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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Encyclopedia of Mormonism "Evolution" article flawed

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism article about Evolution (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992, vol. 2, p. 478) written by William E. Evenson is often cited as evidence that the Church takes no official position on evolution.  It is a short article, addressing two subjects with only 258 words.  "The origin of man" is covered in 109 words, 44 of them quoted from two earlier First Presidencies.  The subject of "organic evolution" is covered in 149 words, 96 of them quoted from an internal, unpublished 1931 First Presidency memo.

Two of the Church's First Presidencies are misquoted and the third is quoted out of context.

Much of what follows is taken from the book The Truth, The Way, The Life (second edition, Provo: BYU Studies, 1996).  Written by Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy in 1927-28, it remained in manuscript form for more than 65 years.  The book now includes an informative introduction and twelve analytical essays, one of which was written by William E. Evenson, who also wrote the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article about Evolution.  The Truth, The Way, The Life will be referred to in the remainder of this article simply as TWL.

The Encyclopedia article about Evolution

Regarding the origin of man, Evenson quotes identical wording from two First Presidencies.  However, the phrase "proclaims man to be" was changed to read "declares man to be" and it continues to be quoted thus incorrectly in publications that cite Evenson's article.  Whether the word change would have been considered a meaning change by the 1909 or 1925 First Presidency is probably not important.

The sentence is actually quoted three times in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the other two being reprints of the original two First Presidency statements cited by Evenson and in both of these cases the phrase is quoted correctly (see vol. 4, pp. 1669 and 1670).  On the surface, the word change appears to be an unintentional error, but there is another possibility.

John Gee in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon (Provo: FARMS, 1993, 5:174) reports that the influence of the editors at Macmillan was heavy at times.  Even so, an intentionally substituted word should be inside square brackets.  The original reads as follows:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity...."

Much more significant is the assertion that in 1931 there was "intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution."  This claim is false, which means the 1931 First Presidency is quoted completely out of context.  This is the article's major defect.

The Focus of the 1931 Discussion

The focus of the discussion in 1931 was the manuscript for TWL, which had been submitted for use as a Melchizedek Priesthood course of study (TWL, pp. xi-xvi, 680-720).

The story begins in 1927, when Elder Roberts asked for permission to take some time off from his duties as a General Authority to write a book.  The First Presidency not only approved his request, they authorized him to hire a stenographer (TWL, 691).  In October 1928, at the suggestion of the First Presidency, a committee of five members of the Quorum of the Twelve was formed to review the Roberts manuscript (TWL, 694).

The committee's initial evaluation was completed a few months later (TWL, 698).  Then, throughout 1929 and 1930, discussion of TWL continued in meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve while members of the review committee tried to persuade Roberts to eliminate certain "objectionable features" (TWL, 698-707).  Rather than cooperate with the committee, Roberts began defending his point of view in Church talks and "on the air." (TWL, 700)

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, a member of the review committee, felt Roberts was "causing a great deal of commotion" among Church members (Ibid.) so he attempted to clarify some things in a talk given in April 1930 to the Genealogical Society of Utah (TWL, 701).  Publication of Elder Smith's talk in October 1930 was disquieting for Roberts and eventually led to some lengthy discussions in meetings of the entire Quorum of the Twelve (TWL, 702), meetings that included Elder Roberts because it was his book they were discussing (TWL, 703-707).

In January 1931, the discussions came to a high point and the matter was referred to the First Presidency (TWL, 706-707).  Three months later, the First Presidency convened a special meeting of all the General Authorities where they said, among other things, what is quoted in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article.

The Objectionable Features of the Manuscript

Although TWL was considered an excellent work in many respects, Roberts insisted on including in it some things that his Brethren could not approve (TWL, xiii; 692-702).  Most of the problems were related to an attempt to reconcile the scriptures with the "rock record," or fossils. (TWL, 302, 297).  Rejecting all other explanations for fossil origins (including organic evolution), Roberts set forth his own theory of an earlier, pre-Adamic creation (TWL, 238-240; 289-296). In this creation, God brought plants, animals, and pre-Adamic human-like beings to the earth, all of which lived and died for millions of years before the time of Adam.  This, according to Roberts, would explain fossils found in the earth today.  And because science studies these prehistoric creatures using geology, biology, anthropology and archaeology, Roberts used sources from these disciplines in his book (TWL, 232-240, 297-322).

Thus it was that pre-Adamites became a major part of the discussion.  But, it is important to note that Elder Roberts had used that term in a way that did not support organic evolution because according to his theory these beings did not evolve.  They were created and placed on earth last, after all other forms of life, millions of years ago (TWL, 238-240).

Roberts then speculates that "previous to the advent of Adam upon the earth, some destructive cataclysm,... left the earth empty and desolate" (TWL, p. 294).  A new creation followed with Adam, the human creation, being this time "the first creation instead of the last [and] not only the first man, but the 'first flesh' upon the earth also" (TWL, 292).

This theory of a prior creation and cataclysmic destruction followed by the Adamic creation was the major objectionable feature of the book.  Note that neither the Roberts theory itself nor the response of the committee of the Twelve talked about organic evolution.  What the committee did say was this:

"We feel that the arguments as given contradict the accounts given in all our scriptures, and more especially in the temple ceremonies.  As we understand it the term  ' first flesh also,'  does not have reference to Adam as being the first living creature of the creation on the earth, but that he, through the  ' fall '  became the first  ' flesh,'  or mortal soul. The term  ' flesh '  in reference to mortal existence is of common usage.  We find it so used in the scriptures.  Adam having partaken of the fruit became mortal and subject to death, which was not the condition until that time.  We are taught in the Temple as well as in the scriptures that man was the last creation placed upon the earth, before death was introduced.  Adam was the first to ... become subject to the flesh."  (TWL, 292-293.)

Historian James B. Allen tells of a lengthy interview Elder Roberts had with the First Presidency about TWL.  During this meeting, Allen informs us, Roberts was "told again that the First Presidency and the Twelve could not approve some parts"  (TWL, 702; emphasis added).

The decision of the 1931 First Presidency was that the discussions involving "Geology, Biology, Archaeology, and Anthropology" as used by Roberts to promote his theory would lead only to "confusion, division, and misunderstanding if carried further" (TWL, 709-710).  Publication of TWL without removing it's objectionable features was no longer an option (TWL, 710).  It was the end of debate about TWL's controversial theories.  It was the end of a long, unpleasant ordeal for Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy.  It was not about organic evolution.

There Was No Disagreement About Organic Evolution

The 1928-1931 review of TWL did not involve "intense" discussion about organic evolution.  There was no disagreement on that issue.

Elder Roberts was not an evolutionist and TWL does not promote organic evolution.  On the contrary, TWL plainly teaches that each "subdivision of life ... produces after its kind, whereas evolution in all its forms destroys that thought" (TWL, p. 239).  Roberts twice (TWL, 236, 245) refers the reader to his own previous discussion of the theory of evolution in "Man's Relationship to Deity":

"The theory of evolution as advocated by many modern scientists lies stranded upon the shore of idle speculation....  If the hypothesis of evolution be true,... then it is evident that there has been no "fall,"... and if there was no fall,... 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.  Such is the inevitable result of accepting the philosophy of evolution, after which all the world is now running—it is destructive of the grand, central truth of all revelation."  (The Gospel and Man's Relationship to Deity, 7th edition, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1928, pp. 265-267).

The so-called opposing view was that "the doctrine of organic evolution which pervades the modern day sciences proclaiming the edict that man has evolved from the lower forms of life ... is as false as [its] author who lives in hell."  (Elder Joseph Fielding Smith to the Quorum of the Twelve, January 21, 1931, as quoted in Gene A. Sessions and Craig J. Oberg editors, The Search For Harmony, Salt Lake City: Signature Books,1993, p. 96.)

Now, who desires to destroy the grand, central truth of all revelation if it isn't the author of all lies who lives in hell?  There is no evidence of disagreement between Roberts and his Brethren about the theory of organic evolution!

In his introduction to TWL, law professor and editor of BYU Studies, John W. Welch describes the relationship between the concepts in TWL and those in "Man's Relationship to Deity."  According to Welch, Roberts was remarkably consistent in his writings (TWL, xxix) being uniformly "critical of the general theories of evolution" and asserting that "all forms of life were brought to the earth 'not by the process of evolution, but ... from some other and older sphere.' " (TWL, xxx-xxxi).

The main difference, according to Welch, between the views expressed in "Man's Relationship to Deity" and those expressed in TWL "is that the latter is more specific in locating the great cataclysm on this earth [whereas] the earlier exposition ... argued that the Earth was created from fragments of another planet and that pre-Adamic races 'were inhabitants of that world which was destroyed.' " (TWL, xxx-xxxi).  Perhaps "Man's Relationship to Deity" was not considered "theologically problematical," Welch concludes, "because it entailed no death on this planet after its formation and before the fall of Adam" (TWL, xxxi).

Others who have read TWL agree likewise that organic evolution was not an issue.

For example, Richard Sherlock, professor of philosophy at USU,  says the theory advanced by Elder Roberts in TWL "was clearly not a theory of evolution [because] it did not deal at all with the central thesis of evolution—the mutability of species and descent with modification....  He [Roberts] was unwilling to attempt a reconciliation grounded in a firm commitment to evolution."  (The Search For Harmony, pp. 76-77; emphasis added.)

Surprisingly, William E. Evenson, who authored the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article, has also since recognized that the opinions in the manuscript were "not those of an evolutionist" and the discussions "were not centered on the scientific theories of origins of life forms.  Rather, the central point of concern was whether death occurred on earth before the fall of Adam" (TWL, 645; emphasis added).  Evenson now acknowledges that the Roberts manuscript "addresses three forms of evolutionary theory [and] finds all three ... to be inadequate" (Ibid).  Evenson further concedes that Roberts, in TWL, "rejects all current [evolutionary] theories as he understands them [and] puts forward his own theory" to reconcile the scriptures with the fossil record (Ibid).

The Question of Death Before the Fall

Because it can be argued that death before the fall is "one of the pillars of evolutionary theory" (The Search For Harmony, p. 67), it might be argued that the decision of the 1931 First Presidency was related to the theory of organic evolution.  Even so, how can Latter-day Saints be expected to accept a private discussion, even a First Presidency discussion, as the current position of the Church if that discussion has never been published by the Church and issued to its members in an official Church magazine or in any Church curriculum materials?  The answer to this question should be obvious.

More importantly, the question of death before the fall (which was left open in 1931) has since been settled by another First Presidency.

The 1972 First Presidency Publication

Joseph Fielding Smith became the Church's Tenth President in January 1970.  He served until his death in July 1972.  Earlier that year, the book Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions was made available as the Melchizedek Priesthood Course of Study for the period September 1972 to August 1973.

Although some parts of the 1931 memo have been published privately, neither the memo nor any excerpt from it has yet been published by the Church.  On the other hand, Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions was published "by the First Presidency" and distributed to the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums of the Church.

Because it is inconceivable that the First Presidency would publish that which it had not approved, the conclusion is inescapable that the Church's 1972 First Presidency approved the following teachings found in Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions:

"The animals were all created and placed on the earth preceding the coming of Adam and Eve.  In fact the whole earth and the creatures on it were prepared for Adam and Eve before Adam's fall....  The earth and all upon it were not subject to death until Adam fell....  It was through the fall of Adam that death came into the world." (pp. 53-54, 111; emphasis added.)

Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions recommends three sections from volume one of President Smith's Doctrines of Salvation (pp. 107-120, 148-151, and 307-320) wherein President Smith discusses organic evolution and the doctrine of no death before the fall.

Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions recommends no fewer than 35 passages from President Smith's 1954 book Man: His Origin and Destiny, a volume that is openly antagonistic to organic evolution.  In Man: His Origin and Destiny, President Smith teaches very forcefully the doctrine of no death before the fall (pp. 2, 50-51, 279-280, 328-329, 357-358, 362-365, 376-377, 381, 384, 387-396, 463-464).

Publication of the book Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions was enough to resolve the question of death before the fall.  It was not necessary that a special announcement be made.  An official pronouncement by the First Presidency might have been more satisfactory to some Church members but the fact remains that President Smith quietly settled the question and the majority of Church members have quietly accepted his decision.

Taught as Church Doctrine by Other Church Presidents

The doctrine of no death before the fall has been taught as Church doctrine by other Church Presidents.  For example, President Harold B. Lee taught this doctrine in 1954 when he spoke to the Seminary and Institute teachers of the Church about the "Fall of Man."  He was not President of the Church at the time, but his teachings on that occasion have since been published by the Church as the teachings of a President of the Church:

"Besides the Fall having had to do with Adam and Eve, causing a change to come over them, that change affected all human nature, all of the natural creations, all of the creation of animals, plants—all kinds of life were changed.  The earth itself became subject to death....  How it took place no one can explain, and anyone who would attempt to make an explanation would be going far beyond anything the Lord has told us.  But a change was wrought over the whole face of the creation, which up to that time had not been subject to death.  From that time henceforth all in nature was in a state of gradual dissolution until mortal death was to come, after which there would be required a restoration in a resurrected state."  (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 2000, p. 20.)

Whether the doctrine of no death before the fall should be viewed as controversial today depends upon how a person views the published teachings of the Presidents of the Church.

The Settled Doctrine of the Church

"The fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom."  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 21; emphasis added.)  "The President of the Church [is] the only person on earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys."  (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 229; emphasis added.)  Therefore, only the President of the Church may "proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church."  (President J. Reuben Clark, as quoted by Francis M. Gibbons in Joseph Fielding Smith: Gospel Scholar, Prophet of God, p. 216; emphasis added.)

Joseph Fielding Smith was a participant in the discussions about the Roberts manuscript.  He was present when the 1931 First Presidency announced its decision.  Years later, when he himself became Church President, Joseph Fielding Smith became the one man on earth who was authorized to exercise all priesthood keys and he did in fact, as explained above, proclaim one doctrine among two doctrines in dispute as the settled doctrine of the Church—namely the doctrine of no death before the fall.  That fact alone removes the doctrine from the area of controversy.  But that isn't the end of the story.

The LDS Bible Dictionary

The LDS edition of the Bible was published in 1979.  One of its features is a new dictionary prepared especially for Latter-day Saints.  The LDS Bible Dictionary is not intended as an official endorsement by the Church of the doctrinal matters set forth therein.  However, it is safe to say that unsettled or controversial views would not have been considered as additions to the LDS Bible Dictionary.

The following is a summary of LDS Bible Dictionary teachings about death before the fall.  It is not presented as evidence that the doctrine is "official," but merely as evidence that the doctrine is no longer considered controversial.

  • "There was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam.  Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall."  (s.v. death, p. 655)


  • "Before the fall,... there was no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations.  With the eating of the 'forbidden fruit,' Adam and Eve became mortal, sin entered,... and death became a part of life.  Adam became the  ' first flesh '  upon the earth, meaning that he and Eve were the first to become mortal.  After Adam fell, the whole creation fell and became mortal.  Adam's fall brought both physical and spiritual death into the world upon all mankind."  (s.v. Fall of Adam, p. 670.)


  • "All things" were created "in a non-mortal condition" and became "mortal through the fall of Adam."  (s.v. flesh, p. 676.)


  • The word "paradise" has two meanings in scripture, one of which is "the glorified millennial state of the earth" referred to in the tenth Article of Faith.  (s.v. paradise, p. 742.)  Regarding the two words "restitution" and "restoration," the Dictionary says these terms "denote a return of something once present, but which has been taken away or lost.  It involves, for example, the renewal of the earth to its paradisiacal glory as it was before the fall of Adam."  (s.v. restitution; restoration, p. 761.) During the millennium, of course, "there shall be ... no death" (D&C 101:29).

In addition, the heading to chapter 4 in the book of Moses now reads, "How Satan became the devil—He tempts Eve—Adam and Eve fall and death enters the world."

Review and Conclusion

The 1931 discussion was not about organic evolution and the 1931 First Presidency decision did not address that subject.  The Encyclopedia of Mormonism article about Evolution quotes the 1931 First Presidency completely out of context.

Quoting the 1931 First Presidency in context as current and authoritative on the subject of death before the fall doesn't work either because the creatures that were being discussed as having lived and died for millions of years before the fall were not the evolutionary forefathers of any creatures that inhabit the earth today.  In fact, they were not the products of evolution at all.  Therefore, the 1931 First Presidency decision was not even related to organic evolution.

Lastly, earlier prophets don't trump later ones.  Quoting the 1931 First Presidency in context, as current and authoritative on the subject of death before the fall, does at least these two things:  First, it challenges the authority of the 1972 First Presidency to clarify that doctrine; and second, it calls into question several key phrases about that doctrine that were added by the Church to the LDS Bible Dictionary in 1979.

The pre-Adamic creation theory advanced in TWL remains where the First Presidency left it in 1931.  Subsequent Church Presidents have not addressed that issue.  When applied to other subjects, however, the 1931 decision is either unrelated or outdated—it was never related to organic evolution and it no longer applies to death before the fall.

[The above article was originally written August 11, 2004.  It is reprinted here from ndbf.net.]

107 Comments:

Anonymous will said...

According to Evenson, the article in question was approved by President Hinckley (then a counselor in the 1st Presidency).

I'm going to have to disagree with your claim that later prophets don't trump earlier prophets. Heaven help us if we're still bound by everything Brigham Young said.

6/16/2005 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will said: "According to Evenson, the article in question was approved by President Hinckley (then a counselor in the 1st Presidency)."

When asked about First Presidency involvement, William Evenson did explain that the article was reviewed and edited by Gordon B. Hinckley, a member of the First Presidency at the time. He also pointed out that he didn't have access to the First Presidency Minutes and said the excerpt was added by President Hinckley.

Does that make Gordon B. Hinckley coauthor of the article?

Macmillan Publishing Company does not wrongly identify its authors. Many articles in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism carry the names of multiple authors. When William Evenson put his name on the article as its sole author, he accepted full responsibility for its content.

And when President Gordon B. Hinckley desires the general membership of the Church to adopt his interpretation of something, he will put his name on an article and we will read it in a Church publication.

will said: "I'm going to have to disagree with your claim that later prophets don't trump earlier prophets."

Click here and read it more carefully. What I said was that earlier prophets don't trump later ones, not the other way around.

6/16/2005 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger HP said...

Gary, it seems that you are implying a level of editorial control for Joseph Fielding Smith in the publication of the Answers to Gospel Questions manual and to the current first presidency for the Harold B. Lee manual similar to what will is implying for (then-)Elder Hinckley over the EoM article. It doesn't seem consistent to find close editorial control in some instances and not in others.

6/16/2005 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

I find it very convenient how any time a quote arises which might pose a problem it doesn't count for one reason or another. I'm picking up more than a little bias.

6/16/2005 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: Are you talking about your comment here? If so, I believe the above article speaks for itself and adequately responds to your objections. What you perceive as bias, I see as an attempt to overcome an old Mormon urban legend.

But your point of view is appreciated nonetheless.

6/16/2005 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

John C.: Click here to read my response to your above comment.

6/16/2005 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Sorry, Gary. I read your trumping sentence dyslexically. So we agree that the current leaders take precedence over previous leaders.

This is, in fact, the principle behind my belief that evolutionism does not conflict with Mormonism. Church leaders have been silent on the subject since the 80's. I challenge you to find a single statement on evolution by any leader in the past 15 years. During that period, evolutionary biology research has blossomed at BYU, right under the noses of the Board of Trustees. This doesn't imply a pro-evolution stance by the church, but it certainly means that the church is no longer anti-evolution, if it ever was.

6/17/2005 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will said: "So we agree that the current leaders take precedence over previous leaders. ... I challenge you to find a single statement on evolution by any leader in the past 15 years."

First, of course, I do not agree that silence cancels previous leaders. Silence means nothing has changed. So until the First Presidency changes it, the position of the Church on evolution will remain as it was in 1909. Furthermore, we are not talking about silence anyway because the 1909 statement has been emphasized by the current Church leadership twice in the past five years.

The Church's position—in 2000-2001 and 2002 ...

In 1909, the First Presidency issued a formal declaration of the Church's position on evolution. Regarding the question of man's body evolving from lower orders of life, they said: "These, however, are the theories of men"—easily and usually interpreted as anti-evolution, not neutral.

The 1909 statement was excerpted in chapter 37 of the 2000-2001 study guide Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith which includes the anti-evolution sentence on page 336. I was in a regional leadership meeting a few years ago and personally heard President Monson say that he had read all the way through a forthcoming Teachings of Presidents of the Church manual twice, making sure it contained sound doctrine. He then named a couple of his associates who had done likewise and with whom he had been discussing the manual. The Brethren do not sit idly by and read these manuals after they are published (see also here).

The 1909 statement was also reprinted in the Ensign three years ago in its entirety so that Church members might know "the Church's doctrinal position on ... evolution" (Introductory paragraph, Ensign, Feb. 2002, 26; emphasis added).

... and confirmed by Presidents Hinckley and Packer

A confirming statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley was featured in the New Era only last year:

"I remember when I was a college student there were great discussions on the question of organic evolution. I took classes in geology and biology and heard the whole story of Darwinism as it was then taught. I wondered about it. I thought much about it. But I did not let it throw me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God." (Sidebar, "My Answer to Evolution," New Era, May 2004, 36.)

Another such statement appeared in the Jan. 2005 Ensign which quotes President Boyd K. Packer on "The Evil Idea" as follows:

"No greater ideal has been revealed ... than the supernal truth that we are the children of God, and we differ, by virtue of our creation, from all other living things. (See Moses 6:8-10, 22, 59.) No idea has been more destructive of happiness, no philosophy has produced more sorrow, more heartbreak and mischief; no idea has done more to destroy the family than the idea that we are not the offspring of God, only advanced animals, compelled to yield to every carnal urge." ("Strengthening the Family: Created in the Image of God, Male and Female," Ensign, Jan. 2005, 49; italics in original; quoting "Our Moral Environment," Ensign, May 1992, 67; italics in original.)

6/17/2005 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Thanks for the references, Gary. I agree wholeheartedly with both of them. As President Hinckley said, learning about evolution won't throw us if we understand our relationship to God. And as Elder Packer said, "the idea that we are not the offspring of God, only advanced animals, compelled to yield to every carnal urge" is false and demotivating.

Both of these statement speak to our spiritual origins and potential, but make no claims regarding our biological origins.

6/17/2005 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, as stated by Cromwell in A Man for all Seasons, "silence can, according to the circumstances, speak."

As witnessed by the very existence of your blog, the number of evolutionists in the Church is significant. BYU teaches evolution to thousands of students every year. Why are Church leaders silent? When Elder Nelson gave his talk on the creation in 2000, why didn't he set us straight on evolution?

How many original talks have been given over the past 15 years regarding the atonement, the restoration, tithing, repentance, chastity, the Word of Wisdom, etc.? How many original talks have been given on evolution?

Regarding the reprint of the 1909 declaration in the Ensign, I don't know who authored the introductory paragraph. Do you?

And regarding the President Monson's claim to having approved the JFS manual, to paraphrase yourself, "as far as the general membership of the Church is concerned, President [Monson] has never made such a statement."

Why is are our leaders silent on this subject, other than allowing an occasional reprint of previous prophets' words? What are your honest thoughts on this?

6/17/2005 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will said: "When Elder Nelson gave his talk on the creation in 2000, why didn't he set us straight on evolution? ... Why are our leaders silent on this subject?"

The Church's official internet site has a Gospel Library where members may "Study Selected Topics," one of which is Creation. The Church's very first Creation resource is Elder Nelson's talk on Creation in 2000. It turns out this talk is something else you need to read more carefully.

I was not surprised (though you might be) to discover that he rules out evolution entirely by teaching the LDS doctrine of no death before the fall:

"The creation of a paradisiacal planet came from God. Mortality and death came into the world through the Fall of Adam. ... Eventually, 'the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.' (A of  1:10.) At the Second Coming of the Lord, the earth will be changed once again. It will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new." (Ensign, May 2000, 84-86).
___________

Another Church Creation resource is an article published just last year wherein Elder Adhemar Damiani of the Seventy rules out evolution entirely by teaching the LDS doctrine of no death before the fall. According to Elder Damiani, it was not until Adam fell that "all things upon the earth ... became mortal:

"Adam was the first man created upon the earth. He is the father and patriarch of the human race. Eve, his companion and helpmeet, was the first woman. Their transgression in the Garden of Eden—partaking of the forbidden fruit—caused them to 'fall' and become mortal. The Fall is the process by which humankind and all things upon the earth fell and became mortal (see Alma 12:22)." (Ensign, Mar. 2004, 8.)
___________

Also included in the list, of course, is the very official 1909 First Presidency statement as it was reprinted three years ago (Ensign, Feb. 2002, 26-30) with its anti-evolution sentence.

I am just a little appalled at the way you have cavalierly dismissed this First Presidency statement as being merely "previous prophets' words." The LDS Church seems not to agree with you about its value.

The official description of this Suggested Resource is this: "In 1909, amid controversy and questions about the Creation and the theory of evolution, the First Presidency issued this article, which expresses the Church's doctrinal position." And, in case you missed the point, that would be the Church's current doctrinal position.
___________

Elder Bruce R. McConkie's lengthy and instructive "Christ and the Creation" article is one of the Church's "Suggested Resources" on the web. I'm sure none of us is surprised to discover that Elder McConkie rules out evolution entirely by teaching the LDS doctrine of no death before the fall:

"He [Adam] has been created 'spiritually,' as all things were because there is as yet no mortality. Then comes the Fall; Adam falls; mortality and procreation and death commence. Fallen man is mortal; he has mortal flesh; he is ' the first flesh upon the earth.' And the effects of his fall pass upon all created things. They fall in that they too become mortal. Death enters the world." (Ensign, June 1982, 9-15.)
___________

Another suggested resource is chapter 37 from the 2000-2001 study guide Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith which you, of course, have interpreted as "silence."

But then, all of the above is, according to your theory, just "silence." The Savior taught: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 11:15; see also Matt. 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35). Is it possible that the silence begins at your own outer ear?

6/18/2005 02:17:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will: I am intrigued by your claim that President Boyd K. Packer "make[s] no claims regarding our biological origins."

He has very clearly and unambiguously stated that "organic evolution as the explanation for the origin of man is the problem" (See Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990, 6; emphasis in original; see also here, 4.)

"Many Church members are entirely unaware that fundamental doctrines cannot co-exist with a belief that man evolved from lower forms of life." (Ibid, 7; see also here, 4.)

"Do not mortgage your testimony for an unproved theory on how man was created. Have faith in the revelations; leave man in the place the revelations have put him! (Ibid, 7; italics in original; see also here, 10.)

"It is my conviction that to the degree the theory of evolution asserts that man is the product of an evolutionary process, the offspring of animals—it is false!" (Ibid, 21; see also here, 11.)

"And I am sorry to say, the so-called theistic evolution, the theory that God used an evolutionary process to prepare a physical body for the spirit of man, is equally false. I say I am sorry because I know it is a view commonly held by good and thoughtful people who search for an acceptable resolution to an apparent conflict between the theory of evolution and the doctrines of the gospel." (Ibid, 21; see also here, 12.)

"If the theory of evolution applies to man, there was no Fall and therefore no need for an atonement, nor a gospel of redemption, nor a redeemer." (Ibid, 22; see also here, 12.)

"An understanding of the sealing authority. The sealing authority with its binding of the generations into eternal families cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts. Let me repeat: An understanding of the sealing authority with its binding of the generations into eternal families cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts. That should be reason enough for any endowed and sealed Latter-day Saint!" (Ibid, 22; italics in original; see also here, 12.)

When and where did President Packer announce that he had changed his mind on this subject?

6/18/2005 02:21:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will: I'm also intrigued by your interpretation of President Hinckley's statement.

Five years after he made the original statement in the Ensign, the article was reprinted by President Hinckley in a book. In the book version, the first two words of the paragraph, "I remember," were deleted; discussions about evolution were described as "many" instead of "great"; and instead of not letting it "throw me," the book version says it didn't "sway me." (The word "sway" means "to incline toward change, as in opinion or feeling; to fluctuate, as in outlook.")

President Hinckley's updated version of the statement reads as follows:

"When I was a college student there were many discussions on the question of organic evolution. I took classes in geology and biology and heard the whole story of Darwinism as it was then taught. I wondered about it. I thought much about it. But I did not let it sway me, for I read what the scriptures said about our origins and our relationship to God.(Faith: The Essence of True Religion, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989, 18.)

If President Hinckley was not inclined to change his opinion as a result of studying about evolution, how do you conclude that we can now accept evolution any more than he did?

6/18/2005 02:23:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will said: "BYU teaches evolution to thousands of students every year."

Yes, it's taught in university science classes. But it's not taught in university Religion classes, nor is it taught in Seminary classes, Institute classes, Priesthood and Relief Society classes, or Sunday School classes.

6/18/2005 02:52:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, I think I need to repeat and clarify my claim, which is that no church leader has been willing to deny evolution in the past 15 years.

I think it's likely that most, perhaps all, general authorities reject certain aspects of evolutionism. Elder Packer and Elder Nelson have made their views known very clearly in the past. The point is that they no longer do so.

Yes, they occasionally touch on the issue or allowed reprints of earlier leaders' words, but their selection of words and reprints is worth noting.

The 1909 statement was apparently intended to dispel the notion that man is the product of evolution, but the words and phrases used in this statement (man, theories of men, primal parent, race) are subject to reinterpretation. If current leaders want to close the door on evolution, why not reprint something that can't be reinterpreted, like Elder McConkie's Seven Deadly Heresies? Or better yet, why not come out with a current statement that simply says, "Evolution is false"?

The fact that their recent statements are fraught with ambiguities leads me to believe that they're intentionally leaving the door open.

There is a mountain of evidence pointing to evolution. You and I can easily ignore that mountain, but if we were biologists, we wouldn't have that luxury. If evolution is heresy, then virtually all LDS biologists are heretics. Do they all need to start over in a different field of study, or do you have a better solution for them? I'd seriously like to know.

Thanks for chatting with me Gary. You're an amiable person and I respect your views.

6/20/2005 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will: The doctrine of no death before the fall is "something that can't be reinterpreted." The doctrine of no death before the fall "close[es] the door on evolution." The doctrine of no death before the fall "says Evolution is false."

The doctrine of no death before the fall is a clear denial of evolution that is taught by the Church and its leaders over, and over, and over. Frankly, I find it discouraging that your comments seem not to acknowledge the evidence provided, either here or in so many other places on this blog. Who are you to suggest, for example, that LDS doctrine added to the LDS Bible Dictionary in 1979 is false?

I think my readers would be interested in your "reinterpretation" of the statement in the 2002 Priesthood and Relief Society manual—distributed to every Latter-day Saint 18 years of age and older—that the whole face of creation prior to the fall was not subject to death.

6/20/2005 10:10:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, I'm perfectly comfortable rejecting certain entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary, since the dictionary itself makes it clear that it is not official doctrine.

I'm partially conceding one of your points. It appears that church leaders are currently, or at least recently, willing to allow reprints that deny evolution unambiguously, albeit indirectly.

So here is my view of our current situation in the church. The above paragraph states the evidence that the church has closed the door on evolution. On the opposite side, evidence that the church is keeping the door open includes:

- Church leaders do not currently make statements that unambiguously deny evolution. (If you disagree with this, we can discuss individual quotes.)

- The Church funds the teaching of evolution and evolutionary research at BYU.

- Members believe in and teach evolution with no effect on their standing in the Church, which means that evolution is not considered heresy.

Thank goodness for that last point, since I honestly don't know how to not believe in evolution.

6/21/2005 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will: The fall of Adam happened six thousand years ago (see D&C 77:12).

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "The world has had a fair trial for six thousand years; the Lord will try the seventh thousand Himself" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 252; see also Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 8, 65, 95-96, 241, 252; Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 445; Faith Preceeds the Miracle, p. 326; Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 104, 403, 555; Messages of the First Presidency, 2:221, 3:93.)

6/22/2005 02:50:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will said: "Church leaders do not currently make statements that unambiguously deny evolution."

"The Fall is the process by which humankind and all things upon the earth fell and became mortal" (Adhemar Damiani, "The Merciful Plan of the Great Creator," Ensign, Mar. 2004, 8; italics added).

Elder Adhemar Damiani is a "Church leader," being a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

The above sentence is "current." It is not a reprint. It was first published last year.

The above sentence states "unambiguously" that nothing was mortal ("liable or subject to death") until after the Fall (six thousand years ago).

Evolution is "unambiguously denied" without death prior to six thousand years ago.

6/22/2005 02:52:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will said: "Church leaders do not currently make statements that unambiguously deny evolution."

"The creation of a paradisiacal planet came from God. Mortality and death came into the world through the Fall of Adam. ... Eventually, 'the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.' (A of F  1:10.) At the Second Coming of the Lord, the earth will be changed once again. It will be returned to its paradisiacal state and be made new." (Russell M. Nelson, "The Creation," Ensign, May 2000, 84-86).

Elder Russell M. Nelson is a "Church leader," being a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.

The above paragraph is "current" in two ways: (a) it is not a reprint, it was originally written only five years ago, and (b) it is the first suggested resource under the topic of "Creation" on the Church's official internet site.

The above paragraph states "unambiguously" that the creation was paradisiacal with no death until after the Fall of Adam (six thousand years ago). Elder Nelson has "unambiguously" equated paradisiacal with not being subject to death (see Russell M. Nelson, "Constancy amid Change," Ensign, Nov. 1993, 33).

Evolution is "unambiguously denied" without death prior to six thousand years ago.

6/22/2005 02:55:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

will said: "I'm perfectly comfortable rejecting certain entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary, since the dictionary itself makes it clear that it is not official doctrine."

Indeed, you are free to reject anything you wish. But the disclaimer seems somewhat incongruent when applied to passages that are prefaced with phrases like "latter-day revelation teaches" as, for example, "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall" (BD Death).

6/22/2005 03:21:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

I'm with Will (surprise, surprise, right?). Those quotes you are pulling out Gary are VERY ambiguous at best. Not one mentions evolution at all. They are talking about the fall and the like, but this isn't evolution at all. Some would argue, as many General Authorities have in fact argued, that the two ideas are quite harmonious with one another. This has been the big flaw in your reasoning from the beginning, you have erected a false dichotomy.

6/22/2005 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: No death, no evolution. What is ambiguous about that?

Six thousand years just doesn't cut it for evolution. Therefore, it isn't necessary to use the word "evolution."

There was no death before the fall—my quotes are very clear about that.

6/22/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will said:

" Members believe in and teach evolution with no effect on their standing in the Church, which means that evolution is not considered heresy.

Thank goodness for that last point, since I honestly don't know how to not believe in evolution."

Will - When you say "evolution" here, do you mean the "package" believed by other bloggers that we are descended from Apes, and that basically all references to and about Adam in the four standard works are symbolic myths?

6/23/2005 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

No death, no evolution. What is ambiguous about that?

You can ask all the G.A.s running around teaching that the very opposite this question. Again, you have erected a false dichotomy by forcing the assumption that the statements about no death apply to a much larger scale than many GA's are willing to apply it. This is an assumption on which there has been little, if anything revealed.

6/24/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey said: "This is an assumption on which there has been little, if anything revealed."

There is no doubt or uncertainty about the statement that "without death, there is no evolution"—I don't think you are claiming ambiguity about that. What you do seem to be saying is that the Church itself is inconsistent in its teaching of no death before the fall.

But the Church's teachings are found in the leaders's teachings, as published the Church magazines, booklets, and lesson manuals. And according to those sources, the Church consistently teaches that there was no death before the fall. On this blog, I have provided a lot of evidence to support that claim.

It would be interesting if you could tell us which Church leaders are "running around teaching the opposite" and where and when the Church has published the teachings of those leaders.

6/27/2005 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

"What you do seem to be saying is that the Church itself is inconsistent in its teaching of no death before the fall."

I'm not saying anything at all about the church itself. I'm only pointing out what many GA's teach. Am I to believe you over them? Who cares whether the church has published their opinions or not. The church has never officially applied the idea of "no death before the fall" to the entire earth and its entire history. Many GA's have done so, but the church has wisely backed off from saying this. It was Pres. Grant's decision to not only allow but to encourage Talmage to give his famous "death before the fall" talk in order to give balance to JFS2's extreme one-sided-ness. We have seen that Pres. McKay believed in evolution. Elder's Robbins and Bradford are the ones who personally told me that the two ideas can be reconciled. I have now given a few name, but I don't see what the point of you wanting them is. I can, however, venture a guess. You are now going to go through every talk of theirs that you can get a hold of in order to show me how they also taught NDBF, but in this you would be missing my point entirely. My point is that one can believe in evolution AND ndbf. Your pointing toward ndbj doesn't accomplish anything in this argument. It is this argument which I don't think you have even touched yet. Instead you keep reemphasizing NDBF as if that settled the question. I have yet to meet a Mormon evolutionist who doesn't believe in ndbf to a certain extent. This is why I don't think that your blog has accomplished its objective thus far.

6/27/2005 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff said:

"I have yet to meet a Mormon evolutionist who doesn't believe in ndbf to a certain extent. This is why I don't think that your blog has accomplished its objective thus far."

In my opinion, Elders' Bradford and Robbins would be dissappointed if they knew that their names were being invoked in any way, credited or not, to support a person who is teaching the following:

1. We are, in the final analysis childish dupes if we don't recast Adam - as he appears in all 4 Standard Works, as a myth, and give up the idea that we all descended from him or any other individual six thousand years ago.

2. They only way to believe in NDBF(that is consistent with the one revealed truth, evolution - with an exception for some truths specically connected and limited to the Atonement) is to agree with Jeff that it means that we were all eternal, uncreated spirits who jumped into a randomly-created Darwinian body, and, that Elohim is not the literal Father of our spirits, or in the line of the parentage of our physical bodies. The only NDBF was in the Spirit world where we were recruited, not created by God.

3. That Jehovah in the Temple ceremony is not Jesus Christ.

4. That the Gifts of the Holy Ghost are forms of inspiration without distinction from that enjoyed by non-Latter Day Saints.

5. That the leaders of the Church today are out of sync with the will of God because they do not receive visits from Angels and Gods who announce new revelations for the Church.

6. That, short of such announcements, there is no way to know whether or not any purported doctrine recorded in the Scriptures is just the recorder's opinion.

Jeff refers to Talmadge. While he gave credit to the rock record, he specically denied that it was connected in any way to Adam's lineage. Gary's research showing the Church's present official stance
as consistently taught in its entire, contemporary curriculum on NDBF is so thorough that the only way evolution could be reconciled with the fall is if it took place before any of the present biological sphere was placed upon the earth.

Those with good standing in the Church who privately believe or teach otherwise, such as that the Garden of Eden was a special case, are out of harmony present Church doctrine as taught in the Church's curriculum. The Church's curriculum is also in harmony with Scripture, so, those who do believe otherwise have to limit the veracity of Scripture.,

I will state again here that I believe Jeff's efforts are unique, and valuable to the extent that they
unmask the "compartmentalization" which must exist the minds of those who try and "have it both ways." I personally worry about Jeff and his ability to pass the test outlined in
D&C 52:14-19, and what the consequences would be if the test is failed.

6/28/2005 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Whoa! Calm down there. Your saying an awful lot of things which have nothing to do with the topic at hand whatsoever.

1) Gary asked for the names. I have resisted mentioning them for sometime now but since Gary asked, I obliged.

2) I'm not using them to support any of my positions other than that many GA's believe in a form of NDBF and DBF. They told me this personally so I don't see how you can argue out of it.

3) I haven't mentioned any of the 6 points you list in this conversation so I honestly have no clue why you brought them up if not to try to expose to overall heretic tendencies thereby allowing people to side with you in this matter without even engaging the evidence and arguments at hand. This was a little cheap you have to admit.

4) "The only way evolution could be reconciled with the fall is if it took place before any of the present biological sphere was placed upon the earth." Fine, I'll allow you this, but this is exactly what Gary is saying DIDN'T happen. It is for this reason that he rejects Skousen's book.

I will repeat: I really do appreciate Greg comments and questions, all of which are completely honest. However, his tendency towards over-reaction sometimes obliges him to miss the point at hand.

6/28/2005 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey said: "I really do appreciate Greg's comments ... all of which are completely honest."

Jeffrey's comment stresses that he hasn't "mentioned any of the 6 points ... in this conversation." But the reader will notice that Jeffrey did not back away from any of the six points mentioned by Greg. I will add that Jeffrey and Greg have discussed these points at length, both on this blog and elsewhere.

Those interested in discussing Jeffrey's theories with him are invited to do so on either of two blogs hosted or co-hosted by him (see Issues in Mormon Doctrine or Mormons and Evolution).

6/28/2005 03:50:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Thank you, Gary, for the quotes from Elders Damiani and Nelson.

I guess ambiguity is in the eye of the beholder. If these two quotes are unambiguous, then why did you provide interpretations of them, which included words that these leaders didn't say?

For instance, neither quote says that there was no death before the fall. If the fall took place at a certain point in time, couldn't previous inhabitants of the earth have been affected by the future event, in the same way that the atonement was efficacious before it actually occurred? I'm not saying that these two leaders believe that. In fact, I'm fairly sure that they don't, but the point is that they could have been more clear but chose not to be.

I'm also fairly sure that most church leaders do not believe in evolution. But that brings me back to my point: Thousands of church members are evolutionists, and are under the impression that the current church leadership allows it. If this is false, our leaders could dispel this misunderstanding by simply saying, "Evolution is false." They used to do this, but they no longer even say the word "evolution". Why not?

6/28/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

I should also mention that some members speculate that living things were not given spirits until the Fall. Thus, death, as in separation of body from spirit, didn't occur until after the Fall. I think that this theory requires an unwarranted and unnecessary semantic stretch, but as far as I know, the church has never rejected it specifically.

6/29/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will Said,

"Thousands of church members are evolutionists, and are under the impression that the current church leadership allows it. If this is false, our leaders could dispel this misunderstanding by simply saying, "Evolution is false." They used to do this, but they no longer even say the word "evolution". Why not?

For one thing, "evolution" can mean a very broad range of ideas. I asked in an earlier question what your definition might be. If you answered, I am sorry to have missed it.

The definition that clearly violates the 1909 First Presidency doctrinal
exposition is that which states that
you and I are physically descended from apes and other lower life forms. Everything I have ever learned about the idea of "DOCTRINE"
tells me that if is official Church doctrine that we did not.

On one of Jeff's blogs, it was reported that someone recently went
to their Priesthood leaders asking for the Church's present DOCTRINAL stand on evolution, and, even there was one. This person got passed up the line of authority, and was eventually given of a copy of the 1909 Statement.

Any other definition may still "fly" on some level. Jeff, and many evolutionists will tell you though, that if man cannot be included in the evolutionary picture, the rest doesn't hold up either.

Where do you stand, definition wise?

6/29/2005 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Will: I am puzzled that you see doubt or uncertainty regarding the LDS doctrine of no death before the fall in the teachings of Elders Adhemar Damiani and Russell M. Nelson as quoted above (here and here). Each of these two statements, if accepted at face value, rules out death before the fall.

The fact that the theory, "living things were not given spirits until the Fall," has not been specifically rejected by the Church does not constitute Church endorsement of that theory.

Do you know of any Church published sources for such a theory?

6/29/2005 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, if you're asking for my personal position on evolution (which is completely irrelevant to the point I'm making), I believe that the species homo sapiens is a product of biological evolution.

You're right that the church would be less than clear if it said, "Evolution is false." But it isn't hard to come up with clear statements like "the wide diversity of life on earth is not the product of biological evolution" or "man is not the product of biological evolution". Church leaders used to make clear statements like this, but they don't any more. My question is, why not?

6/30/2005 09:39:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, I explained two ways that I could accept the two quotes and still believe that animals lived and died long before 4000 B.C., as Elder Talmage taught.

I never claimed that the church endorsed the "no spirits until Adam" theory. My claim is that some church members, like BYU professor Steven Jones, publicly pose this theory, and the church hasn't corrected them. You can interpret the church's silence however you want, but I'm betting that if Prof. Jones said something heretical like "Joseph Smith was a false prophet," then the church wouldn't be silent.

6/30/2005 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Divine Investiture of Authority

"Our Father in Heaven has allowed Jesus to speak to various prophets as if he were the Father. In the legal profession this is a well-understood practice referred to as the 'power of attorney.' Jesus stated that ' I am come in my Father’s name.' (John 5:43; see also John 10:25.) The First Presidency, in an excellent explanation of this principle, called this authority of Christ to speak for the Father in the first person ' Divine Investiture of Authority.' (See James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, Appendix 2, p. 470.)" (H. Donl Peterson, "I Have a Question," Ensign, Oct. 1978, 15).

Of course, according to Will's logic, Divine Investiture of Authority is probably no longer true doctrine because it's been nearly thirty years since a Church leader unambiguously and specifically taught the doctrine in an original discourse (see Bruce R. McConkie, "Why the Lord Ordained Prayer, Ensign, Jan. 1976, 7).

6/30/2005 09:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will said:

"man is not the product of biological evolution". Church leaders used to make clear statements like this, but they don't any more. My question is, why not?"

Hi Will: It is always good to dialogue with a new person on this subject. As a "MFA" (men from Apes) believer, you are in good company. I believe that all or most of the contributors to Deseret book's "Of Heaven and Earth" also fit into this category. One was a Regional Rep., as far as Church credentials go.

However, my "thesis" is that, individuals such as yourselves, (I have probably read about 30 scientific/religion essays by you folks) are forced to "compartmentalize," as Elder McConkie would say. In other words, unless you are willing to follow Jeff most of the way to his "reconcialition," (see his blog for summaries), your science and your religion seem to me to be in different dimensions entirely.

Let me give an example. One individual, an astro-physicist, who has an essay both in "Of Heaven and
Earth," at FARMS somewhere (I couldn't locate it, or I would have copied a quote), gives a very good summary of the Spiritual goals of the Gospel - to become like Christ and understands the doctrine of the Atonement. But, then he will say, (and this one is repeated twice in one essay) things like (I am paraphrasing here)

"The sun is going to burn out in about 2 billion years. At that time, we on the earth better be righteous enought to call upon God with enough faith to save the planet from loss of the sun's energy."

So, apparently, he doesn't believe in the 2nd Coming and subsequent renewals of the earth. His whole "spiritual" paradigm is attached to his physics. This is just one example.

As to the Church teaching NMFA (no men from Apes) plainly and recently, I will have to agree with Gary that republishing the 1909 Statement on this in both the Ensign and Priesthood/Relief Society curriculum
is about as clear as it can be done.

I was teaching Priesthood when Pres. Joseph F. Smith's discussion of this was part of the lesson. I had one double Phd from Harvard in the class. I felt the Spirit strongly, and testified (paraphrasing) as follows:

"Whatever else one can say about the
creation, it is clear from these materials that our physical bodies did not come from lower forms of life." I restricted my testimony to the "hard doctrine." After class, the Harvard man said that was the best summary of these issues he had ever been exposed to. I believe we both felt it because, as I sais, I limited by statement.

Here are a couple of "antiquated" quotes from Elder Nelson in a 1988 BYU speech, published in the Ensign "The Magnificence of Man.:

"Through the ages, some without scriptural understanding have tried to explain our existence by pretentious words such as ex nihilo (out of nothing). Others have deduced that, because of certain similarities between different forms of life, there has been a natural selection of the species, or organic evolution from one form to another

To me, such theories are unbelievable . . .

We are children of God, created by him and formed in his image. Recently I studied the scriptures to find how many times they testify of the divine creation of man. Looking up references that referred to create, form (or their derivatives), with either man, men, male, or female in the same verse, I found that there are at least fifty-five verses of scripture that attest to our divine creation.

Spiritual Discernment
I believe all of those scriptures that pertain to the creation of man. But the decision to believe is a spiritual one, not made solely by an understanding of things physical, for we read that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14.)

It is incumbent upon each informed and spiritually attuned person to help overcome such foolishness of men who would deny divine creation or think that man simply evolved. By the Spirit, we perceive the truer and more believable wisdom of God"

(Greg again)

I am not a scientist, and I have no dilusions about changing anyone's mind. I do have legal training, which helps me, I believe, to analyze and compare arguments. My convictions are based upon many spiritual experiences with both Scripture and Prophetic leadership.

Also, though, I can go to the Access Research Network website and find many, many qualified scientists who are NOT Christian "creationists" who have found gaping holes in the theory of evolution, and read what they have to say. I have tried to follow the "irreducible complexity" thread, and - from what I have read, evolutionists have come no where near to solving the "Darmin's Black Box" problem, in spite of contrary claims.

When I find credible science lined up with Scripture, Prophetic doctrinal stances, and my personal spiritual experiences, I say "3 strikes and your out" to the Regional Rep. at the plate, trying to score MFA with me.(I used to be a pitcher)

7/01/2005 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Correction:

"Three Strikes and you're out!!!"

7/01/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, point taken. The difference is that Divine Investiture of Authority is not a controversial subject in the church. As far as I know, there is not a large number of members who openly reject it.

Evolution, on the other hand, is a controversy in the church. There are members, including bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, etc. who openly accept it. There are many other members at all levels who openly reject it. The Brethren could end this controversy, but they don't.

One could claim that they HAVE ended the controversy, but that's plainly false since it still exists.

One could claim that the members aren't listening to the Brethren carefully enough. My response would be that when the Brethren want to make something clear, they make it clear, and they say it regularly so nobody will miss it.

7/01/2005 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, your tone is very open and friendly. I appreciate that.

I'll try to address your points.

- I plead guilty to compartmentalization. When I can't reconcile things in my head, I have to put them on separate shelves until I can get more information. The problem is that religious information is disbursed by the Lord according to his timetable, which is orders of magnitude slower than scientific discovery, so I tend to re-interpret my religious views in light of new scientific information more than vice-versa.

- I think the astronomer to whom you refer is Hollis Johnson. It seems to me from the scriptures that the earth will probably be celestialized before the sun turns into a red giant. Of course, the scriptures also make it seem that the millenium is scheduled for the year 2000 or so, and yet here we are in 2005 with a lot to do before it occurs. So who knows?

- An overwhelming majority of biologists disagree with your assessment of the ID and anti-evolution theories on arn.org as credible science. They didn't regard Darwin's Black Box as a problem in the first place, so the issue of solving it is moot. But this blog seems to be about whether anti-evolution is a binding church doctrine, not about whether it's scientifically tenable, so I won't go there.

With regards to the blog topic, I'll consider evolution to be heretical when my temple recommend is revoked for my public, unrepentant evolutionism.

7/01/2005 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will Said,

"An overwhelming majority of biologists disagree with your assessment of the ID and anti-evolution theories on arn.org as credible science. They didn't regard Darwin's Black Box as a problem in the first place, so the issue of solving it is moot."

Will - I know this blog is not about
Scientific arguments, but I think it is about viewpoints and paradigms. The above quote reminds me of Mormon
critics who say "The majority of Evangelical scholars don't take the Book of Mormon seriously, and don't consider it a threat, etc, etc.," then do not address what the Book of Mormon really says.

(Also, does 2000 to 2005, or even 2000 to 2250, really compare to 2 billion years from now??)

At "origins" websights, after filtering out the "ad hominem" and other sort of blustery statements, I found absolute substance in both the heart of the "Irreducible Complexity" (IC) argument and the "origins" responses. I saw specific ally proposed "tests" laid out, and some very specific replies. Personally, I see many paralells between how Darwin's Black Box is received in the Scientific community, and the way the Book of Mormon is received in the Christian community.

When I first started posting in Jeff's Evolution blog, even he cited me a recent computerized "answer"
to the IC problem. To a non scientist that believes Scripture about God creating man, realize that IC is the scientific expression of the COMMON SENSE one feels in one's gut, that for natural selection to have been a creative mechanism for the complexities of the human body,
(such as those described by Elder Nelson, our contemporary scientist
Apostle)it would be like a tree on one side of the Grand Canyon sending its roots accross to the other side, (under the River), to find water.

If I were the Lord, or the Brethren, I would not "enforce" NMFA as a requirement to attend the Temple or serve in the Church. However, remember, we shouldn't have to be commanded in all things. As Elder (Nelson says, it is an individual choice how much of Scripture, or official doctrine, one chooses to accept.

Just for a moment, go on a hypothetical journey with me. (Goodness knows, at Jeff's site, and with Bro. H. Johnson, I go on hypothetical journeys with you guys). Suppose the Scripures ARE true about the Creation. By placing
large categories of Scripture in the "myth" category, do you risk missing some blessings? Scriptures for me often work as a Urim and Thummim, like magic. They are literally a medium that penetrates the veil and allows me to live my life sort of in 2 worlds.

Do Scriptural warnings about not accepting what is given being denied further insights until those things ARE accepted possibly apply?

Thank so much for taking thoughtful time with me.

7/01/2005 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff -

The point you had made that I thought called for a little "exposure" was when you said that "you hadn't met an evolutionist you didn't like,"

No, that wasn't it, it was where you said "I haven't met an evolutionist who didn't believe in SOME FORM OF ndbf. Unless you were NOT including yourself, I believe it to be a little disingenuous for you to include your version of NDBF, which is restricted, if I remember it correctly, to leaving the Spirit world. I thought that needed further explanation in case someone here didn't know it.

As far as an expanded list of some of your theories; this was a delayed reaction to something you wrote a while back in Gary's blog, that I could never find again, where you listed a bunch of "its about time we
stopped believing in little green men on venus," - quoting a bunch of rather silly sounding 19th century beliefs of some Brethren, and then INCLUDED our belief in Adam's parentage of us.

There, you juxtaposed, in my opinion, from a doctrinal point of view, apples and oranges. Adam's place in Scripture and doctrine did not compare to anything else on the list. I thought that one was a little sneaky, you sly devil (just a metaphore) - don't you?

7/01/2005 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Greg, the comment you couldn't find is here.

7/01/2005 03:16:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, I'll try to respond to a few of your points, and then I'll have to tear myself away for awhile. If I can.

- When I said that resolving Behe's problem was moot, I didn't mean that biologists haven't considered his claims. They have simply shown that his problem is nonexistent, so there's nothing to solve.

- I don't think that surgeons are generally considered scientists. Semantics aside, I'm not aware of any training or experience that would give Elder Nelson special insight into complex system theory. Elder Nelson's explosion argument is a common one, and I doubt that he examined it rigorously before including it in his talk.

- Okay. Let's say that the scriptures are true about the creation. So 6000 years ago the earth, sun, and stars were created in 6 days. Adam was made from dust, and Eve was made from one of Adam's ribs. But wait, President Kimball said that the rib story was figurative, and Brigham Young said that Adam wasn't made out of dust, and Elders McConkie and Nelson said that the duration wasn't necessarily 6 actual days. So even our leaders don't take the whole account literally, which makes the hypothesis "the scriptures are true about the creation" pretty ill-defined.

I hope I have some time to post more later. Thanks for your time, Greg.

7/01/2005 03:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff -

Thanks to Gary, I see that I somewhat mis-remembered your former post. You are actually even "slyer" (or, it that "mo' sly"), than I thought.

Only two of your comparisons were actually looney (luny?)and both were about the moon (Quakers on the moon?, actually, people on the moon dress like those people who used to sell artificial flowers at the airport). The other comparisons fall into areas of doctrinal speculation.

Lehi's descendants all being from Pocahontis comes the closest, but, for a generationn or 2 now, Mormon scholars and almost everyone who read them recognize that the only real descendants of Lehi now live in
what used to be a small town between Salt Lake and Provo, where the film "Footloose" (sic)? was filmed.

Adam's place in Scripture and doctrine is far more entrenched than
anything else on the list, and is in a category by itself.

7/01/2005 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will,

I know that Elder Nelson's explosion theory is canned these days, which is why I excluded from the quotes . .

When you come back, I am honestly very
interested to read a summary to show that the IC problem is nonexistent. I
don't understand complex chaos theory, or evolution algorhythms, but, the IC problem is very clear to me, and, if it has been rendered non-existent, I think I could appreciate whatever arguments have been produced.


P.S. How do you deal with Adam's immortality?

P.S.S. - No thinking believer in the Scriptures reads them so literally, unless they are a creation scientist. We are allowed to consider all 4 standard works, as well as proven scientific theory, when reading Scripture, and in doing so, can accept their substance without reducing that substance to myth.

P.S.S.S.S. . . . Elder Nelson's talk was really an exposition on Irreducible Complexity, if you think about it . . . I look forward to your revelations on this issue....


get back to work. Greg

7/01/2005 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, wow, you're a fast responder. I'll throw out a quick post before I face my end-of-the-week crunch.

I think this is turning into a debate over the scientific tenability of IC, which I don't think was Gary's intention, but I'll continue until he makes us stop.

I don't know anything about complex systems theory except for what I've read in a some pop science books. I've done some coursework in evolutionary algorithms, but I'm a far cry from an expert. Luckily, it takes very little experience to realize that the complexity of a system can spontaneously increase, regardless of how that complexity is defined and measured.

The question is: How probable is a given increase in complexity? This is, in most cases, an intractable math problem, so Behe resorts to logic and intuition to show that there is no probable path from A to B. His opponents counter with other logical and intuitive arguments and the debate rages. But none of them can prove anything because we're dealing with systems that are much too complex (even before life started) to analyze mathematically.

If I wanted to argue that it's unlikely for a class of 30 to have two or more students with the same birthday, I could make a logical argument and you could refute it with a logical rebuttal. Or we could do the math and figure out that I'm wrong. We can't do that with abiogenesis or evolution.

Behe claims that it's virtually impossible for life as we know it to have emerged spontaneously. The problem is that he doesn't, and can't, have a good grasp of the countless paths from A to B, so his claim can't be more than a guess. That's why biologists don't see IC as a problem that needs to be solved.

Regarding your P.S., immortality of a flesh-and-bone human is a weird concept that I don't understand. Do you?

Regarding your P.P.S., I agree. That's why I think that the hypothesis "assume the scriptures are true" is ill-defined.

Regarding your last P.S., Elder Nelson's talk refers to several complex systems, and makes a claim of improbability in one paragraph, but I don't see anything about irreduceability.

Holy cow, I've spent way too much time on this. Happy July 4th! (If you're in the USA.)

7/01/2005 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will Said,

"But none of them can prove anything because we're dealing with systems that are much too complex (even before life started) to analyze mathematically."

Hi. I hope you don't read this until after the Holiday. I am just responding because the subject is fresh and I have time.

1. The Adam problem is not one of biology, but of harmonizing the doctrine of Adam being immortal and then falling with him being descended from apes. I have seen several explanations, but none have made m much sense to me.

2. Not being versed in math at all, the complexity talk may be going way over my head. But, the
proposal seems to be "math + time" can turn any "A" into any "B," thus, nothing is impossible. I would think that what A is and what B must
be should matter, or I feel like
Alice in Wonderland.

This reminds me of the fact that, even though a big-bang singularity must be infinitely dense, which infinity is really beyond scientific measurement, not deterring scientists for the longest time from declaring a general "solution" to the origin of the universe, because they had a formula. Recently, they have admitted that beginning with something beyond measurement is like belieiving in a creator or the equivalent, and have sought other solutions.

I have always thought that the natural selection mechanism needed feedback of some kind to stay on course. In the black hole described in IC, the feedback mechanism frozen out in certain proposed gaps, and is thus missing in action. I would like to understand better how math can fill in such a void, and systems can
INCREASE in complexity without predictable categories of feedback being present.

3. Elder Nelson does not name IC - but, the idea of such complex systems as he repaired developing by natural selection has a definite IC undercurrent and theme.

7/01/2005 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Greg,

Here is a better response to irreducible complexity here is an article from the Stanford Encyclopedia:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/creationism/#7

Will was right in his analysis of IC. Behe tries as hard as he possibly can to make it seem as if the evolutionists are completely baffled by his six examples of IC when in fact some of his examples had already been disproven by the time his book came out. How is IC at the molecular level any different from IC at the macro level? Behe's argument is the same argument which creationists have been pedaling for millennia now.

The computerized "answer" wasn't meant to be an answer to any question other than "mindless algorithms cannot produce what in the end seems to be irreducible complexity." It can and it has in these computer simulations. Therefore, the argument from personal incredulity SHOULD suffer a harsh blow, but when people are bound and determined to stick to their guns regardless of what evidence mounts against them, there is no limit to the quantity and quality of reasoning which can simply be conveniently ignored. (I'm not describing you in particular here. Only generalities.)

Now you can say that my version of NDBF doesn't count, but I'd really like a better reason why than personal incredulity. I believe that before the fall there was no death. How does this not count? This was my point, that every Mormon evolutionist DOES believe in some form of NDBF and the arguments presented against their versions usually either take the form of personal incredulity, exaggerating the fallibility of men or taking scriptures as infallible themselves. All of these are bad arguments which hardly need rebutal.

I don't think that it would be unfair to put the Hemispheric model of the BoM in the same boat as Young-earth Creationism at all. Both models rely on vast amounts of very conservative science being flat out wrong for no particular reason other than satisfying pre-conceived notions.

BTW, Who is Bro. Johnson?

7/02/2005 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff Said:

"Here is a better response to irreducible complexity here is an article from the Stanford Encyclopedia:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/creationism/#7

Here is one quote from the Standord Article.

"Likewise even with the resurrection of Jesus. After the Crucifixion, his mortal body was irrelevant. The point was that the disciples felt Jesus in their hearts, and were thus emboldened to go forth and preach the gospel. Something real happened to them, but it was not a physical reality"

There is another quote about Jesus feeding the 5,000 being a metaphore as well. I don't have time to respond to your entire post. Also, I am at someone else's computer, and can't access some of my quote-saving techniques.

However, before losing it, I want to make a point that this guy's argument against Philip Johnson's paradigm hinges on the Bible not containing real "law breaking" miracles. More later. I just wanted to get this started. If this guy actually experienced or witnessed such a miracle, his whole outlook would change, in my opinion.

7/04/2005 10:02:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

This is an edited version of Jeffery's comment made at 7/06/2005 09:40:03 AM:

Greg,

You can't simply brush aside the experts because "they don't believe like you do." I also don't see what the atonement and resurrection has anything to do with irreducible complexity.

I wouldn't put too much stock in the "If this guy actually experienced or witnessed such a miracle, his whole outlook would change, in my opinion" defense. My bet is that if he saw a "real" miracle ... he would simply say that he was missing some relevant data and then strive to discover what that was. All this without changing a single thing in his views about irreducible complexity.

Did you also read my post dedicated to Behe's theories?

http://mormonevolution.blogspot.com/2005/06/god-as-mechanic-in-evolution.html

7/06/2005 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey,

The resurrection wasn't brought up by Greg. It was by you via the Stanford article, which says Our Lord's resurrection "was not a physical reality." I agree with Greg about how that statement effects the author's credibility among Latter-day Saints.

7/06/2005 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Jeffrey's link pointed to a specific section of an article. Accusing him of bringing up subjects found in other sections seems a little bizarre to me.

And what in the world do Ruse's New Testament views have to do with his expertise in biology? Should I reject Behe's IC theories because he doesn't believe in the Book of Mormon?

This much I know for sure: Debating the scientific merits of evolution will lead us nowhere, since none of us are experts. I side with the scientific community because they're way ahead of me on this issue.

7/06/2005 01:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff Said:

"Now you can say that my version of NDBF doesn't count, but I'd really like a better reason why than personal incredulity. I believe that before the fall there was no death. How does this not count?"

7/06/2005 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff Said:

I believe that before the fall there was no death. How does this not count?"

I may be missing something, but, isn't
Jeff's definition of "the fall" entirely unique? While he shares the notion of separation from God with other Mormons, I believe his definition of the physical part of the Fall (as opposed to the Spiritual) is limited to man leaving the spirit world, a world of no death, and entering mortality, a world where death is ALREADY PRESENT. Every other Mormon evolutionist, other than those who might be Jeff's proselytes, would define NO DEATH BEFORE THE FALL as including a time and place on earth, or the entire earth physical beings
existed in a state without physical death.

Thus, for Jeff to include himself among those of us who believe in some version of No (PHYSICAL) Death Before the Fall, without some sort of disclaimer, reminds me if Michael
Ruse pretending or inferring he might be a believer in God or Religion because he is willing to grant that Jesus' apostles experience SOMETHING, but not the shared witness of his physical resurrection.

7/06/2005 03:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will Said:

"This much I know for sure: Debating the scientific merits of evolution will lead us nowhere, since none of us are experts. I side with the scientific community because they're way ahead of me on this issue."

Will - "the scientific community" is no monolith, and, possibly has a decidedly materialistic world-view agenda. One illustration: A professor at San Francisco State university, who was a "pioneer" in spontaneous origin of life on earth theories reached a point in his research where he said to himself "it is scientifically impossible under any present paradigm that life arose on its own on this planet."

For announcing his "findings" to students, he was taken out of the classroom and not allowed to teach until he won a court case and was reinstated. From my samplings, the kind of prominent scientists who find no challenge from Intelligent Design are not objective, and, I will bet that not-a-one shares any of your personal religious beliefs.

Elder Nelson's talk on "The magnificence of man" used a worn-out analogy, and, although a physician, you are right that he is not a scientist (necessarily). However, one thing that WAS rigorous in his presentation was his search of the Scriptures. He found 53 referrences to God's creation of man. On page 244 of the Topical Guide are at least 100 references to "Jesus Christ, Creator."

The notion that evolutionary "creative mechanisms" cannot account for the complexity of life has recently become a legitimate, quantifiable discipline. You can choose to make your own rigorous investigation of this new but blossoming body of work, which is in harmony with Scripture and Doctrine, or you can allow the materialistic "old guard" of science to do this work for you.

Again, it reminds me of sincere Christians who allow their clergy to
judge the Book of Mormon without doing their own investigation. In spite of the Book of Mormons' overwhelmingly consistent and powerful affirmation of Christ, most Christians allow someone else to tell them it is anti-Christ.

Jeff posts a materialist's (Miller's) review of Behe and I read it. I go to Behe's or Demski's response and, of the two, I always agree with the non-materialist analysis of the same facts. The beleivers and non believers talk past each other, just as in ordinary religious or political or scientific debates.

Again, I believe that this Blog is about paradigms. Is God a "Creator" in any meaningful sense of the word, or, are the Scriptures jiving us all? Not believing ID arguments is one thing. Saying that they have no
substance because there is no problem, or, because math and probabilities will always take the place of a Creator, that is quite another.

For one recent article, click here

7/06/2005 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Will said here: "Some members speculate that living things were not given spirits until the Fall. Thus, death, as in separation of body from spirit, didn't occur until after the Fall."

Will said here: "Some church members, like BYU professor Steven Jones, publicly pose this theory."

Steven Jones' article on "Death Before Adam" is an interesting exercise in announcing new doctrine without having authority to do so and silence on the part of Church leaders in this instance does not constitute an admission of anything:

"As long as Church leaders feel they should not participate in [discussions of] the Church or its doctrines,... the overall presentation will be incomplete and unbalanced. In such circumstances, no one should think that the Church's silence constitutes an admission of facts asserted in that setting." (Dallin H. Oaks, "Alternate Voices," Ensign, May 1989, 28.)

7/06/2005 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Will said: "I tend to re-interpret my religious views in light of new scientific information more than vice-versa."

Your comment brings us right back to the subject of this thread because what the 1931 First Presidency actually said was that the theories of B. H. Roberts regarding geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology could not change gospel truth. By extension, therefore, the 1931 First Presidency statement means that scientific theories must always yield to gospel truth.

7/06/2005 05:47:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Will said: "I'll consider evolution to be heretical when my temple recommend is revoked for my public, unrepentant evolutionism."

Does your so-called "15 year silence" argument have anything to do with rationalizations that take place during your recommend interview?

7/06/2005 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, I have no illusions of a monolithic community of scientists. I'm sure there are physicists out there who believe in perpetual motion and psychologists who believe in ESP. Every field has its mavericks, a handful of whom actually turn out to be right and win Nobel Prizes. Could this happen to ID advocates? Sure. But they'll need to come up with something that convinces the community and accomodates the present mountain of data.

What does "making your own rigorous investigation of this new but blossoming body of work" entail in your mind? Labwork, a study of professional journals, or reading a handful of pop-science books? I've already done the latter, both pro- and anti-ID, but I wouldn't call this rigorous. (BTW, I've never understood the label "materialistic". Materialistic as opposed to what?)

Yes, this blog is about paradigms, but technical paradigms are beyond the scope of any blog, especially this one. That's why I won't attempt to explain my rational reasons for rejecting ID, only my religious reasons for not feeling guilty about rejecting it.

(It's strange that you seem equate anti-ID with anti-scripture, when most ID advocates swear that ID is a scientific, not religious, theory.)

7/06/2005 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

You can choose to make your own rigorous investigation of this new but blossoming body of work, which is in harmony with Scripture and Doctrine, or you can allow the materialistic "old guard" of science to do this work for you.

Well, the "old guard" is responsible for most--maybe all--of the progress in our knowledge about the physical world.

Something can be in harmony with the scriptures and doctrine and still be rubbish, or at least not very useful. ID, as a scientific paradigm, has not shown much usefulness (fruit) yet.

7/06/2005 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

An example I had in mind when I wrote my last comment was amateur investigations of the Book of Mormon (geography, culture, etc.)

More in harmony with scripture and the prophets than "old guard" archeologists and anthropologists? Yes. But most likely rubbish, or not very useful.

7/07/2005 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

"I believe [Jeff's] definition of the physical part of the Fall (as opposed to the Spiritual) is limited to man leaving ... a world of no death, and entering mortality, a world where death is ALREADY PRESENT."

This slightly modified version of Greg's quote is a very fair and accurate statement of my position as well as the position of those General Authorities which I mentioned earlier. They don't consider the fall to be a fall from the "spirit world" to earth, but they do consider it a fall from a "spiritual world" to mortality as I believe most Mormons who have ever made any attempt to reconcile science with religion believe.

7/07/2005 09:03:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, I'm disappointed that you would accuse me of rationalizing my way through temple recommend interviews. My current bishop probably isn't aware of my views on this issue, but I would have no problem sharing them with him if the subject came up. I didn't feel a need to confess to my previous bishop since he himself is an evolutionist. In fact, he had a BYU biology professor give us a fireside on the subject in response to some anti-evolution remarks in Sunday School.

In addition to impugning my temple worthiness (as well as that of all evolutionists in the church, of which there are many), you've engaged in strawman tactics as you refute positions that I simply don't hold. I do not believe, and have never implied, that science can change gospel truth or that the church's silence constitutes an admission of facts stated in Dr. Jones's essay. I agree that the church's silence doesn't constitute an admission of anything; it admits neither agreement nor opposition.

I'm glad, Gary, that you're not authorized to tell me what I can and cannot believe. Those who are so authorized allow me to believe what I will on the subject. Sure, some of them believe that evolution is false, and have said so, but they don't make my agreement with them on this subject a matter of church standing.

7/07/2005 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Will Said:

"(BTW, I've never understood the label "materialistic". Materialistic as opposed to what?)

(It's strange that you seem equate anti-ID with anti-scripture, when most ID advocates swear that ID is a scientific, not religious, theory.)

Will - thank you for answering my post in a responsive manner. I am here (and there) hoping that you faithfull evolutionists can teach me something. First, I want to find out what you believe. Next, if you can show me where I am ignorant, I want to be set straight.

"Materialistic," in the raging evolution-antievolution debate which is really heating up as both a political and social matter, is simply the view that all that exists
is the physical universe that can be measured by physical methods. This means there is no spiritual world or dimension, which would include spirit beings and Gods, and, powers that we would call "faith" that can quite literally move mountains in this world without paying homage to any known physical laws.

When one reads the "pop" literature, as you have, I would have thought the dividing line was pretty. A "Mormon" materialist is one who believes all spirit is matter. However, this is outside the range of what I will call a "culteral" materialist.

A culteral materialist feels threatened by the potential existence of spiritual realities. Since he doesn't believe they exist, he feels superior to those who do, since he knows the truth about such things. If the materialist is wrong, he is in big trouble, because then he is wrong about the fundamental nature of reality.

Since the materialist has no religion, and, since he HAS a spiritual nature in spite of his lack of belief. Because of this, in my opinion, such a person places the emotion and faith reserved for God into theories such as evolution, to explain the existence and development of the world. In my view, that is why they find it impossible to be objective in the before mentioned debate.

Most IDers are also religious, because both Scripture and their own spirits tell them that God is a creator in a meaningful way. Contemporary physics, astrophysics, and biology, etc. leave know room for an Intelligent Designer in their
theories.

At ARN, there are supposedly 40 funded research projects to penetrate the present
"mountain of evidence" that no creator-God is necessary with regorous, experimental data. The quest is in infancy. I recently dipped over into Jeff's blog. I will admit I have not kept up, but, no one has yet taught me how God, as the Mormon Scriptures testify of Him over and over and over, is necessary in the theory of evolution.

If Scripture says universally that God is an Intelligent Designer, and present scientific theories do not account for a designer, there is a basic stand-off. Why do scientists who find holes in present theories and even suggest DESIGN lose their jobs? While they would still keep them at BYU, they may be in the minority.

I can see BYU hostile to "Creation Science," but, no one has given me a
story that makes sense as to why BYU
Science is hostile to Intelligent Design.

7/07/2005 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff Said:

""I believe [Jeff's] definition of the physical part of the Fall (as opposed to the Spiritual) is limited to man leaving ... a world of no death, and entering mortality, a world where death is ALREADY PRESENT."


Lets add the words back in:

I believe his definition of the physical part of the Fall (as opposed to the Spiritual) is limited to man leaving THE SPIRIT WORLD, a world of no death, and entering mortality, a world where death is ALREADY PRESENT.

These three words, in my view, separate Jeff from everyone else.* 'I LOVE YOU' is also only three words. Very clever, Jeff. You sound like Judges that dissed a case
I worked on for years in Tax Court.

Adding, or leaving out a word or three can obliterate a precedant, and send someone on a different career path . . .

** THAT IS, UNTIL TODAY, WHEN I READ THE ESSAY BY STEVEN JONES OF BYU. I am still digesting his theory, but does fit Jeff's paradigm, so I was in error about it being unique. However, ol' Bro. Jones IS is still trying to hold on to too much doctrine, I fear, and will probably have to chuck a lot more of it for his theory to make sense.

7/07/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, discussions like this tend to get bogged down in semantic quagmires when they start getting technical. I don't understand the word "materialistic" because I don't know the difference between material and non-material, or physical and non-physical. Maybe you can help me out on this.

The term ID is also ambiguous. Which of these claims does it imply?

1. (weak) We are, to some degree, the product of an intelligent designer.

2. (strong) Complex life cannot emerge without an intelligent designer.

3. (strongest) #2 can be verified mathematically.

I personally believe #1, am skeptical of #2, and actively reject #3. My rejection of #3 puts me at odds with all of the ID proponents that I've read, so I guess I'm anti-ID.

Your assertion that "contemporary physics, astrophysics, and biology, etc. leave no room for an Intelligent Designer in their
theories" would be surprising news to the the many theistic contemporary physicists and biologists.

God is certainly not necessary in the theory of evolution. Nor is he necessary in the theory of a round earth.

I don't know the circumstances surrounding the firing of scientists who suggested design. Sounds pretty harsh to me. I'd like to think that if I were the dean, I would ask the ID professor to defend his views in an open debate, and let the students decide for themselves.

I would love it if ID were a bonafide scientific principle. It would be a welcome empirical proof of some kind of God. Unfortunately, God doesn't seem too keen on allowing us that kind of proof.

7/07/2005 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

So far I find myself in pretty good agreement with Will.

contemporary physics, astrophysics, and biology, etc. leave no room for an Intelligent Designer in their
theories


What about meteorology?

Greg, your discussion here makes me think that I need to try to explain my thinking on ID more clearly. So watch for it on my blog. I won't promise that it will be in the immediate future, but hopefully within a few weeks.

But just off the top of my head, there is a long way to go until we understand the origin of viruses. If anything qualifies as irreducibly complex, I should think it would be viruses. Would it be a triumph if ID supporters successfully claimed smallpox, HIV, polio, or Ebola? In all seriousness--if they are going to own flagella or the immune system, they are going to have to also own pathogens--they are part of the same stick. Would you be okay with that?

(My daughter just had an accident on the carpet. I'm sure those of you who have potty-trained kids have some fond memories.)

7/07/2005 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Will: When your tone suddenly changes from rifleman to grenade thrower, it's an obvious indication that somebody has said something wrong. I only brought up the interview because you brought up the recommend. It was my mistake. You have my apology.

I'll try a different approach.

In answer to the question: "Who are you to suggest, for example, that LDS doctrine added to the LDS Bible Dictionary in 1979 is false," Will said: "I'm perfectly comfortable rejecting certain entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary."

"Perfectly" comfortable? Are you sure?

Would you allow me to propose an imaginary situation and ask you to you tell me (and the readers of my blog) how you would react in that situation?

Let us imagine you are invited to speak during the Sunday general session of stake conference in my stake. Let us further imagine that Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Twelve and Elder Adhemar Damiani of the Seventy will both be on the stand.

Now let us imagine that you've been asked to discuss these two sentences from the LDS Bible Dictionary: "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall" (BD Death). The truth is, with the evolution debate heating up nationwide and in Utah, who knows, my stake president might just assign such a topic.

As you prepare your talk, keep in mind the teachings of Elders Damiani (last year) and Nelson (in 2000) as quoted above (here and here).

In that setting, would you boldly argue against the assigned LDS Bible Dictionary excerpt "since the dictionary itself makes it clear that it is not official doctrine"? Would you say in your talk that since no general authority has, in at least 15 years, taught "no death before the fall," therefore we can safely set aside the Dictionary passage?

Would you propose that if the fall took place at a certain point in time, "couldn't previous inhabitants of the earth have been affected by the future event, in the same way that the atonement was efficacious before it actually occurred?" (qualified, of course, by saying that you're "not saying that these two leaders believe [it]. In fact, [you're] fairly sure that they don't"). Would you take that approach?

Remember, your talk will be given during the first hour and both of the visiting authorities will have a turn during the last hour. How bold would you be, Will? How certain are you of your position? Would you be "perfectly comfortable rejecting [the assigned entry] in the LDS Bible Dictionary?"

Maybe this imaginary setting will allow you to discuss your feelings about sustaining Church leaders without getting all defensive. I hope so.

Also, if you'd like to turn this around on me, you may. Put me on the stand with the general authority of your choice, in the stake of your choice, and assign me to talk about the subject of your choice. I am willing to talk about anything in the LDS Bible Dictionary or about any excerpt from any other current LDS Church publication (let's say within the past 15 years) or any current Church lesson manual.

But first you respond to the above imaginary situation. What do you say, Will?

7/08/2005 02:23:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Greg,

What are you doing?

"These three words, in my view, separate Jeff from everyone else.* 'I LOVE YOU' is also only three words. Very clever, Jeff. You sound like Judges that dissed a case
I worked on for years in Tax Court.

Adding, or leaving out a word or three can obliterate a precedant, and send someone on a different career path . . ."


Now let's go back to what I originally said:

"This SLIGHTLY MODIFIED VERSION of Greg's quote is a very fair and accurate statement of my position as well as the position of those General Authorities which I mentioned earlier."

You forgot to add those important three words Greg. Who is it that's really not quoting fairly here?

When have I ever said that people have to believe EXACTLY what I do? When it comes to the details, I certainly am not going to cling to my theory too dearly, especially if a better model is presented to me. But I haven't seen a better model yet, that is my problem.

What I do cling to, very zealously would be, again, the modified quote which I said represented most Mormon evolutionists in one form or another (again, including the GA's) and which this site is explicitly arguing against.

You missed the point of my comment and it would seem that such was intentionally done.

7/08/2005 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

"I recently dipped over into Jeff's blog. I will admit I have not kept up, but, no one has yet taught me how God, as the Mormon Scriptures testify of Him over and over and over, is necessary in the theory of evolution."

Here are a couple of posts which suggest that God is necessary IF we consider ourselves and the way we are (God's image) as being an intended outcome.

Evolution Into the Image of God

Did God or Evolution Create Us?

7/08/2005 10:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff -

I believe you may have misunderstood the TONE of my last post. I know that you BOLDLY announced your modifications to my statement, but here are 3 points I was trying to make:

1. The modified version, in my view, brings Jeff into a NDBF mainstream. If you leave it the way I said it, he is still in a class by himself - (with the new exception of Prof. Jones).

2. Prof. Jones' theory has holes in it, as an argument. If he wants to come up with a theory that makes some sense, he should become a disciple of Jeff.

Also, Bro. Hollis Johson is an astrophysicist who has an article in Deseret Book's "Of Heaven and Earth," consisting of about 10 or so
essays from individuals with (most likely) Higher Church Callings then Jeff has probably had, but, whose (from my view) thinking as between Scripture and Science is all so compartmentalized as to be schizophrenic (from my view).

I will repeat the example I wrote to
Will. Bro. Johnson's paradigm is physics. He peppers in with sincere and fundamental sound views on the Atonement, which necessitates forces outside of his physics paradigm. Then, when he tries to integrate, he looks extremely silly. Twice, in one essay at the Farms sight (I don't have the cite), he says (paraphrasing), "By the time the sun burns out in 2 billion years, the people of earth better have their act together enough to have God intervene, or they won't survive
as a species."

Jeff is not guilty of compartmentalization. For this I give him much credit. Perhaps someday he will end up like Elder Packer. When Elder Packer was just a lowly CES administrator - which in those days but him in administration
at BYU, he - in his direct manner, was the only one in a staff meeting who stood up to and disagreed with BYU president Wilkinson. He went home and told his wife to prepare to move, as he was sure he would be fired the next day.

Instead, he got a promotion. Jeff's
brainpower and ability to communicate also remind me of a BYU Law school classmate I had. His future is also famous in some circles.

7/08/2005 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Greg,

Sorry about my tone. Sometimes, as I'm sure you have seen, I let my rhetoric get away from me. I hope you understand and don't take offense.

1. I would hardly call the modified quote NDBF mainstream. The important part of my theory isn't coming from the spirit world. The essential part, which NDBF denies, is the "a world where death is ALREADY PRESENT" part. I'm willing to accept other theories as long as they too adhere to this.

2. Prof. Jones a disciple of mine? Wow, you give me way more credit than most. I sincerely take this as a compliment.

3. I think I pretty much agree with you regarding the tendency toward compartmentalization. Either something one way or another, if only by the logic of excluded middle. Of course there are probably shades of gray (not to mention other colors) meaning that a dichotomy in these matters is inappropriate. But saying that there is science and religion and never the twain shall meet is to cheapen both science and religion at least the Mormon religion.

I haven't read that book which you have frequently mentioned, but I have a feeling that I can guess at its basic content. It sounds an awful lot like those books which are sold in Christian book stores which attempt to prove the Bible true by showing how it actually taught Einsteinian relativity millennia ago or how the dinosaurs are actually mentioned in Genesis. I don't think so.

As we can both tell from experience, trouble is bound to arise when we try to FULLY integrate or partial scientific understanding with our partial understanding of the gospel. Of course everybody simply must integrate the two to a certain extent, but we shouldn't press too far. That's why I sometimes get upset when young earth creationists insist that before they are willing to budge a single inch, science must answer every question put to it. When has religion ever been able to do that?

How far and in what manner a person integrate these two "paradigms" is what leads inevitably to disagreements and arguments. We can hope for no better illustration of this than our present exchange.

I view the position espoused by both you and Gary as being unwilling to engage sound reasoning with a little more creativity. You guys see my "creativity" as being less than sound doctrine at best. Either way I think we have all learned quite a bit about not only eachother's views but our own as well.

7/08/2005 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Jeff,

It's been a while since I have looked through the book Greg is talking about, but I think it is different from what you expect.

As I recall it is more along the lines of explaining love for science and how they got their testimony, or how religion factors into their lives. I will say that I was a little disappointed in the book for at least a couple of reasons, as I recall.

1. Still compartmentalized, as Greg indicated. Not much attempt at reconciliation.

2. Very poor representation from biologists. There are physicists, astronomers, geologists, and maybe a botanist (again, as I recall). So the issues that matter to me were not discussed much.

Nevertheless, I applaud Deseret Book for publishing it.

7/08/2005 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff -

I will summarize why I believe your NDBF is in a different class:

Doesn't everyone else's version include NDBF on the planet earth, while yours is limited to whereever we
lived before birth - which is not necessarily on earth?

Thus, Jeff's paradigm, alone (now with Prof. JOnes, excludes, or does not NECESSARILY include NDBF on earth.

Please correct if I am mistaken.

7/08/2005 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Greg,

The other forms of NDBF which the GA's believed in was that there was some form of localized spiritual and immortal existence here on earth somewhere. Upon the fall, Adam was sent from one to the other. Now this I believe.

Of course they probably also believe in there actually being a tree which was eaten and the like, but I prefer to consider those things symbols. In the essentials however, we are pretty much the same. We believe that Adam fell into an already fallen earth. This is the main point which any Mormon evolutionist will simply have to believe.

7/08/2005 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff Said:

"The other forms of NDBF which the GA's believed in was that there was some form of localized spiritual and immortal existence here on earth somewhere. Upon the fall, Adam was sent from one to the other. Now this I believe."

I think the biggest Doctrinal Difference is that - packaged with the view that Adam fell from an immortal state that included both his Spirit and Body and a place on this earth, to a place on this earth that included death, a body, and a spirit, is ADAM'S act of disobedience to law.

"I view the position espoused by both you and Gary as being unwilling to engage sound reasoning with a little more creativity."

There are some beliefs I cannot disregard without abandoning them all. All Scripture, and every Authority in this dispensation has linked the Atonement of Christ to a
fallen condition that resulted from
an act that broke a law that only a God could reconcile.

Under your "fall" scenario, as I understand it, the first broken law was when Adam, or whoever in your mind he symbolises, committed the first sin in his mortal body. This
is simply not what the Restored Gospel, or, for that matter, any Gospel teaches. We are taught that Adam's Fall brought death to his mortal body, and separation from God to his spirit, and, that Christ's counterbalancing sacrifice makes these
right.

The restoration of the body is the universal gift; of the Spirit, a conditional gift. The gospel you are proposing, to line up with your belief in MFA, is simply too far a stretch - way too much to ask.

Again, Jeff takes the MFA scenario where it rationally goes, which is to a different Gospel than I have ever heard. None of the other MFA believers, beginning with Duane Jeffery and ending with Steven Jones, has come up with a plausable way to keep a recognizable connection between the Fall, as it is universally taught, and believed and understood by everyone in the Church except the MFA'ers.

Under Jeff's scenario, why does Jesus "owe" anyone the right to a resurrected body? The race never had an immortal physical body, so why should one be provided? I have been taught that, since I didn't bring death into the world, that I should get such a body, as part of my heritage for siding with the Gods in the war in heaven and choosing mortality.

This is just one example of perhaps dozens of doctrines that go tumbling down the drain to accommodate MFA.

7/08/2005 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, I apologize for my defensiveness. I misread your intentions, and I should have given you more credit, given your track record of good will.

In your hypothetical scenario, I would decline the invitation to speak as I consider stake conference an inappropriate forum for controversial topics. I would also schedule an appointment with the Stake President to explain my objections. If, by some miracle, I were to be granted an audience with Elders Nelson and Damiani, I would share my views with them just as I have with you. And yes, I would feel perfectly comfortable voicing my rejection of those sentences in the Bible Dictionary.

Your blog is based on appeals to authority, which is certainly a valid approach in an authority-based church. The problem is determining how much authoritative weight to give to a given statement. At one extreme are members who consider every word authored by a general authority or published by the church to be God-breathed. At the other extreme are apostates who consider the church and its leaders to be completely devoid of any divine inspiration. Neither you nor I are at either extreme, which makes the authoritative weight question tricky and, to some degree, arbitrary. Is there a formula into which we can plug the date of a given statement, the rank of its author, and the setting in which it was made, and get out a numerical doctrinal weight?

For example, I can turn your scenario around on you, and imagine that you were assigned to speak on Elder Talmage's statement: "The whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation," with Elders Oaks and Holland present. You may respond that the Bible Dictionary carries more weight than Elder Talmage. You could give me some good reasons why this is the case, and I could give you some good reasons to the contrary, but we would probably never see eye to eye.

Thank you for your blog, Gary, and for your open and tactful approach.

7/11/2005 06:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Casper said...

Interesting discussion. I think a major problem that I run into on this topic is that my logical mind and my spiritual convictions are being made to run against each other.

I have an extensive biology background, and understand the science of evolution very well. There are numerous specific arguments which have been debated back and forth, but the stack of DNA evidence is sky-high, and is scientifically irrefutable.

Only two scientific conclusions are plausible:

1) Evolution as a natural process produced our physical bodies.

2) Our bodies were created by some other process, but were built to appear as if evolution had built them.

Then there is the mountain of religious statements made by apostles and prophets. Most of these seem to point conclusively that "organic evolution" is not a good thing.

How to go about reconciling? This is hard...

I choose to do the following. It is insanely difficult at times, but it has served me well for years and has actually come to govern my actions concerning all doctrines I deem not essential for my salvation:

1) I withhold judgment. That means, I read everything with an open mind and avoid attempts to sway opinions.

2) I study it out with mental energy left over AFTER I have pondered essential doctrines.

3) I avoid debates, even in small groups, and I try not to speak for church leaders by reading their quotes.

That's my take on it. We'll all agree in the next life and there will be no doubt in any of our minds. In the meantime, there are bigger tasks to accomplish.

I happen to be one of those folks who was brought to understand evolution at BYU. I wrestled this issue every way possible for five years, then I figured out how to just be okay with some degree of ambiguity, even if my tongue bleeds sometimes while I bite it is Sunday school. I no longer feel the need to speak on behalf of deity. What a release!

7/15/2005 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Casper Said:

"There are numerous specific arguments which have been debated back and forth, but the stack of DNA evidence is sky-high, and is scientifically irrefutable."

Caspar - what is interesting to me, as a non-scientist following the discussion here and at Mormons and Evolution for a number of months, is the following:

1. A number of faithful scientists on here tell me the evidence for human evolution is irrefutable.

2. At "Mormons and Evolution," I think it is pretty well demonstrated that human evolution pretty much destroys not just the Garden of Eden story, but all referrences to Adam throughout the 4 Standard Works.

3. No one has demonstrated, rationally, from my perspective, how the Fall of Man, as described in numerous places in Scripture, could be compatible with human evolution. All attempts to link up the 2 "stories" leave an unacceptable gap.

4. If human evolution is true, then the few faithful saints with sufficient education are the only ones to whom the Lord can personally reveal the truth of our heritage, and the mistakes in Scripture.

5. If the evidence for Evolution is irrefutable to an honest and fair minded person with training who can understand the evidence, why is the Intelligent Design movement so strong? Are the scientists whose arguments I read so biased or disingenuous that they cannot see the truth?

Not a debate, Caspar. I sort of ask this question in one form or another to every faithful scientist I read here. Hope you won't "dissappear" before giving my question a spin.

7/15/2005 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Casper said...

Greg:

You are hitting the nail on the head in one sense: the claim that human evolution is a spiritual fact and not just a scientific fact, leads to some perilous thoughts on what the deal is with Adam.

This is why I back off of making that jump. Scientifically, there is no question about evolution. The problem is, the place where science leaves off and religion picks up is not a comfortable place.

I hashed this around for years, and just couldn't come up with anything that was logical and palatable. Here are some of my leaps:

1) Adam and Eve were the first human bodies with heavenly spirits (as opposed to animal spirits?) in them. Their bodies came about by way of evolution, but their parents are animals who look exactly like humans. Somehow, adam and eve leave their group AND every animal-type human gets killed off, and they alone produce humanity. Quite a stretch. Many problems biologically and spiritually with that.

2) The "Garden of Eden" is purely allegorical. Again, not total heresy outright, but it's not comfortable for me to settle on believing that.

Let me say again I don't believe either of those things, but I have concluded that you would have to buy into something like that to really claim to have everything figured out. Even then, there are big holes.

That being said, the inability to pull everything together both scientifically and spiritually has no bearing as to the validity of the science of evolution. That part is settled in my head.

It is a bad idea to let a bottom-line ideology sway the scientific method. If all scientists did was to come up with conclusions and sift through evidence to back up that predetermined conclusion, they would have to be renamed "politicians". ;) (Then again, many scientists do just this, unfortunately. They only muddy the waters.)

I could start laying out the biological case supporting evolution, but it would serve no purpose. It takes years to go through everything very systematically, and without a solid understanding of science among all parties involved in the debate, the conversation quickly unravels.

This much I will say, though: I began my biology career at BYU with a solid belief that evolution was merely 'hocus pocus' and was very bad gournd to stand on. I argued against it on every front with many colleagues for about two years, and all through my mission. After my mission, my cousin, during a debate on the subject, simply said to me, "just wait until you've finished your molecular biology coursework. Then we'll talk." I remember laughing at her and saying to myself, "whatever, there is simply no way I'll buy into that."

Two years later, I was as far on the other side of the debate as a person could be.

Scientific arguments against evolution truly are laughable. Intelligent design is, imho, nothing more than an attempt by good-minded people to reconcile religion and science. It falls way short of being valid on either front. It is in no way science, it is politics, as I stated earlier: decide on a conclusion, then sift through everything and pick out the evidence that suits you.

So, now you have the highlights of my journey. I remain solidly convinced in the scientific validity of evolution. I remain committed to every statement from First Presidency on the subject. I am indeed "duty bound" to regard Adam as the first man, the parent of our race. I would never in a million years bring this topic up in any way where it might become a stumbling block for others. And, finally, I wait. I just feel like there isn't an acceptable explanation for everything yet. Any attempt to bring finality to the table would be to try and speak for God. I'm not willing to do that. Many others (on both sides) are very comfortable doing that.

I don't expect anyone to be convinced one way or the other by anything I say. All I know is, for those with honest hearts AND scientific training, this is a huge conundrum. Without the scientific training, I think the evidence is easier to ignore.

In due time, we will have the answers. It's likely not going to be any of the ideas I have read in forums such as this one. It will be simple and beautiful, and every righteous and honest truthseeker will accept it with joy.

I hope we can all agree that this is not a topic which is essential to salvation. It is not heresy to believe in evolution, and it is not correct to say the church secretly endorses evolution. This is just one of those issues that requires patience.

7/17/2005 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Casper said: "Any attempt to bring finality to the table would be to try and speak for God. I'm not willing to do that. Many others (on both sides) are very comfortable doing that."

Joseph Fielding Smith was authorized to "speak for God," as stated in the standard works (see here).

Joseph Fielding Smith held the apostolic keys for more than 60 years and was the Church's tenth Prophet. During his entire ministry, Joseph Fielding Smith taught that there was no death before the fall. Click here to read 42 such statements made in seven different decades (1910s through 1970s). Notice that four are quoted from his three volume set Doctrines of Salvation which was approved by the First Presidency and the Twelve as a meetinghouse library resource for priesthood leaders, teachers, and the general membership. Notice also that ten were published after he became President of the Church and the last one was published by his First Presidency.

Five Prophets have followed Joseph Fielding Smith in succession as President of the Church. Can you tell me which of his successors has said that Joseph Fielding Smith, as President, was wrong about no death before the fall?

7/17/2005 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Caspar said:

"I hope we can all agree that this is not a topic which is essential to salvation."

Caspar - Thanks for the best answer from the evolution side I have read in 6 months. I believe that this dichotomy, assuming you are correct in your scientific views, is like the Relativity - Quantum mechanics situation: we have 2 working systems that don't mesh.

One difference, scientists express a great deal of FAITH that the 2 will be reconciled, even though the present super-string solutions (proposed) may never be testable.

I can and have tested the Scriptures. If I were to discover that the referrences to Adam, and the fall from immortality to mortaiity in a physical body, by disobedience to law, were not really
true, then, I would have a hard time ever teaching again.

One problem I have from your side: the ARN intelligent Design people have claimed "gaps" in the natural selection processes' abiltiy to produce all of the complexity we see. This would match the 100 referrences in the Scriptures, or more, to "Jesus Christ, Creator." Supposedly, these gaps are being quantified, and, there are 40 funded
research projects to try and connect
them to the evolution evidence.

When I ask on here for a
good treatise on WHY such gaps could not exist, I am told something like:

"The problems are all solved by math and probabilities." Since I don't know math, am I frozen out of at least a basic understanding of why natural selection potentcy problems have all been solved??

The answers I HAVE read seem quite biased in favor of not just evolution, but naturalistic scientific determinism as a basic faith paradigm for how the universe works.

Can you give me at least a referrence?

Thanks again for your answer. I will not remain satisfied with the "condundrum." Since I will also not go back to school for 5 years to get
your education, I am stuck with asking for referrences. The "reason
gap" as to why design problems are completely solved must not be so large that SOMEONE can't explain it to a layperson. (it would seem)

Finally - your faith is holding. I see the faith of many who, in my view, is being eroded after accepting your scientific view. It seems to be a starting place for more than a few to begin to disbelieve both the Scriptures and the Prophets.

7/18/2005 09:13:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, again, arguing from authority is problematic because you and I both know that apostles have been wrong before, and we also know that at least one apostle, Elder Talmage, has stated that death predated mankind.

7/18/2005 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, of course there are gaps. It's unreasonable to expect biologists to come up with viable evolution scenarios for every single species. The world is full of mysteries. If it weren't, then scientists would be out of business.

Speaking of mysteries, I lost my keys recently. For the life of me, I can't imagine how I could have lost them, since I always keep them in my pocket except when I'm using them. Should I conclude that their disappearance was supernatural? I could pose a challenge to the materialists: "If you think that there's no such thing as the supernatural, then explain how my keys could have disappeared." Of course, they could never come up with a scenario that would satisfy me, so I would triumphantly proclaim materialism to be disproven.

The problem with ID proponents is that they don't say, "We don't understand how such-and-such could have occurred naturally." Instead, they say, "Here's proof that such-and-such couldn't have occurred naturally." That's a very strong claim, and requires far more evidence than anyone could provide.

7/18/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Casper,

Where have you been for the past few months? You could have been a great help in clarifying a lot of issues both here and at the "other" side... sorry, I meant site. ;-)

Here is the URL:

www.mormonevolution.blogspot.com

There hasn't been too much activity there as of late, but I am thinking of updating and reposting most, if not all of my 70 or so posts over there. Your comments will be more than welcome since you seem to have identified many of the problems with some of the more flimsy reconciliations which I see. Perhaps you will see some problems with some of my attempts as well. Greg and Gary's ideas haven't been very helpful for me in this regard.

7/18/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff Said:

" Greg and Gary's ideas haven't been very helpful for me in this regard."

Hey Jeff: Yesterday - I was reading the old paper you wrote when you still
believed the ID arguments. I think you were going to refute it, point by point, so that your "conversion" to "godless evolution" could be traced, but, other than an analysis of Miller (guite good, actually), I could not find your "conversion story."

Please direct me to it, if possible.

As far as Greg and Gary helping a confirmed MFA er (men from apes); Gary has demonstrated that the entire present Church curriculum is not only anti-human evolution, but 100% NDBF. He has at least illustrated the width of the gap.

AS for me, even if there never had been a 1909 statement or a NDBF curriculum - the Scriptures themselves require a FALL story that
remains out of reach for MFAers.

7/18/2005 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

What is MFA? Either way, I didn't mean to say that you guys haven't contributed anything at all to the conversation. Such would be rude and inaccurate at best. Its just that I have found my efforts at reconciliation rather persuasive and your concern for orthodoxy and "official-ness" simply doesn't bother me at all. Thus I was looking for somebody to poke at the scientific and doctrinal logic involved in my posts, not whether it agrees with any particular official or quasi-official statement.

The reason why you can't find my "conversion" story is because I never really typed it up. I thought that the Miller material responded to most of it, but maybe I could go back over that post and respond to it.

7/18/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Jeff - MFA is "Men From Apes." In my
view, this is the gulf that cannot be crossed between the scientists and the
Scriptorians. Even though some logic may have been missing, in my view, Pres. Smith and Elder McConkie and Elder Talmadge, and even Elder Roberts
were correct when they stated: (paraphrasing) "If men came from apes, the Fall and Atonment doctrines, as revealed and repeated in Scripture, don't hold water."

7/18/2005 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Will said: "At least one apostle, Elder Talmage, has stated that death predated mankind" (see here).

Will, last month you agreed with me that the teachings of more recent leaders take precedence over the teachings of previous leaders (see here). That being the case, the question isn't so much what Elder Talmage said as what has happened since 1931 when he said it. Consider the following:

In 1935, the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, and David O. McKay) told Elder Talmage's son that his father's sermon The Earth and Man "cannot be regarded as an official expression of the Church." They said it had been twice "the unanimous view of the Twelve minus one, that the sermon not be published." (As quoted by Richard Sherlock and Jeffrey Keller in The Search for Harmony, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993, 108-109.)

In 1972, the First Presidency (Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and N. Eldon Tanner) distributed no death before the fall teachings to all Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the Church (see here).

In 1979, the Scripture Publication Committee (Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer, and Bruce R. McConkie) placed no death before the fall teachings in the LDS Bible Dictionary (see here).

In 2002, the current First Presidency (Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust) approved distribution of no death before the fall teachings to all adults in the Church (see here).

Numerous other examples could be cited (see for example here, here, here, and here). But ultimately we come right back to my comment here with its unanswered challenge. So tell me, Will, which of the five Prophets who have have followed Joseph Fielding Smith as President of the Church has said the Tenth Prophet was wrong about no death before the fall?

7/19/2005 05:56:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Gary, I sense that we're going in circles. You've made good points and presented strong evidence, but maybe we need to clarify your thesis in order to stay on track. It's my impression, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that your claim is that NDBF is currently a binding doctrine of the church.

If that's somewhat close to your claim, then we need to establish what makes a doctrine binding, and I suspect that you and I might end up having to agree to disagree on this. I don't believe that the teachings of JFS need to be rescinded in order for them to be non-binding. As an example, JFS taught that the Hill Cumorah mentioned in the BoM is the one in New York. As far as I know, our leaders have never said that he was wrong on this, but neither do they require us to believe it.

Again, I don't know of any set formula for determining the authoritative weight of a given statement by a given leader in a given context. I suppose everyone has to decide that for himself. I've made my decision with regards to NDBF statements, and I am open to correction from my priesthood leaders.

7/19/2005 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Will: I have not claimed "that NDBF is currently a binding doctrine of the church."

The four standard works are binding upon the Latter-day Saints: "From the days of the first dispensation it has been the practice of the Lord’s people to make selections from the scriptural utterances of those who are appointed to lead the Church and to publish these selections as formal and official scripture. All inspired sayings and writings are true and are and should be accepted and believed by all who call themselves Saints. But the revelations, visions, prophecies, and narrations selected and published for official use are thereby made binding upon the people in a particular and special sense. They become part of the standard works of the Church. They become the standards, the measuring rods, by which doctrine and procedure are determined." (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Aug. 1976, 7.)

Only "official" doctrine is binding and I've acknowledged three times (here, here, and here) that no death before the fall is not "official" doctrine.

I've listed here five entries in the LDS Bible Dictionary as evidence that the doctrine is no longer considered controversial. Millions of Mormons carry the LDS Bible to Church with them every Sunday. I seriously doubt that even a significant minority of them would stand up in Church and argue against no death before the fall if it were taught in Church out of the Bible Dictionary.

Not on this blog or anywhere else, have I claimed that the doctrine of no death before the fall is "official" or "binding." My claim is this: Where it might have been made controversial in 1931 by B. H. Roberts and his unscientific and doctrinally unsupportable theories, today the doctrine is no longer controversial. It has been accepted by the Church.

7/19/2005 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Thanks for clarifying, Greg, and I apologize for the misunderstanding. We're on the same page to a greater degree than I thought.

We agree that NDBF is not currently a binding doctrine. We also agree that most members accept NDBF, and that some members do not. Whether we call NDBF controversial or not is a question of semantics, and I'm not about to make an issue of it.

I'm glad we're getting some things cleared up. Thanks for the blog, Gary.

7/19/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

I meant to say, "Thanks for clarifying, Gary."

7/19/2005 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Casper said...

Several comments:

Gary: I wasn't saying JFS did not have the authority to speak for God. That would be a silly thing to argue. I was referring to average members who like to use quotes from prophets to generalize a point of doctrine that might not be the original intent of the prophet. I refer everyone to the paragraphs in the FP statement of 1909 which certainly pertain to us all, the last two:
“Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the people of the world. 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.
We can see no advantage to be gained by a continuation of the discussion to which reference is here made, but on the contrary are certain that it would lead to confusion, division and misunderstanding if carried further. Upon one thing we should all be able to agree, namely, that Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund were right when they said: "Adam is the primal parent of our race."

I read that and hesitate to say anything more. There is no safety in speculation.

Greg:

There are many ‘gaps’ in the diversity of life which we see, and there is a simple biological reason for this. Our planet produces a variety of “niches” in which life can take place. Evolution is a seemingly random process, but it actually is quite driven. “survival of the fittest” is not quite accurate. It should read “More robust propagation of the best suited for a given niche.” Doesn’t have the same ring, though…

Those critters best suited for tapping resources from their habitat will reproduce faster. DNA is sloppy as it copies itself, and small changes create small advantages in metabolic enzymes, traits, etc.

The reason for these gaps is that the habitat requires certain roles to be filled in the life cycle, and critters become what they need to in order to fill that role. Once evolution has created a critter to do a job, rapid change is no longer needed, and the critters who got copied well survive over the mutants. I’m simplifying here. Steven Jay Gould wrote about “punctuated equilibrium.” The idea is that change is ‘encouraged’ only when the environment changes. Otherwise, constancy is ‘favored.’ This is why turtles and sharks have been around for millions of years. As long as they are filling a need that does not go away, they stay around and do not change.

I hope that is clear. Let me know if I can provide a more coherent explanation. Typing out my thoughts is not my strongest suit…BTW, feel free to cut and paste anything I write onto whatever page you want. Just attribute it to “Casper” and I’ll be fine with it. If you want me to write about a specific question for your site, let me know. I can be reached by email at jcm56 at yahoo.com.

And now, more conjecture from a mind bathing in dissonance.

This is a very complicated issue, packed with terms we all feel like we have solid definitions for. Therein lies the problem: When I say “man” to a scientist, I say something different than “man” by our doctrinal standards. Here are a few examples (and each definition is right, when used in the proper context):

Man: [scientist] A human being, which is a biological entity evolved from lower life forms.

Man: [mormon] A physical body into which is placed a spirit child of God, which together comprise a soul.

Life: [scientist] A cycle of metabolic processes which are self-sustaining.

Life: [mormon] A union of spirit and body which is a necessary step in eventual exaltation. (Note: this definition is very limited, since mormons believe we “lived” before this “life” and we will “live” after we “die.”)

Death: [scientist] Cessation of the aforementioned metabolic processes in a life-form, thus allowing its decomposition.

Death: [mormon] 1. Separation of the spirit from the body until an eventual resurrection. 2. Separation from God.

So, let’s just stick with these three terms. Imagine the confusion when a scientist tells a mormon: “Man came from apes” or “Life evolved from primordial soup and electricity.” This is offensive and blasphemous. But really all it might be is a misunderstanding of semantics.

Even the concept “No death before the Fall” is riddled with semantics problems. What constitutes death? Each time I swallow, I send numerous bacteria from my mouth to their “deaths” in my stomach acid. Biology as we know it counts on death to complete the ecological cycles. “Life” (in biological terms) is messy and complicated. “Death” is just as complicated. Must we believe Adam either had no mouth flora or that he just had incomprehensibly bad breath until the Fall?

I realize I’m being not-picky, but I do it in order to demonstrate what I consider an important point. “Death” has several meanings. Maybe “no death before the fall” does not mean no biological organism ceased to function metabolically until the Fall. Perhaps it means, no spirit child of God had the opportunity to experience a necessary step towards eventual exaltation without the Fall of Adam.

Likewise, maybe evolution isn’t such an offensive concept to God. Maybe it is His divinely appointed way to produce our physical bodies. He still created man, just like He created the Grand Canyon—just because we have an inkling through science as to how He may have done it, doesn’t mean He didn’t do it. “Man” was created by producing our physical bodies, then combining spirit and body to become a living soul. I know there are logistical questions as to how our bodies came to resemble God’s and other details, but we don’t need to sort it all out. We certainly want to, but we just don’t have the information we need. Not from revelation or from science.

7/19/2005 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Casper: The statement you quote was made in 1931, not 1909. The 1909 First Presidency issued a formal declaration of the Church's position on evolution, wherein they said regarding the question of man's body evolving from lower orders of life, "These, however, are the theories of men"—easily and usually interpreted as anti-evolution. The 2002 reprint updates the 1909 statement and gives it focus directly to "average members" (see Ensign, Feb. 2002, 26.)

The 1931 statement, on the other hand, was intended for the general authorities, not the general membership. And, "when used in the proper context," it has the opposite "original intent" of what you imply. In fact, the portion of your recent comment addressed to Greg is precisely the kind of science/scripture rationalization that was rejected in 1931—as for example, "Perhaps [no death before the fall] means, no spirit child of God had the opportunity to experience a necessary step towards eventual exaltation without the Fall of Adam." Elder B. H. Roberts would have loved you, but his science/scripture theories didn't fly with the Brethren any more than yours do.

Doctrinally, Latter-day Saints are commanded to say "none other things than that which the prophets and apostles have written" (D&C 52:9). You should do a little doctrinal research yourself and try using "quotes from prophets" to justify your evolution-can-coexist-with-mormon-doctrine theories. Unfortunately, just like B. H. Roberts, you propose that which is unscientific—science doesn't teach that "evolution ... is [God's] divinely appointed way to produce our physical bodies." Also just like B. H. Roberts, you propose that which is doctrinally unsupportable—no Prophet has taught that "evolution ... is [God's] divinely appointed way to produce our physical bodies."

Joseph Fielding Smith's no death before the fall teachings in seven different decades (1910s through 1970s) were clear and unified and continuous. The creation was paradisiacal. There was no mortality. Death for all forms of life began when Adam fell. I cannot imagine how his "original intent" is not clear.

7/19/2005 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Gary,

Maybe you could start another post or something. Your site already takes a long time to download for dialup users as it is without having to worry about 100 comments.

7/20/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Caspar Said:

"There are many ‘gaps’ in the diversity of life which we see, and there is a simple biological reason for this."

Caspar, thank you for trying to answer my question. However, the only "gaps"
I am presently trying to understand are those pointed out in "Darwin's Black Box" and similar arguments. This is the problem of "Irreducible Complexity," and, I have yet to read
an adequate response to this challenge.

Most Americans, and, certainly, the vast majority of Latter Day Saints, intuit that the human body, which - among other things, produces physical manifestations of the "spiritual emotions" we brought with us, is way, way, way too complex to have been produced by the "machine" of Natural Selection.

The natural selection "machine" can be broken down and its parts identified, even to a lay person like myself. The "Irreducible complexity" challenge to the potency of the natural selection mechanism also appears very straight-forward.

The gap I speak of describes the fact that the Natural Selection mechanism, even the most potent version imaginable, lacks the power to produce certain results. The responses I have read so far to this challenge seem quite biased and prejudiced to me. I have legal training, and have some skills in analyzing the potency of arguments.

I asked Will about the problem. He says 2 things, I believe:

1. It is a math and probability problem only. Too me, this is circular reasoning. To me, it says "well, we know the results exist, and, we know that natural selection is the mechanism that produced them,
"so, we just need a big enough sample of occurances, and enough time, and - math, chaos and complexity theory will fill the gap.

2. It is unfair to ask the biologists to "prove that something could not have happened."

These two answers completely miss the point, from my perspective. I was hoping you could direct me to a treatise that could explain to me how the "irreducible complexity" has been solved.

From everything I have read so far, Natural Selection falls short of being a creator. Thus, the facts I have seen thus far leave room for God as the creator. I sincerely am wanting someone to teach me what they know that I don't about how natural selection as a mechanism can accomplish what has been cleary explained to me as impossible tasks.

7/20/2005 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg, can you tell us what rebuttals to IC you've read that have been inadequate? Then maybe we can point you to some better articles. A good starting point would be the opposition papers here, but perhaps you've already read those.

Just to clarify my own position, I approach IC from an algorithmic and complexity theory angle. (This is because I don't know squat about biology.) I know from experience that genetic algorithms can produce systems in which parts are interdependent to the degree that the whole system is seriously compromised if one part is missing. The chaos through which these systems evolve renders intuition, math, and logic useless when it comes to reverse engineering. In order to determine anything about the probability of B evolving from A, we would have to simplify the immense evolutionary landscape to such a degree that our conclusions would be useless. This is why I find the IC idea unconvincing.

7/20/2005 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Casper said...

Gary:

I'm glad you have everything figured out so well. I am not suggesting anything about evolution fitting in well with mormon doctrine. In fact, i suggest the opposite. There is a disconnect. But, just because science does not perfectly align with scripture, does not mean pursuing scientific research into evolution (not to disprove it, just to continue expanding it) is a worthless endeavor.

On this point, I believe the current prophet, who directs the affairs of BYU and all of the evolutionary biology research happening there, would likely agree. the FP statements even state, clearly, that study of evolution should be left to the appropriate scientific experts. "Our religion is not hostile to real science." (FP, 1910 Christmas message) There are certainly major developments in evolutionary biology which fall into the category of "real science". Several of them occurred down the hall from my lab in the Widtsoe building at BYU while I worked there. The scriptures teach us to study from the best books and to study the earth, and I think we should do that. Honestly, and without using our "findings" to go against revelation.

This does not mean that the church loves the many secular notions which often go along with evolution about the nature of man and God. But I believe the church wants good people to conduct this research and investigate further, rather than to scream "IT CAN"T BE SO!" and bury our heads in the sand.

As far as greg and will's debate, I wish I could have been more helpful with my comments. I agree with what will is saying, but I can see how it is not very simple. Chaos is always present, and environments are always shifting. We carry in us a record of all of the chaotic shifts in our DNA which were beneficial for our progenitors which also have not been erased by other mutations.

The net result of this (and remember, evolution has had billions of years to do this) is that many tiny changes over many years get lost to history.

For example, a gap between a blind creature that has no vision and the seeing human appears huge. Any attempt at a half of an eye seems futile. If I remember correctly, this was one of Michael Behe's examples of irreducible complexity. (I read "Darwin's Black Box" several years ago). He's wrong, though. Go back in time, to a blind creature that needed sunlight to get energy. Wouldn't a critter who could barely detect light have an advantage over one that couldn't at all? Then, wouldn't a critter who could actually start to detect light and dark patterns, even if it was only very course, have an advantage? And then, would a creature who could focus light, see in color, see in 3D, or get really high spatial resolution have yet more advantage? And so on. So, half of an eye IS better than no eye. Why did our eyes stop developing better resolution? Well, we don't need better resolution. Are there eyes out there which are "better" than ours? Yes. Eagles can see way more detail than we can, owls can see in very low light, squid have a completely different optic nerve/retina arrangement which eliminates the blind spot we have. So, in a sense, you could argue that we have "half an eye."

Where Behe errs is in assuming that anything less than "human vision" is worthless. Its simply not. Random changes are favored until a trait is developed which aids in energy procurement. Once that point is reached, equilibrium is favored, until conditions require another change. In fact, I'd bet if you look at the average visual acuity of humans in the past 500 years it has gone DOWN. Why? We no longer have a serious consequence if we can't focus. We can use an artificial lens to do that job for us. If Behe wears glasses or contacts, he is walking anecdotal proof of his own fallacy. Just like every land or water-dweeling creature who shifts into cave-dwelling lifestyles. Within a few generations they invariably go blind and pale. Why? They don't need to devote energy to protecting themselves from the sun or to using the sun's rays to see things.

I would argue that every black box, or irreducible complexity is similar. We see a gap, but that is because we can't rewind nature's videotape in our minds and figure out how things got to be the way they are.

So, it is merely chaos which over long time, produces change. Remember that all dogs are just wolves which have in a few hundred years been selectively bred to vary in appearance. Chihuahuas and St. Bernards differ genetically only in a few tiny spots. If you wanted to, you could probrably cross breed several dog breeds and create something that looks like a wolf in just a few generations. What appears to be a huge gap is really not at all. Hope that helps.

7/21/2005 07:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Caspar Said: "Our religion is not hostile to real science." (FP, 1910 Christmas message)

Dear Caspar - thanks for the effort you put into your last response:

I will respond with a couple of general comments:

I. "Dueling FP messages." One thing I learned as a lawyer is the difference between what we call "dicta," which published judicial statements, some of which eventually become established law, and published "holdings," which are "on point" to the legal matter in question, and ideally clear and complete. In following this discussion for a number of months, I
notice that the MFA (men from apes) side mine FP statements for potentially support dictum on the issue of our physical heritage, and ignore the 1909 FP "holding" on the issue, which as been republished twice by the Church in its main organs of official "speech" in last few years. In spite of what's happening now or in the last decade at the labs at BYU, which are certainly not UNKNOWN to the current FP, the entire Church, in Priesthood and Releif Society, and, through the Ensign and Liahon, has been told through the 1909 Statement's republication that neither we nor Adam descended from apes.

II. "Behe vs. eyes." Behe and supporters are aware of the evidence for possible natural selection development of eyes. It is in the molecular area that he has focused his arguments, and, I still see no reasoned response. Dawkins says to the world in his very persuasive prose style "see, choas climbs mount improbable," Behe then says "okay" here is a specific crevace I have located that chaos' ropes and ladders and catapults, etc., can't seem to manage - please explain in detail how this particular crevace was crossed on the way to the summit of mount improbable," So far, I have not seen the answer.

I take some comfort in a couple of things to hold on to my faith that the Scriptures and the Church are not feeding the membership a line of
baloney about our physical heritage:

(1) William Dembski, the leader of the ID movement is, like yourself, a
mathematician, while Behe really does know how to analyse those really small natural machines. In the "wickidpedia" article, for example, someone says, excitedly "new research shows how such and such COULD have developed, but, alas, that is not SCIENCE. I see it
more like anti-Mormons trying to explain that JOseph Smith COULD have
borrowed certain ideas to produce the Book of Mormon - but, that is not HISTORY. Both of these are in the realms of faith and philosphy, in my view.

(2) As you have pointed out in about the clearest statement I have seen,
evolution and Adam cannot be "reconciled." Someone, therefore, must be wrong on this issue. I sure hope it ain't the Scriptures and the
FP. So far, my faith is holding.

8/03/2005 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Casper,

I will ignore my many grammatical and spelling errors, and correct only the following in my previous post'

Greg said: (from hypotethetical Behe to Dawkins) "please explain in detail how this particular crevace was crossed on the way to the summit of mount improbable,"

I should have said: "please explain in detail how this particular crevace COULD HAVE BEEN crossed on the way to the summit of mount improbable,"

8/03/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Greg,

A couple of things.

1) I don't fault you at all for clinging to the FP statement, for your reading of it is definitely the most responsible one.

2) That said, I find your allegiance to Behe's argument somewhat disturbing. It is a flat out argument from ignorance, an ignorance that has no chance whatsoever of growing in any way. It has, in fact, continued to shrink at an increasing rate. The argument basically says, until you show me how every single thing which I want to point out could have evolved, I won't budge an inch. This isn't a logic argument, only a manifestation of stubbornness.

Behe's general argument, the part not based in ignorance, is that of irreducible complexity. Irreducible complexity suggests that there is absolutely no way, whatsoever for these things to have evolved bit by bit. This argumenet has been responded to in a thoroughly convincing way, namely by showing that the argument depends on 1) ignorance and 2) a particular system's inability to change functions. (1), as I said, is a dangerous position and (2) is flat out wrong.

Now given your allegiance to the FP statement I would expect you to show a lot of interest and hope in Behe's arguments. However, don't think for a second that these arguments make for good science of any kind. Behe's basic argument has been responded to. Of course all the particular instances of apparent irreducible complexity have not been solved, but then we shouldn't expect them to be, even if the idea was entirely false.

3) Matt Witten has recently drawn attention to a particular account of the 1978 revelation (note the word I use) which I think you would find very inspiring.

"On June 1, 1978, at a regular temple meeting of the general authorities, Kimball asked the members of the First Presidency and the Twelve to stay fro a private conference. In a spirit of fasting and prayer, they formed a prayer circle. Kimball opened by saying he felt impressed to pray to the Lord and asked their permission to be “mouth.” He went to the altar. Those in attendance said that as he began his earnest prayer, they suddenly realized it was not Kimball’s prayer, but the Lord speaking through him. A revelation was being declared. Kimball himself realized that the words were not his but the Lord’s. During that prayer some of the Twelve- at least two have said so publicly- were transported into a celestial atmosphere, saw a divine presence and the figures of former president of the church(portraits of whom were hanging on the walls around them)smiling to indicate their approval and sanction. Others acknowledged the voice of the Lord coming, as with the prophet Elijah, “through the still, small voice.” The voice of the Spirit followed their earnest search for wisdom and understanding.

"At the end of the heavenly manifestation Kimball, weeping for joy, confronted the church members, many of them also sobbing, and asked if they sustained this heavenly instruction. Embracing, all nodded vigorously and jubilantly their sanction. There had been a startling and commanding revelation from God-an ineffable experience.

"Two of the apostles present described the experience as a “day of Pentecost” similar to the one in Kirtland Temple on April 6, 1836, the day of its dedication. They saw a heavenly personage and heard heavenly music. To the temple-clothed members, the gathering, incredible and without compare, was the greatest singular even of their lives. Those I talked with wept as they spoke of it. All were certain they had witnessed a revelation from God."

This account comes from Leonard Arrington, the first and only professionally trained church historian. I should also quote the qualifiers which he mentions as well:

"As a historian I sought to learn the particulars and record them in my private diary. The following account (the one I quoted above) is based on dozens of interviews with persons who talked with church officials after the revelation was announced. Although members of the Twelve and the First Presidency with whom I sought interviews felt they should not elaborate on what happened, I learned details from family members and friends to whom they had made comments. Some of these statements may have involved colorful, symbolic language that was taken literally. It is a common regret among Latter-day Saints that general authorities do not speak openly about their remarkable spiritual experiences in the way Joseph Smith and other early prophets used to do. Although they unquestionably do have such experiences, they have said little about this one."

Thus there may have been some exaggeration in the account, but this does not change the fact that Arrington was a well trained historian who became well known for his unwillingness to sacrifice historical accuracy of any kind in order to promote any kind of theological agenda. All in all, I think that visions and words were seen and heard, but unfortunately we have no account of what they really were.

Thought you might like that.

8/05/2005 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Greg said...

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for response to my letter to Caspar:

(1) On the 1978 Revelation: I have done my own investigation, and have, through the Holy Ghost, discovered what I believe to be the 2 main points the Lord was conveying. Like Nephi wanting his own "version" of the Tree of Life vision, I have sought my own "version" of the 1978 Revelation. Here are the 2 points:

a. The "ban" was not a mistake;
b. 1978 was the Lord's time to lift the ban.

I have also sought information about the reasons for the ban, and believe I have received it. However, I will hold that for now.

2. On Intelligent Design (which Pres. Bush has endorsed today for school curriculums (sic)): As I said somewhere else, the BIGGEST problem with science today is that it teaches evolution as fact; not theory, as do you. In my opinion, any objective observer should be able to see the following:

a. Science is out of bounds to teach any theory as fact:

b. Science should logically allow for the possiblility of intelligent design; otherwise, it is
restricting itself only to the study of "closed", "naturalistic" systems.
This is outside of the "theory" of what science should be, in my view.

Behe, Dembski, Johnson, Bush, and also Greg, are yelling quite loudly that there is something wrong with the role of science in culture today. Most Americans listen, because they sense the problem, while perhaps they cannot elucidate it.

On these blogs, every science person, including youself, claims to believe that God should be somewhere "at the table." However, by excluding the possibility of intelligent intervention, no present scientific theory will EVER allow for this.

To me, it is like LDS Historians adopting views of history that exlude the miraculous. In my opinion, each of you I have encountered here has a BLIND SPOT.

YOu simply do not see the Hand of God where it is so obvious - and, among the warnings in Scripture, none is more clear than D&C 59:21. But, according to what you have stated, you are free to dismiss any Scripture as uninspired - so, this one would not have to apply if you don't like it.

In my most humble opinion, Behe's best fundamental argument is his analogy of the development of my own body. Since every part of it originally descended from a single cell (or zygote, is that 2?), there is much evidence that COULD argue that my body evolved by natural selection, since each part has similar antecedants. However, modern biochemistry has demonstrated that my body did not evolve by natural selection, the design was programmed in from the beginning.

Further, and, this has been brought up before - we know that our spirits
as well as the Holy Ghost influence our physical bodies in basic ways. Which scientific theory allows for this intereaction? To me, it seems absolutely silly to invest so much faith, even to the dismissing of Scripture, in a system that cannot - will not account for the basic tenants of our FAITH, that we are duel beings, and, that the Holy Ghost can literally change our physical natures.

8/10/2005 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Greg,

a) I thought you would like the 1978 account because it certainly confirms your position more than mine. It was an expression of good will.

b) Regarding ID:

For starters, I think Bush is a good person who is himself somewhat stupied and surrounded by some pretty bad men that run the show more than a little. Bush coming out in favor of "teaching the controversy" only confirmed my suspicions about him. He is a very good representation of the average American. Unfortunately, the average American is an idiot.

Should we teach the controversy which "exists" between medicine and voo doo witch doctory? Astronomy and astrology? Chemistry and alchemy? Physics and magic? Or would it perhaps be better to deal with such discussions in a philosphy of science or a history of science course?

Inasmuch as ID wants to point out the "flaws" in evolution without presenting their own "theory" as science, I'm all for it. The problem is that these "flaws" are taught and at the correct level, which is not high school, but upper division or grad school biology. The flaws which everybody knows exist in the theory of evolution concerning its actual paths and mechanisms are hardly a secret and really shouldn't distract us from the fact, not the theory, that evolutin has and does occur.

Sure there might be intelligent intervention every once in a while, but this can hardly be considered a scientific theory of any kind at all.

8/10/2005 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous will said...

Greg you're raising several different issues here. I'll see if I can separate them and address them one at a time. (I'll also replace the ambiguous word theory with the phrase speculative theory.)

Should speculative theories be taught as facts? No.

Is evolution a speculative theory? On this we disagree.

Should scientific research include supernatural hypotheses? If you can think of way to test them, then by all means. But how do we test for the long-ago existence of an undefined intelligence?

Is the Hand of God obvious in creation? On this we disagree.

Is our development from zygote to adult instructive regarding evolution? I don't see how. Our development from zygotes is programmed into our DNA, but does this imply that all other developmental processes are likewise programmed? No. It is an incontrovertible fact that unprogrammed systems can develop and increase in complexity.

Is it silly to invest faith in theories that don't take into account religious doctrines? No scientific theories take into account religious doctrines, and we all place a lot a faith in science, whether we realize it or not.

8/15/2005 11:48:00 AM  

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