Sunday, February 09, 2014

New Gospel Topic on Book of Mormon and DNA Studies

There is a new Gospel Topic at LDS.org titled, "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies." It deals primarily with DNA science and population genetics as these relate to the Book of Mormon.

Over at LDS Science Review, Jared* sees this new article as something of a breakthrough for evolutionists because it discusses some of the same principles and processes that are used to explain evolution. In fact, according the title of Jared's post, the new article means the Church is now teaching evolution.

Meanwhile, at Mormanity, Jeff Lindsay notes that "for some of us who love science and our faith, the new statement ... comes as a pleasant surprise." He believes the new Topic article is significant because it is scientifically oriented.

I think both of these bloggers are reading more into the article than it contains: It neither promotes science nor teaches evolution. Perhaps the following excerpt from the article has been overlooked:

"The conclusions of genetics, like those of any science, are tentative, and much work remains to be done to fully understand the origins of the native populations of the Americas. Nothing is known about the DNA of Book of Mormon peoples, and even if their genetic profile were known, there are sound scientific reasons that it might remain undetected. For these same reasons, arguments that some defenders of the Book of Mormon make based on DNA studies are also speculative. In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon." (Topic article, paragraph 3.)

The article says to me that DNA questions about the Book of Mormon cannot be answered conclusively by science. And while some research appears to challenge the Book of Mormon, other research draws more favorable conclusions. The article appears to be an effort to balance the public record on this issue.

In a larger sense, the article says to me that the conclusions of science are tentative and whether one supports or opposes a particular theory, scientific arguments on both sides are speculative.

I like how Hugh Nibley said it: "The last word is a testimony of the gospel that comes only by direct revelation. Our Father in heaven speaks it, and if it were in perfect agreement with the science of today, it would surely be out of line with the science of tomorrow." (Maxwell Institute.)


Anonymous Tim said...

The science taught in that article is the same science taught in a basic evolution course, and the same science taught in evolution textbooks. It's certainly not all aspects of evolution, but it is part of evolutionary science, much like grammar is a part of English.

2/10/2014 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Tim: In that case, we should apply other parts of the new Topic page to evolution also. For example, the new page states that conclusions of "any science" are tentative. Therefore, the new page is saying the conclusions of evolutionary science "are tentative" and scientific arguments that some defenders of evolution make based on DNA studies are "speculative."

Let's not claim the new Topic page teaches evolution but excludes evolution from its cautionary disclaimers. You can't have it both ways. The new Topic page does NOT promote the conclusions of evolutionary science!

2/10/2014 07:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

So since the conclusions of "any science" are tentative, we could look at another matter, no?.

The scientific consensus is that smoking causes cancer, and cancer causes death. The church advises against smoking, but to say that the church believes that smoking leads to death is a speculative position. The church does not promote the conclusions of oncology.

Did I get it right?

2/10/2014 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stanton S: No, you did not get it right. Not even close. I see at least three problems with your comment.


The Church (on the new Topic page, for example) can view the conclusions of science as tentative without necessarily rejecting them. Science doesn't dictate Church doctrine or policy, God does. So when the Church does agree with science, it is not because science said so, it is because God said so.


The Church doesn't advise against smoking. The Word of Wisdom, which forbids smoking, is a binding commandment. In 1851, it was proposed by the Prophet in general conference that all Saints formally covenant to keep the Word of Wisdom. This proposal was unanimously upheld by the membership of the Church. Since that day, the revelation has been a binding commandment on all Church members. Latter-day Saints obey the Word of Wisdom because it came from God, not because of scientific conclusions.


The Church is run by the First Presidency and the Twelve, not by science. The Church promotes the will of God, not the conclusions of science.

Let's see. Isn't it "three strikes and you're out?"

2/10/2014 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

You're right. I should have said that the church forbids smoking.

The church uses evolutionary science to support its position and explain why there is no Middle-eastern DNA in Native American populations, yet to say that the church agrees with this science is wrong? There is a flaw in reasoning there.

As far as three strikes and I'm out, I thought I had seventy times seven chances?

2/11/2014 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stanton S: Yes. The Church has published a web page presenting scientific DNA conclusions that do NOT question the Book of Mormon. But you keep forgetting this: The Church summarized its new page as follows:

-------------- quote --------------
"In short, DNA studies cannot be used decisively to either affirm or reject the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon."
-------------- end quote --------------

The new web page tells me that DNA studies both for and against the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon are considered by the Church to be tentative. By its own words, therefore, this new page is NOT a doctrinal pronouncement of DNA absolute truth.

And you're right. It's seventy times seven, my bad.

2/11/2014 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Stanton S said...

Fair enough. I can live with that. Thanks for the post, Gary.

2/12/2014 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[anon1] Regarding #3 and the Bible Dictionary, Bruce R. McConkie stated “[Regarding the] Joseph Smith Translation items, the chapter headings, Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, footnotes, the Gazeteer, and the maps. None of these are perfect; they do not of themselves determine doctrine... They are aids and helps only.”
—Bruce R. McConkie, cited in Mark McConkie (editor), Doctrines of the Restoration: Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 289–290. So, unless your understanding exceeds that of the author of the Bible Dictionary, I think it is safe to say that you cannot appeal to the Bible Dictionary to decide if something is doctrine. And, as I've pointed out many times on this site, the standard works themselves offer the weakest of case of any source for "no death before the fall" **for all living things**.

4/29/2014 09:39:00 PM  

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