Evolution in Paradise
Continuing down Mc Conkie's list of ten objections to evolution, we now come to #3 (and people thought we would run out of stuff to talk about after a week or two;).) the theory denies that the earth was created in a paradisiacal state.
Here is where Mc Conkie really digs in his heals, even the ID movement isn't willing to assert the things he does. The evidence against the earth being in any kind of state which resembles what he describes simply isn't there. The land hasn't all been in one place for a really... long... time. And at no time can we consider the entire earth to have been an eden of any sort.
This earth, when first it rolled forth from the Creator's hand, was in a paradisiacal or terrestrial state. This condition, which does not now prevail, will be restored when the earth is "renewed" (made new again) and receives its paradisiacal glory.
In its primeval, edenic state all of the earth's surface was in one place; thorns, thistles, briars and noxious weeds had not yet begun to grow on it; rather, all plant and animal life was desirable, congenial, and designed to provide for man (earth's crowning inhabitant) a fruitful, peaceful garden in which to dwell. It was not a condition attained by progressive, creative evolvement from less propitious situations; it was creation in its glory, beauty, and perfection; hence, the Lord God pronounced it "very good." The fall to present conditions was to come later.
The issues surrounding the earth's "plan of salvation" will be dealt with in my next post. Here I will limit myself to what seems to be his main problem; namely that instead of the earth being created good and afterwords we defiled it, evolution asserts that the earth was created not so good and we are still trying to improve upon it. Indeed, it would probably be best to describe the earth's creation as not yet completed.
Briefly, I must mention the land being in one place. This comes from a verse in Genesis which says in the days of Peleg the earth (land) was divided. This could mean any number of things. In D&C it says the earth will return to being one as it was in the days of Peleg. Again, it can mean any number of things, and as far as I know, no more revelation has been given on the subject. Given what we know about plate techtonics and the like, I would suggest that Mc Conkie's view, which He inherited from his Father in law, Joseph Fielding Smith, is simply incorrect. I would interpret the separation of the land as referring to political or social division of some kind.
But back to what I take to be his main objection which cuts to the very heart of evolution, whether biological or algorithmic. Darwin suggested, and this is what made his idea so revolutionary and dangerous at once, that complexity, design and diversity need not come from above. Before him, we had a neat pyramid around which essentially all religious sects interpreted their understanding of the world.
I answer, so what? What's wrong with that? After all, that chandelier is already quite different in Mormon understanding. For one, there is no such thing as "nothing." Nothing does not exist, by very definition. God himself cannot create anything, even chaos, out of nothing. Second, intelligence, we are told, is eternal, as eternal as God. Where exactly does this fit in? If I had to put it anywhere it would be Mind, but I am not comfortable restricting it so much.
From there, we can see other problems not unique to Mormonism. What, exactly is the difference between chaos and order? Order and Design? These have vague boundaries at best. In other words, holding too strongly to the chandelier is a bit like building our house upon the sand, don't expect it to stand up to the rains.
The desire stems from two problems: 1) reading the scriptures too literally and 2) trying to use the account of the garden of eden as a form of theodicy. With regards to (1), all prophets have taught that at least some of the garden story is allegory. The fact that we use it is our ceremonies should be an obvious tip off that we should be more concerned with symbolism that history.
As to (2), which I think is what Elder Mc Conkie issue is all about, the attempt to show that evil derives from man is misplaced in the Mormon context. Evil always has existed, just as agents have always existed. We don't have to believe that God created the world as a perfect paradise and then man messed it up. We believe that God is limited enough by self-existed intelligences, elements and laws to not require it all being Adam's fault.
We cannot accept that the entire earth was recently (within the past 10,000 years) in a paradisiacal state and accept evolution. Some general authorities have suggested that the paradise was limited to the local garden of eden. Others have suggested that it was in a terrestrial state and we shouldn't look for evidence here in this telestial world. There are other suggestions which I will cover later, but that the world earth was a paradise that Adam recently cursed is simply untenable.
Summary: Darwin not only showed that design and minds can be derived from chaos and order, but that it did. This is in direct conflict with the notion that the entire earth was once a paradise. While other imterpretations are open and should be investigated, that the entire earth was once a death-less paradise must be rejected if we are to accept evolution.