The Future According to Evolution

The final two objections which Mc Conkie enlists against evolution are not very impressive. Let us consider the first one, that the theory does not take into account what will happen to the earth in the future:
According to evolutionary theories, life will continue on this sphere with such changes, mutations, and developments as circumstances and environments require. Actually, however, future events involving the earth and all living things thereon will be as dramatic and divergent from what finite intellects might assume as past events have been. Our knowledge of these future events — events in no sense harmonious with progressive evolutionary development — gives us an entirely different perspective relative to the origin and development of species than the one assumed by evolutionists.
For instance: Evolutionary theories have no place in them for the imminent Second Advent of our Lord, a coming which will usher in the millennial era of peace. These theories give no consideration to the revealed facts that the elements are to melt with fervent heat when Christ comes; that "every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed"; that the earth will then be renewed, returning again to that paradisiacal state which prevailed before the fall; that the enmity of man and of beasts will cease; and that there will be no more death as we know it, men living instead (freed from disease and sickness) until they are an hundred years old when they will be changed to immortality in the twinkling of an eye.
Further: These theories take no account of the resurrection from the dead, that eventual status when all men (and all forms of life, every living thing that has ever breathed the breath of life, every animal, fish, fowl, or what have you!) will come forth as immortal, resurrected beings and creatures. Nor do these theories give consideration to the fact that this earth itself is to pass through changes equivalent to death and resurrection, finally becoming a celestial sphere which will burn like the sun in the firmament, a planet on whose surface only celestial beings will then be able to live.
How weak and puerile the intellectuality which, knowing that the Lord's plan takes all forms of life from a pre-existent spirit state, through mortality, and on to an ultimate resurrected state of immortality, yet finds comfort in the theoretical postulates that mortal life began in the scum of the sea, as it were, and has through eons of time evolved to its present varieties and state! Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite Creator of worlds without number would operate in this way?

Its true, evolution does not take into account these things, but neither do physics, chemistry or mathematics. Are we supposed to reject them too? This is no mere rhetorical devise I am using here, for the sciences that are contradicted by such things as he lists are mostly physical and biochemical, not evolutionary.

The sun burning like a sun goes strictly against astronomy and physics as a whole. Where is all the hydrogen and helium going to come from to create this fusion reaction? Where is all the mass going to come from so as to generate enough gravity so as to start and maintain such a reaction? The sun is has not a solid surface. In fact, it doesn't have a gaseous surface, but is instead a plasma. How is it possible for any kind of being to dwell "on" such a planet?

How in the world are carnivores going to get enough nutrients and protein from grass to survive. How are their teeth and digestive system, which are definitely "designed" for processing meat, going to deal with a vegetarian diet? How is an organism supposed to survive without blood in their system? Especially when such a circulatory system in needed to maintain a suitable immune system, which will be needed for us to be "freed from disease and sickness."

Who is it that Mc Conkie is attacking in this objection? Certainly not the evolutionists. He is really attacking all of science as being inadequate. Are we to blame the scientists for not knowing how these seemingly impossible things, for which the is absolutely no evidence at all? If we should be mad at anybody for such a state of affairs, and I don't think we should, it has to be God. He is the one who is supposed to have told us these fantastic things which go against everything we observe and know about the universe.

Luckily, scientist haven't said anything about the details involved in the millennium. There is no evidence for, nor against it, so they have rightly remained silent about it. Scientifically speaking, could these things happen? Yes, BUT there is have to be some really fancy footwork involved in bringing it all about.

This follows from the Mormon nature of God. Remember, He is not the author of physical laws. He is a discoverer of them and is able to use them to His advantage, but as our doctrine of miracles fully makes clear, He cannot change them. Thus, God is bound by physical possibility and to a large degree, biological possibility. It is these things which Mc Conkie is arguing against, not evolution.

Evolution is not against catastrophism. The evowiki entry on uniformitarianism says:
Uniformitarianism is an assumption about geological processes according to which past geological processes are essentially of the same nature as present ones. It is in contrast to catastrophism. Uniformitarianism was devised by geologists James Hutton and Charles Lyell. Lyell, in his 1830 book Principles of Geology, wrote up four concepts of uniformitarianism:

* Uniformity of law - natural laws are invariant in space and time
* Uniformity of process - the present is the key to the past; if possible, past patterns should be explained by presently observable processes (not, for instance, terrible catastrophes)
* Uniformity of rate - all geological change is in small, steady, slowing accumulating steps (no sudden large events)
* Uniformity of state - no long-term directionality exists in Earth history

Of Lyell's four concepts, only the first is accepted today. Large and violent geological changes are definitely known to have occurred. It is therefore a mistake to assume, as many critics of uniformitarianism do, that uniformitarianism means only tranquil processes. Many geological events, such as formations of mountain ranges, were not tranquil at all. However, uniformity of natural law is a fixed assumption among geologists, and, while the past may not always be the same as the present, it is generally held that the present displays the features of the same processes as in the past.

This is exactly what Mormon doctrine suggests, no more, no less. This also shows the difference between Mormons and Young Earth Creationists. We accept the first of the four concepts, while they reject that one too. The laws of radiometric dating have not changed. The conservation of mass/energy has not changed. Biophysical laws, such as genetics and metabolism have not changed, which is not to say that genetics and metabolic systems have not themselves changed. These laws have not changed, nor will they according to Mormon doctrine.

So what do we make of these prophecies of such wonderful things to come? First off, I would recognize that many of these things are simply exaggerations, such as the idea of a global flood or an immortal earth. Will the lion and the lamb literally lie down together? I doubt it very much as long as lions are lions as we know them and lambs are lambs as we know them. What this idea is trying to evoke in our minds is the idea of peace.

What about the earth melting in fire and the like? I have no reason to doubt that part or all of it might. It has certainly happened in the past both by natural processes (such as asteriods) and artificial processes (nuclear war). I personally tend to think of such events as being limited both temporally and geographically to certain places and occasions. Such statements are intended to tell us of a great distruction which is to take place.

There is no reason to believe that immortality, as in living indefinitely, is a biological impossibility. In fact, scientists are currently working on projects related to this. Nor does science insist that "we" cease to exist when our body does. It is physically possible, though not with our current technology, to transfer a person from one "host" to another.

I see no reason for those with spiritual insight to reject evolution based on these arguments.

Summary: In his ninth objection, Mc Conkie lauches an assault on science in general, though he may not realize it. Mormon doctrine, as has been noted by many in the past, is in fact very science freindly do to its maintaining the eternal nature of physical law. Descriptions of the millennium can easily be interpreted as literary devices used to describe peace, harmony and freedom from death and disease without denying evolution or science in general.


Thanks for digging up this fine bit of McConkieism. It is fun to discuss and think about, but on some levels, a bit of a straw man. Does he really expect science to predict and explain unprecedented future events?

When science and religion clash we must remember they each have a very different purpose and vantage. Mythic stories of creation usually focus on the who and the why of creation. According to Joseph Campbell, creation myths place special emphasis on explaining the relationships of those involved (humans and the divine, humans and the cosmos, humans to each other). In contrast, scientific explanations of creation tend to emphasize the when, the what and the how of creation. When people converse from scientific and religious perspectives, they may use the same words to describe the events, but their wildly different respective emphases, perspectives and interests cause the two halves of their conversation to pass each other like ships in the night; each hearing, but not understanding the other. Thus, when the historical accuracy required by evolutionary explanations of creation meet mythic explanations of the relationships and their purposes, we can hardly expect either to make any sense of the other.

As a correlate of this, religious creation stories are told, not in what we would consider historical accuracy, but mythic accuracy. In mythic time, dates are not important and hyperbole is the norm. Unlike historical timelines, mythic timelines may be linear, but are generally circular. Adam and Eve experience the creation, but in the temple we each kneel in Adam or Eve’s place and experience the creation and the divine instruction just as he or she did. Despite the gap of a few millennia, time becomes circular and we find ourselves in the same position Adam and Eve occupied. The event is seamless. Likewise, hyperbole in mythic space is a simple way of articulating greatness. The quantity is irrelevant. It is the greatness that is important. In the Iliad, Priam is described hefting a stone that no man now could lift, and single-handedly smashing the gates of the Achaeans. Priam was a great warrior. He probably would have cut me down without breaking his stride. Still, this hyperbole would not be tolerated in a modern historical timeline. But in mythic space it stands for Priam’s greatness. Stories of Noah’s flood likewise stand without question in mythic space, but find an uncomfortable place in a modern historical timeline. Thus, when we go looking in Genesis or Moses for the scientific answers of when, what and how the creation transpired, the answers are elusive. We feel that evolution and religion must be either compatible or incompatible because they each describe the creation. But they describe different elements of the creation on very different planes. It’s like trying to learn molecular botany from a Zen floral arranger. The two each experience and appreciate the same flower, but their understanding of the flower is completely different.

To return to the McConkie straw man, we could turn the argument back on itself. He is frustrated that science fails to predict or explain the resurrection and the second coming. In all fairness, his theology may describe the why and the who of these events in mythic time, but is equally unable to answer the scientific questions of when, what and the how these events will transpire.


Posted by John Welch

5/04/2005 06:54:00 PM  

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks for that. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

5/04/2005 07:01:00 PM  

Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite Creator of worlds without number would operate in this way?

Dawkins calls this the Argument from Personal Incredulity. It doesn't matter what we think--what matters is what is.

If it is disturbing to some that God would work this way, we can ask questions from the other direction that are at least as disturbing. For example, we find evidence in nature for evolutionary "arms races" (eg. offenses to counteract defenses to counteract offenses, etc.) If evolution is false, what explains these? Does God play chess against himself?

5/05/2005 12:57:00 PM  

Thanks for that Jared. If we were still going based on what we think we would still be in the dark ages. This is the whole point of modern revelation, we don't think we enough.  

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

5/05/2005 03:09:00 PM  

John,  it's a great point you make, but I don't know if it puts the difficulties off forever. With Joseph, the mythical seems to be rendered more historical. For example, what are we to make of the priesthood line of authority in Sec. 84 that begins with Adam---historical, or mythical? Or, the Book of Moses, which by clearly making it a direct revelation to Moses, seems to raise the stakes as to its historical accuracy? 

Posted by Christian Y. Cardall

5/05/2005 05:48:00 PM  

I agree with your assessment. I foolishly figured that John had read some of the Adam posts for some reason. I think that he does a great job describing Adam as myth though. I know that is the direction you are leaning in and I imagine that you anxiously await John's reply to those questions. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

5/05/2005 09:46:00 PM  



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