3/09/2005

What Needs Reconciliation?

When it comes to evolution, almost everybody in the church has an opinion of some sort. Some are for it, many againt it and other sit in an uncomfortable "undecided." The official position of the church regarding evolution is that they have on official position, a wise stance indeed. But this has not stopped people from saying a lot of things about it.

Some people have even gotten the false impression from some statements by general authorities that the church is decidedly against it, but such is not the case. These general authorities were against it, not the church. No church authority has claim revelation on the subject. Instead, they have claimed that revelation found in the scriptures are against it. Here is where this blog weighs in.

Evolutionary biology does seems to contradict scripture on many accounts. Let us take Elder Mc Conkie's article on the subject in his Mormon Doctrine where he lists off no less than 10 points of conflict:
  1. The theory leaves no room for God
  2. The theory leaves no room for the pre-existence
  3. The theory denies that the earth was created in a paradisiacal state
  4. The theory denies that all things were created in am immortal state
  5. The theory leaves no room for the fall of Adam
  6. Since there is no fall there is no need for an atonement
  7. The theory teaches that first man was lower than us, not higher like Adam was supposed to be
  8. The theory denies the age of the earth as taught by the scriptures
  9. The theory denies the resurrection and future destiny of the earth
  10. The theory denies all things spiritual in general
This is only a small portion of what could be mentioned. Perhaps the biggest problem posed by the evolution is that it seems to be, as Karl Marx said, "the death blow to teleology." There is no purpose, no end goal.

Given these problems, it is easy to see why so many people do not accept evolution as valid. But here is the problem, evolution is valid. Anybody who doubts this can go to their local university library and read the tens of thousands of books written by responsible scientists on the subject.

If you do not believe in evolution, fine. The purpose of this blog is not to debate the validity of evolution, for we can plainly see that it is true. The theories validity will here be taken for granted and we will proceed to devise, critique and hopefully in the end accept a fully satisfactory reconciliation between the two. We will assume three things: 1) the main points of biological evolution are largly true, 2) the gospel is true and 3) a reconcilation can be made between the two, for truth is not self contradictory.

We will now proceed to devise, critique and hopefully in the end accept a fully satisfactory reconciliation between the two.

Summary:
Many church authorities have spoken many thing regarding evolution, both for it and against it. Those who spoke against it had reasons for doing so. Addressing these reasons is a suitable starting point in our quest for reconciliation.

27 Comments:

Sorry about that above, my tags came out wrong.

...and other sit in an uncomfortable "undecided."Actually, I'm quite comfortable in my "undecided". There are very few things I've actually "decided" about, least of which is evolution. Not to say I don't think about it, but I know so very little that it would be ludicrous for me to come to any kind of conclusion. I look forward to reading what you guys have to say.

3/09/2005 10:04:00 AM  

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3/09/2005 10:07:00 AM  

Rusty,
I appreciate that. One thing that people just tend find simply unbearable is saying "I don't know." Most people I have found, would rather be wrong than admit ignorance. I consider this a virtue, the very virtue that Joseph possessed which which eventually lead to the restoration.

What I have noticed, however, is that in the evolution debates it is very difficult to really be content with "I don't know" on all accounts. It may be easy when one doesn't know much about it, but as one learns more about the issues at stake, it has been my experience that "I don't know" starts to become very unsatisfying.

3/09/2005 10:19:00 AM  

Wow, Jeffery. I didn't realize you were ready to hit the pavement.

That's funny, I was going through Mormon Doctrine last night using it as a template for objections to evolution. I see you beat me to it.

3/09/2005 10:41:00 AM  

Hi. I am an "unbeliever" who has been studying this issue for years. However, I will stick to doctrinal issues given the assumptions of your forum. I assume from previous experiences that LDS evolutionists believe that Adam's body descended from lower forms of life. If this is so, how did this body become "immortal" so that the transgression in the Garden brought death the the "species."

3/09/2005 11:23:00 AM  

Greg,
This is good question, which will be addressed later in a post of its own. To start answering question, or presuming to do so, at this point to devalidate the whole point of creating a separate blog, and would ruin all the fun as well. :) Please keep checking back to see how things are going.

3/09/2005 11:32:00 AM  

Hi. If you don't want to answer this now, can you direct me, perhaps, to someone else's explanation? I just read a convoluted (in my opinion) defense by Prof. Jeffrey (sic?) at the Eyring site, and he danced around this one as well. I believe I can boil down his essay to a couple of points: (1) Some Church leaders have stated that Adam was "born."

(2) The First Presidency statements about Adam's lineage do not specifically state that his "mother" was not an Ape- Descended "pre-Adamite."

For him, this leaves an "opening." I disagree personally, but will accept his position for the sake of discussion as to the doctrinal implications of such an interpretation.

By the way, in surveys at Eyring and other sites of published Church articles - I never see a referrence to a First Presidency Ensign message from Harold B. Lee during his administration of a statement "there were no pre-Adamits." Are you aware of th

3/09/2005 12:20:00 PM  

Great idea, guys, but it's a pretty narrow topic to try and post on regularly. I think you're going to run out of blog topics in about two weeks, although you can always import Panda's Thumb posts for filler material.

I like "Mormon Evolution" as a name, cutting out the "and" like in the URL. That kind of suggests a wider range of topics, including the evolution of Mormon doctrine in this but also in other areas.

3/09/2005 12:48:00 PM  

Greg,

I have addressed that topic, though briefly at my other blog www.mormondoctrine.blogspot.com

Try these links:

This one has to do with the fall:
http://mormondoctrine.blogspot.com/2005/03/fall.html

This one is just a speculative beginning to one theory:
http://mormondoctrine.blogspot.com/2005/02/evolution-attempt-at-reconciliation.html

Keep in mind both are very speculative and not too well analyzed so don't get your hopes too high or come down on me too hard.

3/09/2005 01:13:00 PM  

Dave,

Although things might change, our intention is that this will not be a fast moving blog. We want to explore issues in more depth than is done on most blogs. So hopefully we won't burn out quickly.

In the meantime, we'll keep our respective blogs going (Issues in Mormon Doctrine and LDS Science Review) and alert readers to new posts here.

3/09/2005 01:19:00 PM  

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3/09/2005 02:28:00 PM  

Thanks Jeff. I located, copied, and skimmed your links. I not a scientist. I have legal training. I feel fairly capable of ascertaining the validity of an argument. It looks like accepting evolution as a proven theory opens up an unbelievable can of worms doctrinally when dealing with the Garden of Eden story.

I have been following the "irreducible complexity" arguments against natural selection as an adequate mechanism. You seem to indicate this has been solved by some mathematical computer simulation?
Please send me to some links on this, if possible.

I have one scripture to offer in response to some of your brilliantly conceived ideas in trying to reconcile Genesis with your testimony regarding evolution (I am not being sarcastic) The final clause of Mosiah 4:9 -

3/09/2005 02:34:00 PM  

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3/09/2005 02:34:00 PM  

Greg,

Try this article here recently published in Discover magazine:

http://www.carlzimmer.com/articles/2005/articles_2005_Avida.html

3/09/2005 02:53:00 PM  

The irreducible complexity arguments haven't really been solved by computer although computer "evolution" is certainly intriguing. But I don't think the computer programs will convince an IDer.

Of course in my mind if you accept ID, you've accepted most of evolution anyway, so it seems you've already resolved most of the possible theological issues. So at that stage, why adopt ID? Why not accept full blown macro-evolution?

3/10/2005 04:05:00 PM  

What Clark says is true, that the article I posted will not convince IDer's, but it does show that random variation coupled with a struggle for survival can produce "irreducible complexity." The paper wasn't intended to convert IDer's, for the author believes that they really can't be converted. Instead it simply shows that their argument isn't all that valid. It was defensive more than offensive.

Perhaps a better site would be:

http://www.evowiki.org/index.php/Irreducible_Complexity

3/11/2005 09:08:00 AM  

Jeff and Clark - thanks for the computer link. I am an IDer who accepts - in my mind, proven Science, such as the age of the earth, the fossil record, etc. This site is not about the validity of evolution, but, from a philosophical perspective, you seem to be saying that "the production of man's physical body by the mechanisms of random mutation, time, and natural selection is the new Canon, the new Standard Work, against which we are to measure all Scripture, i.e., the old Canon." As a lawyer - somewhat professional in my skill at analyzing arguments, I still find the case for ID compelling, in spite of the "tens of thousands" of books accepting evolution as a fact. Further - unless someone here performs a miracle of reasoning, I do not see how the Fall of Man can ever be reconciled with the evolution of man's physical body.

As you know, most evolutionists in the world with scientific training appear also to be "philosophical materialists." As I read their responses to ID, I percieve a lot of emotionally charged flawed reasoning, (the kind you probably deal with all of the time from "Mormon Doctrine" advocates), because ID threatens their world view as much as evolution (as defined above) threatens a Latter Day Saint with a testimony of the historical validity of scriptural "stories" that are tied directly to the Atonement - principally, but not exclusively, the Garden of Eden.

I have also pondered why Latter Day Saints who accept evolution do not make an "ID" exception for man. My answer, so far, to myself, is simply that if ID is "allowed" into the equation for man, then, where does the ID stop? If for man, then why not for the rest of the creation? Then, the "random - natural selection" canon falls. While he was President of the Church, Pres. Kimball, in a Priesthood Meeting, said (and I realize that this is not enough to make the statement "Doctrine") that Celestial Beings, like Elohim, the father of our spirits, are capable of producing either "spiritual" or "temporal" offspring. Thus, I personally trace my physical lineage through Adam back to Him. (By the way, this simple idea would solve one of Prof. Jeffrie's (sic) big issues about the need for Adam to have been begotten of a female).

Finally, I am completely new to blogging, and, when trying to post here, I have been blocked several times by a message "can't find your blog." What causes that?

3/11/2005 12:14:00 PM  

Hi. I would like to change one word in my last post. I would like to substitute "physical" for the word "temporal" in the second to the last paragraph. Thanks for the sight- I hope it has a long and happy life.

3/11/2005 12:25:00 PM  

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3/11/2005 05:17:00 PM  

Greg,

I think the ideas you attribute to Pres. Kimball are classic 19th century doctrine, but it's very interesting to see them expressed in the late 20th century.

What's your source for these statements by Pres. Kimball? I'd love to get a copy.

3/12/2005 05:35:00 AM  

To Christian - "the Spinozist Mormon" thanks to Charlton Heston and "Giants of Philosophy" - an audio series from my Library - I get the the drift at least a bit. Here is the quote from Pres. Kimball "And when our spirits receive our bodies, and through our faithfulness we are worthy to be crowned, we will then receive authority to produce both spirit and body. But these keys we cannot receive in the flesh.” (JD, 15:137.) Again, the powers of heavens." (Ensign May 1977 p. 49)

The context should confirm that my interpretation in my previous post is a reasonable one.

3/13/2005 05:50:00 PM  

To Jeffrey - If this site is going to attempt a reconciliation - "The Church" and "Evolution" both being true - it might be helpful for "The Church's Truth" to be defined. Is it limited to Pres. Clark's twin pillars spelled out in a famous talk to Church Educators i.e., "Jesus Christ was born of a God and a woman, was crucified, and rose from the Dead," and, "Joseph Smith was visited by Elohim and Jehovah, two Godly beings in physical bodies, in a grove in New York, and and was eventually instructed, authorized, and empowered to restore the Kingdom of God to the earth ." (I am paraphrasing, of course).

Or, does the "Truth" being reconciled go beyond these basic "doctrines," and, if so, how far? Christian posted here about "19th Century Doctrines," inferring at least 2 "doctrinal" categories, 19th Century and post-19th Century. Thus, it might be a good idea also to attempt a definition of "doctrine."

3/13/2005 06:07:00 PM  

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3/13/2005 06:07:00 PM  

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3/13/2005 06:08:00 PM  

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3/13/2005 06:12:00 PM  

Greg, boy you seem more excited about this blog than we are. I appreciate your enthusiasm.

In this blog we are not going to be very dogmatic about which reconciliation is the best. Each person can review what we have said, offer suggestions or critiques like you have done and help contribute. In the end we might find one version of reconciliation which is head and shoulders above the others, then again we might not. In each reconcilation which is offered (we haven't even approached one yet and probably won't for at least a week to come) we will describe how well the model fits with the scientific evidence as well as Mormon doctrine.

Obviously the object is to retain as much of the traditional doctrine intact otherwise nobody in our audience will accept what we have to say. I personally don't think that we should throw away good solid reasoning and well established evidence only because of a verse or two which do not even claim to be revelation.

Clearly, I have a fairly liberal view of scripture (at least far more so than the average Mormon) and many will not be willing to make the dismissals I am. Thus, they may not be willing to accept the same theory of reconciliation as I am in the end.

But I do consider our traditional adherence to the standard works to be a bit overzealous at times. I believe it to be a sentiment inherited from protestant Christianity. While we often hear that revelations must be in harmony with the scriptures, I am far more comfortable with the 19th century statements to the effect that the scriptures must be in harmony with the revelations.

3/14/2005 08:12:00 AM  

Greg,

With regards to your problems with blogger, I don't know what to tell you. Lately I have been having problems as well so it is not just on your end. Next time you do have troubles and accidently post the same comment four times could you delete the extras? I can do it myself, but like I said I am having problems of my own to deal with as well. Thanks.

3/14/2005 08:14:00 AM  

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