6/09/2005

Did God or Evolution Create Us?

One question that constantly plagues me as I read Miller's more theological chapters is "where does he stand, exactly?" As we have noted, he offers two main windows of opportunity for God to have created us. The first being the creation of a universe which has laws specifically designed to support life. This doesn't really work too well in the Mormon context, in fact I'm not at all sure how well it works in an ethical monotheisic context either. After all, did God choose the physical laws, or did they choose Him?

His second window is that of quantum mechanics wherein small and inherently unpredictable fluctuations can be ampliphied into major biological changes. Thus God could direct evolution, but here is the problem, Miller doesn't seem to think that God DID direct evolution. Not too much anyway:
No question about it. Rewind that tape, let it run again, and events might come out differently at every turn. Surely this means that mankind's appearance on this planet was not preordained, that we are here not as the products of an inevitable procession of evolutionary success, but as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out. I agree...
Do we have to assume that from the beginning he planned intelligence and consciousness to develop in a bunch of nearly hairless, bipedal, African primates? If another group of animals had evolved to self-awareness, if another creature had shown itself worthy of a soul, can we really say for certain that God would have been less than pleased with His new Eve and Adam? I don't think so...
If a Creator were to fashion a world in which the constants of matter and energy made the evolution of life possible, then by forming millions of galaxies and billions of stars with planets, he would have made its appearance certain. With a sample size of only one, we can hardly look at earth's natural history and be assured that the evolution of intelligence and consciousness is the unavoidable outcome of life here or anywhere else. But given the size of the universe, it is easy to imagine that there may be many such experiments in progress. For all we know, God has revealed Himself to us, according to our many religious traditions, because we were the first of these experiments to be ready; or because we were merely the latest of His many encounters with creation. (272,274,275)

In other words, God created the universe according to astronomical creationism and basically let it fly. He might have done some 'fudging' here and there, but the target He was shooting for wasn't very small, and relatively easy to hit. Now while we have suggested that we should get too literal in interpreting "in God's image", we certainly cannot be as lax with it as Miller. Surely the God of Mormonism, while He might only have four fingers, does not have horns, feathers and twelve arms with thousands of deadly needles sticking out the ends.

Remember Joseph's King Follet discourse? God was once a man like us. He had to have experiences something at least remotely similar to what we are experiencing. Edward O. Wilson has a marvelous and very creative account of how intelligent and conscious life could have evolved. He delivers what could been a "state-of-the-colony" speech had termites progressed to be worthy of souls in Miller's sense:
Ever since our ancestors, the macrotermitine termites, achieved ten-kilogram weight and larger brains during their rapid evolution through the late Tertiary period, and learned to write with pheromonal script, termitic scholarship has elevated and refined ethical philosophy. It is now possible to express the imperatives of moral behavior with precision. These imperatives are self-evident and universal. They are the very essence of termitity. They include the love of darkness and of the deep, saprophytic, basidiomycetic penetralia of the soil; the centrality of colony life amidst the richness of war and trade with other colonies; the sanctitiy of the physiological caste system; the evil of personal rights (the colony is ALL); our deep love for the royal siblings allowed to reproduce; the joy of chemical song; the aesthetic pleasure and deep social satisfaction of eating feces from nestmates' anuses after the shedding of our skins; and the ecstasy of cannibalism and surrender of our own bodies when we are sick or injured (it is more blessed to be eaten than to eat). (Consilience, Large Print ed. 288-9)

These vast differences in morality would have resulted from the vastly different epigenetic rules which are at the heart of "termitity" such as celibacy, non-reproduction of the workers, the exchange of symbiotic bacteria through eating eachother's feces, the use of chemical secretions for communication and the eating of shed skin as well as dead or injured family members. Is anybody willing to accept that God might have attained exaltation in accordance with a morality based in such epigenetic rules? I doubt it. While other Christians might be willing to embrace a suitably modified version of this predicament, Mormon's simply don't have this option.

For Mormon's consciousness is not enough. If God created anything which He could call His children in anything but the most anagorical and meaningless way, they would have to possess certain qualities. They would probably have to have two legs and two arms. I'm not sure they would have to be mammalian, but surely they wouldn't be birds, or even plants (there is no guarantee of animals in evolution, though there is a large likelyhood). They would also have to evolve at least somewhat similar epigenetic rules, largely based around their method of reproduction. Would man have to naturally be the more dominant gender? Could there be more than two genders? Could there be only one gender? Do the female to male ration have to be approximately even? Can they have sense which we are not familiar with such as ecolocation, sonar, phermonal secretions or even eletric senses similar to that of some deep water fish?

It is not inaccurate to say that the Mormon target for God to hit in accordance with evolution is much, much smaller than the target Miller's God is aiming for. Thus our answer to the title question may not be the same as Miller's answer at all. But then, Miller's question is different than ours. "Did God or evolution create some form of intelligent and conscious life?" The answer to this, is pretty much evolution, not God, and he even seems to say so himself in the above quote.

Our question, however, is "Did God or evolution create us?" This is precisely where we wax a bit creationistic. We were a small target, and such a target could have been reached by blind chance, but could not have been reached by blind chance on our world, as well as God's past world, as well as all the other worlds which are supposed to be home to God's other children. We answer, "Yes, we are products of evolution, but God played a significant part in it." This is a total faith claim, which should not pass for science by any respectable definition.

Our answer here is probably analogous to how we believe God created the earth. Do we really believe that He created each planet as if they were snow balls and then sent them flying like a bunch of billiard balls? I doubt it. I imagine that, similar to what Miller says in this matter, God probably started with a planet which was already mostly formed in its current conditions and went from there. Personally, I believe that the most likely scenario involved God choosing this planet after the seeds of life had already appeared on their own, though I imagine many will want to push the commencement of His involvement here back a bit.

Lastly, I would like to address one final flaw in Miller's reasoning. He quotes a particular speaker who explain the evolutionary God as follows:
If you deny evolution, then the sort of God you have in mind is a bit like a pool player who can sink fifteen balls in a row, but only by taking fifteen separate shots. My God plays the game a little differently. He walks up to the table, takes just one shot, and sinks all the balls. I ask you which pool player, which God, is more worthy or praise and worship? (283-4)

Nice try. Which pool man in more powerful? The one who builds the pool and then fills it up right there, the one who builds the pool and waits for the rain to come and fill it in or the one who simply waits for some kind of hole to appear somewhere and happen to get filled with water? This last pool man is the one Miller is suggesting. This pool man isn't the pool man of Mormonism.

Summary: Mormonism's views regarding life of other planets, both previous, future and contemporary, forces them to consider God's contribution in our creation to be rather significant. Miller's views, on the contrary, reduce most, if not all, creative work to mindless evolution.

7 Comments:

To kind of put the importance of epigenetic rules in place consider a few additional questions:

Is or was God color blind?
Are we color blind compared with God?
Keep in mind that our sense of art and therefore symbolism is highly influenced by our perception of color and the feelings that they natural conjure up within us.
Is our taste in art the same as Gods?
Does the symbolism of the color green evoke the same response in God as in us?

Can God hear the same sounds only dogs can?
Can He hear lower sounds?
If His hearing is different from ours, how is His taste in music?
Is His voice the same basic tone?
Is He a bass or a tenor (wink, wink Geoff)?
Does a smile mean the same thing to Him as it does us?
What about a wink?

The questions can go on and on. The more similar we insist on making God (in His mortal existence) the more guidance God will have to have contributed, not only in the evolution of our species, but in our evironment as well, for it is because of our evolutionary environment that certain colors and pitches mean the things they do to us. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/09/2005 04:43:00 PM  

Jeffrey,


I think that you might get arguments from cosmologists regarding the probability that life could evolve on this planet just as it did on God's mortal planet or on other planets throughout the universe. Christian may be able to explain this better, but here is my attempt.


Although the Big Bang happened about 14 billion years ago and we can only see about 4 x 10 to the 26 meters away, (giving us a Hubble volume, or our universe), there is evidence that the "multiverse" (multiple universe) is much larger and indeed infinite. The "three-dimensional galaxy distribution and the microwave backgroud have shown that the arrangement of matter gives way to dull uniformity on large scales, with no coherent structures larger than about 10 to the 24 meters. Asuuming that this pattern continues, space beyond our observable universe teems with galaxies, stars, and planets." Even within our own Hubble volume there are possibly "10 to the 20 inhabitable planets; some might well look like earth."


This infinity of galaxies and even universes (each initiated by its own Big Bang) allows very much for evolution of similar and even identical conditions in so-called parallel universes that would result in evolution of humans that are most definitely God-like in image an infinite number of times in the universes' pasts. The numbers are staggering to look at to get the probabilities, but the expanse of space allows for those numbers. According to the article in Scientific American which is my source, there is likely to be an identical (not just similar) copy of our earth (with everything on it) about 10 to the 10 to the 28 meters away.


So there seems to be mechanisms in place to account for the areas in which we as Mormons may need to wax creationistic as you stated here:


We were a small target, and such a target could have been reached by blind chance, but could not have been reached by blind chance on our world, as well as God's past world, as well as all the other worlds which are supposed to be home to God's other children. We answer, "Yes, we are products of evolution, but God played a significant part in it." This is a total faith claim, which should not pass for science by any respectable definition.

Christian, feel free to point out areas where mainstream cosmology way not agree.

This information was taken from a Scientific American Special Report on parallel universes. 

Posted by Mike Wilson

6/10/2005 12:23:00 PM  

I think I see what you are saying, but if I understand you correctly, then you seem to be suggesting that evolution, given enough chances to operate on enough planets, would eventually come up with life very similar to "God's image" even without too much of his help. Thus, God may not have had to have been too involved after all. Is this right?

If so, then we are left with what could be a relatively uncomfortable situation where there are a vast number of world inhabited by creatures which are conscious and have a sense of morality and yet are not the children of God in any meaningful sense. These other creatures would vastly out number us and could, indeed, would likely include many species which were actually "higher" than us in intelligence.

First of all, I'm not sure many Mormons like the idea of super-intelligent ET's which are not subject to God in the same way we are. Second, this basically makes the answer to the title question "evolution, not God created us." Third, how much did God have or does He have to do with those other creatures? Do these creatrues have spirits? Are they subject to God at all? and so on.

If I didn't understand you correctly, then these points will mean pretty much nothing at all to you and maybe you could clarify a bit. 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/10/2005 01:21:00 PM  

My point wasn't that there are other intelligent and conscious entities out there that are like God in appearance but not subject to Him. My point is that there are likely plenty of worlds where self-existent intelligences call by God to be His children could be placed without contraints for Him having to manipulate and direct much as far as human evolution is concerned and that these intelligent beings are entirely subject to Him. I think that His expansive influence is greater than we comprehend and it is possible that these individual universes may be where we end up, as joint heirs with Christ, becoming God-like in "creating" our worlds.  

Posted by Mike Wilson

6/10/2005 01:35:00 PM  

Right, that's what I was saying. But what about those intelligent and conscious beings who are not in "His image?" 

Posted by Jeffrey Giliam

6/10/2005 02:35:00 PM  

Jeff Said:

"Right, that's what I was saying. But what about those intelligent and conscious beings who are not in "His image?"

That's easy. "His Image" just means "intelligent and conscious". Lots of folks for Him to try and recruit as "children," right?

This is some of the best Sci-Fi I have yet heard. But, it is not the Gospel Of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. 

Posted by Greg

7/18/2005 08:31:00 AM  

I just lost my little long comment,so here is a condensed version!Very condensed.(not any more,but different)
Hello all,
I seem to find a lot of mind disturbance in the bloggs and comments!I do not feel confused myself(my friends may not agree).I see no problem with God as the creater going to the table and making a few parallell shots,maybe for knowledgeable reasons he did not want to connect all in one chain,and scientists are looking for chains of course.It is important for all sciences to discuss ideas!Actually discussion in itself -if carried out in a sivilised way is always a good, and can only lead to good.Some small,minor thing from the discussion may lead to grand thinking in theory at least!Anyway,back to evolution.Paradigms in science go through revolutions sometimes and this alter the ruling view-s,however,the content or processes in the previous discussion to support a paradigm of its day may be the necessary part to bring on the new"truth".So as far as I can see,there can be viewpoints diametrical opposite that still supports truth,maybe not the same at the same time,but still truths in one form or another-even if it is just a minor point.If I teach art to amateur groups and to very experienced you would think I was not talking about the same subject!Do not use white-keep it back,leave white and black out altogether etc,to the other-try white even at the first stroke!!!Both may be true depending on the circumstances!So it is with God ,I am sure.He has the right to use the best commentary in the context he is making it,and he knows how to do it.(I am now assuming there is a God)
He also has the right like even any small creator as me(artist)to enjoy the creative prosess!Why should he not-part of this is calculated chance,the detailed result cannot be seen as it is not made,but the very detailed general idea is pretty accurately understood visually,and results although still able to encourage and delight are not out of control nor unplanned.The "mormon God"is not a robot!However,there is plan in all undertaking,and evolutionary processes would be used where seen fit in the creations of the worlds as well,I am sure.Why is it difficult?Oh,yes -Adam- seems a strange one.Why really.God must be allowed to arrange a different development for a special species-man.Their development and evolution prosess of sorts have gone before-before the earth and planets in our system even,they have a different landing on earth planned because of their pre-existence background.The brain is vastly developed,they already have language experience and great communicative experience as well.
They are according to scriptures able to understand and take part in serious democratic prosesses already.
I cannot see why science and religion cannot just discuss freely together and separately and now and then some small detail from either discussion will fall into place and give a better and truer picture of things.As long as we are aware that it is discussion and analyses not to prove wrong but to find truths!In this case all positive sensible research will over time add to the total picture,and all serious religious research and beliefs will in time add also.Still there are for religions certain absolutes,God does exist,but maybe he has not been understood totally.I feel that informed members of the church welcome all research which has the intention of honest research,however,may be not aware that a lot of research is only concerned with trying to prove their paradigm!On the other hand if they did not do this,the test of the paradigm would not happen and a new truth never be promoted!In terms of a critical revolution.Look more at art guys?and see the great width of this area,still all is giving insights.
And one could not do without the other.
Darwins reveolution has provided researchers with "endless"material and it is fantastic in its own right.However,why should it be so difficult to believe that a God Almighty would understand more and that the impossible dis-connections between science and religions maybe do not exist if one views it from another angle.All discussion is good,just do not think any of you knows it all,and moreso written discussion is best!And printed discussion better still so it can be pondered upon in front of TV-we do not want to miss that!!The problem is that science is not discussed enough in details on TV-and maybe it is made too popular when it is...Here is a job for you scientist people.God will be just fine with all of it as long as we don't resort to belittling each other in the name of any belief.
 

Posted by synnove ellingsen

1/05/2006 07:15:00 AM  

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