Are Mormons Creationists? pt. 2

So, are, we as Mormons, creationists? Should we be? Or should we simply throw these titles in the trash as Packer seems to be saying? While I think that we should definitely be careful in our use of labels, we simply should not, and probably cannot, throw them out all together. Biologists refuse throw down a line between when homonids were Cro-magnon and when they were Homo Sapiens, but this doesn't mean that we don't speak of any differences between the two. Labels are very helpful and are necessary if we want to investigate any issue very seriously.

We should not simply abandon the labels we have set up in the many debates which exist. For example, where is the line between a Democrat and a Republican? A Determinist and a Libertarian? A Kantian and a Utilitarian? A 'Punctuated Equilibri-ist' and a Gradualist? An Atheist and a Theist? A Creationist and a Darwinian? There are definetly differences between the two, but to throw each individual into one group or the other would be absurd.

Consider some Mormon parellels. Where is the difference between Heaven and Hell? Activity in the Church and Inactivity? Temple worthy and unworthy? A generous fast offering and a stingy one? God and Man? Jesus and Man? Actual accountability and being too young? Chastity and Adultery? There are definitely differences which more than justify the use of these titles, but to insist on drawing lines is not very Mormon. We need these labels. Without them the gospel would simply make no sense.

So now we must define some terms, as we really must if we are to use words in our posts at all, to help us better understand the title of the post. The creationwiki says:

A Creationist is a person holding to the belief that the universe is the product or creation of a supernatural being. Creation science is philosophically-based on this belief. Within the creationist community there are those who belief the earth is young, others who hold more closely to an old earth view, and still others are known as intelligent design theorists.

The Evowiki gives rather uncontroversial definitions of these subgroups as well as giving a couple more:

Young Earth creationism (YEC) - Believe in a literal Genesis account of creation and that the earth & universe is ~6,000-10,000 years old. Usually accept microevolution but not macroevolution, and do not accept that humans are related to other animals.

Old Earth creationism (OEC) - Do not believe in a literal genesis, usually accept micro-evolution but not macro-evolution, and may not accept that humans are related to other animals. Accept mainstream estimates of the age of the Earth (~4.6by).

Intelligent design (ID or IDC) - Usually accept micro-evolution, but believe that a "Designer" (God) is neccesary to explain life's complexity. Usually accept mainstream estimates of the age of the earth. This group like to pretend that they aren't creationists, despite sharing many of the same techniques as YECs. Many other types of creationist support the ID movement because of its attacks on evolution.

Evolutionary creationism - Accept all mainstream science, but believe that God guides nature and evolution. Usually distance themselves from other creationists.

Theistic evolution - Usually accept all mainstream science, but believe that God is responsible for creating the universe and laws of science, and thus creating evolution. Usually distance themselves from other creationists.

Now different readers will probably identify more with some definitions than with others. This is only to be expected given the variety of views regarding creation which are tolerated within Mormon doctrine. Some versions, however, fit better than others. The same can be said as to how well each versions squares with science. It would helpful if we breifly reviewed each version as it related to both Mormonism and Science, saving the word 'creationist' for last.

Young Earth Creationism. This version goes directly against almost every branch of science known to man. While some of the more legendary accounts found within Mormonism seem to push for a Young Earth (as we have already seen), strictyly speaking Mormonism leaves the door wide open for an older earth. This combined with the overwhelming scientific evidence against it has led most Mormons away from this version.

Old Earth Creationism. By far the most thoroughly studies species on the planet with regards to their origins is Homo Spaiens, and such studies have shown that if anyspecies derived from another, it is ours. Most Mormons tend to embrace the conclusions of OEC while rejecting the scientific evidence against it.

Intelligent Design. The only difference that I can tell between IDC and OEC is that they have used the word "Designer" instead of "God". One topic which IDCs tend to avoid is human evolution which simply has too much evidence backing it to be effectively criticized. Mormons, like most other Christians, tend to embrace this movement only as it supports another version. While this versions uses science (often very poorly) in its claims, it is not itself science. There is no scientific evidence for a designer.

Theistic Evolution. This version goes well with science but only by stating that God created science. This is a total faith claim for which there is no scientific evidence, nor can there be. Unfortunately, this version is not compatible with the Mormon doctrines of God and Creation. God did not "create" the universe and its laws. He organized it in accordance with the self-existent laws.

Evolutionary Creationism. This version is compatible with science, though it finds no support from it. It is a faith claim for which no evidence exists, though some could, in fact, arise. This version, as opposed to that of TE, is compatible with the Mormon doctrines of God and creation.

Creationism. While it can be compatible with science, it has yet to find any supporting evidence which would make it an actual science itself. Indeed, some forms are almost the very antithesis of science. Mormon doctrine explicitly declares the world to be God's creation thus including us in the definition. There is a difference, however, between the creationist (not a bad thing) and the creation-scientist (a not so good thing). Our doctrine probably should exclude us from the latter while embracing the former.

What does this mean for Mormons? There are a few conclusions which I personally take from this:

1) We should realize the difference between scientific claims and faith claims. While our faith claims can become scientific claims later on, they are not such as of now. We should stop trying to think that our faith claims are anything other than religious doctrine for the time being.

2) In accordance with Mormon tradition, and what I take to be Mormon doctrine, we should stop holding evolution at arms length. It is as well established as any science could ever hope to be. We should stop holding our breath waiting for the long awaited evidence which will finally overthrow the "Darwinian Dogma", it's not coming. If changes in our thinking should be made, let's do it before we start looking really rediculous as a people.

3) We should not merely trying to account for evolution in our thinking, but actually use it. There is a difference between accepting evolution and embracing it. We should stop seeking for ways in which God created us in spite of evolution and start looking for ways in which He created us using evolution to His advantage. My next post will offer an example of what I mean by this.

Summary: Creationism is a vague label which covers a lot of ground and is often used as a synonym for creation science. While Mormons should accept the former, we should, in all honesty, reject the later. Our doctrine of God and creation is most similar to Evolutionary Creationism, a form of Creationism which tends to distance itself from other Creationists.




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