Kick off the Year of Darwin by laying down $5.99

It is Darwin’s two hundredth birthday this year and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his world-changing Origin of Species. It is time to celebrate! It has been declared to be the “Year of Darwin.” Universities all over the world will be celebrating with lectures and other public events. Museums are putting up special displays. Meetings are being held. Churches are even getting involved, seven-hundred and fifty congregations have declared 13 -15 February 2009, ‘Evolution Weekend’ in which sermons devoted to the compatibility religion and science will be offered. I will be posting soon the wonderful activates planned by the BYU Biology Department to celebrate this momentous anniversary.

I know you’ll be anxious to begin your personal and family activates around the ‘Year of Darwin’ (we’ve planned several FHE’s devoted to exploring how evolution and our Faith are compatible), so here’s how to start.

First, make this the year that you do what you’ve always planned to do: read Origin of Species. It’s marvelously readable. It is also one of the classics of Western civilization that one ought to have read to be considered culturally literate. It is arguably one of the most influential and important books ever to be written—this whether you believe in evolution or not. This is the year to ‘just do it’.

Second, plop down $5.99 for the current edition of Scientific American. The January issue is devoted to evolution and will give you all the basics you need to fully grasp the theory and its current evidences and controversies. It has articles on Darwin’s influence; testing natural selection; and how random variation plays out in DNA. It also has a very nice article on human evolution and its fossil evidence; and another on the human body and its evolutionary relics, like hiccups (‘Why do we have hiccups?’ you’ve probably wondered). The last few articles explore controversies like evolutionary psychology and its errors; and the evangelical Christian attempt at slight of hand in disguising its gussied-up creationism in, so-called, Intelligent Design. The last article in the magazine explores how evolution has changed the way we deal with much that we take for granted in our lives like medicine, health care, law enforcement and ecology. You’ll be stunned by how much evolution touches so many aspects of your life. Stunned. This issue is really worth the price if you want an accessible, informed, and well-written grounding in current evolutionary science.

So, welcome to the year of Darwin. And quite seriously, this would be a good time to explore the implications and meaning of evolution. As I have argued in this blog, evolution and LDS Faith are fully and wonderfully compatible. Even if you are skeptical about some aspects of evolution, take the opportunity to explore your doubts about the theory more fully, more openly, and with better information during this memorial year. Engage with what the science is saying and don’t get it second hand from its disbelievers. We ask truth-seekers to investigate the Church from us rather than from our detractors. I ask you to do the same with evolution. Most of the anti-evolution information is as biased and wrong about the science as anti-Mormon literature is about us. Take the first step by getting this magazine and exploring what scientists are saying themselves. I think you will find it enlightening.

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38 comments to Kick off the Year of Darwin by laying down $5.99

  • I second the recommendation for Origin of Species. It’s really an interesting read. I love Darwin’s careful 19th century prose. And his thoroughness in explaining all the concepts, all the reasons why the theory just plain fits the observed facts, is complete. This is one of the world’s great books.

  • I spent a few semesters of anthropology at UT Knoxville. They even have “Darwin Week” out there.
    What isn’t addressed by the Darwinists is the concept of the fossil record being a former creation and the species we have being brought here from another sphere. (the truth)
    Please excuse God’s mistake in not letting that fit in the revered “scientific method”. How thoughtless of Him.
    IMHO there is NO room for evolutionist theory in true Mormonism.
    But the mainstream church members have sold out to every other worldly demand.
    …monogamy
    …blacks in the Priesthood
    …acceptance of gays
    Might as well sell out to Darwinism, huh?

  • Bruce,

    So far as I know, Joseph Smith never said that fossils came from other planets. (See my post, Joseph Smith and Recycled Planets.) And even if he did, I don’t know why you would expect “Darwinists” to care what the founder of a minority religion thought.

    If Mormonism is simply dogma to be defended, then I guess you have a point about selling out. I think Mormonism is (or should be) more than that.

  • SteveP,

    I’m sorry to say that I’ve never read the Origin of Species all the way through–only bits and pieces. Thanks for the suggestion; I just might take you up on it.

  • SteveP

    Thanks, Tatiana, for your endorsement for OoS it really is a wonderfully written book.

    Bruce I address this world made from old ones here.

    Jared you won’t be disappointed!

  • Well I had a bunch of comments to make about this fun piece, but Bruce in MT’s comment has now left me speechless. Wow. Um, wow.

    Ok well anyway…..

    I think the FHE idea is precious. Steve, you are a treasure to BYU and our community.

  • SteveP

    Everything I learned about being a treasure I learned from you Cynthia :)

  • SteveP,

    One would expect the biology department of a major university to observe the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentennial of his book, Origin of Species. Also, as you mention, many churches are getting involved.

    The LDS Church is not officially participating. And for LDS evolutionists it’s probably better that way. Given their previous comments on the subject, you probably don’t want further input from the tag team of Boyd K. Packer and Russell M. Nelson about Charles Darwin and his theories.

  • Yea! Good to see you here Gary.

  • Tim

    I’m actually extremely curious to know what the other general authorities think about evolution, especially Elder Eyring. Most of them never discuss it.
    I did personally hear Elder Howard, when he was a member of the 70, address it at a mission conference. Let’s just say those missionaries who accepted evolution came away from that meeting with a big smile on their faces, while the anti-evolution missionaries were most definitely scowling up a storm.
    Anyway, I might have to splurge for that magazine…it sounds like it’s worth it, even for a poor grad student like myself.

  • I am happy that my greater Church family is big enough to include people with all sorts of views on evolution. What a shame if anyone feels out of place in the Gospel because of their views on evolution, be they “orthodox” or otherwise.

    StevenP, Thanks for including in your post that Origin of Species is “marvelously readable.” I have been too intimidated to read it. I guess I shouldn’t have been.

  • Tim: First, I think you will find that President Henry B. Eyring believes what the Church teaches about Adam and Eve being placed on a paradisiacal earth as immortal beings and married by God before the fall brought death. I think you will find that he believes what is taught in the Church’s manual for “investigators, the newly baptized, those returning to activity, and those who may need or desire a stronger understanding of basic gospel principles” (identified as such in Ensign, Mar. 1993, p.80). This manual says: “Adam and Eve were married by God before there was any death in the world.” (Gospel Principles, p.241.)

    President Eyring himself stated in one of his recent First Presidency Messages that “the first marriage was performed by God in the garden when Adam and Eve were not subject to death.” (Ensign, Sep 2008, p.4; see also Ensign, May 1998, p.66.)

    Second, how do you think Elder Howard would have answered this question: Where and when has the Church published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man?

  • SteveP

    Thanks for the story about Elder Howard, Tim. It looks like David O McKay was a believer in evolution too (according to the recent biography). Unlike, Gary, I’ve been unable to read minds, or make suppositions, about what most other general authorities believe about it.

    L-d Sus thanks. I’m glad for the diversity too.

    Gary you and I have argued ad nauseam about this.

  • Dag nabbit, Steve. Please forgive me. Apparently, it’s a common malady among mind readers. I’ll try to do better.

  • Tim

    “how do you think Elder Howard would have answered this question: Where and when has the Church published an apostolic statement endorsing the idea that organic evolution explains the origin of man?”
    Based on what he said in the meeting, I’m fairly certain he’d say something like “They haven’t.” He’d then go on to elaborate (like he did in that meeting) about how he doesn’t know Adam originated physically, but he does know that Adam was a chosen Spirit, that the 6 time periods the earth was organized in do not have specific lengths of time attached to them, that “organized” means to make order out of something, that God’s in control of things, and that science doesn’t know everything (something every scientist will freely admit).
    It was just his opinion, but I was struck by his humbleness and willingness to say “I don’t know.” Too many times in the church we assume we know a “doctrine” that might not really be true doctrine. The only way to avoid that is to stick to the very basic doctrines, which is something I have a hard time doing.

  • Tim

    Sorry. That should be “he doesn’t know how Adam originated physically.”

  • “Too many times in the church we assume we know a ‘doctrine’ that might not really be true doctrine.”

    Even without mind reading or suppositions, Tim, it’s easy to recognize true doctrine: The living apostles, who hold the keys, expound it.

  • jhayes

    Yeah as far as Elder Packer goes specifically in regards to evolution, he admitted that we ultimately dont know in a CES training video and suggested that that be the route that CES faculty take in discussing the issue. I saw the video with my own eyes a few months ago. It appears to be a few years old. In any case, read Origin of Species 2 years ago. Had an anthro professor suggest I read the classics for kicks so I did. Read Zoonomia by Erasmus Darwin also. Dont really know why I did that other than a professor mentioned the book and its influence on Darwin and it was on Project Guttenberg. Anyway, stick to Origin of Species…

  • I’ve posted this link before, but for those who haven’t seen it, here it is again. One way to have compatibility between a literal interpretation of Genesis and evolution.

    http://mormonsite.org/sciencereligion/evolutionadam.html

    For links to science articles about evolution, go to my blog and click on the evolution category or label. There are currently 106 links there.

  • Michael

    Evolution rules. I heart evolution. It is a crime against humanity and against theology to deny the veracity of evolution any longer. Deniers of evolution are just as loathsome as deniers of the Holocaust, totally disconnected from physical and empirical realities, opting instead to dwell in the oblivion of their own nonsensed, dissociative inner-world, clinging to false religion and false gods that they have fashioned in their own image.

    In addition to the Scientific American issue, Martin Nowak’s “Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life” provides a masterwork of mathematical verity for evolutionary process. Prepare to experience pure intelligence.

  • It’s quite interesting how one can reconcile Darwin’s philosophy of the complexity of life apart from God making it this way originally. He was such a bitter old man after the loss of his daughter. This seemed to solidify his beliefs in attributing life’s miracles to “chance”, and “natural selection”.

  • Rich

    Hiccups and Hernias!

    My prostate testifies that it was NOT designed by a loving, much less intelligent, Father! ;o)

    A hearty amen to your Jan. Sci Am recommendation!

  • Rich, your conclusion that God is a failure is rather astounding. Are you surrounded by others who embrace the same philosoply? I once saw a drunkard who was angry at God that he was an alcoholic. Then I saw people who had no drinking problem, but their logic was no different than the drunkard. The source of your prostrate problem originated by your ancestors who made some bad choices. I hate to see your problems compound by blaming God.

  • Is this the Scientific American issue you refer to? Click here.

  • A suggestion:

    Let’s declare this the year of the Pearl of Great Price. Everyone get $2.95 in spare change, go buy a POGP and give it to a non-member friend.

    Also make sure you read the POGP this year. In that book you will find evidence that the earth and humanity were created by an intentional being who we call Heavenly Father. You will discover that we were not created through chance processes a’la evolution.

  • Rich

    Alan, your assumption that “God is a failure” are your words and meaning, certainly not mine.

    All I said was that God didn’t design this prostate of mine. It’s a crappy engineering job. If you insist he did, then you infer that God is a crappy engineer. Draw your own conclusions.

    God can be the creator without micromanaging creation.

    He may have planted the seed of the tree of life, but, by bestowing all of creation with agency, the rest is up to us (and everything else, including the marvelous process of evolution). The beauty of evolution is that, as a result, we all get to participate in creation — we become co-creators with God, who certainly has better things to do than micromanage every cotton-picking detail of the universe, not to mention that if he is micro-managing things, agency is a big fat lie. You wanna make him a liar too?

  • SteveP

    How sad Dave you have retreated to the simplistic implication that those who do not believe your version of creationism (derived from Christian Fundamentalism) don’t believe in Heavenly Father. And you claim the word ‘Science’ in your website? Too bad.

  • Rich

    BTW, if you had spent as much time actually reading the articles in the magazine as you apparently wasted on creating that juvenile cartoon you linked, you would have saved yourself a good deal of embarrassment. Taking pride in your own ignorance makes it difficult for anyone to take you seriously.

  • Rich quote: “The beauty of evolution is that, as a result, we all get to participate in creation — we become co-creators with God, who certainly has better things to do than…”
    Your phrase, “participate in creation”, is reminiscent of “Eugenics” (CLICK HERE) which was sold as “the self-direction of human evolution”.

    Rich quote: “The beauty of evolution is…” Is what? A lot of death, survival of the fittest, dog eat dog, climbing the corporate ladder, Homo sapiens killing off all other contenders, Eugenics, and man’s idea of “improvement” with no need for God. Looks pretty “ugly” to me. All we have to look at are Darwin’s and Freud’s bill of health to be convinced:

    Charles Darwin Wikipedia: “For the rest of his life, he was repeatedly incapacitated with episodes of stomach pains, vomiting, severe boils, palpitations, trembling and other symptoms, particularly during times of stress such as attending meetings or making social visits. The cause of Darwin’s illness remained unknown, and attempts at treatment had little success.”

    Sigmund Freud Wikipedia: “A heavy cigar smoker, Freud endured more than 30 operations during his life due to oral cancer. In September 1939 he prevailed on his doctor and friend Max Schur to assist him in suicide. After reading Balzac’s La Peau de chagrin in a single sitting he said, “My dear Schur, you certainly remember our first talk. You promised me then not to forsake me when my time comes. Now it is nothing but torture and makes no sense any more.” Schur administered three doses of morphine over many hours that resulted in Freud’s death on 23 September 1939.”

  • Steve wrote:

    “How sad Dave you have retreated to the simplistic implication that those who do not believe your version of creationism (derived from Christian Fundamentalism) don’t believe in Heavenly Father. And you claim the word ‘Science’ in your website? Too bad.”

    Steve,
    I am surprised that you resort to ad hominem attacks when responding to those who disagree with you. I expect better from a BYU faculty member.
    I am not a young-earth creationist and my post does not imply that people with different views are atheists. Where do you get these ideas from?! My goodness.
    I also tire of your assertion that I don’t understand science. You know, just because someone does not see things your way, it does not make them a shoddy scientist.
    Time to wake up and smell the postum, my friend.

  • SteveP

    Dave, get used to disappointment. BYU faculty members do not walk on water despite the reputation.

    Sorry, but I can’t interpret this as science any way I look at it:

    “In that book you will find evidence that the earth and humanity were created by an intentional being who we call Heavenly Father. You will discover that we were not created through chance processes a’la evolution.”

    The implication is that my post on Darwin some how was not compatible with the Pearl of Great Price, hence the contrast. It is compatible and you are wrong in the implication.

    And is disagreeing with your understanding what science is an ad hominem attack? I don’t think it means what you think it does. (And just to be clear that last sentence is not an ad hominem attack, questioning someone’s competence in an area is not ad hominem–that would be if I impugned your character, not state that deeply do not understand something.)

    I never said you were a young Earth creationist. If I’ve misunderstood your embracing Intelligent Design, which is fundamentalist creationism with a sugar coating, than I have misread you.

  • SteveP:

    Hurray for Darwin and evolutionary theory. I think evolution is fully compatible with the LDS religion, even though I also realize that most people do NOT believe that.

    Further, (and maybe I am going too far) I think evolutionary methods can be applied to understanding the changes in Christianity from the primitive church.

    In any case, evolution is the principle of grand synthesis.

  • Steve,

    When you claim that someone who does science and has a publication record in scientific journals does not understand science, that can only be viewed as an attack on personal/professional character, which is why I said “ad hominem”.

    But you did say that I was a creationist. You wrote: “those who do not believe your version of creationism”

  • SteveP

    Both Behe and Dembski have extensive publication records. Both have made statements (as have you) that show they do not understand science. My problem is over things you’ve written not you personally–there lies the difference. Disagreeing with people’s positions and their understandings of things is not an ad hominem attack–no matter how personally you take these things. My claim you do not understand science is not based on your credentials, or your publication record, it’s on anti-science stances you have made very clear in the blogosphere.

    ID=creationism. If you embrace ID you are a fundamentalist creationist, not a young earth creationist, but fundamentalist creationist nonetheless. So yes I did say that. It’s not my dissing you, it’s your own claim.

  • SteveP

    And Dave, I do not mean to impugn those areas in which you have expertise. I am not saying you don’t know anything about science (in fact you have written some very nice blogs about philosophy of science that I’ve quite enjoyed). It’s just you have entered into my expertise and promoted things I think are bad science and need to be resisted. When you push on those I will push back. But no offense is meant, but I will respond vigorously to what I see is threatening the scientific integrity of my field and the right to maintain my Faith in so doing.

  • Which false science was Paul warning Timothy?

    1Timothy 6:20-21 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane [and] vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called. Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.

    I can hardly imagine “fundamentalism” being the problem. Hasn’t God chosen the “foolish things of the world to confound the wise?”

    Nothing is new under the Sun. History repeats itself. The Greek philosophy of materialism is re-packaged in “Evolutionism”. Darwin is nothing more than a pawn serving God’s “strong delusion” to a wilfully ignorant generation.

    Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

  • God created man in his own image. When man says that his original “image” is not God, but lower animal forms of life, the scripture is fulfilled:

    Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

    “Evolutionism” is the ultimate form of “creature” worship.

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