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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Creating evolutionists

Creating evolutionist Church leaders has become an occasional pastime among LDS evolutionist members. For example, there was an interesting discussion last week on another blog where Chase Tingey said:

"In the late 1930's Widstoe affirmed the First Presidency's feelings that evolution is one of many possible explanations (see Evidences and Reconciliations by Durham)."

Chase seems unaware that no Church published First Presidency statement exists saying evolution is a possible explanation for anything. Therefore, Elder John A. Widtsoe could not possibly have "affirmed the First Presidency's feelings" along those lines.

In that same discussion, Chase Tingey also said Elder Widtsoe (among others) was

"all for evolution."

Apparently, Chase hasn't read Widtsoe's essay on the origin of life on earth or the one on whether the doctrine of evolution should be accepted (here and here). And apparently, Chase isn't familiar with what Elder Widtsoe said the year before he died:

"One of the theories of evolution based largely upon the work of the great scientist, Charles Darwin, was that man was only a product of changes in organic life, throughout long periods of time.... Today,... ' we are more keenly aware than in Darwin's day of our ignorance as to the origin and affiliation of the greater classes.'

"Clearly the theory of evolution has added nothing to our understanding of the beginning of things. The ancient view that God is the Creator of all things is still the best, because it is true." (The Improvement Era, July 1951, p.531; emphasis in the original; see also Evidences and Reconciliations, pp.166 & 169.)

Cap feels Widtsoe believed in evolution in spite of the above quote. Said Cap:

"Widtsoe says, '...the theory of evolution has added nothing to our understanding of the beginning of things.' - I understand that God created this world, I understand that there was a process to it. I understand that Men are ordained of God. I understand that we are the spirit children of our Heavenly Father. I don’t see how it took anything away either. With my belief of evolution, I still believe all that I listed above. (And yes, even more technical stuff, but I didn’t want to make a long list).

It turns out, however, that Cap's comment is about what Cap believes while the Widtsoe quote is about what Widtsoe believed and whether he was "all for evolution."

As far as I'm concerned, it's okay for people like Cap and Chase to believe in evolution. But I don't think they should try to make evolutionists out of Church leaders who weren't.

22 Comments:

Blogger S.Faux said...

Gary:

I very much enjoy your blog and your thought-filled opinions.

I think you are right about the positions of Church leaders on evolution. I don't find a lot of support for the concept there.

We have at least two strong pro-science Apostles now living. Elder Russell M. Nelson, a heart surgeon, is very pro-science, but I have heard him say very negative things about evolutionary ideas.

The second would be Elder Henry B. Eyring. I believe his father was an evolutionist, and he certainly was NOT a great proponent of Jos. Fielding Smith's ideas on creation. But, I honestly do NOT know Elder Eyring's views on the matter. It might be significant that he has kept quiet. Correct me, as I am sure you will. ;)

Here is a fact that is beyond dispute: In the minds of nearly all life scientists, evolution is as factual as gravity. In fact, that is how I see it -- evolution has as much support as gravity.

Now, anyone can reject gravity, evolution, or any other scientific proposition. But, my experience tells me that scientists generally know more about nature than anyone else. Conversely, my experience tells me that our beloved Church leaders know more about theology and true doctrine than anyone else.

So, if there is a conflict, then there is a conflict. But, gravity is still gravity, and evolution is still evolution.

I don't care what anyone else says, but this avid evolutionist plans to go to Church next Sunday and get something good out of it, like many previous Sundays before it. I hope no one shuts the doors on me. I certainly am NOT expecting anything like that.

Keep provoking us!!!! I am not kidding.

7/10/2008 08:25:00 AM  
Blogger PhysicsGuy said...

S. Faux made the comment, "Here is a fact that is beyond dispute: In the minds of nearly all life scientists, evolution is as factual as gravity." This comment is quite misleading for three reasons.

1. Comparing Gravity to Evolution is an extremely poor comparison. Gravity (as it is understood to exist by the lay-person) is an experimental discipline that occurs over extremely short periods of time. There is an enormous wealth of experimental data received by each person on the planet each day. Evolution comes nowhere close to this amount of data. There are some cases where we have seen evolution occur on small scales during short periods of time, but this effect may or may not translate to the large time scales required to have any sort of trust in evolution's overarching statements. If you would like to compare evolution to gravity, make sure that the comparison is made about the very theoretical nature of what gravity really is and how it really works. This is a closer comparison, because we are still quite unsure of this nature of gravity (although we have ideas).

2. Using history as a judge, it is not very good practice to trust "in the minds" of scientists at all. We have been wrong much more often than we have been right. I would be extremely surprised if any theory we hold to today is correct in its entirety. When a theory is found to be slightly wrong, and is subsequently corrected, enormous changes occur in its conclusions (e.g., Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, Electromagnetism).

3. The theory of Evolution is not fact, it is a proposed theory (conclusion) that is based on fact (experimental data). At any one time there are a glut of theories that can each explain experimental fact; we as scientists just choose the theory that we like the best.

7/10/2008 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

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PhysicsGuy: Let's just say that as far as S.Faux is concerned "evolution is as factual as gravity [and] is beyond dispute." Now I respect that point of view right along with your own contrasting view. Maybe we can all three agree that there isn't much support among Church leaders for the concept of evolution. Anyway, I appreciate your comment.

7/10/2008 08:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeff G said...

Gary,

You know that I agree with your main argument. This post, however, brings up a point which I think deserves a little more attention in your "project", if I may call it that.

The problem is that the word "evolution" can refer to so many different things. By it, some people mean:

1. natural selection (the primary mechanism which drives evolution)
2. common ancestry (something which is closely linked to evolution, but not quite the same thing)
3. the materialist worldview (in which evolution, the big bang and atheism are pretty much considered one and the same)
4. the mutability of species (which, strictly speaking, is actually what the word refers to)

Now many church leaders, I assume, endorse 4, even though Genesis speaks against it somewhat. You would be right to believe that any such endorsements should count as evidence that church leaders believe in evolution.

On the other hand, it is just as possible that many church leaders have spoken out against 3 in ways which should not be seen as a flat out rejection of 1,2 and 4.

This is exactly what I think is going on in the case of Widtsoe's quote. I think that in this case he is rejecting 4, but that's about it.

In other words, sometimes church leaders might be endorsing (or rejecting) evolution, even if they don't use the word. They might also, as is probably more often the case, not endorse (or not reject) evolution, even if they do use the word.

7/10/2008 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeff G: Is there an example on LDS.org of an apostle endorsing 1,2,3 or 4?

7/10/2008 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Jeff G said...

But Gary, my point was that you can't simply search the word "evolution" and figure that out. For instance, while I think it is clear that James E. Talmage rejected 3, he almost surely accepted 4, 2 (with the exception of humans)and maybe even 1.

Of course, you are more than welcome to read every single statement on the subject, including those which do not mention evolution by name, and figure that out for yourself.

Perhaps even more to the point would be a similar disentanglement of NDBF. Sure, all church leaders endorse NDBF is some form. But do they all really mean the same thing is such endorsements?

7/11/2008 12:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Jeff G said...

Of course, the point that most people have wanted to make against you, I have noticed, is that they don't have to find any quote from lds.org which endorses 1,2,3 or 4. Rather, people just want to push that the leaders haven't taken a stand on 1,2 or 4. While support can be found for the rejection of 2, I don't see it for 1 or 4.

7/11/2008 02:57:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeff G: - To repeat the question - Is there an example on LDS.org of an apostle endorsing 1,2,3 or 4? And the answer of course is "No."

It's good to hear from you again.

7/11/2008 06:04:00 AM  
Blogger richard Sherlock said...

to all. In The Way the Truth and the Life B.H. Roberts came very close to endorsing common descent. He did not go all the way and with respect to man he was not an evolutionary thinker but he was prepared to admit some common descent. Furthermore, notice how we have ignored in 1--4 the age of the earth or no death before the fall. Widtsoe did believe in death before the fall and a very old earth

7/14/2008 11:19:00 PM  
Blogger richard Sherlock said...

to S. Faux
your are just wrong about evolution as accepted as gravity. Can you name one credentialed physicist who rejects gravity ? I didn't think so. I can name hundreds of biologists , who teach at fine universities, not bible colleges, who reject evolutionary theory as a full explanation of biological diversity. I know one leading virology researcher on this campus who brings in big buck in research who has signed the Discovery Institute list. also see Frank Salisbury's books

7/14/2008 11:25:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Richard Sherlock:

Thanks for stopping by. I always appreciate your comments.

You are correct, Elder Widtsoe states very clearly in a 1948 Era article, "No one can safely deny that [pre-Adamite] manlike beings did at one time roan over the earth." In other words, pre-Adamite fossils exist.

However, Widtsoe wasn't sure how these fossils should be interpreted. "The evolutionist," he pointed out, "has seen in these manlike beings a confirmation of his view. They have become to him intermediate forms between man as he now is and the lower animals." Does Widtsoe accept this explanation? Apparently not. "Such an assumption," he said, "is but adding theory to theory, inference to inference."

"The present answer to the pre-Adamite discussion," according to Widtsoe, "[is] that we and the whole human race are descendants of Adam and Eve. Our earthly genealogies are traced back to these our first parents, and stop there."

The word "earthly" in the above sentence as synonymous with "mortal." Adam and Eve became the first mortals through the Fall. Our "mortal" genealogy, therefore, goes back to Adam and Eve and stops.

7/15/2008 12:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Cap said...

R. Gary,

'...I don't think they should try to make evolutionists out of Church leaders who weren't.'

Whether he believed in evolution or not does not concern me. The quote that you had posted was not a clear indication on what he believed. So I can just as easily say 'I don't think they should try to make anit-evolutionists out of Church leaders...'

The calling of an apostle is not to prove or disprove scientific beliefs. Like Steve had said, Your apostles can beat up his. You would easily win a quote war, but when it comes to actually disproving evolution you have nothing more then quotes from men who are and were authorities on theology, not evolution. Church authorities have their opinions, but that does not make it revelation from God.

7/16/2008 08:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve EM said...

"Clearly the theory of evolution has added nothing to our understanding of the beginning of things. The ancient view that God is the Creator of all things is still the best, because it is true."

Gary, I think this gospel hobby of yours has blinded you to the bigger picture. No sound evolutionist would argue with the quote above. Evolution doesn't explain creation (aka the Big Bang). The quote sheds nothing on the apostle’s opinion on evolution or even if life spontaneous arose as a result of creation. Before the Big Bang, there was no energy, no matter, no space and no time. Creation is the essence of the concept of G-d, whether we are deists or theists. Creation of the earth and evolution come about much later.

Evolution is the simplest and most plausible explanation of species replacement going. The alternative is continuous divine intervention to replace extinct species for which there is no evidence. I see no conflict between evolution and the gospel.

7/27/2008 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

.

Steve EM:

Let's see now. A hobby is "an activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure." And that means a gospel hobby is a gospel related activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure. So if reading LDS blogs and making comments like the one above isn't your regular occupation and you do it for pleasure instead of money, it's a gospel hobby. Imagine that.

Steve, let me welcome you to the gospel hobby club. I'm honored to have your comment. And it makes perfect sense to me that evolution is compatible with whatever gospel is believed by your "sound evolutionist" friends.

However: There is no harmony between the theory of human evolution and the particular gospel that is taught at LDS.org by today's apostles and prophets.

7/27/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve EM said...

Gary,
Hope you are well. Thanks for letting my comment go up. I didn't think you would.

Now you know darn well I was referring to your gospel hobby in the sense BRM coined the term, one of your patron saints I’m sure. But your comeback was clever and impressive nevertheless.

IMHO, if an apostle today preaches against evolution, that apostle has overstepped their authority, comes off like a moron, is an embarrassment to the church, is failing in their calling to bring people to Christ (at least intelligent people who accept evolution, as they will be driven away), has demonstrated himself to be a false prophet claiming knowledge of aspects of creation that haven’t been revealed and should resign or be released. There’s a reason Jesus warned us about false prophets.

7/27/2008 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

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Steve EM:

Okay, let me mention briefly two of my pre-blogging gospel hobbies. Before the days of computerized scriptures, I compiled and co-published an eleven hundred page scripture reference book, An Exhaustive Concordance of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price which was approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as a meetinghouse library resource for priesthood leaders, teachers, and the general membership. Over the years, my Concordance has been cited by various authors including Hugh Nibley in Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, 1994 (pp. 385 & 403) and Daniel H. Ludlow in Nurturing Faith Through The Book of Mormon, 1995 (pp. 27 & 85) to name just a couple. Steve, how many Mormon scholars have quoted YOUR scripture reference book in their writings?

You’ll also find my name just beneath Thomas S. Monson’s name in the bibliography of Victor B. Cline’s article on Pornography in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. That's because I was commissioned by the Ensign to write a feature article about pornography for the magazine (Ensign, Aug. 1989). This article has also been cited by other authors including Terrance D. Olson in "Truths of Moral Purity," (Ensign, Oct. 1998). In addition to the Ensign Past Issues page, LDS.org currently has two links to my article at Provident Living: (1) Social and Emotional Strength -> Library of Helpful Information, and (2) LDS Family Services -> Helpful information. Again, Steve, who quotes or links to YOUR Ensign article?

Neither my Concordance nor my Ensign article has the word "evolution" in it.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that people who ride gospel hobbies "try to make the whole plan of salvation revolve around some field of particular interest to them." Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of gospel hobbies as "exclusionary hobbies." Elder Dallin H. Oaks, quoting President Boyd K. Packer, likened the fulness of the gospel to a piano keyboard and warned that a person could be "attracted by a single key," such as a doctrine he or she wants to hear "played over and over again." (Ensign, Oct. 1994.)

With that in mind, I invite you to join me during Family Home Evening, or in priesthood meeting or Sunday School, or during a few Home Teaching visits. After you discover that we rarely discuss evolution in Home Evening, and that my comments in priesthood meeting and Sunday School don't involve evolution, and that I don't discuss evolution while Home Teaching, then you'll no longer claim this blog qualifies as an exclusionary hobby or that I try to make the whole gospel revolve around evolution.

One final thought. Apparently you want the apostles and prophets to keep still on evolution. But they don't, do they. Well, it was a Pharisee named Gamaliel who counseled moderation when criticizing the Apostles, "lest haply ye be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:39). I'll just leave it at that.

But, again, thanks for your comment.

7/28/2008 12:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve EM said...

Gary,

Oh you are good! G-d bless you. You have the memory of an elephant knowing how the painful darts of Nibley and Ludlow (especially Ludlow) used to get to me. You are a master!

Back to topic, if your faith rests on evolution being false, I think that is a gospel hobby. After BKP passes, will there be any living apostles on record bashing evolution? In a church with a long tradition of just moving on rather than reversing earlier erroneous teachings, won’t that be a de facto reversal?

And why isn’t my handle linked to my blog? Isn’t e-telestial glory part of the kingdom too?

7/28/2008 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

.

Steve EM:

I agree with you! If a person's faith rests on the falsehood or truth of evolution, that would be a gospel hobby. I myself am trying diligently to "hear the voice of the Lord [and] give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles."

There are two answers to your next question. First, there are actually TWO living apostles who regularly and consistently denounce those who equate humankind with animals. Second, it could equally as well have been asked (nearly four decades ago): "After Joseph Fielding Smith passes, will there be any living apostles on record bashing evolution?" Do you know who filled the apostolic vacancy left by Joseph Fielding Smith? Yup, you guessed it, Bruce R. McConkie. So you see, Steve, I'm just not that worried about it.

As for your last question, you will always find me standing by the apostles and prophets. Wherever they lead.

7/28/2008 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

P.S. I have no idea why your handle isn't linked to your blog. That's a question for Blogger support.

7/28/2008 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous SteveP said...

Hi Gary,

Some people have confused me thinking that Steve EM was me (Steven Peck) who writes the Mormon Organon. I would never make a statement like this:

"IMHO, if an apostle today preaches against evolution, that apostle has overstepped their authority, comes off like a moron, is an embarrassment to the church, is failing in their calling to bring people to Christ (at least intelligent people who accept evolution, as they will be driven away), has demonstrated himself to be a false prophet claiming knowledge of aspects of creation that haven’t been revealed and should resign or be released."

Just to be clear who is talking. A person's being a General Authority is not conditioned on what they believe about Evolution.

8/01/2008 05:54:00 AM  
Anonymous SteveP said...

One more thought:

No one is a 'moron' for not believing evolution. I have many good intelligent friends who do not and I respect and in some ways understand their perspective. I don't agree with it obviously (as you know), but I understand that complex issues are involved and blanket statements that those who don't agree with us are 'morons' just isn't the case.

I appreciate the thought, effort and passion that Gary has put into his view. That I respect.

We may not agree, but we mustn't be disagreeable.

8/01/2008 06:05:00 AM  
Blogger mfbukowski said...

I believe that science and faith are separate realms; one can neither prove nor disprove the other, and for me this applies to evolution as well.

But let me just throw this out for comment:

Imagine a universe where it could be shown scientifically that the earth was created approximately 6,000 years ago, ex nihilo. Suppose that virtually all scientists agreed that this was the case. Genetic studies also prove conclusively that all of humanity is descended from one man and one woman.

In such a world, how could we "walk by faith"? I believe that the possibility of evolution or at least other competing theories for human origins are necessary for the plan of salvation to work.

If either side could be "proven" there would be no room for faith.

8/08/2008 05:39:00 PM  

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