Evolution of the Light of Christ

One of the reasons that I felt we should consider Elder Packer's talk is that it deals with human evolution to a degree which is absent in Mc Conkie's treatment. While in the last post we saw Elder Packer heading in the direction of distinguishing man from animal, the next section of his talk is where any facades are dropped. He flatly states that we are not just animals and gives reasons why. This issue must certainly be dealt with if we are to consider evolution acceptable.
We are separated from animals by more than upright posture, an articulated thumb, and the size of our brain. We are separated by a conscience.
Conscience is a most interesting word [which] means to know within one's self. It is "a consciousness of right or wrong..."
Our conscience might be described as a memory, a residual awareness of who we really are, of our true identity. It is perhaps the best example of the fact that we can become aware of truths because we feel them rather than by knowing them because we perceive them through the physical senses. The scriptures teach us [that it is] the light of Christ...
Whether this inner light, this knowledge of right and wrong is called Light of Christ, moral sense, or conscience, it moderates our actions unless, that is, we subdue it or destroy it. It is an ingredient which has no counterpart in animals. Conscience affirms the reality of the Spirit of Christ in man with sensitivities that animals do not possess. It affirms, as well, the reality of good and evil, justice, mercy, honor, courage, faith, love, virtue, and their necessary opposites hatred, greed, brutality, and jealousy. Such values, though intangible, respond to laws, with cause and effect relationships as certain as any resulting from physical law.

This is exactly what I would expect those who have issues with my Essentialism and Adam post. We have the light of Christ, animals do not. But let's push and tweek this a bit to see what we have. Is the light of Christ all or nothing? No, for as Elder Packer himself says in the talk, the light can be "smuthered" if you will. Does God have the light of Christ to the same extent that we do? I doubt it, surely He has it to a degree much higher than we do. Thus as we (hopefully) progress to become Gods ourselves, we too will need to gain more and more of this light in our lives. Thus we can see that there is a continuum which reaches all the way up to God having the most light, all the way down to..... what? Well, I imagine it can reach down to nothing, but as long as the continuum reaches down to zero then gradualism, and hence essentialism in not disturbed.

Do jelly fish have the light of Christ? Well, we do believe that the light of Christ penetrates everything, so yes a jelly fish is subject to the light of Christ in some way. But does the jelly fish have a conscience? Of course not, no evolutionist would ever claim this. But they would and do claim that hominids did have a sense of conscience. Let us explore this a bit.

Man's brain size has been growing for hundreds of thousands of years now. Our large brains require large heads which require a very early birth. Thus humans are not able to fend for themselves until years have past. For this reason mothers had to develop a certain amount of "care" or "altruism" toward their young. This lead to a modified role for the males as well. This is what evolutionists call kin selection and can be observed in numerous species.

Taking things a little further is the idea of reciprocal altruism where individuals are willing to "help" others within their species while expecting "help" in return unlike kin selection which requires nothing in return since it is based out of genetic preservation. For this reason kin selection is limited to family members, while reciprocal altruism can be extended to anybody. This too has been happening for many thousands of years now and was required by those living in bands and eventually tribal units which began to appear about 40,000 years ago. Reciprocal altruism can also be observed in other species, especially chimpanzees.

Consider the following account:
On a hot day two mothers, Jimmie and Tepel, are sitting in the shadow of an oak tree while their two children play in the sand at their feet (playfaces, wrestling, throwing sand). Between the two mothers the oldest female, Mama, lies asleep. Suddenly the children start screaming, hitting, and pulling each other's hair. Jimmie admonishes them with a soft, threatening grunt and Tepel anxiously shifts her position. The children go on quarrelling and eventually Tepel wakes Mama by poking her in the ribs several times. As Mama gets up Tepel points to the two quarrelling children. As soon as Mama takes one threatening step forward, waves her arm in the air and barks loudly the children stop quarrelling. Mama then lies down again and continues her siesta. - de Waal

It is not difficult to imagine kin selection arising, nor is it difficult to imagine kin selection developing into reciprocal altruism if the species in intelligent enough. All of this is genetic, causing people to feel "prompted" to help others in a way similar to how we fell "prompted" to have sex when the mood strikes us right.

Let's be clear. No evolutionist claims that the only difference between us and other animals is merely our upright posture, an articulated thumb, and the size of our brain. These things merely facilitated the evolution of the main difference, our kind of brain. Our brains are bigger, but size is not all that counts. What really matters is the plasticity and ability to redesign itself. Chimpanzees have this to a certain extent as well but to a far lesser degree.
The extra faculty which makes chimpanzee behavior so flexible is their ability to combine separate bits of knowledge. Because their knowledge is not limited to familiar situations, they do not have to feel their way blindly when confronted with new problems. Chimpanzees use all their past experience in ever-changing practical applications.
The terms we use to describe the ability to make new combinations of past experience in order to achieve a goal are 'reason' and 'thought'. No other words exist. The result is considered, rational behavior. In their social application or reason and thought, chimpanzees are truly remarkable. Technically their inventiveness is clearly inferior to that of the human beings, but socially I would hesitate to make such a claim. - de Waal

The other adaptation which we have as humans is language. While it is not absolutely clear how it arose, it is clear that language has been around for tens of thousands of years. This too we can observe in other species though to a drastically lesser degree. Consider, for instance, koko the Gorilla who has learned a basic form of sign language and is thus able to communicate fairly well with her trainers.

Elder Packer wants to suggest one more difference, namely we can feel the spirit and "feel truths" while others cannot. First of all, other species can "feel" truths as we just saw. As to feeling the spirit, there is no scientific evidence for this in humans, so why should we expect it in other species or in the fossil record? This is not to say that it does not or did not exist as my post Evolution of Spirituality plainly states. It is to say, however, that if we can barely recogize another human feeling the spirit, we should not be so anxious to judge another species' ability to do such.

If our ability to feel the light of Christ has any thing to do with our current physiology, and I cannot accept that it doesn't, then it too must have evolved somehow. The Evolution of Spirituality deals with this topic quite nicely in my opinion as does Essentialism and Adam (Again).

But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that Adam did appear as the first person on earth with a conscience. Now remember, societies such as bands and tribes did exist in the world at the time on Adam. Also we must remember that if we are to believe that Adam is one of the more recent common ancestors of everybody it will be essential that Adam and his posterity interact with these societies which they would have found around them. Were this not the case it would simply be unacceptable to believe that Adam could have been able to spread his genes fast enough to be our common ancestor.

This being said, we must ask how all these people living at Adam's time were able to live in a cooperative community without even a bit of conscience or something which basically amounts to being the same thing? Even more important and difficult to answer, how could we expect Adam to survive among a society full of utterly selfish people being himself the only person with a conscience? Adam and his family would have been completely overwhelmed by those around them. We simply must believe that Adam's contemporaries had something very close to what we would call a conscience. I see no way around it.

As to the inspiration aspect of the Light of Christ, I would be very hestitant to deny this to Adam's contemporaries as well. If Adam came as the first great prophet and interacted with bands and tribes, wouldn't that make him a missionary of sorts? What is the point, after all, of being a missionary to people who don't even have the light of Christ? What are we to make of the strong evidence which suggests that religion, including visions, dreams, rituals and burying the dead, has evolved over the past 50,000 years? All things considered, it simply makes more sense for us to allow people outside of Adam's descendants access to the light of Christ.

Summary: The difference between us and other species should not be considered one of absolute kind, but one of degree. This is so even for the reception of the Light of Christ as well as the possession of a conscience. To suppose that a conscience was not introduced into the human race until the advent of Adam is absurd.


I think the meaning of "conscience" is vague enough so as to find that problematic. Certainly our concept of good and bad require higher abstract thought that no ape has. I should also caution that Koko's "language" is still very controversial. Many think that it is misleading and a large amount of non-verbal training is at work. (i.e. they question whether Koko is really using language)

Posted by Clark

5/11/2005 09:46:00 PM  

The fact that conscience is so vague is one of my main points. Unless something is specifically identified that will fully separate us from Pre-Adamites, there really is no issue, yet. I'm not saying that we are like apes. I'm saying that we are like our ancestors, and apes are like theirs, all the way back until those lines meet. There is no defining line which can be drawn with much accuracy.

I should also mention that I mention Koko's languageg, not to show that ages have language like we do. I don't think that her language is like ours very much at all, but it is certainly not inappropriate to call it a proto-language at least. This is all I was trying to show, that it is not an all or nothing affair. The reasons why we have language while other animals do not is due to our brains being developed differently as well as our throats. These things had to evolve just as much as did our upright posture, and we can actually trace the development of these things in history. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

5/12/2005 09:46:00 AM  

I agree that the reciprocal behavior of, for example, chimpanzees seems like a plausible proto-conscience. This is a point all too often ignored by those who want to think of man as a separate creation. 

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

5/14/2005 01:30:00 PM  



<< Home