Evolution into the Image of God

Elder Packer now starts to approach a part of the creation/evolution debate which not much of worth has really been said. He insists, as all Mormons must, that we humans were an intended outcome of evolution. Creation went according to plan, the plan described in the scriptures. How exactly it happened, he confesses he doesn't know, but there are some things which he does feel that he knows:
When man was created, there was no need for trial and error, for chance. Think! Pray! Open your minds to the majestic vision of the universe unfolded in the revelations! How the earth was made, I do not know! I do know that even that will be revealed...
The spirit of God "moved upon the face of the water." The water was divided.
Light was divided from darkness. In turn came grass and herbs, and trees yielding seed and fruit. Then came fishes and fowl, beasts and creeping things. All things which were created, each in its separate kind, were commanded to multiply each after its own kind. How long this took, I do not know. How it was done, I do not know. This I do know: After it was declared to be good, it was not yet complete, for man was not yet found upon the earth. Man was created separately and last.
However brief the information on the creation of man, one point is emphasized by repetition above all others--man, his physical body, was created, in the very beginning when it was created, in the image of God.

First of all, that the evolutionary creationists (such as myself) need not claim that God needed trial and error or chance to create the world. However, the trial and error and chance which is inherent in evolution derives from the laws of the universe of which God had no control, and within whose bounds God Himself works. Therefore, God doesn't really use trial and error and chance as much as He works with what He has available to Him, which included trial and error along with chance.

There is trial and error along with chance in evolution as seen from the completely impersonal view of survival of the fittest. This is not the view of any person, it is simply the paradigm in which Darwinism is framed so that we can understand it. Whatever animal happens to survive and reproduce is whichever animals happens to do so based on a huge amount of historical contingencies and the animals particular ability and chance to overcome these contingencies. Could God see these contingencies ahead of time and plan accordingly? Evolution has absolutely nothing to say on that matter. There is no evidence for or against such a proposition so science basically ignores it according to the Ockham's razor.

What can be said about God's planning according to these contingencies is that it would have been really, really difficult involving an astronomical amount of data. Take for instance the idea that God directs the mutations, 'aiming' for human beings. This is far too simplistic. There needs to be a niche which such mutations will fill. If the mutation provides no benefit, it will be lost, sending God back to the drawing board so to speak. If there is a need for it, however, then evolution will tend to accomplish the needed mutation on its own in one way or another.

There, however, is the stickler: one way or another. Is any way good enough? Does it matter what kind of eye we have? What about what kind of skin? How much body hair we have? Are we more concerned about the phenotype or the genotype? These are very important questions when we talk about our being created in God's image. Mormon's talk about our being created in His physical image, and this due mostly to our beliefs regarding God's nature. Other Christians don't have this issue at all, since God doesn't have a physical image. Any kind of intelligent, rational being is good enough to be created in God's image according to them. But not us.

How strict can we be about these things? If God has four fingers instead of five, are we still created in His image? What if he has slightly more or less body hair? What if he has a larger or small brain cavity? What if he has a greenish hue to his skin? What if he is 4 feet tall or 8 feet tall? What if his eyes are more like some of the others forms of eyes which have independantly evolved in the history of this planet, or like something entirely different, though appearing and acting the same.

Clearly we must care about the phenotype, this much is obvious. But how close in God's genotype? The closer we make it, the more he had to control the evolutionary processes, and clearly God didn't control TOO much (I am uncomfortable with the idea that God intervened a lot more in the course of history in the past when there were no humans than He does now when there are). This isn't to say that His controling our genotype is too much to be believed, but it is to say that it's getting there.

There are some quasi-doctrines that seem to commit us to holding out for a very similar genotype. These include the following: 1) God had physical relations with Mary so as to create Jesus, and 2) Adam, who was a son of God, had very similar genes. The second one can easily be overcome by Adam gaining a certain genotype as part of his fall, and I suppose the second one can be overcome through miracles of sorts. We should also keep in mind that the idea that God actually had physical relations with Mary is starting to really fall out of favor since there are so many other ways it could have been done. How specific did God have to be in directing our genotype? I don't know, but we do have some wiggle room in my opinion.

The other issue which is raised by all of this talk of being in God's image is that of essentialism, yet again. When did God declare that man had finally evolved into His image? Naturally, we want to say at the time of Adam, but we must remember that there was no essential difference, certainly no physical difference, between Adam and his contemporaries. I would suggest that reconsider the idea that God declared at a specific point that from 'here' on man is in My image, but before was not. Instead we should work with degrees. (Adam as God might provide some interesting insights in this area.)

Summary: God did not use 'trial and error or chance' as much as He worked in accordance with them. He could have guided evolution somehow, but this is a total faith claim which science has nothing to say for or against. While we must hold out for God directing evolution toward His phenotype, it is unclear if He had to direct it toward His exact genotype. As Elder Packer says, more light and revelation is needed.


I touched on some of these issues on my blog .

Here's a thought--see what you can do with it--maybe there is an additional component to natural selection. Our understanding of life, at least more "advanced" life, is that it requires the interaction of spirit with the physical body. I wonder if sometimes God prevented the joining of spirit and body in order to force a direction in development. Certainly not a scientific proposition, but something to think about. 

Posted by Jared

5/20/2005 05:52:00 PM  

I've been sitting on a post entitled "what is an intelligence?" which might shed some light in this area. WIthout a suitable model of what such a thing is, it gets really difficult to say anything meaningful about it, or what it could do to help evolution. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

5/21/2005 09:17:00 AM  

Along with the Fall and the sense in which we are spirit children of God (with implications for the nature of exaltation), creation in God's image is another serious sticking point when it comes to what has been traditionally thought of as the distinctive heart of Mormonism. To be weighed against the historical contingency of evolution are the meaning of God is a "man" in yonder heavens, the evidence of God's nature as revealed in the First Vision, and a visceral reaction against the idea that Heavenly Father might look more like a Klingon or a Wookie (Chewbacca) than Homo Sapiens (again, the PR disaster of alien connotations). 

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

5/21/2005 10:47:00 AM  



<< Home