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Latter-day Creationism–A guest post by David H. Bailey!

The Mormon Organon welcomes guest blogger David H. Bailey! David is a researcher at the High-Performance Computational Research Department at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in Berkeley, California. He is a leading figure in the field of high-performance scientific computing. He has over 100 scientific papers in that area, but to Mormon audiences he is best known for his insightful writings about Mormonism and Science issues. Welcome David!

Nowadays most college-educated LDS people learn the basic facts of science in the area of the creation. What’s more, the inclusion of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on evolution into the “BYU packet” on evolution (and its endorsement by the First Presidency), surely makes clear the Church’s view on evolution. Quoting from a 1931 First Presidency letter, this short article concludes, “Leave geology, biology, archaeology and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.” What an enlightened response!

So recently I have been surprised to see material produced by LDS people that still claims that the LDS Church firmly rejects evolution, or which insists on a young earth, or which rejects well-established scientific results in the area of evolution.

For example, the author of the website (here) holds that there was literally no death of any organism before the fall of Adam, which he presumes was roughly 4000 BC. Further, he dismisses the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on evolution, even though he has been advised that Gordon B. Hinckley personally provided the quote to the Encyclopedia editors and specified the outline of the article.

Another instance is the recently released DVD entitled “Creation and Evolution: A Witness of Prophets,” which is available at the website http://www.zionvision.com. This material presents a very selective collection of quotes by LDS authorities on evolution. For instance, it quotes Joseph Fielding Smith (from his book Man: His Origin and Destiny) as declaring, “It has been truthfully said that organic evolution is Satan’s chief weapon in this dispensation in his attempt to destroy the divine mission of Jesus Christ.” But the site fails to mention a well-known letter from President McKay (dated 15 Feb 1957) that explains, “On the subject of organic evolution the Church has officially taken no position. The book ‘Man, His Origin and Destiny’ was not published by the Church, and is not approved by the Church. The book contains expressions of the author’s views for which he alone is responsible.” None of the many more positive quotes on science and religion by LDS authorities are mentioned here.

Other LDS writers, including some scientific-trained persons, accept the basic scientific outline of the creation, but still insist that certain key aspects of scientific evolution are fundamentally in error. A few have endorsed the writings of the “scientific creation” or “intelligent design” (ID) communities. One example here is the book The Case for Divine Design, by Frank Salisbury. He not only endorses ID, but he also features arguments, based on probability calculations, that certain biomolecules could not have arisen in the multi-billion year age of the earth.

Each of these persons is entitled to their views. But isn’t there a better approach?

Current Scientific Evidence

Once one could reasonably argue that there are uncertainties in geological dating, or that there are numerous key “missing links” in the fossil record, or that some fundamental mechanisms of evolution are not fully understood, or that arguments from probability or information theory question certain aspects of evolution. But things are different now. I will briefly sketch some of this evidence; full technical details are available in the references at the end (which in each case are written either by active Latter-day Saints or by other believing scientists).

With regards to the age of the earth, literally tens of thousands of precise dating measurements have been made, using many different techniques, and they all fit together. There is no way all of these dates could be wrong. With regards to “gaps” in the fossil record, important new fossil finds, including hominid fossils, are announced on almost a weekly basis. For example, recently several intermediate fossil species have been discovered in the transition between fish and four-legged creatures, and between land mammals and marine mammals, “gaps” that some creationist and ID critics of evolution have argued could never be bridged.

The recent explosion in DNA data has provided a large body of virtually incontestable evidence of evolution. Scientists no longer have to rely on vague similarities in appearance between different species – now the evolutionary distance between species can be objectively and quantitatively measured. For example, the 141-long alpha chain of human hemoglobin is identical in chimpanzees, differs in only one location in gorillas, yet differs in 25 locations in rabbits and in over 100 locations in fish. In a similar way, scientists have identified the precise mutations in our DNA that have deactivated our ability to produce ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and they have identified the precise spot in our DNA where two distinct ancient chromosomes were fused. These conclusions are backed up by many thousands of peer-reviewed studies.

As mentioned above, a small group of creationist and ID scholars question many of these conclusions, and numerous LDS are fans of their writings. The most sophisticated of these arguments are based on probability, as mentioned above, but these arguments are all fallacious, according to knowledgeable biologists and mathematicians who have examined them. A typical flaw in reasoning is to presume that a given biomolecule arose as a single all-at-once random shot, instead of by a step-by-step process over many millions of years. For instance, recent research indicates that hemoglobin arose in primitive bacteria for other purposes, and only later in animals was adopted for oxygen transport.

Similarly, some ID scholars claim that certain biosystems are “irreducibly complex,” meaning that if any component is removed it could not function, so that it must have arisen supernaturally. The bacterial flagellum and the human blood clotting machinery are often held up as examples. But scientists have studied these structures in detail, and have shown, for instance, that the bacterial flagellum is very close in genetic structure to a “needle” used by certain organisms to inject toxins, establishing that they had a common origin. Indeed, dozens of books and hundreds of articles have been written on the evolution of such structures.

Astronomer Carl Sagan once wrote, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The creationist and ID communities have not provided the requisite extraordinary evidence to back up their extraordinary claims.

God the Great Deceiver?

Why are so many LDS unwilling to accept the First Presidency’s simple recommendation to “Leave geology, biology, … to scientific research”? Why do so many LDS feel we must “prove” God in a scientific laboratory? Is not faith necessary? There is certainly much to be lost in waging a quixotic “war” with science, not the least of which is the loss of thousands of youth and young adults who find that evolution is more than just a “theory.” Perhaps the reason for this belief is that many LDS presume we must defend the “miraculous” nature of the creation.

But this philosophy is much more in keeping with sectarian Christianity than it is with LDS theology. Parley P. Pratt, for instance, wrote, “Among the popular errors of modern times, an opinion prevails that miracles are events which transpire contrary to the laws of nature, that they are effects without a cause. If such is the fact, then, there never has been a miracle, and there never will be one.” Similarly, Brigham Young declared, “Yet I will say with regard to miracles, there is no such thing save to the ignorant – that is, there never was a result wrought out by God or by any of His creatures without there being a cause for it.”

What’s more, underlying the creationist and ID literature are theological notions that most LDS would regard as downright repugnant. For instance, some creationists have suggested that God created the earth in an instant about 6,000 years ago, complete with an intricate system of fossil-laden, radiometrically dated rocks, mutation-laden DNA in living organisms (including humans), plus hundreds of other lines of evidence pointing to a very old evolutionary origin, all as a test of faith. I submit that “God the Great Deceiver” is utterly unworthy of our worship or obedience.

In a similar vein, insisting that God “designed” our world in meticulous detail presents insuperable theological problems. For instance, many persons suffer from back ailments, the result of a poor skeletal design (it is adapted from four-footed ancestors). Infections in the human appendix frequently caused death until recent medical advances (it is a vestige of our evolutionary past when it was necessary to ferment vegetable matter). Almost all animals generate their own vitamin C, but while we have virtually the same genetic machinery, it doesn’t work because a mutation has inactivated a key final step (evidently this mutation occurred after our primate ancestors adopted a diet rich in fruit). In human eyes, the optic nerves and blood vessels emerge from the front of the retina, and then travel to the back, resulting in a blind spot. Each of these examples makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, but to insist that God meticulously designed such features into our bodies leaves us with an Incompetent God, or, even worse, a Plagiarist God, because, for instance, the mutation that inactivated our ability to produce vitamin C is shared by three other primates.

Conclusion

The LDS Church has a great scientific tradition, including notable, respected researchers in virtually event field of modern science. Indeed, our motto is “The glory of God is intelligence.” Why not just acknowledge that science and religion address two very different sets of questions, and that the methodology in one arena cannot settle controversies in the other?

Elder James E. Talmage expressed this well: “The opening chapters of Genesis, and scriptures related thereto, were never intended as a text-book of geology, archaeology, earth-science or man-science. … We do not show reverence for the scriptures when we misapply them through faulty interpretation.” [Elder James E. Talmage, “The Earth and Man,” LDS Church, 1931].

Elder B. H. Roberts sums up this discussion very effectively:

“On the other hand, to limit and insist upon the whole of life and death to this side of Adam’s advent to the earth, some six or eight thousand years ago, as proposed by some, is to fly in the face of the facts so indisputably brought to light by the researcher of science in modern times, and this as set forth by men of the highest type in the intellectual and moral world; not inferior men, or men of sensual and devilish temperament, but men who must be accounted as among the noblest and most self-sacrificing of the sons of men – of the type whence must come the noblest sons of God, since ‘the glory of God is intelligence’ (D&C 93:36); and that too the glory of man.

“These searchers after truth are of that class. To pay attention to and give reasonable credence to their research and findings is to link the church of God with the highest increase of human thought and effort. On that side lies development, on the other lies contraction. It is on the former side that research work is going on and will continue to go on, future investigation and discoveries will continue on that side, nothing will retard them, and nothing will develop on the other side. One leads to narrow sectarianism, the other keeps the open spirit of a world movement with which our New Dispensation began. As between them which is to be our choice?” [Brigham H. Roberts, The Truth, the Way, the Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology, 1930 (republished in 1994), pg. 363-364.]

References

Readers interested in additional details are referred to these books, written by prominent scientists. In this list, authors Evenson, Fairbanks, Jeffery, Stephens and Meldrum are active Latter-day Saints. Ayala is a Dominican Priest. Miller is a Roman Catholic. Prothero is Jewish.

Francisco Ayala, Darwin’s Gift: to Science and Religion, Joseph Henry Press, 2007.

William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffery, Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements, Kofford Books, Salt Lake City, 2006.

Daniel Fairbanks, Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA, Prometheus Books, 2007.

Kenneth R. Miller, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, Viking, 2008.

Donald R. Prothero, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, Columbia University Press, 2007.

Trent D. Stephens and Jeff Meldrum, Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding, Signature Books, 2001.

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78 comments to Latter-day Creationism–A guest post by David H. Bailey!

  • win

    Question: What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?
    Answer: I don’t know and I don’t care. Exactly. The evolution-creation debate has been going on since long before David Bailey and I were missionaries in Hong Kong forty years ago. Back then, my first brush with Dialogue was the article by Richard Poll “What The Church Means To People Like Me” and the whole Liahona-Iron Rod tension, which hasn’t changed much in four decades. It was going on in 1909 and 1931 with Talmadge, Roberts and Widstoe see (#19 Uncertain – the A, B, and C) opposite a young Joseph Fielding Smith and his successors (the E, F and G), who happened to live a lot longer, and almost ruled the debate for close to three decades.

    Which is worse, the ignorance or the apathy? The reason most people try to avoid the debate is that it takes effort; it is hard work to figure it out, many/most people are relatively lazy in this area, and many times the answers just lead to more questions (see J’s post #13). As a BYU pre-med/zoology student in 1969-1970, I had the pleasure of having Duane Jefferies for genetics, Clyde Pritchett for comparative anatomy (read “evolution” in LDS parlance) and Jim Farmer for cell and molecular biology. They all addressed this question regularly because they were asked regularly. My comparative anatomy prof was a bishop, and so was my Book of Mormon instructor, and I went from one class directly to the other for several semesters. Two supposed authority figures with diametrically opposed views, and each pretty sure he was right (especially the B of M guy!).

    The other main reason for avoiding the problem and the discussion is a proclivity unique to each individual as to the tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. Uncertainty is risk: it is walking into the unknown. Most people are afraid of the intellectual, emotional or spiritual dark and want security, absolutes, Iron Rods, strict boundaries, and will almost give their lives away to get it, giving up freedom of thought and expression along the way. They can’t stand not “knowing” for sure, and they will sacrifice truth or the search for truth on the altar of security, not willing to admit that many scriptures, particularly the creation ones, are primarily allegorical. Much good can be gained from constructive myth, but is has serious downsides as well.

    If we see infallibility in “prophetic” statements, we are going to be continually disappointed, as the statements continuously change over time. David Bailey wrote an article in Dialogue in Fall 2000 on The Idea Of Progress, and how some of those concepts have changed over time with various Church leaders. The whole concept of the “law” of eternal progression is one of evolution, even including the evolution from earthly mortality to godhood (oops – blasphemy?). Two Theorems: Continuity Theorem – things that have happened will continue to happen (the sun will come up tomorrow and there will be air to breathe); and the Change Theorem: The only thing that is constant is that things will continue to change. In very short cycles (millionths of a second), or very long cycles (millions and billions of years). Seems like non-linear dynamics or chaos theory comes in: from relative equilibrium to dis-equilibrium, highly dynamic and uncertain transition phases, with new cycles and ever-changing outcomes, sensitively dependent upon minute changes in initial conditions.
    There is so much more to say, cosmology, the Big Bang, where it all begins and ends, where each phase comes in and goes out of the picture, but already too long, gotta go, there is life to live, and only so many days to live it.

  • og

    As a faithful LDS and a strong believer in scientific methods I too have struggled with apparent inconsistencies between scientific progress and religious beliefs. I repeat, I too have struggled and point out this is a past tense statement. I have grown comfortable in my faith and lack of total knowledge to know that I will not understand all at this point in my life. But, I have also come to understand the nature of the mysteries of God well enough to not question their truth. The only thing I question is my understanding.

    I too do not believe there is a place for creationism or ID in science curriculum because neither is science in the purest sense (not meaning to discount Pratt’s “Key to the Science of Theology”) and neither follows true scientific method in its analysis of the evidence.

    Although I acknowledge the evidence for a systematic evolution of life and further acknowledge that an all powerful creator could have used an evolutionary process to accomplish His purposes, I still have trouble accepting it based upon scritural references which in my opinion clearly reject it as a possibility (particularly 2 Nephi 2:22) and doctrinal statements by church leaders that do the same. I do acknowledge that there is no formal doctrinal statement from the church regarding this issue of which I am aware. It thereforre seems that God has chosen to leave this mystery unsolved and allows us to form our own opinions based upon the scientific evidence at hand and our own levels of faith.

    The only thing that is clear to me is that this issue will only be decided through either irrefutable scientific evidence (which in my opinion does’t yet exist) or further revelation from God. Since we have no idea when or if that revelation will come, the issue remains one of faith, whether that faith be in God or science or both.

    As much as I love science, I love God more and therefore I choose to reject evolution as a fact and trust that God will reveal the truth to us at some point in the future either through revelation or scientific discovery. I reserve the right to change my opinion based upon that new information if changing my opinion is warranted.

  • j

    Well, not surprisingly, nobody on this thread seems to have any specific answers about how these two ideas (evolution and LDS theology) are supposed to work together.

    But how fun it is to have such a thing as a Bloggernacle, where I can wonder out loud, and have people make me feel like it’s o.k. to ask questions.

    Thanks, mi4u and gll and SteveP and Aaron and all the rest of you who are willing to engage in a public conversation like this. :-)

  • R

    Well expressed “j”! I agree as well, that it’s awfully hard to square typical Darwin evolution with long-held, and in some cases, standard doctrinal teaching of our faith. For instance, if we truly are made in the express image of our Father in Heaven, then it’s a far stretch for me to fathom how a single cell organism millions of years ago, somehow managed to form (to begin with) with the information magically arranged within itself to replicate (the will to live?) and the ability to form the marvelously complex structures that all cells contain, including genetic code and DNA that would someday be arranged (or mutated?) to form a being that could house one of Father’s children…and coincidentally looked like him in basic body structure?
    This argument sounds suspiciously like intelligent design (if it indeed were true) and seems like an awfully long way to go to achieve the desired result. And some of the answers to your questions resemble the responses I used to get when questioning some doctrinal issue while a member of another faith: “Well… that’s one of God’s mysteries brother! You’ll just have to take it on faith!” (I still dislike that answer).
    As Chris Williams, Phd Biochemistry, Ohio State University, one of the hundreds, if not thousands of scientists that agree that there are some major flaws in Darwinian Evolution (see http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org) has eloquently stated: “Few people outside of genetics or biochemistry realize that evolutionists still can provide no substantive details at all about the origin of life, and particularly the origin of genetic information in the first self-replicating organism. What genes did it require – or did it even have genes? How much DNA and RNA did it have – or did it even have nucleic acids? How did huge information-rich molecules arise before natural selection? Exactly how did the genetic code linking nucleic acids to amino acid sequence originate? Clearly the origin of life – the foundation of evolution – is still virtually all speculation, and little if no fact.”

    This coupled with the glaring fact that despite all the fossil rich finds available to man, no real confirmed intermediate links exist (I’m not sure what “recent finds” the author is referring to?) and when one is “discovered” it turns out to be a hoax or quite a stretch of available information. No one can explain the so named “Cambrian Explosion” (the sudden appearance of multiple phyla of life forms), but yet these well known facts are ignored while we continue to work from the premise that evolution is a proven fact and making all science fit into it’s respective slot – even if it is a square peg being shoved into a round hole.

    I believe this generation will begin to see the unraveling of Neo-Darwinism and the search for other theories will begin to be explored. At the moment, there are many scientists who disagree with the fundamental theory, but unfortunately, it is so ingrained in the culture that speakers are chastised and careers placed in jeopardy for merely saying “ Hey… the emperor doesn’t have any clothing on!”

    Bottom line for me: There is ample evidence (both spiritual and physical) for anyone who simply wants to believe, that God lives (there is some type of higher power at work), the priesthood is a very real thing, The Scriptures –despite their errors, seem to be much more than symbolic stories (although sometimes they could very well be), the Gospel is true, and although I can’t prove it yet, I’ve seen enough evidence to convince me that the spirit is eternal in nature.
    On the other hand, Darwinian evolution is a theory that has yet to be substantiated and indeed, seems fraught with problems. It may well be that in the end we find that some degree of evolution exists within a particular species, but given the complexity of our cellular structure, that would probably be more of an evidence of Intelligent Design than a mutation. I think I’ll stick with what I know to be true at the moment.

  • SteveP

    “This coupled with the glaring fact that despite all the fossil rich finds available to man, no real confirmed intermediate links exist (I’m not sure what “recent finds” the author is referring to?)”

    I would recommend you to read some of the books that David recommends. The creationists keep regurgitating these arguments as they have since the Scopes trial. See what’s out there and then claim the fossil evidence is weak. There’s some homework you need to do before you can make these claims. I think you’ll enjoy the books and if you can reject evolution after reading what’s really going on in the science then I’ll respect your right to a difference of opinion. Right now you are only getting once side of the story from your source, and it’s a bad one. Common, read them. I double dog dare you. You’ll see human fossils as one of the most complete fossil records of the last 3.5 million years. What missing link? That’s a line from late 19th century. It was missing then. Not now.

  • yj

    The rational side of my brain is telling me that since I don’t have a master’s degree or Ph.D. like apparently you all seem to have, you will consider my response mere foolishness, but I would like to offer my personal perspective on your evolution versus LDS theology discussion. I am an amateur rose hybridizer. There are two ways to obtain a new rose from seed — by random “open” pollination which could be compared to “natural selection” but it is generally not very satisfactory. Or I can deliberately cross two specific varieties, hoping to combine their desirable traits. Even with this deliberate control or “meddling” with the natural selection process, every single seed in the rose hip that I have “created” will be genetically unique, with no two exactly alike. (Just like us.)

    Every “scientific” program produced for public consumption that I have seen has presented the process of evolution as being either totally random or, more frequently, the narrator states that the organism (both plants and animals) has in some unspecified way “adapted” itself to better survive its environment and pass that new trait on to its offspring (and therefore has somehow altered its own genetics). I find that pronouncement utterly ludicrous, that any plant or animal is capable of “recognizing” a need to change itself and would have the capacity to change its own genetics, which is what is being at least implied if not stated outright on these programs.

    Christ is quoted in Matthew 6:27 as saying, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” I therefore reject the notion that plants and “lower life forms” are capable of doing that on their own either. However, I have absolutely NO problem with the notion that Christ, the creator of this world, had some definite “input” on controlling the direction the creation process took, just as I control the process of creating a new rose. Most of my seedings are not “keepers.” I only select the best, but I am the one doing the selecting — I am the one who is in control of the outcome, not the roses themselves. I therefore find my own experience to be completely compatible with my beliefs that Christ was able to do the same on a much, much larger scale.

    I am not nearly so interested as some are in HOW this world came to be as I am about the WHY. That’s not apathy, and it’s not choosing to be ignorant. It’s a matter of choosing what is most important to ME. What matters most to me is staying centered on my belief that the most important event that has ever happened on this earth is the Atonement of Jesus Christ and my need to come to Christ as humbly as a child. Everything else is simply secondary for me. I am NOT “checking my brain at the door” when I go to church to partake of the Sacrament, but I AM checking my “need to know everything.”

    I don’t need to know all the answers in order to be happy and grateful to appreciate and admire how amazing our physical world is, and the intricate processes going on all around me, and to simply accept the Lord at His word when He says these things were “made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart” and to “confess His hand in all things.” (Doctrine & Covenants 59:18, 21)

  • j

    Dear yj –

    I don’t have much expertise on this topic, but I think I can clear up one misconception from your comment.

    You are absolutely right to conclude that it’s ludicrous to imagine that a particular plant or animal could see a need to adapt, then choose to change its own DNA accordingly.

    What those narrators of nature programs actually mean is that there happened to be at some point a random genetic mutation in a particular organism. (You can still see this happen today among plants and animals, even people).

    Most mutations are not adaptive, meaning that the resulting unique trait doesn’t give you an advantage in your environment.

    But once in a long while, a mutation will prove adaptive. Somehow, the new trait enables the organism to get more food, or better escape a predator, or attract a mate or a pollinator, or have more offspring. Really, it’s the last one that counts, in driving the evolution of a species. If the “mutants” reproduce in larger numbers than the “non-mutants”, you’ll see the species change over time, until the mutation becomes the “new normal”.

    I don’t know if that simplified explanation was helpful, and we’ve got some actual experts here that could surely do a much better job than I could explaining the process.

    Anyway, thanks for beautifying the world with your roses. I’d love to see your garden – I bet it’s lovely!

  • SteveP

    ‘The rational side of my brain is telling me that since I don’t have a master’s degree or Ph.D. like apparently you all seem to have, you will consider my response mere foolishness’

    Not at all. Neither Gregor Mendel nor Darwin himself had a Ph.D. and both were crackin’ good gardeners. In fact, you ought to read “Origin of Species” most of the examples are taken from gardening and animal husbandry. It will help you see that Darwinism is a great idea and there is nothing threatening to your Faith in it.

  • yj

    j — Thank you for your explanation. Maybe I can present my position a little differently.

    Whatever people might think of the crops that have been genetically altered by humans, the goal was to increase the nutritional content and productivity, thereby benefiting mankind by reducing malnutrition and hunger in impoverished countries. It was an artificial mutation with the intent to improve quality of life. A friend of mine with infertility underwent a successful IVF a few years ago, which was a complete manipulation of genetics of the most basic kind. I’m not trying to start a new discussion here. I want to know why man-made interventions are so much easier to accept than the idea that when it *really mattered* (so many things in this physical world don’t fall into that category), that “someone else” (i.e., Christ) may have intervened *on occasion* in the process? If mere mortals can do it, then why this apparent complete “hands off” attitude from so many about *any* divine intervention in evolution?

  • yj, IVF is not “a complete manipulation of genetics of the most basic kind.” You put a sperm and an egg together in the lab. The sperm swims over to the egg, and does its usual thing. You put the blastocyst/embryo into the woman’s body. That’s it. No messing with the DNA. Even more advanced procedures, such as ISCI, only consist of helping the sperm do its usual thing, for sperm that can’t swim well.

  • yj

    I wasn’t referring to “designer genetics.” I know what ICSI is. Over half of the IVF cases in the U.S. use intracytoplasmic sperm injection. With or without it, IVF is a completely artifical manipulation of the reproductive process at a very basic level, with fertilization occurring in an artificial environment, and the successful result then artificially implanted in the mother. The details of the process are SO NOT my point.

    My *point* this whole time has been, why does there seem to be an attitude that God either *wouldn’t* or COULDN’T do something that mere mortals have learned how to do?

  • jws

    mi4u – #49: “Where are these absolute truths to be found?”

    Holy Scripture is a good place to start, but remember omniscience is big. Human comprehension is small. Even during Moses’s face-to-face conversation with God, he only got pieces of the creation story, not the whole. God told him, “…I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end,” (Moses 1:4)

    The pieces of the story were given for a purpose. If we can grasp what God wants us to understand from the pieces, He will be pleased. Why then should we fret if we don’t get all of our questions answered immediately? God declined to tell Moses everything he wanted to know (Moses 1:36, 40).

    God can not lie (Ether 3:12), so we rejoice in the absolute truths He reveals, but we realize they are only small parts of what God knows. Isn’t it exciting to anticipate learning more, whether it be through improved comprehension of what exists, or through new scientific discoveries, or even through new divine revelation?

  • lre

    I think the point that yj was trying to make is that evolutionists ASSUME that the changes/mutations that resulted in successful adaptations were RANDOM rather than intelligent divine design. The only reason they might need to be random is if there is no Creator, which is in direct opposition with LDS teachings.

    Also, the LDS Church’s position of neutrality on the subject of Evolution does not mean that one can or should assume science always draws the correct conclusions from the given evidence.

    Louis Pasteur was ridiculed by the scientific community of his day, for his experiments disproving spontaneous generation. Eventually, he was proved right and scientific opinion changed. My son’s secular high school biology text discussed the achievements of both Darwin and Pasteur (they were contemporaries). At the end of the chapter on Pasteur, the author of the text stated that spontaneous generation, however, had to have happened at least at the beginning of earth’s history, since that is how evolution obviously began.

    If the textbook is correct, a theory that has NEVER been observed as valid by actual scientific method (but was proven false by Pasteur) is supposed to be responsible for the beginning of evolution. That is an assumption, a theory, but not a proven fact.

    No one was around to witness the beginnings of life on this planet, unless it was our divine Creator, whom LDS people believe to be Jesus Christ (known as Jehovah of the Old Testament). And if we have a divine Creator, then the realm of science and religion must merge somewhere.

    How the Lord might have done it is certainly interesting speculation, but to assume that observable changes in the fossil record were caused by random chance is to assume there is no intelligent designer, and hence, no need for God. Perhaps that is why so many Evolutionists are atheists.

    I personally believe there are holes in Evolutionary theory that haven’t been answered to my satisfaction. I believe the evidence points to an intelligent designer (God) who created this world. I used to believe that evolution was simply how God chose to do it. Now I am not so sure. I disagree with the claim that Evolution satisfies the mathematical improbabilities. To do so would require mutations to succeed at a rate of several successes per second (based on the number of seconds in 4.5 billion years and the staggering number of different species both living and extinct). That is an amazing rate of successful mutation which has never been observed in modern times, yet scientists assume it happened at the beginning of earth’s history, and did so by random chance. Since today’s observable mutations tend to be destructive of life, not evolving to higher forms of life, that seems questionable at best.

    A Chinese scientist came to America several years ago. When he tried to show evidence that challenged the validity of Evolution, he was booed, hissed, and shouted down by the audience. He said something to the effect that in his country, you could say anything you wanted about Evolution. You could never question the government. In America you can say anything you want about the government, but never question the prevailing scientific dogma of evolution.

    He was right.

  • As I point out in a recent post, this sort of argument contains a whole bunch of smoke and mirrors with occassional glimpses of truth. People who accept this sort of argument “hook line and sinker” are not considering one simple fact: the assumptions underlying evolution are incompatible with the assumptions underlying the gospel.

    You Theistic Evolutionists (TEs) who believe that God used evolution to create all life forms need to take a step back and think twice. You are not seeing the forest (true story of creation) because you are too focused on the trees (evidence for evolution).

  • SteveP

    It’s the trees that make a forest. What’s a forest without trees? Certainly, a forest is more than the trees, but that does not negate the presence of trees.

  • […] someone in a comment (several comments actually) about David Bailey’s post on Evolution, offered the argument that one of the ‘proofs’ against evolution was that science could not […]

  • dona hessling

    The story goes how a little girl sat with her father in a university mathematic lecture, as the professor wrote a complicated formular on the board.
    “Daddy, why do you come here? Even i can read the ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ .”
    Like that little girl, we earthly humans strive to understand and explain which our Creator already knows. If we can’t comprehend the non-revealed, then we question it.
    Darwin’s Theory refutes in no way the scriptural “Creation” versions, which speak of the Creation of the earth and not of man.
    There are so many intrigues pertaining to our lives, we can never learn everything.
    For those who maintain a vegetable garden, the Creation -evolution and devolution – is very much alive.

  • og

    Also, I want to point out regarding no official position of the church. In a church approved and church published institute manual for the Pearl of Great Price, you will find the following excerpt regarding Abraham 4:12. “After His Kind”
    Compared with the book of Moses, the book of Abraham
    seems to more forcefully state the idea that all beings could
    only reproduce after their own kind. Speaking of the
    Creation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “There was no
    provision for evolvement or change from one species to
    another” (“Christ and the Creation,” Ensign, June 1982, 12).

  • Hi Steve,
    I would suggest that both you and David Bailey read Darwin’s “The Descent of Man” AND Joseph Fielding Smith’s “Man, His Origin and Destiny” and then in sincere prayer ask God which one contains His truth about the origin of man and all other life forms on the earth. Thanks.

  • SteveP

    Don’t you worry you are mocking the promise in Moroni in the Book of Mormon, which is as far as I know is the only book to contain a promise that this kind of action would be allowable?

    Neither book is scripture and we should apply the best tools of analysis we have for both books. I believe only one has stood the test of time.

  • Steve,
    Don’t you think the promise in Moroni (that the Holy Ghost will reveal truth to sincere seekers) applies to many other things than just the Book of Mormon? I pray about many things in my life and often feel the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. That’s all I’m asking you to do about the theory of evolution. We are all entitled to revelation in our personal lives. Also, I would definitely give more credence to an apostle of the Lord (on any subject) than to a atheist like Darwin or Dawkins.
    Brad W.

  • Steve and David,
    Would one of you guys explain to me why Intelligent Design is not science? Both Michael Behe and Kenneth Miller are scientists with PhDs and both have written extensively about molecular biology. So why is it that because their conclusions are different, one is scientific and the other one isn’t? Thanks.

  • mi4u

    jws – #62:

    “Holy scripture is a good place to start,(where absolute truth is) but remember omniscience is big . . .”

    Omniscience may be as big as one wants to imagine it, but one thing we know, the omniscience of the scripture is riddled with error, untruths, exaggerations and painfully unscientific ignorance. Lets be honest here, with everybody . . . to believe in the scriptures as far as they are translated correctly is hardly a rock solid foundation to declare them to be a source of infallibility. They are all true except the ones that aren’t! And now, what ever doesn’t fit in the grab bag of misinterpretation can be conveniently relegated to the ever expanding kaleidoscope of the metaphorical imagination.

    Who here believes Lots wife turned into a pillar of salt? The mountain of untruths like this throughout scripture is staggering, even though one could ascribe to a general theme in parts of the scriptures as wise philosophy. Although Lot offering his daughters up to a horney, angry mob to be gang raped and killed (as we all know the story) is hardly a wise philosophical value Steve would embrace and I have a hard time putting a metaphorical spin on that tail.

    Why on earth does anyone of education try to bastardise science, in this case that of Darwinian Evolution to a level of absurdity and ignorance (even by association) that is found in scripture. And bless their hearts . . . these ancient people, for the most part, didn’t know any better . . . every one today, and especially Steve and the contributors to this blog should.

    Nobody, has answered “js” questions in #13 yet . . . Steve, I challenge you to address them and not collapse into the insulting equivocation of “we’ll know these things in the next life.” Not much, in the way of science would have advanced, if brave people, with inquisitive interests and a driving need to learn and “know” had surrendered their hearts to the general theme of this blog, which is . . . No matter how obvious the incompatibility, don’t worry about how evolution works with scripture until the next life.

  • mi4u

    Brad W. #72:

    One is based on the honest intellectual pursuit of science and truth, where ever it leads.

    The other, is based on the convoluted super naturalism of ancient beliefs and folklore to refute science and intellectual inquiry as a evil diversion (devolution!)by the means of a predetermined conclusion to support the dogma of theism . . . totally antithetical to the values of honest inquiry and science itself.

  • richard sherlock

    David,

    I think you do a good job of giving the standard view but This view is so weak I don’t know how people can still be fooled by it. I have said this before but I’ll say it again. 1 No serious philosopher of science today will claim that we have solved the demarcation problem i.e. what is science and non-science. 2. Darwinian theory denies what any, i repeat any sincere theist must admit that god directs the process of descent from simple to complex. Darwin passionately denied this those who are his best followers today Dawkins, Dennett, recently Jerry Coyne, are truer to the master than his some of his weakneed followers. 3. who precisely has refuted the mathematical and probability arguments against randomness so elegantly given by Salisbury He knows more biology that you or I. $ I agree that the earth is very ancient, that life as we know it evolved from simple to complex, that life and death started about 3.5 billion tears ago 4. Why do you insist only on material causality e.g that a collection of material causes, without intelligence or design came togther to make life on earth. I regard this as a hugely limited explanatory framework Why such a limit? I see now intellectually coherent argument for this. Appealing the ” coventions” of science as Judge Jones did at Dover in plain nonsense.
    A blog named after Aristotle should recognize that limiting explanation to one of 4 causes and ignoring final cause , which is design, is pathetically narrow.
    Finally I regard your view of miracles( which is common I admit)is either non-religious and fatalistic or plainly undermines the scientific enterprise. I explain in an article in a forthcoming fetschrift for David Paulsen. Here is the gist. Suppose I pray or give a blessing and something we would agree is a miracle ensues. I can explain this event either by saying a causal brought this unusual but explainable event about. If so then my prayer is superfluous. On the other hand one could say that God used a “higher law” If so then, given the extraordinary number of miracles we have in the Church ( I bear solemn witness of one) It would seem that science doesn’t know physical laws very well at all and science should stop doing what it is doing and find these higher laws. If we could raise the dead like Lazerus and the brother of Nephi, we could save trillions. The best answer is to conclude that we do know a lot of science but God an intervene for His purposes to bless us.
    All readers here should check out our new on line journal Square Two
    at Square Two.org

  • Alan

    I enjoyed the article and find and the comments enlightening and thought provoking. Most non-members I discuss this issue with see it as a creation vs evolution choice. You are either one way or the other. Personally, I always say my belief is that the creation story given in the scriptures (and the temple) is given to teach us two main points. First, God does everything in a set order and sequence. He does not skip the order and neither should we. We need to find out the order and sequence for us to gain our salvation to once aging enter into His presence, and try not to skip any of those steps. Second, the creation vs evolution debate essentially breaks down to whether this earth came about by planned design or by random accident. The creation story teaches us that God has a plan with a purpose and that this earth did not come about by accident. It has a purpose and we need to discover what that purpose is. Otherwise, if it has no purpose, then we are here to just eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
    If our evolution argument is based on the premise that biological and geological change occurred by unplanned, random accident then that is where I have difficulty.
    If our creation argument is based on the premise that God disobeys the laws of science then I have difficulty accepting it also.
    The scriptural record and gospel message is that God tells us – Why he created, not how. Science is trying to discover how and I am, like others, interested in their research. As long as they distinguish between the facts and the interpretation of those facts.
    More importantly, in terms of today and my own day-to-day life and personal issues and problems, I am more interested as to Why I am here on this earth, than knowing how I came to be.
    I believe Creation vs Evolution is not the question we should be asking and we waste endless time arguing over it. Rather, the question should be – Does my existence have a purpose? Am I on this earth for a reason? Does this life have a purpose? If it does, then I need to find out what that purpose is, so I may live it out more fully, and not waste it away.
    For me planned design answers these questions more fully than random accident. (notice I don’t say creation vs evolution because it does not get to the core of the issue I should be asking myself)
    The 1931 First Presidency letter, says, “Leave geology, biology, archaeology and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.”

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