Evolution, Science and Mormonism pt. 2

Last time we saw that, as Elder Packer says, one need not "become a scientist at the expense of being a Latter-day Saint of faith and spiritual maturity." Instead our embracing science (always with the qualifier "true science") as a sub-set of eternal truth can tell us a great deal about God and the ways in which He deals with us. I simply have to disagree, however, with Elder Packer when he says:
If all things were known, man's creativity would be stifled. There could be no further discovery, no growth, nothing to decide--no agency.
All things not only are not known but must not be so convincingly clear as to eliminate the need for faith. That would nullify agency and defeat the purpose of the plan of salvation.

This is not an accurate view of science, knoweldge, agency or God as taught by Mormonism in my opinion. Mormons and Evolutionists both maintain that it is knowledge which gives us creativity, God being the most creative of us all due to His knowing everything which can be known. A jellyfish knows very little and is, therefore, not very creative. It is because of our knowledge that we can make informed decisions. Now we can maintain that God keeps us in the dark to a certain degree as to His existence and purposes allowing us more agency (this is what I imagine Elder Packer actually had in mind), but this is not what we are talking about in this context. No matter how much we learn in science about the physical laws of the universe we will always have agency and creativity.

Clearly, however, the tradition of including science within the realm of eternal truth has something to do with our viewing science as a way to learn about God. If we are to maintain that God did not create the physical laws which science studies, then we must clarify this position of ours.

We say that Charles Darwin was a Deist and as such believed that God created us, the animals and everything else through natural law. This is not far from (if there is any difference at all) the God of Stephen Hawkin and Albert Einstein. Many Christians have gained comfort in their use of the word 'god' in their writing be assured that rather than working against the Christian faith, these men were actually working for it. This isn't strictly the case. When these men use the word 'god' what they mean is the collective whole of the laws which govern the universe, not the Christian God at all. Thus for these men it was easy to include science within their 'gospel' because science, to them was the gospel, no more no less.

This is not the Mormon position. We believe that the physical laws exist completely independant of God. Studying these laws is not the same as studying God Himself or His nature. It is, nevertheless, the study of eternal laws and eternal truths. These are (again, assuming the all-important qualifier) the very same laws which God Himself had to learn at one time (or eternity) or another, and from our knowledge of these laws we can better see how God COULD have created the world and intervened thereafter. It is because of this that criticizing evolution using perceived flaws in it which have been refuted tells us nothing about God or His creation. Criticism is good in science, but there is a difference between responsible criticism and the fanaticism seen in some evolution critics.

So where does this leave us with regards to the Intelligent Design movement? After all, we do believe that God intervened somehow to get us here don't we? We simply cannot maintain that God didn't do anything in the creation. Is Intelligent Design the way to go?

As I'm sure most of you can guess, my answer is no. This is not because I don't believe that God didn't play a role in the creation, but is instead because I don't believe that we have discovered any evidence as to how He did. I should also mention that I see no reason whatsoever for Mormons to jump on this band wagon. ID uses arguement to show how evolution could not have resulted in certain features, therefore God, I'm sorry, a Designer must have intervened. They are trying to establish that a Designer had some part in the process, but from a Mormon perspective, who cares? Of all the targets which the ID movement shoots for none of them even attempt to show that humans are not related to chimpazees and share a common ancestor or that there was death before the fall. These are the only issues which Mormons really have with evolution and ID addresses none of them at all, so let's not think that they are working for us at all.

Let me take a brief example of why we Mormons who embrace science should not embrace the non-science of the ID movement as it is now known. As I have mentioned, Michael Ruse is a Darwinian Naturalist who actually looks upon Christians with much sympathy. He even sends his children to a Christian school. He wrote a book titled "Can a Darwinian be a Christian?" to which he answers 'yes'. (Just as a warning, his arguments don't address Mormon theology very well at all.) Nevertheless, he shows no patience for the ID movement and played an essential role in the Arkansas trials. Here is what he says regarding Behe's famous irreducible complexity.
No evolutionist ever claimed that all of the parts of a functioning organic feature had to be in place at once, nor did any evolutionist ever claim that a part used now for one end must always have had that function. Ends get changed, and something that was introduced for one purpose might well take on another purpose. It might be only later that the new purpose gets incorporated in such a way that it becomes essential...
Take the example of an arched bridge, with stones meeting in the middle and with no supporting cement. If you tried to build it from scratch, the two sides would keep collapsing as you started to move the higher stones into the middle. What you must do first is build an understructure, placing stones on it. Then, when the stones are pressing against one another in the middle, you can remove the understructure...
We find that Behe's case for the impossibility of a small-step natural origin of biological complexity has been trampled upon contemtuously by the scientists working in the field. It is not just that they disagree, but that they think his grasp of the pertinent science is weak and his knowledge of the literature curiously (although conveniently) outdated...
Behe's knowledge of evolution is suspect. His knowledge of his own area of science is suspect. And the same is true when he moves into philosophy and theology.

In order to better understand the idea of Intelligent Design and how it relates to Mormonism we should attempt to clarify thier use of teleology versus our use of it. A teleological cause is basically something in the future causing something else to happen in the present. Take my typing this post. I so that it will be read by others, but others don't read it until after I have typed it. Therefore the future is influencing the present by way of my intentions. It is not your reading of this post that really causes me to type it, but my intention that you read it that causes me to type it, and my intention comes before the typing.

Many people, especially creationists, see teleological causes written all over nature. Why are people born with big brains? So they can think with them. But the thinking happens after the person is born with the brain, therefore there must have been intention, or in other words a teleological cause. The same can be said about the beavers tail, the giraffes neck and the cows four stomachs.

This was actually the reigning philosophy until Darwin came along with his idea of natural selection. Giraffes don't have neck in order to later eat the leaves off of trees, but rather giraffes exist because their parents had long necks and could eat the leaves off of trees. Giraffes inherit this ability from thier parents. Thus baby giraffes have long necks because their parents do which enabled them to eat the leaves and survive long enough to reproduce. This is not the case all the way back infinitum,just until there were 'giraffes' which didn't have long necks yet. It was this thinking which lead Huxley to exclaim that evolution had dealt the death blow to teleology.

With this in mind we can now separate the typical argument to design as used by the IDers into two arguements: 1) the argument to complexity and 2) the argument to design. IDers want to always talk about design because in automatically implies a Designer which can administer teleological causes. Complexity on the other hand has no such connotations. So what do we see in the world, complexity or design?

Creationists like to use the classic example of Paley's watch. You find a watch on the beach, is it merely complex or is it designed? BUT what is we find a watch which is able to reproduce? What if we observe random variations in its offspring? What if we observe a watch which is in a struggle for survival and it ability to keep time contributes wonderfully to it competing? Obviously we aren't really talking about watches anymore. If we find a watch we assume that its makers was a designer. If we find a mouse we assume that it's maker was it's mother and father mouse. This difference can hardly be overemphasized.

Upon closer observation of the world around us, I'm not sure that we would want to take the designer option too far anyways. As I noted in the last post, Darwin was very disturbed by the vast amounts of imperfection in the world. We see things in the world which seem to be designed for certain purposes, but they don't even approach perfection in doing these things. Do we really want to attribute such things to a Designer? Immediately we start down the road paved by Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

If things were really designed by the designer that the IDers are hoping for we would certainly expect them to be better than they are. But if these same things are instead complex, meaning that they are functions in a very complex network of agent trying to survive by utilitizing different functions in different ways, there would be no need for perfection in the least. Natural selection uses what is available to beat others in the struggle for survival. Pefection is not what matters. The only thing which does matter is being 'better' than your competitors who are engaged in that same struggle.

Neo-Darwinism (as we now call it) supports the argument to complexity like no other scientific theory has ever done. What does it have to say regarding the further arguement to design? Not much at all. It swallows up a lot of what was previously used in the argument to design, but it doesn't say anything against it either. Could there be design in the world in addition to complexity? Sure, why not. Have we found any unambiguous examples of this? No. No we haven't.

It is for this reason that ID is rejected. Do Mormons accept the existence of undesigned complexity? They'd better if they don't want to be labeled 'naive'. To we accept the existence of design on top of that? Yes, but this is a total faith claim. The argument to complexity is scientific through and through, and to the same degree that complexity is scientific, the argument to design is theological in nature.

Could design be brought into science? According to Mormons, yes. We too will eventually learn about how to create and populate worlds using both complexity and design. However, we simply to not have the tools or evidence necessary to even start on such a science now. For the time being, the best way to help discover, develop and further a model of Intelligent Design by Mormon standards is through participating in evolutionary science as it currently taught in the universities. Any other way is unscientific and un-Mormon.

to be continued...

Summary: Mormonism and the Intelligent Design movement do not find mutual support in one another. ID moves beyond the design to complexity (which science fully supports) and zealously moves on to the argument to Design, an out right faith claim. While Mormons believe that there was a significant element of design in the creation of modern life, the best way to discover this element is through evolution as it is currently taught.


Oops, I should have read part 2 before commenting on part 1. I see Jeffrey zeroed in on exactly the same quote I had trouble with. 

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

5/21/2005 09:26:00 AM  



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