Does Evolution Preclude a Preexistence? pt. 2

Some might be surprised that Darwin actually addressed, though very briefly, the subject of the preexistence:
Commenting on the claim that Plato thought our "necessary ideas" arise from the pre-existence of the soul, Darwin wrote: "read monkeys for preexistence."
Here, he is addressing the things that we just seem to know without us having learned it anywhere. This, as a mater of fact, was one argument a friend of mine put forth against evolution. "When the kangaroo is born, it knows where to crawl to find its mother's pouch and nipple. It must be God which is doing it." Needless to say, I didn't buy it.

My friend's argument is based on his believe that when we are born, aside for inspiration from God, our mind is a blank slate. This assumption is false. (See Steve Pinker's book Blank Slate for details.) Sometimes I have wondered if this same concept is one of the big reasons why Mormon's believe in a preexistence or at least in many of the details we attribute to it.

Let us first address the modern-day version of the preexistence story as described in the Proclamation on the family.
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a
beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a
divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

What we learn about this version of the preexistence is that (1) we were born "spiritually" (whatever that might mean), (2) we had gender there, judging by the context of the statement it is intended to mean the same gender which each of us has here. And that's about it.

There are not too many problems here (aside from humans being born while other creatures created) unless we try to extend our beliefs into meeting our spouses there or knowing which family we would be in or any other prediction as to what would happen to any given individual in this earth life. This is where evolution weighs in with its utter randomness as well as its reliance on historical contingency.

This cannot be overstated.

  1. Since our physical appearance is contingent upon genetics, nutrition as well as what has happened in our lives (losing an arm and such), our premortal selves could not have born too much of a resemblance to our current physical selves.
  2. Each organism's physical existence is based on their genetic sequence, which is random, as well as our parent's ability to survive and reproduce (historical contingency). Each individual could not have been organized according to family with too much detail. This completely throws out the romantic idea of meeting ones spouse in the preexistence.
These points are not only true for humans, but for everyliving thing as Elder Mc Conkie asserts.

We can argue that God knew who would do what and when but this raises other issues.
  1. The Mormon God is in time, just like us. He does not know the future as He does the past, He predicts the future though with much greater precision than we are familiar with. There is no guarantee that He could physically know about each and every living organism which would later appear on earth.
  2. Even if we did believe that He knew all of that, and it is a big if, knowing the future and doing something before hand which will exactly match it are two very different things. We have already seen that the God that uses evolution is limited by natural law. To assume that God can "spiritually" create all of the exact life forms which would latter arise on this earth physically through random variation and contigency is a big stretch. If God is powerful enough to do that then He should have been able to avoid all of the prodigious waste in this planets past.
This brings up the question of how was spirit life created? Was it through birth? That is certainly what the proclamation seems to be saying for us, but what was it through birth for other animals? If so birth from who? Bear-God? Jelly fish-God? Virus-God? Regardless of the answer, evolution says there is no line between animals and man. Is there a line between spiritual animals and spirit men?

We will address these questions in the next post.

Each person's spiritual individuality comes under attack when applied to evolution. Issues of randomness, historical contingency and well as free will make many of our personal characteristics seem anachronistic in the preexistence. It is not at all clear that a finite God would have the foreknowledge or power to precreate what would later play out in evolution.


Personally, I don't like to put limitations on what God's abilities are. But I think we can ask some legitimate (though probably unanswerable) questions.

How much flexability in the spirit-body relationship is there? Is there anything in scripture that requires that every individual spirit lifeform was created before the earth began, or is it possible that spirits that belong to this earth are still being generated (probably not be applicable to humans)?

3/19/2005 01:28:00 PM  

Basically my arguement is this:
God is in time, therefore He has a past, present and future. This measns that He does not experientially know the future, only the past and present. He can, however, predict the future and in this sense know it.

Evolution is random, meaning unpredictable by anyone. If God could accuratly know what mutations would take place, then they would not be random. This, however, goes against evolution as taught today.

I have adopted a particular version of the Mormon doctrine of God which is particularly finite. Perhaps it would be good for somebody to approach the subject from a more absolutistic, though in my opinion less Mormon, approach.

3/19/2005 11:29:00 PM  

I'm sorry I can't produce a reference, as I'm at work and don't have my scripture searcher. But if, as the scripture says, "time is measured only to man" then what is your justification for saying that "God is in time"?

3/24/2005 08:39:00 PM  


Here is what the encyclopedia of Mormonism says under the heading "time and eternity":

“Whatever the subtleties of the ultimate nature of time, or of scientific postulates on the relativity of time, and of the modes of measuring time, several assurances are prominent features of LDS understanding:


Time is a segment of eternity… Time itself had no beginning and will have no end.

Time unfolds in one direction… Individual creative freedom modifies the outcomes.

Eternity, as continuing time, is tensed: past, present, and future. God himself… is… related to time. At his own supreme and unsurpassable level, he has a past, a present, and a future. Neither he nor his creations can return to or change the past.

In a cosmic sense, the reckoning of time is according to the rotations of the spheres… There is some connection between time and space, for example, “one day to a cubit” (see Book of Abraham: Facsimiles From the Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure 1)...

The thesis that God is beyond time has sometimes been introduced to account for God’s omniscience or foreknowledge… For Latter-day Saints, as for the Bible, God’s omniscience is “in time.” God anticipates the future. It is “present” before him, but it is still future. When the future occurs, it will occur for the first time to him as to his creatures.”

3/24/2005 09:01:00 PM  

Thanks for that reference Jerry. On the subject of time, is anyone aware of any theories on the relativity of the time scale as it applies to earth's history? It's something that has occurred to me, so I'm sure someone smarter has thought of it too (and given reasons why the idea is bonkers).

I'll explain. We say the earth is millions of years old. If for the initial portion of it's 'temporal' existence (ie, post-paradise, post-fall) the earth occupied a different position in space, or juxtaposition with other massive bodies, etc and time therefore moved relatively faster (or slower), could that account for the apparent age of the earth, and yet allow for the Biblical passage of time to be realistic? Put another way, could carbon atoms still decay to the extent that we observe, and yet have done this in "6000 years" if the time axis was affected by space/gravity/etc in some way?

I know it's a stretch, and doesn't touch on the similarities between humans and chimps. I'm no expert on relativity, and I hope I don't sound too ignorant, but tell me if this is a dead horse.

3/25/2005 12:44:00 AM  

In the book "The Science of God" by Schroeder (sorry I forget his first name) he postulates such a theory. There are a lot of problems.

1) This explains away the bible, not evolution.

2) The people who wrote the Bible didn't know about relativity, it is clear that they really meant 6,000 years.

3) It is extremely ad hoc and contrived.

3/25/2005 09:35:00 AM  



<< Home