Evolution, Mormonism, Rationality and Patience

Next in Elder Packers talk he comes to basically the moral of his talk for scientists. Don't make fun of religionists who don't agree with you. Always keep your scientific learning of a leash held by your testimony. You can study the evolution of animals (is Elder Packer acknowledging death before the fall!?), but don't make man just another animal. Man is special.
For generations, the clergy of the Christian churches (including ours) have been labeled as bumbling and naive because they rejected the theory of evolution and believed in a separate creation of man. Those who have only the Bible, have just enough in the Old and New Testaments about men as the children of God, about law and sin, to enforce their belief that man is accountable for his conduct, that accountability requires a special status, a separate creation.
Confronted by the sophisticated arguments of articulate scientists with impressive visual evidence to support the theory of organic evolution, the clergy could not quote scriptures or testify of inner feelings. This meant little or nothing to the scientist.
Do not despise those who over the years defended these doctrines in spite of intellectual mocking. Do not belittle their efforts. However foolish they may have appeared to some, there is substance to the position they have defended. I say, God bless them!
You should not be hesitant to pursue knowledge; indeed you should excel in fields of scientific inquiry. I repeat, if you respect the truths of moral and spiritual law, you are in little danger for your soul in any field of study. You may safely study the adaptation of living things to the environment...
Do not mortgage your testimony for an unproved theory on how man was created. Have faith in the revelations; leave man in the place the revelations have put him!

What has always ammused many defendants of evolution, especially ones who are strict naturalists and would like to see others converted to their ways, is how religious people have evolution backwards when it comes to evidence. Some people are constantly clamoring about how there are still argument between qualified scientists as to evolutions status. This is true but not in the way these relgious people want.

All of the things that religious people don't like about evolution are the very thing which scientists are most sure about. Biologists do debate over the paths of evolution or even the mechanisms of evolution, but nobody and I mean nobody debates the fact of evolution without some serious bias coming into play. This is what makes the ID movement so ammusing. They are not attacking evolution as fact at all, but are instead trying desperately to attack the mechanisms mostly, and the paths but to a lesser extent, in the hope that this will eventually over throw evolution as fact. Prediction which I am willing to bet pretty much anything on: They will not succeed in attaining this ultimate goal.

This is what makes Elder Packers advise so confusing. Religious people aren't the only ones interested in man more than any other organism. Look through any universities course catelog to see evidence of this. If the evolution of any species has been studied it is that of homo sapiens. To deny that we really didn't descned from hominids in some form or another is simply not a scientific option, though I suppose one can believe whatever they want religiously. If other words, right where Elder Packer wants a hole in the evidence to exist is exactly where we have found the most. While we still don't know everything about the exact paths and mechanisms which led to the features which separate us from other animals, the fact that we did descend from 'lower' lifeforms (as the religionists, not the evolutionists, insist on calling them) is simply undisputable. Another very safe prediction: These relatively small and insignificant gaps will continue to be filled in without any change in the 'fact' of our evolution.

Now what with all these predictions? Is this just arrogance on my part? Maybe, but it is intended to make a point. Mormonism, as Elder Packer knows, embraces science. We study astronomy and physics without having to 'mortgage' our testmonies, why should evolution be any different? (Clark Goble has expressed his profound curiosity with our focus on evolution as a challenge to the faith, when astronomy is at least as challenging as evolution.)

Though there are some evolutionists (Richard Dawkins comes to mind) that seem dissatisfied with sticking to the arguemnt to complexity, rather than inappropriately weighing in on the argument to design, relgionists tend to do this far more often. It is they, with authoritative statements that the two cannot be mixed, that have encouraged such 'betting' in evolution. They have mortgaged their testimonies on the incorrectness of the theory, and let me assure you, they are betting against far greater odds than the evolutionists are. But the fact is no bet is necessary in evolution if things are considered with patience and rationality.

It was Huxley's impatience which led him to insist on evolution as a religion of sorts with the tenets of Social Darwinism being it's new commandments. This was later shown to be false, by more experienced and rational thought. While Evolution does have something to say regarding the nature of God and His creation, including man, to automatically jump to the conclusion that God can no longer be believed in is getting a bit impatient again. Calmer reflection shows that this is not the case either.

It is impatience which makes people today claim that the evolution of mankind is an impossibility since we are conscious with a conscience. This too has been shown to be false upon patient, rational thought. So is this what we are to think about the religious people who deny Darwinism, that they are impatient and irrational? I would say yes with a couple of big qualifications.

I would call them irrational when they make authoritative statements about things they know very little, if anything about. This isn't meant as an insult, for under this definition almost all of us are irrational. There are, however, differing degrees of rationality. To tell scientists that all the evidence for evolution, both of man and of other animals, is misleading is going to take more than a smile and the bearing of testimony.

I would call them impatient for similar reasons as well. They are impatient when they are willing to make authoritate statements on subjects which they have not taken the time to investigate. Take the claim that humans are moral therefore we are not animals. This is completely unfounded and shows a remarkable misunderstanding of evolution. This is not meant as an insult either, since nobody really knows enough about every subject they talk about (take politics as a clear example).

What I am really advocating is a sense of humility, both the scientists and relgionists. Dawkins is clearly impatient and irrational when it comes to theology, but Ruse is actually pretty good. Most creationism activists are clearly impatient and irrational when it comes to science in general, but some forms of creationists (they are almost never activists) are pretty good. We see some of them in the bloggernacle as a matter of fact.

When I say that irrationality and impatience are not insults I mean it. It is precisley because these are the reasons for their incorrect ideas that we should be kind to them. They simply don't know what they are doing and being snobby or condescending toward them will not help your cause or theirs, regardless of which group we side with. Our insults and accusations are only signs of our own impatience and irrationality. Evolutionists are seeking after the truth as are the Creationists. Mormons believe that a union not only can, but eventually will be made between theology and science and only more patience and rationality will bring this about.

Summary: Elder Packer calls for less hostility between evolutionists and creationists. This is a praiseworthy goal which can only be attained through more patience and rationality on both sides of the divide. Notions of mortgaging one's testimony on one position or another are sure signs that more patience and rationality are indeed needed.


I think this is the crux of all points upon which educated and informed persons form entrenched opinions. If we could all exercise patience and rationality and humility, recognizing that none of us knows everything and making an effort to not take offense or make another "an offender for a word," we might actually be able to come to a consensus regarding conflicting ideas. 

Posted by Mike Wilson

5/23/2005 07:13:00 AM  



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