Monday, October 13, 2008

On human origins: We don't know

Last week, SteveP, who writes the The Mormon Organon, led a discussion over at By Common Consent that elicited several comments about the beginning of human life and the origin of Adam's physical body. Ray (#156) asserted "the Church's official position is, We don't know", and queuno (#203) echoed, "the official stance is that we don't know."

In a certain sense, Ray and queuno are right.

As is evident from the Church's formal First Presidency statement on the subject, in this context the word "we" doesn't refer to the Church or its leaders. In this context "we" means all of us—mankind in general—particularly those who search for human origins without the aid of revelation from God:

"Man, by searching, cannot find out God. Never, unaided, will he discover the truth about the beginning of human life. The Lord must reveal Himself or remain unrevealed; and the same is true of the facts relating to the origin of Adam's race—God alone can reveal them." ("The Origin of Man," Ensign, Feb 2002, p.30.)

Science cannot discover the true facts relating to human origins because God alone can reveal them and "science, by definition, deals only with natural phenomena" (The Washington Post, 12/21/2005).


Blogger S.Faux said...

R. Gary:

Thanks for your continuing thoughts on human origins.

Just as the Church would be my ONLY source for authoritative information about Adam, science would be my ONLY source for authoritative information about bone fossils in rocks and their changes over time.

I go to Church to learn about God, not earth science.

It seems to me that theology pursues depths on origin that science cannot reach, such as God, ultimate meaning, and spirit. The expertise in science is beyond religion, such as comparative anatomy, the proto-wrists of Tiktaalik, and the role of opsin genes in the development of eyes.

Surely, no one can be for ceasing fossil hunting, the analysis of dinosaurs, and understanding the genetic code. The overwhelming majority of life scientists involved in such studies will uniforming say (without having their arms twisted) that Darwinian theory is that grand synthesis that ties together the diverse facts of biology.

To disregard evolution would damage biology just as disregarding gravity would damage physics. For me, I find NO utility in becoming an antagonist of the very foundations of modern science.

At the same time, I dismiss scientists who claim atheism is the only logical outcome of science. Such a view is pure arrogance.

10/14/2008 10:01:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


I agree with you about such things as fossil hunting, the analysis of dinosaurs, and understanding the genetic code. It is inspiring to watch as natural law becomes increasingly useful in our daily lives. It is, however, the Church's official position that God alone can reveal the facts relating to the origin of man. If human evolution satisfies your yearning for knowledge, then the only hitch is that it isn't accepted by the Church. As for me, I await the promised day when the Lord will reveal things "which no man knew," including the truth about the beginning of human life.

Thanks for your comment.

10/15/2008 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Of course all truth comes from God.
But I don't believe all truth comes directly from the church. There are other founts of truth that we should pay attention to, including other theologists (like CS Lewis) as well as from many other places. Talmage speaks of God's records left in the rocks. Surely this is one way God reveals truth to us--he leaves signs of it on the earth for us to discover. He is still revealing the truth to us.

10/17/2008 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Tim, where did you come up with "all truth comes directly from the church." You didn't get it from this blog. On the other hand, there actually are quite a few truths that come only from God and the truth about man's origin just happens to be one of those. At least, that's what the Church's official statement on evolution says.

10/17/2008 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I believe all truth comes from God.
That means that all truth about man's origins comes from God.
The fossils that Faux is talking about...isn't that truth from God? The technology to do DNA analysis--isn't that revelation from God?
Or is it not of God?

10/18/2008 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...


There is a difference between secular knowledge and knowledge of the things of God. Our knowledge of the things of God is based on the scripture canon and the teachings of apostles and prophets.

The unobserved but imagined origin of man that is based on fossils isn't necessarily truth. The fossil record is a source of secular knowledge. If it were canonized scripture, the apostles and prophets (not geologists and paleontologists) would interpret it.

The Church's formal First Presidency statement quoted above says knowledge of man's origin is knowledge of the things of God and thus unavailable to secular research. That's what it says.

10/19/2008 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Jumping into this debate is a bit like sticking your head up in no man’s land with trenches on both sides – if you are not careful you might get zinged in the head as both sides send volleys toward the other trench. At the same time, however, such exchanges are healthy for mormon secular scholarship.

I think it helps to separate secular truth and spiritual truth, the former referring to knowledge acquired in secular settings (books, science, classroom learning) and the latter referring to truths acquired in religious settings (scriptures, church, revelation). Now, as has been pointed out, the Lord provides truth in secular domains; the main purpose of my book Truth & Science is to demonstrate this fact. But the Lord does not reveal spiritual truths in secular settings. He reveals them in spiritual settings.

Things of a spiritual nature no man knoweth but by the Spirit of God (I Cor. 2:14). And Harold B. Lee said “You make a grave mistake that leads only to confusion when you presume to discover spiritual truths by the methods of the physical laboratory.”

So the question is: Is the creation of Adam a spiritual matter? If the answer is yes, then evolutionists are arrogant to presume that they have figured out the creation of Adam, unless their information came to them in a spiritual setting (revelation). If the answer is no, then we may be able to uncover the truth of Adam’s body through science.

Personally I think the creation of Adam’s physical body is a spiritual matter and that the Lord will tell us how it was done during the Millennium when He reveals all secrets in the heavens above and in the earth below. At the meantime, I think that biologists and evolutionists should attempt to uncover the secrets of life the best they know how, which is why I am all for teaching evolution in schools. Just don’t try to convince me that science has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the origins of life (abiogenesis) happened by chance and that Adam’s body arose through macroevolutionary processes. I know better and so should they.

If scholars think that evolution has proven the origins of life and Adam’s body beyond a reasonable doubt, then maybe I could interest them in buying some stock in luminiferous aether and phlogiston.

10/29/2008 09:40:00 AM  

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