about those things.” Although this method is probably the surest path to spiritual enlightenment–to focus on the basics of righteous living and to avoid theological debates, it seems intellectually shallow when applied to the LDS context. To say that scientific reasoning has no place in the realm of faith is not really true in the LDS church, since all of its foundational claims are based on historical events that either happened or didn’t, and history can be analyzed scientifically. The “keystone of our religion” makes historical and scientific claims that can and should be proven or disproven by scientific inquiry. Because the Book of Mormon has a religious theme people categorize it as something that can only be authenticated by the spirit. This is true when referring to the moral principles, but the historical and scientific claims belong entirely to the realm of science. Using the spirit to make claims about the world has created, for many people, a dysfunctional belief system. Believing can be practical for someone like Dr. Bailey, who doesn’t attach himself to any of the superstitions or speculative claims, but for your average believer, the superstitions are one and the same with faith, which effects how they view and interact with the world. I think that dealing with the tough issues, the superstitions, false beliefs, and false histories of the Mormon Church does matter to the majority of us. If Dr. Bailey makes it work by sticking to the basics of Christian ethics, then why not discard all of the non-essentials and authoritative claims of the LDS and go to a church that ONLY teaches the basics? It seems that all of the informed people who choose to stay, like Dr. Bailey, are able to do so only because they invent their own belief system and don’t take fundamental Mormonism very seriously.
    This is very difficult for most of us to do, especially those who care the most about what Mormonism is.

    What the church teaches and what it claims to be DOES matter, because not all of the beliefs are healthy.
    The following are some beliefs that I consider to be dysfunctional:

    -Blacks were an inferior race
    -We have a superior religion with exclusive authority
    -The world is essentially evil and we need to be suspicious of social progress
    -People of other faiths are less enlightened and we have the spirit
    -Temple work, as a form of service, fulfills the most urgent needs
    -Church service also fulfills the most pressing needs and should take precedence over careers
    -Don’t rock the boat, or make critical suggestions to higher ups, maintain status quo. Authority trumps ingenuity.
    -The devil causes depression
    -The devil causes thoughts about sex
    -The devil causes accidents at water parks and lakes (I’ve seen this taught at youth outings)
    -Traditional marriage is the only way to reach your ultimate potential, even for those who don’t marry
    -People change skin color depending on their righteousness (Pres. Kimball remarks)
    -You won’t be with family members in the next life who believe differently. It’s not just being good that matters, they have to also be sealed in the temple. Be concerned for their spiritual welfare until they see things in the LDS light.
    -Paying tithing will help my business succeed
    -Men who go on missions make better husbands by virtue of the fact
    -Men who skip their missions will be held accountable for souls they might have saved
    -We are accountable for covenants we made in the pre-existence
    -My patriarchal blessing has promised that Christ’s second coming will happen during my lifetime so I’m not going to attend college. Why prepare or invest if the world is only going to be destroyed shortly.
    -The millenium is coming soon. Evil, commotion, and terror can be expected. Therefore, bad things that happen are ok. Global warming and pollution are fulfilling prophecies, and shouldn’t be feared in the grand scheme of things. This is God’s way of sifting the wheat from the tares, why do anything to change it?
    -The Jews are supposed to invade Palestine, and blood is supposed to flow. It’s all good.
    -Personal worthiness depends, to a large degree, on orthodox beliefs and whether you attend all your meetings
    -The best thing to spend tithing on is building temples and churches, and this is considered a form of charity
    -You can’t trust science, especially if it contradicts what the prophets have said (E.T. Benson)

  24. John S June 20, 2010 at 8:23 am - Reply


    Great interview! Dr Baily’s comments regarding being inoculated early were interesting. I suppose I had a similar background i.e “inoculated” by the scientific community. I think though that this really just means that I accepted the premise that it was OK to disagree with church statements and stances. While this has worked for many issues, It still doesn’t help to answer your third-session-questions. I was disappointed in Baily’s responses. Like many of the previous comments I appreciated your efforts to tease out his beliefs but found his responses somewhat disingenuous. While he can remain vague in belief, as can many of us, he is either using a very open interpretation of the questions or being somewhat untruthful in his recommend interview that he states he just completed. In addition, many of us can freely participate in most LDS activities with our own interpretations but new converts are required to accept a pretty narrow orthodox set of beliefs prior to baptism.
    I am sure you are right: “Good answers do not exist” for these questions. BUT thanks for your efforts to go on asking them.

  25. MattJ June 20, 2010 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Great Interview John and David!!!

    At 14 years of age our Mum brought each of us a copy of Mormon Doctrine. It was the answer to everything. Being a kid and a big fan of dinosours, I struggled, nothing made sense.

    On the mission I read, Man his Origin and Destiny. I remember very clearly reading MOD, and thinking “this is ridiculous”. My love of science was pulling one way, and my religous belief in another direction.

    It even got to the point of questioning the very existence of God. The factual was looking a lot better than the spiritual.

    Good to see there are other trains of thought within the LDS community. Even though no one has all the answers, at least there are other paradigms. Would have loved to have heard this when I was younger.

    I finished reading “Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding”, not long ago. A really good book. This I found really helped with my child hood science/doctrinal schism.

    Thanks Guys.

    • Adam June 10, 2011 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      I read that book too.  I liked it but it still left me with more questions.

  26. Dave June 21, 2010 at 1:39 am - Reply

    You know John. It is really refreshing to hear Brother Bailey say that we don’t have to regard everything literally but we can understand things in a more figurative sense than that. I get that bit and appreciate it. But when you are working on the cliff face of church attendance every Sunday. Life is made very difficult.

  27. Dave June 21, 2010 at 1:54 am - Reply

    Joseph did say that an angel with a drawn sword commanded him to practice plural marriage. He also said that he only ever had one wife and he repeated that claim over and over. So we know that Joseph was capable of conveying untruths, for whatever reason.

  28. Dave June 21, 2010 at 5:53 am - Reply

    My point is that Joseph was at least capable of being dishonest and was practiced at it. Still like him though!!

  29. Todd Decker June 21, 2010 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed this interview as I had expected. I really like David Bailey and appreciate his willingness to come on. I understand a lot of the criticism I have been reading here but I have a different take on it. I think David Bailey is totally sincere when he says he doesn’t worry too much about a particular issue. Having read much of his writing I think his faith is placed in different things than most LDS members. One thing believing Mormons have in common with many of the dissaffected is a deep concern with the literal and historical veracity of the church’s claims. I think Dr. Bailey places his faith in other things. I think science and nature is a pillar of his faith (something I share actually). I don’t want to speak for him incorrectly but that is my supposition.

  30. Scott June 22, 2010 at 7:18 am - Reply

    I appreciate the comments I’ve read so far about this interview, especially from those who enjoyed it, because I had a seriously hard time getting through this.

    In short I feel Bailey was a very poor interviewee. Several times he cautioned John about placing blame for the Church’s anathema towards science at the feet of Church leaders. He was adament about it. But then he blames the Church membership at large for WANTING what has been taught, and the scientific community for not giving religion a chance. Do you agree, John? Did you want during your formative seminary years to be taught McKonkie-ism? Did you know it’s your own fault for not being inoculated, because that is what you wanted deep down? I have a serious problem with this idea.

    Bailey also derailed some very important questions. In Pt. 2 John asked sincerely if Bailey recognized that the Church overreaches into the scientific realm as an authority (e.g. Hafen’s thoughts on homosexuality not being part of a person’s DNA). And Bailey responds by saying, “Well yes, but Dawkins and Hitchins do the same thing…” I really wanted an answer to that question, not a diatribe about his opinions on how extreme those other guys are.

    He also talked about emphasizing the positive aspects of Church teachings, which I agree with, but not if it means ignoring completely the tough issues. When he talked about the scriptures, he would get very philosophical, rather than scientific (people misread the book of Job… the author of Ecclesiastes was very liberal).

    John, I thought you were very gracious, and respectful. But to me it felt like Bailey was being disingenuous, and when people can smell even a whiff of that, it ends up doing more damage than good.

    Thanks again to all the positive commentators, because it helped change my perspective from being one of complete cynicism to one of open-minded chagrine.

  31. Gale June 22, 2010 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Like many, I was highly disappointed in the first two hours, but found the last hour redemptive. Amen to most of what has been already said.

    Bailey definitely takes a pragmatic approach to religion, and is willing to “cover a multitude of faults” because the church helps him feel good and offers some moral lessons. While it is clear what his reasons are for holding onto or retaining his faith, it is not clear why he believes it in the first place. What is the foundation of his faith? Why Mormonism and not some other tradition? I suspect the only real reason is that it is his culture, heritage, and social structure, not because he really finds any of it to be convincing. So he is forced to take a pragmatic approach by filtering for the good and ignoring the rest to allow for a heritage that doesn’t make sense on its own.

    He also abstracts religion enough to say that the vast majority of scientists are spiritual/religious because they appreciate the beauty of the natural world, entirely redefining what religion means to allow him to include the majority in his own view. This is as intellectually dishonest as my Father-in-law’s attempt to tell me that all the atheists he’s ever met actually do believe in God, but just don’t use the word God.

    The more one dilutes the idea of God and religion to allow for abstract views, the more one endangers the notion that any legitimate truth rests in the idea of God or religion in the first place. If scripture is basically myth and story, is there anything that should be taken literally? If not, they why not use another text (religious or otherwise)? Morality is not unique to religion, not by a long shot.

    I guess my frustrations are that David Bailey is not an apologist for his own beliefs or faith. The interview was supposed to be about how Science and his Faith affect one another, but his approach is dismissive. He separates the two as much as possible, and tries not to think about it too much, and is critical toward those who do.

    I’m glad he came on, and I’m interested in hearing other views, I just wish he would have spoken more about his actual faith, and the basis for his testimony.

  32. jtj June 22, 2010 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    “If science or secular humanism ever learns to fill those existential holes — I think that religion will be in real trouble.”

    I think there’s a significant amount of macro evidence on the side of secularism to persuasively argue that this question is now moot. I just don’t think the conversation is being had outside of LDS circles since the distance between the two is so large and it’s so painful to get there. I could be wrong, but I just don’t think Sam Harris will be in a debate with any LDS apologist anytime soon. Please consider the following from just a statistical perspective…

  33. Peep Stone June 23, 2010 at 6:14 am - Reply

    This man has a PHD in cognitive-dissonance.

    I admire this skill but also dread it.

  34. John Dehlin June 23, 2010 at 8:53 am - Reply


    My question is….can secularism fill the existential and social holes that religion successfully fills for people — specifically those in the lower and middle class.

    Does this link address that?



  35. Randy June 23, 2010 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Great job, John (as usual).

    But man that was frustrating to listen to! The guy could be a member of any religion in the world at that altitude. Who doesn’t appreciate nature and compassion? Sheesh. Not much help for those who think the details or even the stuff at 10,000 feet matters. Good to know about that perspective, I guess, as hard as it is for me to fathom from such an intellect.

  36. Campeche June 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    John said: All I’m saying is….ALL of us need to keep trying to figure out how to find sharp, thoughtful believers who are willing to take the really hard questions. I don’t think any of us have it figured out yet.

    Glenn said: but why is it important to find believers who will answer really hard questions? I ask that sincerely, with no predetermined conclusion in mind. I really want to understand it better.

    Steve said: I think the drive for group identification plays a bigger role in all of this then we may think. Dr. Bailey said, “I don’t put a lot of stock in theology,” and he claimed to have “no clearly defined concept of god.” That sounds suspiciously like weak atheism. But calling yourself a Mormon, and giving off all of the social clues that you are a Mormon, provide huge social advantages.
    Look at what you do in your daily life and tell me a good portion of your time isn’t spent maintaining group identity.

    @ Steve: I think your comment hit the nail on the head. It seems that the underlying question for this interview and many other MS interviews is: “How can you be an intelligent, rational human being and still be an active member of the Mormon church?” Dr. Bailey answered this question when he repeated over and over again in different ways that he just doesn’t “get hung up on these kind of things” (things=Mormon theology and/or Mormon history). He’s just using good adaptive behavior skills. He’s morphed his Mormon upbringing into something constructive. I think this is what many of us do. Even though we don’t believe in the Mormon church, we continue to practice the religion to maintain a good relations with our family and our culture. The price for proclaiming our disbelief and leaving the church is just too high. So we become quiet unbelievers who continue to go to church, accept callings, and follow the Mormon lifestyle.

    Honestly, if you hadn’t been born into the church, would you be a Mormon? Not me. and I doubt Dr. Bailey would either. But our task is to find a way to re-focus our religious programming into something productive. I think Dr. Bailey has done this.

    This quote is about Fowler’s stage 5 and I think it applies to where Dr. Bailey is in his faith process: “One in stage 5 is willing to be converted by other ways of thinking. This does not mean that the person is wishy-washy or uncommited to one’s own truth tradition. Conjunctive faith’s “radical openness” to other traditions comes from the belief that “reality” cannot be held entirely in one tradition and spills over into many traditions.
    The new strength of this stage comes in the rise of the ironic imagination a capacity to see and be in one’s or one’s group’s most powerful meanings, while simultaneously recognizing that they are relative, partial, and inevitably distorting apprehensions of trancendent reality.”

  37. Carrie June 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    I think a main reason that so many of us assumed that the book “Mormon Doctrine” was official church-approved doctrine was that it was one of 3 books other than the scriptures that missionaries were allowed and encouraged to purchase, read and take with them into the mission field. It was on my packing list when I served in 1991 and I did refer to it several times when investigators had questions. I remember reading it and thinking, “really?” Still, because it was on that missionary list from church HQs, I never thought, “maybe these ideas belong to the author and not the church” — I assumed it was what the title stated it to be: “mormon doctrine.” I was (pleasantly) surprised to learn a while back that there was a time when church leaders wanted to put distance between the book and the church. It seemed unlikely since it was pretty much a requirement for the church’s missionaries in my day. Requiring hundreds of missionaries to purchase the book each year seems like a good way to guarantee additional printings.

  38. Brad June 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the interview John and David.

    Apparently David could not be what many listeners wanted/needed, but I think his answers were honest and revealing, despite the nay saying comments. If one has experienced God in a deep way such as in ones study of physical phenomenon or other study, performance of ritual, in relationships, in prayer, meditation, or yoga etc., and if they also concede that the leaders of their faith tradition are not perfect, does that person have to be devoted to solving every inconsistency that stems from those leaders? Do he (or she) need to distance himself from the religious community that supports the practice of a spiritual way of life that is right for him? I should hope not.

    I think David probably has been a great help to people on the issues he has taken an interest in. I considered it wisdom on his part to not give an open opinion on every question. David is not an orthodox believer, he made this clear. Some of the questions seem to push him into an orthodox corner which he wasn’t too excited to go to because it had little relevance to his experiential faith. I suspect those who have the most trouble understanding his paradigm have or had their faith tied primarily to the Church, perhaps seen as a surrogate to God.

  39. Carson N June 24, 2010 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Faith tradition? The LDS Church is no faith tradition. But I can see why calling it a mere faith tradition might make it easier to forgive the leaders for their little inconsistencies. Because after all, it’s not like they claim to have direct, exclusive revelation and authority from God.

  40. aap June 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    Great job John (as always)

    Thank you David for coming on. I really enjoyed your comments and admire you for being willing to receive some of those difficult questions.

    Its obvious that David is not really a “believer”, at least not in the true orthodox sense which the church throws upon us. My question for him would be “How do you feel about, or how are you able to participate in missionary work”?

    He seems to identify as a believer in full fellowship yet he is unable to express any degree of certainty or belief in the unique and exclusive doctrines of mormonism. In my experience, missionary work in mormonism is all about “one true church” and “exclusive authority” etc. David, how are you able to participate in missionary work that is focused on in this manner? Or are you like me in that you feel uncomfortable teaching in such a literal, dogmatic and authoritarian manner?

  41. campeche June 25, 2010 at 11:27 am - Reply

    aap said: “My question for him would be “How do you feel about, or how are you able to participate in missionary work”?

    I can’t speak for Dr. Bailey, but I have come to support the missionary effort because the church has the power to transform lives, whether or not it’s “the one true church”. The people in my ward (Spanish speaking) are almost all converts and I’ve seen the amazing effect their conversion has made on their lives. Some have gone from being heavy drinkers and/or smokers to complete abstinence. Some have made huge improvements in their family lives – they are closer to each other and much better parents to their children. And some have obtained hope where there was none before. Because of the positive changes the church has made on their lives, I can wholeheartedly support the missionary effort.

  42. DuzTruthMatter June 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    At which point in this three hours did science actually meet religion? Dr. Bailey’s answers to scientific questions were based on well thought out researched evidence. Bro. Bailey’s “answers” to the religious questions totally discounted any evidence John provided. I guess in his mind, Dr. Bailey has met Bro. Bailey but he sure didn’t provide any warm fuzzies that he has actually accomplished the name of his own website.

    Listening to this left me wanting to stick a knitting needle in my ear. IMHO, Dr./Bro. Bailey is very authoritative with his scientific analysis and totally childlike in his religious beliefs.

  43. aap June 26, 2010 at 2:20 pm - Reply


    Thanks for your comments too. I agree with everything you said and believe the church can change lives. However, my discomfort with missionary work isn’t seeing people joining the church and change their lives, its the was in which we teach our history and beliefs.
    For example, when I was a missionary, I taught the “official” version of the first vision, without the slightest idea that there were other versions. I then bore my testimony that I “knew” it was all true. I also taught about priesthood restoration with much vigor and bearing testimony of certainty that the mormon church was THE ONLY place one could find God’s authority. Do you get my point?

    I served my mission in 94-96, and now realize I had a pretty naive understanding of church history. I just don’t see how I could go back into the mission field and teach “the gospel” in the same manner I was asked to teach it on my mission. I also would be very uncomfortable on splits with the missionary if I was asked to bear testimony of Joseph Smith right after hearing the missionaries teach the “official account”.

    Again, I do think the church can change lives, I’m just not sure how I can, in good conscience, teach someone about the church in missionary discussion format.

  44. Marshall Bond June 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Just finished listening to all three segements and, holy cow, that was painful. I admire you, John, for your balance of aggressiveness and religious “political correctness” toward your guest. A few times I found myself answering in the negative for you when you said, “That’s fair” as a response to Dr. Bailey’s non-committal responses. I know you must respect your guest’s views, but I’m still wondering how an intelligent, reasonable person can write off sooooo much critical stuff.

  45. kendell June 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    This is the second time I have been to your website – both times at the request of my children. All five of my children have felt betrayed to some extent by what you refer to as the “correlated” approach of the church to their theological education. I now wish that I had allowed myself to be as open and honest about “controversial” issues (such as evolution) as I felt within my personal approach to finding “truth.” To me, evolution can be likened to the creative equivalent of musical improvisation. The great musical improvisers know the “laws” of universal music inside and out. That is why they can reach a point in a solo that sends them in new, exciting, and natural directions that seem unique to them at the moment. That is how I envision God in His creative process. He sets the creative “solo” up and natural and wonderful surprises result (through evolution That is when he can – in a rush of deep joy – declare the creative results “good.” I cannot, on the other hand, imagine God as a being who spends His eternity scripting worlds and lives, and handing out punishment to those who don’t follow His script. Such an eternal existence would be the equivalent of Hell not Heaven. It is not a “celestial” reward that I see myself seeking.
    However, just as Dr. Bailey, I have read the Book of Mormon multiple times and every time I read it, I feel like I have been enlightened on many spiritual levels. As a past Bishop, I have witnessed many unhappy people find personal happiness through service and “adherence” to principles taught by this religion. The God I personally worship, and found through this religion, deems human dignity and growth as His tantamount creative success.
    Anyway thanks for your wonderful interviews. Your work is truly a service to all of us.

  46. campeche June 27, 2010 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    aap said: “Again, I do think the church can change lives, I’m just not sure how I can, in good conscience, teach someone about the church in missionary discussion format.”

    I see where you’re coming from. I didn’t serve a mission and I have a hard time even bearing my testimony because I feel so disingenuous. I could not bear my testimony about Joseph Smith except to say that he “brought to pass” the Book of Mormon. : )

  47. Christopher June 28, 2010 at 11:00 am - Reply

    I also really respect Dr. Bailey’s views but found them to be very unsatisfying for me in particular. But it was a very helpful interview and it gave me perspective.

    It has been pointed out very well that Dr. Bailey compartmentalizes religion and science but religion is making actual claims about the true nature of the universe and is therefore trying to play the same role as science except that it is not open to criticism and peer review. If religion can’t provide an honest framework that is open to evolution of thought and doesn’t clash with new discoveries it is a negative force that slows us down. If it doesn’t have true revelation and authority as it claims then it is hurting us over-all even though it provides many helpful social benefits.

    Dr. Bailey may be in a place where he makes good use of the pragmatic, self-improving aspects of religion but most members do not think that way, it’s literal in every way for them. Buddhism also provides a wonderful approach to improving the quality of your life without making such absolute claims. If Dr. Bailey was born in the East he would more than likely be a very devout Buddhist.

    Science is wonderful in that it is, by nature, always open to criticism. It is not at all arrogant. It’s good in a way that the LDS church changes over time but it does so dishonestly and at its own detriment. It has set itself up to fall in this respect even though it gets so many things right. I wonder if it would be possible to have a religion that does not make such definitive, absolute claims? I guess what you would then have is not a religion but just science.

  48. Swearing Elder June 30, 2010 at 10:29 am - Reply

    I have to admit that my head hurt a little from listening to certain parts of this, but I totally appreciate him coming on as it’s helped me as I think further about the relationship between science and religion.

  49. Terry Anderson July 7, 2010 at 6:04 am - Reply

    I’ve only listened to the last interview so far and noted that John threw all the heavy punches. My reading of Dr. Bailey’s responses is that he deals in absolutes and doesn’t “waste” his time in things that are never going to be proven one way, or the other. His use of the metaphysical (channeling, John’s word) to explain the possible production method behind the book of Abraham, is a case in point. It cannot be disproved, so why be concerned! Our (the LDS) attempts to explain every apparently absurd statement made by Joseph Smith generates a tension between the literal and the metaphysical. Dr. Bailey is comfortable with that as long as he sees JS as a sincere personality. I personally would fit in this camp, although I would be stoked if a literal interpretation was demonstrated fact. This leaves Those who don’t have a spiritual witness of the gospel on shaky ground, so I would assume he can claim to have had a religious experience that underpins his beliefs.

  50. Derek Conklin July 8, 2010 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    I am deaf, so I was not able to listen to the podcasts. However, reading a few of the comments, let me suggest something to you:

    God is the Pre-Eminent scientist. Imagine God as an ordinary person like you and me, except with a perfect knowledge of the laws of science. Indeed, he is God BECAUSE of His perfect knowledge and, more importantly, perfect obedience to these laws of Science.

    With this in mind then, God cannot transcend these laws. He is NOT omnipotent. He CANNOT create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it, to use a cheap trick. These laws serve to define him as He obeys them. Should He even attempt to break them, He would cease to be God.

    With this, comes a radical shift in religious thought. Christ walking on the water ceases to be a miracle so much as it is a demonstration of His vastly superior knowledge of the laws of physics, mass, and displacement, and the application there-of. His healings, his miracles, all of them, become as much lessons in faith as lessons in our lack of knowledge of the laws that define the Universe and God. Add into these the religious laws of Faith, Obedience, Consecration, Tithing, etc., and we can see that we have but the barest knowledge of the framework. But we have a framework!

    This forms my belief in the nature of God, and His ways of accomplishing His work and His glory.

  51. Monica September 29, 2010 at 6:43 am - Reply

    I really enjoyed listening to this. It is refreshing to hear the advocacy of science and the desire to reduce fear or apathy about it. Science is nothing to be feared and it is also not meant to suggest that life is no longer a mystery. It is what it is. Growing up in Utah, I think out of fear, I was taught a version of science that was not inquisitive. No one ever said things to get my attention like–to make me realize how fascinating science really is. We memorized a few things–evolution was literally never discussed–and that was that. As an adult I have discovered science through netflix documentaries and found it to be absolutely fascinating and nothing to be afraid of. Go science!

  52. Monica September 29, 2010 at 6:53 am - Reply

    Also, if you like the discussion of science and religion consider this series, I discovered it awhile ago and really enjoy it:

    The Gifford Lecture Series

  53. Michael Cagle December 2, 2010 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    I found Dr. Bailey’s responses to most questions as lacking in credibility, given his education level, and he seemed to be willfully ignorant of the current state of evidence with regard to JS, BoM, and BoA issues. He appears to have compartmentalized the Church into an area where he simply does not apply the same academic rigor as he does in his professional field. It sounds as if he is purposely avoiding having his own “dark night of the soul” experience.

  54. of the sea February 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm - Reply


    In this life, everything we do must be centered to some degree on absolute faith. For me, the more I strive to live like Christ, the more the “mysteries” are revealed. I find it tiresome to continue to pound, and pound, and pound away at questions which can never be resolved. I was left fatigued and empty after this discussion.
    Go back and listen to Richard Bushman’s answers to these issues, and then go out and help someone in need.

  55. Mormon Stories February 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    of the sea,

    If what you are doing works for you, then I fully support your staying the course — and even disengaging from things like Mormon Stories.

    These interviews and this project is largely directed towards those for whom staying the course isn’t working out so well.

    So I sincerely appreciate your admonition to “help someone in need” — and all I can answer is….that is exactly what I try to do every hour of every day. But thanks for the reminder.

  56. Nelson Chung October 14, 2011 at 2:36 am - Reply

    This interview was the bomb. Bailey echoes my sentiments:

    1. Stop fussing about the trivial stuff.
    2. Mormonism is more about practice than theological details.
    3.  What “conflict” between science and religion?

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