Does Evolution Preclude a Preexistence? pt. 2
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.
- 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.
- 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.
We can argue that God knew who would do what and when but this raises other issues.
- 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.
- 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.
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.