Selected Teachings on
The Limitations of the Scientific Method

Richard G. Scott (Quorum of the Twelve)

The first [way to find truth is] the scientific method. It can require analysis of data to confirm a theory or, alternatively, establish a valid principle through experimentation. The scientific method is a valuable way of seeking truth. However, it has two limitations. First, we never can be sure we have identified absolute truth, though we often draw nearer and nearer to it. Second, sometimes, no matter how earnestly we apply the method, we can get the wrong answer. ("Truth: the Foundation of Correct Decisions," Ensign, November 2007, p.90-92)

Dallin H. Oaks (Quorum of the Twelve)

Science uses experiments and observation, such as watching, measuring, and analyzing, as it attempts to gain increased understanding....

In the exciting efforts of scientists, old explanations are shown to be less accurate than newer ones. Old and respected explanations of relationships are found to be wrong or of limited applicability. The dynamic process continues, and, as we say, knowledge expands. But the knowledge obtained by the scientific method is forever tentative. (The Lord's Way, p.77, 93)

Neal A. Maxwell (Quorum of the Twelve)

The scientific method is so useful to mankind in many ways. It focuses on the available data concerning the how and what of things, but it leaves to the individual the answering of the why questions. In any case, there is assumed to be a paucity of data concerning these questions, and a further assumption is that stereotyped religion is not a significant source of such data. Hence other data are looked to. Stephen W. Hawking writes: "Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why. On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories." (Wonderful Flood of Light, p.86)

Howard W. Hunter (Quorum of the Twelve)

There are many things which are invisible to our senses and not subject to positive proof. The scientific approach to proof is by experimentation in the laboratory. The result of this scientific method has a greater influence upon our thinking than we realize, because it produces positive proof resulting in knowledge. We cannot overlook the great good this approach by science has upon the lives of persons, but how about those things which lie outside of the realm of positive, tangible proof? (Conference Report, October 1962, p.23)