Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ensign v Darwin in 2008

"That the eye with all its inimitable contrivances ... could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest sense."  (Charles Darwin, as quoted by Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy in "Our God Truly Is God," Ensign, Jan. 2008, p.65.)

Darwin doesn't think it is absurd

Notice that Darwin doesn't say it is absurd, only that it seems absurd.  In fact, some feel the above sentence misrepresents Darwin on this point.  Indeed, when one reads the entire paragraph it becomes clear that Darwin was merely adding emphasis to his conclusion later in the same paragraph that:

"The difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory." (As quoted online at "Bartleby.com.")

Elder Callister and the Ensign do think it is absurd

For Latter-day Saints, however, the important thing is that Elder Callister obviously believes it is absurd to think that the eye could have been formed by natural selection.  Furthermore, Church Correlation and the Ensign editorial staff found Elder Callister's views acceptable for publication.


Blogger DMI Dave said...

I agree that the "Church of Correlation" doesn't accept evolution. Fortunately, that's not my church. As I recall, church bureaucrats displacing appointed leaders is one of the signs of the transition from the True Church to Apostasy. So it is strange you are citing approval by Correlation as a positive factor. To me, it shows just the opposite.

12/25/2007 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


The Spinozist Mormon wrote a splendid response to a comment by J. Stapley that was similar to yours nearly two years ago:

-------------- quote --------------
"Are there reasons to think the Correlation Department comes to decisions contrary to the united position of the 1P and Q12?  I would imagine these quorums ensure that the Correlation Department functions as an executor of their intentions, not something that takes on a life of its own."
-------------- end quote --------------

12/25/2007 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Dang, Gary. You beat me to it. I've got a post mostly ready that I was going to roll out shortly after Christmas (still will).

Merry Christmas.

12/25/2007 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Lincoln Cannon said...

We should not let an appeal to absurdity affect our thinking on this matter. X may be true regardless of a person telling you that X is absurd. How often are we, as Mormons, told that Mormonism is absurd? Yet we do not infer from this that there is no truth in Mormonism.

Moreover, we should not let an appeal to ecclesiastical authority affect our thinking on this matter. Our ecclesiastical leaders are not set apart to receive inspiration regarding the mechanisms of creation. They are set apart to receive inspiration regarding the government of the Church. Inspiration regarding other matters is promised to us all, even to babes in this dispensation of the fullness of times.

12/25/2007 10:49:00 PM  
Blogger Nick Literski said...

Our ecclesiastical leaders are not set apart to receive inspiration regarding the mechanisms of creation. They are set apart to receive inspiration regarding the government of the Church.

Mormon and LDS leaders throughout the past 177 years would emphatically disagree with this statement. In fact, many individuals and groups have "apostatized" specifically over the issue of church leaders dictating civil affairs. Even today, LDS leaders claim inspiration well beyond the governance of the LDS church, as evidenced by the Proclamation on the Family, which has been used to militate against entirely non-ecclesiastical civil rights issues.

12/26/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just as a personal observation, Elder Callister seems to be pushing "Intelligent Design" which is typically considered compatible with Evolution.

Re:"The doubter asks us to believe that the miracles of eyes and hands and DNA and order in the universe all happened by chance. The passage of time is not a “cause” and provides no answers without an intelligent designer."

12/26/2007 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed the "intelligent design" reference too. Is the church signing up for the ID cause now?

12/26/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...



You are correct, the recent Intelligent Design movement led by the Discovery Institute is compatible with Darwin's theory of evolution.  In Elder Callister's article "Our God Truly Is God," however, the words "an intelligent designer" refer to a Creator God and not the Intelligent Design movement.  I'm quite sure Elder Callister's Creator God is not compatible with evolution or the Intelligent Design movement.

p.s. Be sure to read Ensign and Natural Theology posted yesterday by Jared* at LDS Science Review.

12/27/2007 06:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff G said...

While I posted the following over at Jared*'s blog, I thought that it was relevant to Gary's comment about evolution being compatible with ID:

"After for the "absurdity" comment, my reaction is predictable: not convinced. Perhaps if he had actually read Darwin's book he would have noted three different arguments at work:

1. That natural selection exists.
2. That natural selection is powerful enough to create the biological taxa we now observe.
3. That natural selection actually DID create the biological taxa we now observe.

The cross-roads at which most of the Darwin-debate now occurs can be better understood within this context. Creationists of various stripe argue that 2 is false and therefore 3 must be false as well. To support the falsity of 2 they appeal to irreducible complexity, personal incredulity, etc.

Evolutionists, on the other hand, argue that 3 is true, and therefore 2 must be true as well. To support this they bring forth absolute mountains of evidence from genetics, geography, geology, etc. FURTHERMORE, they demonstrate how even the most complex of biological systems CAN evolve without a designer.

Thus the two sides can be summed up as follows:

Creationists have pretty good arguments against 2, but do absolutely nothing to address the Darwinist's arguments for 3. The Darwinists not only have pretty good argument for 3, but also show why the creationist arguments against 2 aren't very good after all. It's situations like these that make creationism look distasteful."

If one understands by "Darwinism" or "Evolution" all of the three points above, then clearly evolution and ID are not compatible, for ID inasmuch as it is scientifically testable at all, amounts to nothing more than the claim that 2 is wrong.

If, however, by "Intelligent Design" one merely means "God somehow participated in the process, then it is difficult to see the conflict, if only because the claim is so watered down as to become nearly meaningless... At least in terms of science.

12/28/2007 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


Jeff G:

You may be interested in an article I just posted about LDS Seminary and Elder Callister's "intelligent designer".

12/29/2007 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger M. Paul Bailey said...

By the way, evolution is very different from chance. Feel free to read the following page to see how they strongly differ: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/chance/chance.html

1/30/2008 10:17:00 PM  

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