B.H. Roberts on Evolution

Gospel and Man's Relationship to Deity, a book written by B.H. Roberts, was first published in 1888 with new editions released as a late as 1924. In a "Supplement" at the end of the book, Roberts takes on the topic of evolution. It is clear from his discussion that Roberts did not accept evolution for reasons having to do with both theology and science. Since there were multiple editions of the book, I do not know whether the supplement was included from the beginning or was added later, however it appears that he eventually did modify some of his thinking on the matter (see below).

The Supplement is interesting for at least two reasons. First, it shows what Roberts thought about evolution (as understood at the time). Second, Roberts lays out a number of arguments that persist to this day. The Supplement is too long to reproduce here, but I will provide the most relevant passages. Since it is such a readily accessible resource, I will also provide links to counter-arguments made on Talkorigin.com's Index to Creationist Claims. I will also add a few comments of my own. In doing so I intend no disrespect toward Roberts--as the 1931 controversy and other aspects of his life show, he was a man of both spiritual and intellectual integrity. I do not, however, believe that we do Roberts any honor by not providing answers to his objections.

The state of science has progressed immeasurably since Roberts first published this book--or even since he died. Think of the concepts of radioactive decay, genes, plate tectonics, the structure and coding of DNA, molecular biology, and genomics--the majority of these did not even exist in Roberts' lifetime and those that did were still in their infancy. These concepts have brought us an unprecedented understanding of the world we live in--an understanding that is increasingly harnessed by technology for practical benefit. I wonder what Roberts would say today.

Excerpts from the Supplement (page numbers are included):
p.265 What do these facts prove, I mean the sterility of species and hybrids on the one hand, and fertility of varieties, descendants from a common stock, on the other? Why, that the great law of nature is, as announced in holy writ, that every seed shall produce after its kind, and every fish, fowl, creeping thing, beast, and man shall bring forth after his kind-that is what it proves. And though man may for a moment by crossing species cause a slight deviation from the great law, it can be but for an instant, the monstrosity cannot be perpetuated, it dies out by being made unfruitful.

How do these facts affect the theory of evolution? Let us remember upon what that theory rests. It rests upon the principle that lower forms producing favorable variations, and these being preserved by the process of natural selection, amount finally to the production of distant species; but we have seen that varieties cannot produce what may be called the great characteristic of species-infertility to each other; then also we have seen there is a check to variation in the sterility of species and hybrids. Add these facts to that other fact that neither in living nature nor in the geological records can be found the intermediate transitional forms linking together by fine gradations the species, and the theory of evolution as advocated by many modern scientists lies stranded upon the shore of idle speculation.

Now that the basis of heredity and genetics are better understood, Roberts' objections are consistent with, if not outright supportive of, evolution. The more closely related two species are, the more likely it is that they can produce a hybrid (not all hybrids are sterile, by the way). Inability to produce a hybrid means that the reproductive isolation is complete. This is a matter of genetics, not a supernatural law governing variation.

Evolution has not been proved.
Mutations do not produce new features.
Range of variation is limited within kinds.
Evolution predicts a continuum of organisms, not discrete kinds.
Transitional fossils are lacking.
There should be billions of transitional fossils.
Science cannot define "species."

p.266 But if the hypothesis of evolution be true, if man is only a product evolved from the lower forms of life, better still producing better, until the highest type of intellectual manhood crowns with glory this long continued process-then it is evident that there has been no "fall," such as the revelations of God speak of; and if there was no fall, there was no occasion for a Redeemer to make atonement for man, in order to reconcile him to God; then the mission of Jesus Christ was a myth, the coinage of idle brains, and Jesus himself was either mistaken, or one of the many impostors that have arisen to mock mankind with the hope of eternal life.

There are two crucial links in reasoning here, and in many other theological treatments of evolution. The first is that the Fall of Adam and Eve is incompatible with evolution. The second is that without the Fall, the Atonement is unnecessary. I would like to deal with these in a future post. For now I will just say that I believe that these objections can be overcome. (If the first is overcome, the second is moot.) It is self-evident that we are subject to physical death. It is also self-evident (to most people) that we are not in the presence of God. Since the purpose of the Atonement is to overcome these two things, I think that how they came to be is of secondary importance, theologically. I hope to expand on this in a future post. Although the index treatment of this is unsatisfactory to me, it at least gives something to think about.

Without a literal Fall, there is no need for Jesus and redemption.

p.267 I am aware that there is a class of men who profess to be "Christian evolutionists," and who maintain that Christianity can be made to harmonize with the philosophy of evolution. But how are they made to harmonize? We are told that Jesus is still a Redeemer, but in this sense only: he gave out faultless moral precepts, and practiced them in his life, and inasmuch as people accept his doctrines and follow his example they will be redeemed from evil. But as to the fall of man and the atonement made for him by the Son of God-both ideas are of necessity rejected; which means, of course, denying the great fundamental truths of revelation; it is by destroying the basis on which the Christian religion rests, that the two theories are harmonized-if such a process can be called harmonization. It is on the same principle that the lion and the lamb harmonize, or lie down together-the lion eats the lamb.

If this is the best harmonization that can be accomplished, we do have a problem. While this may be the solution for some, I think the options presented here are a false dichotomy. See above.

p.279 The Prophet Joseph Smith is credited with having said that our planet was made up of the fragments of a planet which previously existed; some mighty convulsions disrupted that creation and made it desolate. Both its animal and vegetable life forms were destroyed...

p.281 Accepting this statement of Joseph Smith relative to our planet in its present state being created or formed from the fragments of a planet which previously existed, one may readily understand how the supposed differences between scientists and believers in revelation have arisen. Scientists have been talking of the earth's strata, that were formed in a previously existing planet; they have considered the fossilized flora and fauna embedded in those strata, and have speculated as to the probable lapse of time since those animal and vegetable forms of life existed; and have generally concluded that the age is so far remote that there is no possible chance of harmonizing it with the account of the creation as given in the Bible. Believers in the Bible, on the other hand, have generally taken it for granted that the account of the creation in the sacred record would give to the earth no greater antiquity than six thousand years; and have held that within that period the universe was created out of nothing by the volition of Deity-an idea so palpably absurd that intelligence, despite all church authority to the contrary, everywhere rejects it.

The theory set forth in this writing that before Adam was placed upon this earth to people it with his offspring, the matter of which it is composed existed in another planet, which by some mighty convulsion was broken up, and from its ruins was formed our present earth, at once affords a means of harmonizing those facts established by the researches of men and the facts of revelation. If scientists shall claim that myriads of years or of centuries must have been necessary to form the earth's crust, it may be allowed by the believers in revelation, for there is nothing that would contradict that idea in the revelations of God on the subject. If scientists shall claim that the fossilized remains in the different strata of the earth's crust reveal the fact that in the earlier periods of the earth's existence only the simpler forms of vegetation and animal life are to be found, both forms of life becoming more complex and of higher type as the earth becomes older, until it is crowned with the presence of man-all that may be allowed. But that this gradation of animal and vegetable life owes its existence to the process of evolution is denied. As before stated, the claims of evolution, as explained by philosophers of the Darwin school, are contrary to all experience so far as man's knowledge extends. The great law of nature is that every plant, herb, fish, beast and man produces its kind; and though there may be slight variation from that law, those variations soon run out either by reverting to the original stock, or else by becoming incapable of producing offspring, and thus become extinct.

Furthermore, since we have learned that God made "every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb before it grew" (i. e. in our earth), the gradation of life forms which the naturalists discover in the various strata of the earth's crust may reasonably be accounted for aside from the theory of evolution-viz., by the animal and vegetable life forms of some older earth being brought to our own; different species being transplanted as changed conditions in the soil and atmosphere and temperature of our earth rendered it favorable to their productions, the older species becoming extinct as the changed conditions of the earth became unfavorable to them.

Then too, the theory advanced in this writing gives ample room for the reconciliation of another serious difficulty between the scientist and the believer in revelation. To the latter Adam is the first man; the former maintains that there are evidences which prove the earth to have been inhabited before Adam's time. Whether or not the planet which existed previous to our own, and out of the ruins of which our own was organized was inhabited by man as well as by vegetation and animals, I cannot say; all remarks on this subject would be conjecture merely. But if the researches of scientists prove beyond all question that there were pre-Adamic races, then doubtless they were inhabitants of that world which was destroyed, but the evidence of their existence as well as the evidence of the existence of animals and vegetation was preserved in the re-creation of that planet to form this earth. Though, in this connection, I must say that so far as I have examined the works of those who treat on the subject of pre-historic man, or pre-Adamic races, they have hung the heaviest weights on the slenderest of threads: and I am inclined to the opinion that Adam was the progenitor of all races of men whose remains have yet been found.

The claim that the age of the earth and the fossil evidence can be explained by the earth having been formed from previous planets that were broken is unique, I think, to Latter-day Saints. I will defer discussion of this claim to my next post. I would just note that one of the reasons The Truth, The Way, The Life was not published by the Church was because it assumed life and death had occurred on this earth before Adam and Eve. Thus it appears that Roberts did not stick to the argument laid out above.

The statement by Roberts that "the claims of evolution...are contrary to all experience so far as man's knowledge extends" is telling. I think that many arguments against evolution really boil down to this sentiment. It is what Richard Dawkins calls "The Argument from Personal Incredulity." However, the truth or accuracy of scientific concepts does not lie in whether they are intuitive or not. Quite the contrary--science is full of counter-intuitive ideas. For example, even a casual exploration of physics will uncover concepts that have no resemblance to our day-to-day lives. We are used to it now, but there is nothing immediately intuitive about how microorganisms cause disease--the etiology of infectious diseases has been unknown for most of history. The germ theory of disease was deemed absurd by some skeptics. Examples could be multiplied--the point is that our daily experience is not always the best way to judge such things.

As for the transplantation of life on earth from a another planet, this is a common idea found in LDS circles--I'm not sure whether it is found in the broader Christian tradition. The history of this concept within Mormonism would be interesting--something I may investigate later. For now I will just say that the idea that most life-forms were transplanted from another place does not really solve any problems. First, it does nothing to answer the question of how the life-forms were created. It merely moves the question back to another place. It also fails to explain the evidences from biogeography, the fossil record, and molecular evidences of common descent. Whether the original life on earth was a transplant is something that probably cannot be ruled out by present evidence, but that is another matter. If transplantation of life from elsewhere has occured we currently have no evidence for it, and for large-scale transplantation, we have much evidence against it.

Macroevolution has never been observed.

[This is a cross-post from LDS Science Review.]



Evolution & the Law of Consecration

Perhaps the men most responsible for popularizing evolution was Herbert Spencer and Thomas H. Huxley (sometimes referred to as "Pope Huxley" of "Darwin's bulldog"). Interestingly enough, their popularization efforts centered not in the biological consequences of Darwin's idea, but in the political ramifications, especially in the case of Spencer. Spencer's coining of the phrase "survival of the fittest" was intended not only to describe biological evolution, but as a principle of economics as well. Those who are able to prosper is some sense should and should not try to bag down the rest of humanity by helping the "weak" to survive and reproduce through altruistic acts of charity.

It is for this reason that the LDS church of the second half of the 19th century was not too persuaded by evolution. At the time, Pres. Young and to a lesser degree Taylor were trying vigorously to impliment the United Order and nothing could have been more contrary to the United Order than Spencer ideas of Social Darwinism. It is in this context that Brigham writes to his son:
We have enough and to spare, at present in these mountains, of schools where young infidels are made because the teachers are so tender-footed that they dare not mention the principles of the gospel to their pupils, but have no hesitancy in introducing into the classroom the theories of Huxley, of Darwin, or of Miall and the false political economy which contends against co-operation and the United Order. This course I am resolutely and uncompromisingly opposed to, and I hope to see the day when the doctrines of the gospel will be taught in all our schools, when the revelation of the Lord will be our texts, and our books will be written and manufactured by ourselves and in our own midst. As a beginning in this direction I have endowed the Brigham Young Academy at Provo and [am] now seeking to do the same thing in this city. (Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, 200)

Clearly this was a bit of an over-reaction on Brigham's part on a number of levels. First of all, Darwin did not himself fully buy into Social Darwinism, despite it's unfortunate name. Second, I don't think that anybody at Brigham Young University would really want to take the scriptures as their textbook for any subject outside of the religion department.

Where Brigham was right, howver, was in his rejection of Social Darwinism. Though I should make it clear that his rejection was hardly based on any kind of logical error which he perceived in the theory. He almost certainly rejected the theory out of an allegiance to his interpretation of scripture and revelation. Luckily, by the end of the second world war, the rest of the academic world has also come to realize many of the flaws in Spencer's reasoning. These errors came to mind all to easily upon seeing Hitler take Spencer's reasoning to an extreme in his genocidal racism.

Darwinism in itself does not contradict the United Order as practiced by the early Saints. I wouldn't say that it supports it either, but nobody has ever articulated the logical bridges necessary to cross from the "is" of biological evolution to the "ought" of Social Darwinism. But wait. Aren't we told that evolution is centered around the "selfish gene"? How can a biological theory is is surely based of selfishness of some kind or another ever support the altruism necessary for the Law of Consecration to work in any form?

The answer to this question lies in the difference which exists between the "selfish genotype," an idea which evolution definitely supports, and the "selfish phenotype," an idea called Social Darwinism which biological evolution says little about. It is in the very selfishness of our genes that the altruism of our phenotypes has evolved. Altruism can emerge under many forms, for example kin selection and reciprocal altruism.

Kin selection is the altruism found in most animal species where the parents or siblings make sacrifices for the benefit of their children or siblings. This can be understood by the fact that the children bear the genes of their parents, thus when a parent sacrifices for their offspring, they are actually serving their own genes as found in their offspring. Thus, phenotypic altruism serves the selfishness of the genes.

I very interesting example of this is found in wasps, ants and bees where by an unusual genetic phenomenon, females are more closely related to their sisters than they are to their daughters. Thus, from a selfish gene point of view, it is more profitable for these females to occupy themselves raising the offspring of their fertile sisters than their fertile daughters. And this is exactly what we observe in such colonies in the case of females, but not males who have no such genetic relationship. This is a clear example of the selfish gene producing radically altruistic behavior on the phenotypic level.

The other example of genetically based phenotypic altruism is reciprocal altruism. This too is found among many species of animals, especially mammals, the great apes in particular. This is where I am nice to people when they are nice to me, thereby allowing all of us better chances at survival and serving the selfish gene again. Many studies have been done using game theory to show how such behavior could evolve and with great success. Due to the societal relationships of early man and most great apes, where the society are small bands with a relatively large perentage of the population being related, it would not be at all improbable for kin selection to evolve into reciprocal altruism. It is due to such "in born" reciprocal altruism that our tendencies towards contractual relationships has evolved, suggests the founder of sociobiology, Edward Wilson. We are naturally inclined, to a certain extent, to be altruistic on the phenotypic level.

Now we are approaching the law of consecration as expressed in the United Order. The revelation was as follows:
And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself. For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just? Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine. (D&C 38)

This was the point of the Law of Consecration the extending of the family, that we consider those around us (remember this was in the context of the United Order) brothers and sisters and not just in name but in action. It was not just giving of your "time and talent" to the church as we hear today, but giving of everything, especially money. How many are willing to merely give of their time and talents to their children, expecting that to be enough for their sustanance? We are to treat those around exactly as we do our kin, because that is what they are.

Some people, especially mothers, consider their children to be but an extension of themselves. It isn't a her and them relationship at all, but is instead a "we" relationship, the first person plural. The Law of Consecration as practiced in the United Order was an attempt to extend this first person plural to include all other members of the church and community as well. It was to transform the my family and their family relationship into an "our family" relationship. Thus, in the United Order people were asked to embrace an intense phenotypic expression of reciprocal altruism (done by a covenant and deed which cannot be broken, D&C 42:30) which was to be considered a form of spiritual kin selection.

I'm not saying that we are biologically engineered to be communists or to embrace the United Order. I'm simply pointing out that the genetic selfishness inherent in evolution is not at all in conflict with our doctrines concerning consecration as Brigham evidently believed. Indeed, most naturalists view religious inclination in general to have been an evolutionary adaption meant to facilitate greater group cohesion. I can think of no greater expression of this cohesion than that found in the United Order.



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.



Evolutionary Theodicies

We have dealt in a number of posts about the problem of evil as it related to evolution. We mentioned how a literal reading of garden of eden story is principally motivated by an attempt at theodicy. Thankfully, Mormonism is not commited to such a reading (in fact I would argue that such a reading goes against Mormon doctrine) so the abolishment of such a reading by evolution presented little problem.

There is another problem which arises concerning the problem of evil as it relates to evolution. Namely, why in the world would an all-powerful God use such a drawn out, wasteful and inaccurate process as evolution to create life for us? This seems to fly in the face of everything we believe about God. It is basically to take the differences which Joseph Smith established between the Mormon God and the traditional Christian view of God and amplify them to the point of caricature. Not only did God create the world out of preexisting materials in accordance with natural law, but He took 4.55 billion years to do it, allowed 99.9% of all species to have gone exict and even so ended up with a product which has numerous and obvious short comings. If this doesn't put the problem of natural evil in prespective, I don't know what does.

Miller attempts to address this and similar issues toward the end of his book. It would do us well to carefully consider his way out of such a conundrum and how these argument might work in a Mormon context.

We should here mention that this is a place where the distinction between creating us through evolution and creating us in accordance with evolution. Creating us through evolution seems to suggest that evolution is in some respect God and a manifestation of His power. This puts all the bad side-effects associated with evolution squarely on His shoulders; not only does He not prevent the evils of evolution but He causes them under this reading. Luckily, God does create us through evolution. Carl Sagan put it nicely when he said that such a God would be "emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity."

Miller discusses how God sometimes takes a hand's off approach to us here on earth. We can't and don't blame Him for most if not all human evil's. Adam's fall, the holocaust and so on are not God's fault, but are Adam's and Hitler's fault respectively. This is called the free will theodicy, which basically says that God doesn't interfere in our actions out of a respect for our free-will. He could intervene, but not without accomplishing the greater good.

Fair enough. But can we extend this theodicy of human evil to cover natural evil as well? Most would seriously doubt it, but this is exactly what Miller tries to do.
Obviously, few religious people find it problematic that their own personal existence might not have been preordained of God, that they might not be here but for the decisions of their parents or the chance events that brought them together. But strangely, some of the very same people find it inconceivable that the biological existence of our species could have been subject to exactly the same forces. If we can see God's will in the flow of history and the circumstances of our daily lives, we can certainly see it in the currents of natural history. (239)

Miller starts to get into some deep water here. First of all, many people DO think that their personal existence is preordained. Second, those who do realize that contradiction between the contingency of free will and absolute foreknowledge only limit God's foreknowledge only in as much as it contradicts free will. Remember, one desirable trait is being sacrificed for an apparently more valuable trait. Finally, there is no apparantly more valuable trait to be gained in limiting God's foreknowledge before any beings with free will existed on this earth. He has really gotten himself into trouble here for he is sacrificing God's foreknowledge and absolute power without anything in return.

He then goes on to bring this calling into question of God's power really into focus by quoting Gould thusly:
The real enigma... surrounds the origin and early history of animals. If life had always been hankering to reach a pinnacle of expression as the animal kingdom, then organic history seemed to be in no hurry to initiate this ultimate phase. About five sixth's of life's history had passed before animals made their first appearance in the fossil record some 600 million years ago. (243)

Given these views, it becomes difficult to believe Miller when he says, "By any reasonable analysis, evolution does nothing to distance or to weaken the power of God." Nice try. The power of the God of ethical monotheism seems seriously weakened by this analysis. God could have created us all in a puff of smoke without all that wasted time, energy and species just like most Christians still believe He did. But He didn't and Miller hasn't given such Christians a very good reason why.

As a brief introduction to how these ideas work in a Mormon context, let me quote a couple of lines from Miller.
God's miracles are not routine subversions of the laws of nature. If they were, then the issue of why so many extinct forms of life preceeded us would be a conundrum, since each one would have to be the intentional creation of the mind of God. If each were just another chapter in an unfolding plan driven by the laws and principles of nature, the issue is not important. If God were just a magician, He could have made the present world appear in a puff of smoke. But He isn't... Evolution is a natural process, and natural processes are undirected. Even if God can intervene in nature, why should He when nature can do a perfectly fine job of achieving His aims all by itself? It was God, after all, who chose the universal constants that made life possible. (240-241,244)

While the idea that God chose the physical laws probably isn't very consistent with Mormon doctrine, Miller's notion of God as being bound by natural law is very Mormon.

The reason why God used such a slow process is because He doesn't, maybe even can't, create living organisms out of the dust of the ground. Each creature has to be born in some sense of the word. This is what has motivated the transplantation doctrine, which was seen as a forced doctrinal move in it's pre-evolution days. (As a side note, we must confess that Elder Talmage himself noted that transplantaton is no answer to the origin of species anymore than saying that your roses came from the store answers where roses came from. Are we really prepared to admit that all 'kinds' of animals have always existed and were never created? Isn't evolution the only possible answer?)

The reason why God didn't prevent the all the death and suffering inherent in evolution is because only through the death and suffering does selection occur. God must work within the laws of nature, and given the immense amount of complexity and contingency involved in evolution, it took a really long time. We should also mention that every animal will die eventually, so this is really not that big of a deal.

But did it have to take this long just to reach us humans so very late in the game? Probably, but if not, I have suggested that we can view the history of life on earth as not being so anthropocentric. If these animals had any kind of intellgence, why not suggest that they too were profiting from their existence here on earth, similar to how we are?

And as a final side note, I cannot help but call attention to Miller's use of the free will theodicy. Miller suggests that God doesn't interfere with out lives too much out of a respect for our free will. But what kind of free will? If we maintain that this free will is basically, as Dennett calls it, moral levitation then applying this to the pre-human earth is entirely inappropriate. But if this free will is that of the compatibilist as endorsed by Ruse, Dennett and myself then there are enough similarities which can be drawn between our free will and the pre-human earth to justify his use of the free will theodicy.

Summary: Miller's evolutionary theodicy compromises the absolute omnipotence of the God of ethical monotheism. His God sounds very similar to the God of Mormonism in His being bound by natural law. An attack is also brought against the idea of separate-species transplantation.



Quantum Mechanics and Evolution

Last time I mentioned that Miller, for all his intense and persuasive arguments against creationism, did not find materialism in evolution to be a forced move. He presented two principles which allow God room to intervene and thereby participate in the creation of the world as we now know it. The first window was in the creation of the universe itself according to what is now called the strong anthropic principle. I found his use of this principle to be unpersuasive it that while it seems that Miller strongly discourages biological creationism, he here seems to be endorsing astronomical creationism, an argument based too heavily on our current ignorance of the universes beginnings. Additionally, it is very unclear how the anthropic prinicple, in it's strong form, works when combined with the Mormon doctrine of the eternal nature of physical law and elements. I think it best that we, as Mormons, search elsewhere for a creative window of opportunity.

Miller's second options which he considers is based on quantum mechanics. This may seem like another appeal to ignorance, but there is a slight variation. This ignorance does not derive from our lack of understanding in this particular field, but rather is an inherent quality in this field. It's not that we don't now know or aren't able to make accurate predictions about what happens at the quantum level based on our current understanding of the matter. Instead, quantum mechanism has an 'uncertainty principle' built into it which ensures that we never will be able to predict what happens at that level.

Some think that difference between the two is negligible and that Miller really is falling back on the very arguments he criticized so heavily in his chapters on creationism. Miller does not, nor do I when considering things from his view. But there is the the rub. His view of God is not our view at all. I will explain why after a brief review of what, exactly, it is that Miller has in mind.

Miller draws heavily on Schrodinger's classic work "What is life?" Miller summarizes as follows:
Life is built around a chemistry that provides an amplifying mechanism for quantum events... Mutations, which provide the raw material of genetic variation, are just as unpredictable as a single photon passing through a diffraction slit... The fact that mutation and variation are inherently unpredictable means that the course of evolution is, too. In other words, evolutionary history can turn on a very, very small dime - the quantum state of a single subatomic particle... Quantum physics tells us that absolute knowledge, complete understanding, a total grasp of universal reality, will never be ours. (207-8)

He goes on to mention that the main thing that gets the opponents of evolution so riled up about the subject is the idea of its being totally random. "The only alternative to what they describe as randomness would be a nonrandom universe or clockwork mechanisms that would also rule out active intervention by any supreme Deity." (213) In this they are wrong, Miller maintains, for the position which more clearly fits their theology is the indeterminacy of quantum physics. In other words, God can act at the quantum level without science ever (in principle) coming to know the difference.

Before we go on to Miller more exciting applications of his reasoning, let's first view what we have here with a critical eye, if not a Mormon eye. First of all, let's discuss God's apparent ability to use quantum physics to His advantage. Let's assume that He does have this ability (if He didn't then the argument is over before it even starts). In order to be able to use this inherently unpredictable mechanism to His advantage He must of had to learn about it. Remember, God was once an ignorant man, just like us. But if He could learn about it to such a degree as to be able to use it to His advantage, which entails predictability, then Miller's argument of inherent unpredictability doesn't work in the Mormon context. Either it's inherently unpredictable or it's not, we can't have our cake and eat it too. This is one problem.

Another problem arises in his (over)emphasis of the randomnes in quantum physics and its relationship to mutation. The randomness of evolution which the materialists emphasize so much does not come from quantum physics, but from the utter contingency involved in the evolutionary process. Evolution works with whatever mutations are already in the population, thus the mutations are random in the sense that they are not 'intended' for anything. They are simply there through nobody's fault and nature selects whatever mutation happen to give organisms an advantage over those around them. If a particulat mutation helps, chances are (here is more change based on contingency) that it will eventually tend to spread through the popluation. If it doesn't help, chances are it won't. Either way, since all mutations are not equally fortuitous, SOME mutations will be selected, and all of this unguided randomness without quantum physics. Some, Dennett for instance, even maintain that evolution does not depend on indeterminacy at all.

Miller, it seems, could have equally said that since mankind will never be able to perfectly predict whether patterns, earthquakes, migrations and all the other extraordinarily complex factors which play a part in the survival of a particular species in any given ecosystem, we can never be sure that God isn't guiding things so let's keep faith. Basically, what Miller is holding out for is a Laplacian Demon, a demon which we do not believe exists.

That said, I must confess that the nature of quantum physics does suggest that if God is going to direct mutations, there is much that could be influenced on the macroscopic scale, by such infinitesimal and directed 'fluctuations.' If this is how God does it, however, then the inherent ignorance of such processes are only illusional.

I did say, though, that Miller's applications of his proposal are more exciting than the proposal itself. His accusation that Christians are playing into a form of Deism is particularly interesting from a Mormon perspective for reasons we shall soon see.
The opponents of evolution... see each new materialist, scientific explanation for a natural phenomenon as a retreat for the primacy of God. They are willing to fix on anything that seems unlikely to have a material explanation as proof of the divine agency they seek. And given biology's remarkable success in accounting for life's workings today, they are obliged to find those miracles in the past... Such reasoning shows a curious lack of faith in the creative power of God. Creationists act as though compelled to go into the past for evidence of God's work, yet ridicule the deistic notion of a designer-God who's been snoozing ever since His great work was finished... If they believe in an active and present God, a God who can work His will in the present in ways consistent with scientific materialism, then why couldn't that same God have worked His will in exactly the same ways in the past? What this means, in plain and simple terms, is that ordinary processes, rooted in the geniune materialism of science, ought to be sufficient to allow for God's work - yesterday, today and tomorrow. (215,217,218)

I'm sure most Mormons will recognize that last phrase since they are fond of quoting it to support their ideas concerning revelation, and miracles in general, in the current church. Do we really believe that God is the same or don't we? Why aren't new species popping up out of nowhere anymore like creationists seem to imagine? Why is His work finished?

Perhaps the least engaging (though far from being the least accurate) book which I have ever read on relgion and evolution would be "God After Darwin". The one thing which I did get out of the book, however, was the uplifting idea that the creation is not yet finished. God, with our co-creative help, is still creating a better world through the same laws which have always existed in this world. I like that, for it suggests that the methods that God used to perform His miracles in the creation of the world as we know it, are the same methods which He is still using today. We have already proposed two forms in which God could have directed evolution: 1) through inspiration and 2) through quantum fluctations. It sits well with me that we allow for these two methods to still be in use in the world today.

Summary: Miller's use of quantum physics an a impenetrable safe-haven for God's acts doesn't work too well in the Mormon context. Nevertheless, this not to say that God couldn't have, or didn't use it. Clearly God's creative acts lies in our ignorance somewhere, the problems only arise (as they do in creation science) when we resist penetrating this ignorance out of fear that God will be left without another job.



Evolution & the Anthropic Principle

We have already covered Miller's thoughts on both creationism and atheistic materialism. He finds both parties to be presenting the same argument: Darwinian evolution proves there is no God, at least not one worth worshipping. Miller doesn't buy it and nor do I. Both sides are talking about a God which it absolutely in control and totally responsible for everything which happens in the universe.
You could, I suppose, cast the Almighty in this guise, make Him a cosmic tyrant, a grand puppeteer pulling every string at once, and then nothing would be left to chance. But most people would find this view of God disturbing. Putting God in charge of every trip and stumble of our daily lives does take chance out of the picture, but at what price? God is now personally responsible for falling limbs and power lines, for your daughter's illness, and even for the school bus full of children slipping off an icy road. (p. 234)

But this isn't the God of Mormonism. Our God works in accordance with self existent laws, elements and intelligences. He is not responsible for a lot of things which happen, and it is the eternal nature of these three things which gives Mormonism such a powerful theodicy to work with. Eternal intelligences can act on their own, thus allowing for moral evil. Eternal elements and physical laws allow for natural evil. We still have to wonder why God doesn't intervene more often, but we are off to a good start. It unfortunate that Miller couldn't have considered a Deity more along these lines in his book, but had he done so he simply would not have found near as large an audience. Instead, he sticks with the utterly transcendent God of ethical monotheism.

His next chapters are entitled "Beyond Materialism" and "The Road Back Home" where he attempts to show that there is more than enough room for God in the creation of the world and maybe even humans. It marks a transition in his book, from a consideration of evolution to musing in theology. Unfortunately, many have noticed that Miller isn't much of a theologian. A reviewer put it thus: "Darwin is found but God is still missing." Ouch.

There are two areas where God can make his appearance: 1) the designing of the Universe, and 2) the quantum level. He mentions these because not only do we know little about happenings in these realms, but in principle we can never scientifically know about them. Thus, while creationism discourages scientific investigation into the origins of species, an area where we can and do know quite a bit, his God of the Gaps lies in gaps that science itself says cannot be filled. Thus he is able to hold hands with science while keeping his distance from materialism. But how well do these moves work within a Mormon context? Let's have a look.

We mentioned the influence which natural theology had over the western world at the time of Darwin's Origin of Species. It was due to such a strong hold of natural theology that many of his day adopted Deism, a movement that basically put all of their stock in what we now refer to as the Anthropic Principle. In order to life of any kind to appear in the Universe, the laws had to be very particular, suspiciously so in fact. This has led many to find compelling evidence for God in the physical laws of the universe. Miller is one of these people.

Should Mormon be like these people as well? I'm not so sure. First of all, we should acknowledge that the stronger forms of the anthropic principle, the forms used to suggest that there is a God, rely heavily on our ignorance. We simply can't (won't) think of any other way to explain what seems to be an astronomically enormous coincidence. Enter Lee Smolin with his ideas of cosmic evolution, along with an endorsement from Daniel Dennett. The universe, according to Smolin, gives birth to other universes through black holes. With each new birth the fundamental laws of the universe are slightly variable, and the laws which are most conducive to forming blackholes by creating heavy materials such a carbon, will be the ones which will be most commonly observed. Hence, here we are in a carbon filled universe, ideal for the evolution of life.

Suddenly there is another explanation available, and our argument from ignorance loses a lot of steam. But Miller is right in that our knowledge, or better yet, our ignorance of the universes beginning does still allow for God. Thus, according to Miller, while biological creationism is bad, he sees no problem with astronomical creationism.
Deprived of empirical evidence, the best he [Dennett] can manage is to assure his readers that his non-theistic explanation is "at least as good" as a theistic one... [Thus] Dennett unwittingly admits that the "traditional alternative" is valid as well. (p. 231,232)

Thus while the anthropic principle doesn't provide very compelling evidence for God, it does make one think a bit. It at least allows for God anyways. One can only wonder, however, what happened to Miller's views of creationism in general:
I find the flow of their logic particularly depressing. Not only does it teach us to fear the acquisition of knowledge, which might at any time disprove belief, but it suggests that God dwells only in the shadows of our understanding. (p. 267)

Combine the large quantities of ignorance we have regarding the formation of the physical constants we know observe in the universe with the Mormon doctrine that ultimate physical law is eternal in nature, uncreated and coeternal with God, along with all of us and I'm not so sure the anthropic principle is really the best basket for Mormons to put too many eggs in. We simply have no clue how much involvement God had, in any at all, in the formation of the physical constants we observe today. I used to think that the Mormon doctrines concerning the physical universe were rather similar to those of Deism. Now I see that they are almost exact opposites.

Summary: Miller's use of the anthropic principle as room for God's creative acts is evaluated and seen to be suspiciously similar to the arguments put forth by the creationists he has just rejected. While the anthropic principle does allow room for God's creative acts, such space is tentative and possibly inharmonious with Mormon doctrine.



Evolution & the Gods of Disbelief

After his having thoroughly demonished the three most prominent forms of creationism, one gets the feelings that Miller probably doesn't really believe in God the same way most people do, if he believes at all. It is this second option which he considers next in his book. Does evolution prove that there is no God? Now of course the most obvious response to this would be 'no,' but it's not so simple as we shall see. It certainly discounts any Gods that created species individually or created the earth without any death on it until about 6,000 years ago. Does evolution allow for a God? Yes, but not just any God. Does evolution allow for a God that created Human beings, us? That's a tough question which should be addressed with some care and length, which Miller does.

Between Newton and Galileo the latter is certainly more well known for his conflict with the church. He offered strong evidence that man was not at the center of the universe and therefore God's attention (in one interpretation). In response the church offered Galileo two options: 1) take back what you have said or 2) suffer, both in the next life and this one. Thankfully most churches learned from this unpleasant encounter by the time Darwin rolled around with his further displacement of man from center stage. While most held strong suspicions and disbeliefs regarding Darwin's ideas, few were willing to come out in full fledged opposition. This was a good thing, since in the long run they would have lost.

Newton's ideas also came in conflict with many notions of 'folk relgion' although when I say Newton I mean many of the pioneers of the Enlightenment who began to promote and embrace a materialism which varied between being merely methodoligical and fully ontological. With the discovery of mindless physical law, the jobs previously held by God began to disappear. God doesn't make things fall on earth and make the planet go around the sun, gravity does. Rain is not water from heaven, but water which had been evaporated off the earth's surface. God doesn't make the sun rise, shine and set for us each day, this is accomplished by the earth's rotating and 'nuclear fusion.' Like I said, I'm not only referring to Newton.

It was because of this that westerners began to adopt various forms of natural religion, culminating in deism. God didn't do these things anymore, but He did create the laws and materials which did do these things. It was because of natural relgion that people began to embrace the argument from design so strongly. And nowhere was the argument from design so powerful as in what we now call biology, the one area which still hadn't been taken over by the laws of nature as discovered by science. God still had a job, namely creating each form of life in it's vast complexity and wonderful design.

In the early 19th century people accepted the existence of God principally because of the argument from design. Life was uniquely designed and just as a wonderfully designed watch must have a watch maker, wonderfully designed life must have a life Maker. Even if the earth, its continents and weather systems were created more by physical laws than by God, life was different. That was His main concern, and that was His main occupation. How else could we account for the obvious design we see in life? Again, the argument from ignorance. Hume had already thoroughly destroyed the basic tenets of natural relgion, but this is precisely the place were he too fell short. He could come up with no alternative explanation to account for life and its various examples of design.

Enter Darwin. Life too is controlled by physical laws, 1) self-replication, 2) random variation and 3) a struggle for survival. From these three, design not only can but will emerge, not perfect design mind you, but design nonetheless. In one fell swoop, Darwin not only found himself in a Galileo event, but also threw down the religious dams placed by religion to hold materialism at bay. The consequences fo this application of materialism to biology can hardly be exaggerated:
The application of materialist science has transformed biology from the observational discipline of the nineteenth century into a predictive and manipulative science that enters the twenty-first century as the most dynamic and far-reaching of all scientific disciplines. (Miller, p. 168)

Thus there are physical laws everywhere, even in biology. Just as gravity had no fore-sight or teleological purpose in its creation of the earth, evolution had no fore-sight or purpose in its creation of us. Thus, according to some, God is left unemployed and we are left without meaing.
Dawkins draws directly on evolution to say that life is without meaning. Wilson finds that evolution can explain God away as an artifact of sociobiology. And Dennett is ready to dig quarantine fences around zoos in which religions, held safely in check, can be appreciated from a distance. (p. 185)

What gets really obnoxious is when the defenders of creationism back these claims up.
The griddy irony of this situation is that intelluctual opposites like Johnson and Lewtonian [who lies in the same camp as Dawkins & co.] actually find themselves in a symbiotic relationship - each insisting vigorously that evolution implies an absolute materialism that in not compatible with religion. This means, in a curious way, that each validates the most extreme viewpoints of the other.
Johnson's willingness to dismiss scientific evidence confirms Lewtonians fear that someone "who could believe in God could believe in anything." Anything clearly includes the nonsense of creationism.

Well, what about Mormonism? Are the fears of Johnson, the very fears which Dawkins exploits so willingly, the same fears which we Mormons should have? I don't think so.

First of all, what of God's creating the world and especially life? This is a question which he haven't discussed too much yet, if only out of sheer ignorance. While it is clear that evolution could have produced us all by our selves and Dawkins, Wilson and Dennett could be absolutely right, it is even more clear that evolution didn't have to produce us by itself. Gould insists that if we rewind the tape, the change that humans would reevolve is basically zero. Out of faith we believe that God meant for us creations in His image to be here. This He did not by creating the laws of evolution and then sittin back, but in accordance with the laws of evolution. Evolution did a lot of the creative work, but this doesn't some how disqualify God as a guide in the process.

What about the fears of materialism? What interesting is that Mormon are materialists in a certain sense. We believe that intelligence, element and laws are all self-existent. Materialism doesn't disprove God's use of these things and more than it disproves my use of this computer. Is a spiritual reality superfluous? It depends on whether we view human life as an accidental by-product of evolution (in which case the answer is yes) or as an intended goal of somebody working within the bounds of evolution (in which case the answer is no). Either way, the existence of a spiritual reality is not disproved.

What about the meaninglessness of life according to evolution? I have addressed this issue in a previous post. To ask what's the meaning of life can be better phrased what's the meaning of our existence? If we can answer what the meaning of our eternal existence is without appealing to God, since we exist independant of Him, I imagine it won't be that different from the meaning which Dennett gives to his life. We believe the laws of math, physics and ,where proper conditions exist, evolution to be eternal and uncreated, before which even God Himself must bow. This doesn't mean that there is no purpose in our eternal existence, let alone in this temporal existence.

If there we have any worries about materialism, meaning to our existence or God's part in creation, these worries stem not from evolution, but from Mormon doctrine itself. If anything we should be grateful that evolution has helped enlist so manhy other people in the quest to find answers to these questions with us. Evolution is not the bogey man some take it to be, especially for Mormons.

Summary: The worries which creationists and naturalists alike see in evolution are worries which Mormons must deal with even in evolution is false. While evolution may make belief in a spiritual reality superfluous, based on a particular view of human life, it certainly doesn't disprove a spiritual existence. Our belief in God and an eternal existence should not be based in the argument from design.


Blood, The Fall, and Intelligent Design

According to current LDS theology, blood is a distinctive part of mortal life. Although Adam and Eve had physical bodies in the Garden of Eden, their bodies did not contain blood. The Bible Dictionary states, "Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood" (see BD, "Fall of Adam"). Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
Eating of that forbidden fruit subdued the power of the spirit and created blood in [Adam's] body. No blood was in his body before the fall. The blood became the life thereof. And the blood was not only the life thereof, but it had in it the seeds of death. (Seek Ye Earnestly, p.81)

That there was no blood before the fall is a relatively recent concept. From what I have been able to find, Joseph Fielding Smith appears to be the first person to have taught it. In regard to the origin and support for this teaching, Robert J. Matthews has written:
That there was no blood in the bodies of Adam and Eve before the Fall, and that blood came as a result of the Fall, is not categorically stated in any one passage of scripture, but leading doctrinal teachers such as President Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder Bruce R. McConkie have declared that such was the case. This conclusion is scripturally based and takes into account that blood is the mortal life of the body (see Gen 9:2-6; Lev. 17:10-15).

A further point supporting the conclusion that Adam and Eve had no blood in their premortal, non-death bodies is that we are assured by the Prophet Joseph Smith that resurrected beings do not have blood but possess bodies of flesh and bones "having spirit in their bodies, and not blood." The Prophet also said, "When our flesh is quickened by the Spirit, there will be no blood in this tabernacle." In speaking of the place where God dwells, the Prophet said, "Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones, quickened by the Spirit of God, can." (See also 1 Cor. 15:50.)

This much we know about blood: (a) it is a vital part of our mortal lives and is basic to the reproductive process of mortals; (b) it was the agent of redemption in the atonement of Jesus Christ, he shedding his blood to redeem all people from the effects of the Fall and, upon the condition of repentance, from their personal sins; and (c) blood will not exist in the bodies of resurrected beings. With these known facts it becomes evident that blood is the badge of mortality, and since it will not exist in the deathless bodies of Adam, Eve, and their posterity in the resurrection, it is therefore reasonable to conclude that blood did not exist in the deathless, premortal bodies of Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. (Man Adam, p.45)
In passing, it should be noted that while blood is a vital part of our mortal bodies, and that of many animals, it is not a component of many mortal life-forms (plants, for example).

Blood fulfills a number of important roles in the body. It's most notable role is to deliver oxygen to cells and remove carbon dioxide waste. It also facilitates the transportation of many substances through the body including nutrients, hormones, and components of the immune system. Because it is so vital to life, there are mechanisms in place that help to keep us from losing blood, ie. clotting.

The formation and regulation of clotting involves a number of proteins, all of which are encoded in our genes. Inherited deficiencies in these genes can lead to such conditions as hemophilia. It is beyond the scope of this post to detail the interactions of these proteins, such as in the clotting cascade. (See here for further reading.) It is sufficient to know that the regulation of clotting is complicated and impressive.

Elder Russell M. Nelson has commented several times on the wonders of the human body, including the ability of blood to clot. (See, for example, “The Magnificence of Man,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 64.) The regulation of clotting has also been discussed by Michael Behe in his book, Darwin's Black Box. In his book Behe claims that the clotting cascade is an irreducibly complex (IC) system, which means that if any component of it were removed, the system would fail. Since it is highly improbable, if not impossible, that the whole system could have been fully developed by natural means, all at once, and since the system would not confer any advantage to an organism if it was developed one component at a time, Behe argues that this system has been intelligiently designed. Presumably, the "designer" is God. If Behe is correct, his argument would seem to add scientific support to the sentiments of Elder Nelson, and some undoubtably see it as such. (Whether or not Behe is correct is beyond the scope of this post.)

In thinking about the Fall, a natural question arises: Why was it necessary? Why did God create things in a paradisiacal state rather than a mortal state? In his criticism of evolution, Joseph Fielding McConkie wrote:
Latter-day Saint theology recognizes God as the creator. Thus the labor of creation must be godlike. God does not do shoddy work. Having completed the work of creation, he declared it "very good" (Moses 2:31). (Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions, p. 158-162.)
While the scriptures have much to say concerning the consequences of (and redemption from) the Fall, they have little to say about the reason for the Fall. Robert J. Matthews expressed this opinion:
If God had created man mortal, then death, sin, and all the circumstances of mortality would be God's doing and would be eternal and permanent in their nature whereas if man brings the Fall upon himself, he is the responsible moral agent, and God is able to rescue and redeem him from his fallen state. (Bible! a Bible!, p. 187)

Apparently McConkie sees anything less than a paradisiacal creation as "shoddy" and ungodlike. Matthews sees the Fall as a way for God to avoid responsibility for our mortal condition.

There may be other explanations, but I do not find either of these explanations compelling, which leads to the point of this post: If God does not create anything "shoddy" (and therefore ungodlike) and has no responsibility for mortal conditions, how can we say that God designed or created blood, the hallmark of the Fall? We can widen the question to include all things that are in a fallen condition, since the scriptures state that all things testify of Christ. In fact it was God who issued the curses that would characterize mortality for Adam and Eve. If we take the scriptural account literally, thorns and thistles were apparently previously unknown to earth. This means that either God had previously created such plants but held them in a dormant state, or he created them when Adam and Eve fell. The same can be said for blood or any other biological characteristic of mortality.

If we are to exclude any role for evolution in the creation of life on this earth on the grounds that God either does not create, or cannot be responsible for, anything that is less than perfect, then it seems to me that we have to relinquish his role in the creation of anything that characterizes fallen conditions, including blood. Conversely, if God has created (in a direct way) aspects of our mortal condition, then we cannot say that using evolution in the creative process would be "shoddy" and ungodlike. If evolution is to be rejected as a tool which God uses to create, it will have to be on theological grounds other than its imperfect nature.



God as Mechanic in Evolution

The third form of creationism which Miller criticizes in his book is that of Behe's irreducible complexity. The believers in such, claim Miller, worship God the mechanic, clearly an upgrade from God the charlatan or God the magician. It must be kept in mind that Miller here is addressing three different and not always compatible versions of creationism in his book. In God the charlatan he attacks the idea that the earth is young, which it clearly isn't. Thus he establishes that there has been death on this earth and all those fossils are the remain of animals which must be accounted for. He then moves on the God the magician who created all those animals separately in a not very intelligent way, for no obvious reason. But animals do have common origins. This clearly comes through in the fossils record and our understanding of genetics. Now that he has established that animals do descend from common sources, and that there has been life and death on the earth for a very long time, he goes after the Mechanichists.

I do say these things for a reason. Namely, that the Charlatanists should not use the arguments which the Magicianists and Mechanichists put forth for they are not compatible with what they, the Charlatanists, believe. Neither should the Magicianists be using the arguments of the Mechanichists, because altough they are both attacking Darwinism, the arguments of each are not compatible with the arguments of the other, making such statements attacks on each other as well. The Magicianists use many arguments which require an old earth. The Mechanichists use many arguments which require common descent. But it doesn't seem that any of them care all that much for the simple reason that they aren't interested in science or truth for that matter. They are interested in attacking their attacker and defending their faith claims, Truth with a capital 'T'.

Here's a perfect example.
In a 1995 debate, I presented him [Behe]with molecular evidence indicating that humans and the great apes shared a recent, common ancestor, wondering how he would refute the obvious. Without skipping a beat, he pronounced the evidence to be convincing, and stated categorically that he had absolutely no problem with the common ancestry of humans and the great apes. Creationists around the room - who had viewed him as their new champion - were dismayed. Behe's views stand in oppostion to those of Philip Johnson, who rejects any notion of a common ancestry for humans and other animals; and in bold contradiction to young-earth creationists... who reject common ancestry altogether and maintain that all species were seperately created. (p. 164)

Those who find the problems between evolution and the fall to be unsuprable barriers, cannot in good-conscience use the arguments of Behe, arguments which depend on an old earth. They should also be careful about how they accept Johnson's arguments as well. These men are only trying to establish that God played a role somehow and that natural law isn't enough by itself to generate us. They have given up on the young earth and its time we did as well. Behe has given up on a special creation and we should be no different. Miller, as we will see, with all his Christian faith has given up on irreducible complexity and we should too if only out of intellectual integrity for science, which in Mormon theology is a relgious reason.

We have already seen what Michael Ruse, a respectable and fair philospher of biology, had to say about Behe's book:
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.

Not the kindest words, but not entirely undeserved when Behe tries to put himself in the complany of "Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and Schrodinger, Pasteur and Darwin." (Behe in Darwin's Black Box, p. 232-233) Miller agrees with Ruse when he says, and rightly so, that Behe has literally taken the old 18th century argument from design and spiffed it up with biochemical terminiology. Darwinism can account for most large features in organisms, Behe admits, but when it comes to the really small ones it can't. Why we might ask? Because it's really complex, irreducibly complex in fact. People have been saying this for centuries about the big features, why should the small ones be any different? As long as there is random mutation, self-replication and a struggle for survival, evolution will occur, regardless of size.

Basically Behe's book amounts to being one long series of arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity. "We don't know therefore God did it," and "I don't believe it so it isn't true." Regarding the argument from ignorance, on mulitple occasions in this book Behe really tries to drive home his points by stating that nobody has proposed evolutionary pathways for various systems. This is not just icing on the cake of his argument, it IS his argument.
There is no publication in the scientific literature - in prestigious journals, specialty journals, or books - that describes how molecular evolution of any real, complex biochemical system either did occur or even might have occurred. (Behe, p. 185)

A God-of-the-Gaps theology if there ever was one. The problem with the God of the gaps is that the gaps have a tendency of filling it with time. For Behe, however, it was even worse, for the gaps had already been filled in contrary to his claims otherwise. Soon after Behe's book was published, Miller did a search thorough the literature to see if Behe was right about the utter and complete lack of evolutionary accounts for the systems he mentions. Remember, for Behe's argument to mean anything at all, there must be NO literature on the matter as he himself says. Much to Miller's surprise, however, numerous articles were easily found detailing the very things which Behe said had never, and hopefully would never, be detailed. "Not only is [Behe] wrong, he's wrong in a most spectacular way. The biochemical machines whose origins he finds so mysterious actually provide us with powerful and compelling examples of evolution in action." (Miller, p. 160)

Well how does Behe believe that these 'irreducibly complex' biochemical system got into the cells in the first place? It almost pains me to quote this one:
Suppose that nearly four billion years ago the designer made the first cell, already containing all of the irreducibly complex biochemical systems discussed here and many others... One can postulate that the designs for systems that were to be used later... were present but not 'turned on.' (Behe p. 228)

No, we can't suppose this for a number of reasons. 1) This is a flagrant violation of Ockham's razor. 2) Evolution would have destroyed such genes while they were turned 'off' for so long. 3) Such a scenario requires that the earliest bacteria were about 1000 times the size of today's bacteria. We can say that they shrunk, but this is just what I said in (2).

While Behe's work may be 'faith promoting' it is not good science and therefore makes for bad Mormon theology as well. It is the worst kind of 'faith promoting' material, the kind that only works as long as we remain in ignorance. Once the ignorance vanishes, then what happens? Should our faith suffer from our learning? I think not. Mormon doctrine tends to deemphasize the teleological argument and instead puts more weight on 'divine experience.' Let's not follow Behe in his opposition to this trend.

Summary: The third form of creationism is considered and rejected. Behe's criticisms of evolution rest of the argument from ignorance (which makes for bad theology) and personal incredulity (which makes for bad science). The inconsistencies between the three types of creationists are also pointed out.


Procreation or Design: Pick your Poison

In an earlier post I argued that God as Literal Father and God as Engineer are mutually exclusive ways of understanding God's role in the creation of the human physical body. (Both are anathema to the hard-core evolutionist; hence the title of this post.)

I've created a new poll, available on the sidebar, where you can declare your best guess. The options are not binary: there are several variations of God's possible "design" involvement; an option that includes both design and procreation; and, just so no one feels left out, an option for skeptics/unbelievers as well.

Previous polls (which still accept votes) can be found here.