Darwin vs. the Fall

Seth - June 1, 2007

I’ve been open to the idea of evolution as a scientific paradigm for some time. For some reason, the idea that humanity may have, in some distant past evolved from monkeys doesn’t bother me much.

Actually, scratch that, we didn’t “evolve from monkeys.” My wife, a zoology major, informs me that monkeys and humans are actually two divergent branches from a shared ancestor.

We actually descended from lemurs. Got that? OK.

Anyway, it doesn’t bug me much. I imagine God has His ways of doing things, and who am I to say that he couldn’t have created humanity through evolution, just the way the scientists say? Maybe the story of Adam and Eve represents a spiritual turning point for the species. One moment these two legged creatures are running around as something less than human and then WHAMMO! Enlightenment! Now you get to be sons and daughters of God! Maybe it’s like that scene in 2001 Space Odyssey, except without the sinister black rock…. Or maybe not. Who knows?
But at any rate, the cock-sure arrogance of the “young earth creationists” always got on my nerves. Who died and made you God’s spokesman anyway? And those guided river tours in the Grand Canyon that try to explain to people how the Grand Canyon actually provides solid evidence for Noah’s Flood struck me as more comical than anything else.

But let’s not kid ourselves. This is a sticky subject for Christianity to tackle. The view I’ve outlined so far is probably too dismissive of the real challenge that evolution and science present to the faithful.

For one thing, evolution doesn’t just damage the picture we get from Genesis of one day, no people, the next day, two people and we’re off to the races. Evolution also damages the entire Christian concept of the Fall of Man.

A comment from an evolution discussion over on the Christian blog Mere Comments:

I do find the geological and fossil evidence compelling for predation on Earth before human life. However, I consider it a core teaching of Genesis that the fate of creation is bound up in the fate of Man – “cursed is the ground because of you.” My instinct, when looking at a spider sucking the life out of a helpless butterfly, is to see this as part of the groaning of creation, waiting to be set free from its bondage to decay into the liberation of the rule of the sons of God. So, the presence of this decay and groaning historically prior to the presence of man on the Earth is theologically troubling.

Well gee, that’s awkward. I mean, I saw the temple endowment video. One moment you’ve got these happy fluffy creatures sitting in the flower beds and then Adam and Eve make some bad choices, and then we’re off to the lone and dreary world where we see a scruffy-looking fox chomping on some hapless rodent. But the fossil record makes it fairly clear that life and death we happening for quite a while…. Was Eden just sort of God’s nature preserve while meanwhile, next door, rampaging tyrannosaurs were biting the heads off brontosaurus babies?

And if we admit to a world that always had death, doesn’t that change what The Fall means? I actually feel kind of stupid for not noticing the problem before. Indeed, what do we do with this whole concept of The Fall in light of the geological record?

It’s not so easy to get rid of this one. I mean, whoever Adam’s biological dad was is not a doctrinally central issue for our religion. But the idea of the Fall is, shall we say, a bit more important?

I don’t know. I haven’t heard this angle discussed much on the bloggernacle so far, so I haven’t had much time to think about it. Maybe I’ll have a few ideas later, but for now, thoughts anyone?

42 Comments »

  1. The issue is whether the fall was just for man, with man being cursed to enter a pre-existing world (the telestial world) or whether the fall was for all the universe. Personally I favor the former as the better reading of scripture. But clearly the later has been a popular view for some time.

    Comment by Clark Goble — June 1, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  2. One possibility is that the garden account is allegory for a series of events in the spirit world. The Fall would refer to the problems then and there that made it necessary for a plan of redemption – one than required mortality. If this occured more than six hundred million years ago, mortality (and thus death) for all living things would be an indirect consequence.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 1, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  3. Well, golly! We know that God’s time is totally different than our time; we know there are other worlds; we know that “As man is, God once was…”; and we know that we are literal sons and daughters. Dust to dust? Perhaps there is genetic material in us because how else could we connect to this world, and don’t the animals have spirits and all that jazz?

    They may sound lame, but has anyone thought that maybe the way scientists measure age is totally flawed?

    Or perhaps the Bible is missing a few million years?

    I decided to do some research, too. I did find this by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

    Test two: Do I believe in the fall of Adam? There is no salvation in a system of religion that rejects the doctrine of the Fall or that assumes man is the end product of evolution and so was not subject to a fall. True believers know that this earth and man and all forms of life were created in an Edenic, or paradisiacal, state in which there was no mortality, no procreation, no death.In that primeval day Adam and Eve were “in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.” (2 Ne. 2:23.)
    But in the providences of the Lord, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.) By his fall, Adam introduced temporal and spiritual death into the world and caused this earth life to become a probationary estate.

    I’m interested in this, too, Seth (surprise! :)). But the only thought I’m left with is this: Does it matter? Does it matter that we don’t know all the details at this precise moment in our flawed lives?

    Yeah, but it’s still interesting…

    Comment by Cheryl — June 1, 2007 @ 10:38 am

  4. I’m becoming such an idiot. It should read: “THIS may sound lame…” ~sigh~

    Comment by Cheryl — June 1, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  5. Well Cheryl, I too think that scientist may sometimes “sound lame.” =)

    As to your last question… Probably not. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to stop doing my Home Teaching over this or anything…

    As for Elder McConkie, I’m pretty sure that were he here to listen to this, he would bonk me over the head with his triple combination.

    Mark D.

    That’s an interesting thought. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of the story of Eden being primarily symbolic for some time. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the blatantly symbolic nature of Mormon endowment ceremony.

    Does the openly-admitted symbolism of the endowment ceremony make Mormons more open to flexible readings of the creation story and The Fall?

    But frankly, I think Clark’s reading is more likely to get a friendly reception in mainline Mormon circles, than a reading that consigns the entire Genesis story to the realm of instructional allegory.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 1, 2007 @ 11:24 am

  6. Personally I believe that there was no death on the earth before the fall. The whole earth was in a paradisacal state where there was no death of any of the creations. Science on the other hand has seen fit to try to explain our origins completely away from God. It is true that there is no specific scientific process that can be measured without error for the dating of fossils and rocks. In science things change as rapidly as the weather. One day we are told butter is bad for us and the next we are told tyhat is healthy for us. The same can be applied to evolutionary science where one day the scientists agree with a uniformatarian model and the next they are in a debate on catastrophism.

    As far as trying to find our common ancestor, science changes almost yearly on when how and where we originated. As long as they agree within 10 million years or so everyone is happy, but then comes the storm and suddenly that date gets pushed back a 100 million years and everyones back into debate once again. I remember watching a show on the National Geographic channel last year and they were discussing how early man learned how to run over the coarse of tens of thousands of years through evolutionary processes so that they could hunt better and escape wild animals. I mean really, that is totally comical to me.

    Everyone always laughs at the creationists and yet look at the evolutionist views. for instance- I was reading an article on how dinosaurs evolved into birds and the article mentioned how dinosaurs needed something better and so they started climbing trees and jumping out of them and then after millions of years of doing this they developed feathers and wings so they would stop plummeting to the earth. I mean really, this is completely laughable stuff.

    A group called RATE, a scientific creation research group started doing scientific tests to determine if carbon and other forms of radiometric dating was correct. What they found out was such a shock to the scientific community that they were wholly discounted as another stunt by the creationists. What this group found out was that radiometric dates given by reputable companies were systematically off in the tens of millions of years- and this is by the scientific communities own standards. they also found out that every single fossil that they had dated had a considerable amount of leftover carbon in them. Most of these fossils were dinosaur bones and the like that should have had no tracable amounts of carbon left in them. Once again though these results are hushed up and discounted as yet another ploy by creationists.

    Lastly, I was watching a show on these palentologists in Africa that had found a new species of dinosaur. They were very excited and wanted to know the age of the fossils they had found. The head scientist in charge took some photos ans samples and then spent the next day driving around the area looking at different rock formations and then calculated the age to be so and so old. This is very typical they said about dating fossils because lab work takes a long time and is costly. WoW!! Cant afford it- make your best scientific guess!

    Oh by the way, the number one scientific backer in this country has also publically said that the Book of Mormon is fictional, hum….

    Comment by Rob Osborn — June 1, 2007 @ 11:47 am

  7. That scientific backer, as i failed to mention, is the Smithsonian

    Comment by Rob Osborn — June 1, 2007 @ 11:54 am

  8. We know that God’s time is totally different than our time;

    I don’t think we know that. Indeed I’m not at all convinced that’s true. We know from scripture that the measurement of a day for God is different from us. Just like a day on Mars is different from a day on Earth. But time on both Mars and Earth is the same.

    So one has to distinguish between the measurement of time and time itself. Just as my weight is the same whether measured in kilograms or pounds.

    That’s not to say God might not have abilities we don’t have. Such as foreknowledge. But time as such most probably is the same for God as us. The assumption by some that it isn’t seems to rest on a shaky scriptural foundation.

    Comment by clark — June 1, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

  9. Seth,

    I am kind of like you. I am agnostic on these issues.

    Follow Jesus and keep your covenants. I will ask God whas up with the creation after I am dead.

    I like the LDS ability to be less dogmatic on Evolution as compared to say an evangelical.

    Comment by bbell — June 1, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

  10. Humans are accountable for their actions. Lemurs are not. At some point in the evolutionary process from lemur to human, one of our ancestors inherited a mutation that produced a brain capable of distinguishing right from wrong. That person (Adam or Eve) “fell;” i.e., crossed the threshold from being unaccountable to being accountable, and became the first creature known in the scriptures as “man.” (The fall almost certainly does not correspond with the emergence of the species Homo sapiens, but so what? Why should a scientific taxonomic construct drive our spiritual understanding?)

    So what about death and reproduction? “Man” could neither reproduce nor die prior to the fall, because “man” did not yet exist. The biological parents of the first “man,” however, could do both, but they don’t count. Obviously, I believe that all other animals lived, reproduced, and died in their unaccountable state just as science claims.

    If you are inclined to look for the hand of God in the creation of “man,” there are two places to look. First, the allegedly random mutation that produced the accountable brain need not necessarily have been random. It might have been fully determined by the seed that God threw into his random number generator way back when. Second, the evolutionary advantage to a single individual of knowing right from wrong is not at all clear. A creature willing to steal food has a better chance of survival than does an otherwise identical creature that is unwilling to do so. It is only when a moral community is formed that the advantage appears. But evolution doesn’t work way. It has to explain that first individual. I have read one attempt to do so (The Moral Animal by Robert Wright), but didn’t find it terrible convincing. So for the moment, at least, one can plausibly believe that God intervened to protect “man” until a critical population threshold was achieved.

    Comment by Last Lemming — June 1, 2007 @ 12:47 pm

  11. Rob, I don’t have time to answer your comments but they are extremely misleading.

    First off you’re using the old trick of saying that because some scientific claims (often misreported in the media) change that therefore no science is trustworthy. But of course various claims have various strengths. While perhaps the 5 second media report of the latest cancer study doesn’t explain this if you read the actual papers it is very clear.

    Second there are different dating schemes depending upon the time period in question. The errors of various schemes are actually fairly well known. Further in terms of origins (i.e. death before the fall) this has no bearing because the dates can be confirmed in multiple ways. So this is really very misleading. Radiocarbon dating, which is used for items up to 50,000 years old, is extremely accurate. Likewise radiometric dating in general is extremely accurate.

    Finally while the Smithsonian has a statement on the Book of Mormon realize that this is because there is no positive scientific evidence for the Book of Mormon. Silence does not entail falsity. But to compare this, even if only by vague association, with scientific claims for which there is extensive positive evidence is extremely misleading.

    Comment by clark — June 1, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

  12. “We believe [...] that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”

    Comment by John Mansfield — June 1, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

  13. bbell-
    That was my mother’s answer to almost everything: “We’ll figure it all out during the Millenium.” or “God will let us know when it’s time to know”.

    Pretty good advice, really. Takes a lot of faith, though, and a lot of people hate that.

    Clark-
    Well, whatever. That’s what I meant; I wasn’t delving into something about 3rd dimensions and rips in the space-time continuim or anything. Did I spell continuim correctly? Hmmm…

    Seth-
    Whether the endowment is strictly allegorical/symbolical is probably something to ask inside the Temple. That would be a great discussion. :)

    Comment by Cheryl — June 1, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  14. Here are some different Death before the fall reconciliations I’ve heard.

    1. The atonement is infinite and works for people who died before Christ was born, so also the fall is infinite and works before Adam and Eve fell. This concept requires some form of either time travel or “cosmic nature” we do not currently understand.

    2. God turned Death off before the fall when it was time to set up eden, then man reactiviated Death at the appropriate time.

    3. Like Mark D. Said, Eden was a pre-mortal existance, so thus occurred in the world described in Moses where the world was made spiritually first, then made physically. the Transgression transported Adam and Eve from the pre-mortal world to the current one.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 1, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  15. I’ve always wondered whether carbon has ALWAYS broken down at the same, predictable speed. Or that erosion has happened at the same speed, etc etc. We know what speeds and how much time these things work NOW but did they ever work at a different speed in the past?

    There’s probebly no way to prove it, but I think it’s a possibility.

    Oh, and if you want to read a hilarious article relating to this and see one of the funniest pictures ever painted (having been my desktop wallpaper for awhile now) go here

    Comment by Bret — June 1, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  16. clarke,

    So are you suggesting that they have verifiable proof that we are descended from animals because I was wholly unawares?

    Comment by Rob Osborn — June 1, 2007 @ 2:20 pm

  17. BTW, has anyone ever sat down and actually tried to grasp the current geologic model for how the grand canyon was formed? Now that is completely laughable!

    Comment by Rob Osborn — June 1, 2007 @ 2:21 pm

  18. Here’s a question, if there was no death or reproduction before the Fall, why did the plants in the Garden of Eden produce fruit?

    Rob (#17)
    BTW, has anyone ever sat down and actually tried to grasp the current geologic model for how the grand canyon was formed? Now that is completely laughable!

    I have grasped the current geologic model for the formation of the Grand Canyon. It makes infinitely better sense than the creationist explanation of “the rocks were all deposited in the flood then the receding waters eroded them.”

    There are many, many reasons why this is not feasible. Here are a few points from TalkOrigins:
    The same flood that was supposed to carve the Grand Canyon was also supposed to lay down the miles of sediment (and a few lava flows) from which the canyon is carved. A single flood cannot do both. Creationists claim that the year of the Flood included several geological events, but that still stretches credulity.

    Sediment from the Colorado River has been shifted northward over the years by movement along the San Andreas and related faults (Winker and Kidwell 1986). Such movement of the delta sediment would not occur if the canyon were carved as a single event.

    If a brief interlude of rushing water produced the Grand Canyon, there should be many more such canyons. Why are there not other grand canyons surrounding all the margins of all continents?

    Comment by Capt. Obsidian — June 1, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

  19. “We’ll figure it all out during the Millenium.”

    That was, after all, Joseph Smith’s attitude toward unanswered questions. Riiiight.

    As for Rob, and I hate to feed a troll even more, what is this “proof” which you speak of? There is no proof in science, not for generalizing laws anyways.

    I would also point out that if you are so suspicious of science and its results, I should think that you would cower in fear of doing things such as flying on airplanes, drive over bridges, take medicine, etc. After all, who’s to say that scientists won’t simply reverse their views on the theories which underly all these things tomorrow?

    Comment by Jeff G — June 1, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

  20. Jeff G-
    Yeah. Okay.

    But won’t we?

    I’m all for learning and attaining knowledge (I mean, come on, if we all decided that the earth could not possibly be round, then where would we be? And Jeff, you have great points about medicine, flying and the like…) but doesn’t there come a point when “man” should say “Wow. I’m not going to figure this one out because I’m not God. Maybe I should wait for Him to tell me about it. And golly geeze, why would He tell me about the exact parameters and timing of the Fall and the creation of the Earth now, at this time, when what really matters during this Earthly experience is to figure out how to be redeemed from that Fall?”

    Comment by Cheryl — June 1, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

  21. I’ve always wondered whether carbon has ALWAYS broken down at the same, predictable speed. Or that erosion has happened at the same speed, etc etc. We know what speeds and how much time these things work NOW but did they ever work at a different speed in the past?

    My understanding is that uniformitarianism, especially when concerning geological processes, is widely accepted in the scientific community.

    This article from the Ensign is pretty infamous in some circles for supporting the idea of catastrophism in relation to the fall and flood.

    Comment by mike d. — June 1, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

  22. Seth,
    You do know that this is NDBFGary’s schtick right? (NDBF = No Death Before the Fall). It is the thing upon which he has based his entire approach to blogging.

    Comment by HP — June 1, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

  23. Rob, as Jeff noted, proof proper isn’t part of science. It makes sense for a fully deductive system like mathematics. It makes little sense for an inductive way of knowing. This is a common error Creationists make. Further they draw rather misleading implications from it, demanding deductive “proof” for knowledge when almost no knowledge is arrived at in this way. For instance I know the sun will arise tomorrow but there is no proof for that of the sort you demand.

    If we take proof more loosely: say the way we deal with mechanics, then yes there has been proof for Evolution for decades now.

    As for the claim we are descended from animals. It’s true by definition since we are a kind of animal. This once again is a common problem since Creationists make a big deal of these terms when they are arbitrary human created categories.

    Comment by clark — June 1, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

  24. I’ve always wondered whether carbon has ALWAYS broken down at the same, predictable speed. Or that erosion has happened at the same speed, etc etc. We know what speeds and how much time these things work NOW but did they ever work at a different speed in the past?

    There’s probebly no way to prove it, but I think it’s a possibility

    Actually one can check this fairly readily. One can date through multiple methods and then see if they line up. They do.

    In any case even if the amount of radioactive carbon changed this would help Creationism since it would at best change the time of the processes and not the order of processes.

    Comment by clark — June 1, 2007 @ 4:22 pm

  25. Haven’t discovered Gary’s corner of the blogosphere as of yet.

    Cheryl, to some extent, I agree. But “we’ll find it all out in the millennium” isn’t really why we hang out here is it?

    Rob,

    It has been my observation that the Christian Conservative reaction to controversial science has usually been to question and poke holes in science, but never to offer their own real explanations.

    “Oh, you don’t really know that do you? Well, so much for your powers of science, HA, HA!”

    It’s kind of like the strategy used by Big Tobacco back in the 80s and 90s – completely ignore the fact that there is a well established consensus among the most objective minds, and triumphantly spout-off about how “scientists aren’t 100% sure.”

    Of course they aren’t 100% sure. I’m not 100% sure this post will be submitted when I click the “Add my comment” button either. But it doesn’t destroy my confidence in the internet either.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 1, 2007 @ 4:31 pm

  26. :)

    Comment by Cheryl — June 1, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

  27. It’s a sad thing when one’s confidence in the internet is destroyed.

    Comment by Susan M — June 1, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

  28. Seth, here are two examples of many.  God’s Prophet, Wilford Woodruff, said:

    “We acknowledge that through Adam all have died, that death through the fall must pass upon the whole human family, also upon the beasts of the field, the fishes of the sea and the fowls of the air and all the works of God, as far as this earth is concerned.”  (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, p. 81.)

    By the way, it was John Taylor whose death made him God’s spokesman.

    God’s Prophet, Harold B. Lee, said:

    “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.”  (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 20.)

    And it was Joseph Fielding Smith whose death made him God’s spokesman.

    P.S.  My corner of the blogosphere is here.

    Comment by R. Gary — June 1, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

  29. Clark,

    Let’s not forget, though, that because the rising of the sun is highly observable and therefore predictable, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the truth of *how* and therefore *why* is self-evident. There was much debate as to the mechanics of the siderial heavens. So it is with the deeper questions of evolution: The origin of life; The bases of consciousness; etc. (and some not-so-deep questions)

    For my own part, I find just as much presumptuousness on the part of hard-core Darwinists as I do from orthodox Creationists.

    Comment by Jack — June 1, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

  30. Rob,

    If death did not exist before the Fall, then where was the lone and dreary wilderness during the time of Adam’s sojourn in Eden? Afterall, the entire globe was not the garden, because God planted the Garden eastward in Eden. Secondly, when Adam was removed after the Fall, the Garden didn’t cease to exist. God blocked the entranceway into the Garden so Adam couldn’t get back in.

    Also, just for fun, let’s say that the entire earth was paradisiacal and then suddenly wasn’t paradisiacal after Eve partook of the fruit. That means that in an instant, in one moment of time, everything absolutely changed! Herbivores suddenly became carnivores! Just like that. So, here is the question: If herbivores suddenly became carnivores, did they suddenly develop all the physical attributes (sharp teeth, long claws) and mental attributes (urge to stalk, etc,.) in that very moment? Did their flat teeth made for grinding leaves suddenly grow long and sharp, just right for ripping flesh??

    Evolution, my friends, is the only way to make any sense of the scriptural account of the creation.

    Look into it.

    Comment by John Cline — June 2, 2007 @ 10:40 am

  31. Actually Gary, both were made “God’s spokesmen” by laying on of hands when they were ordained Apostles.

    Unless of course, you are talking about when they became President of the Church, in which case, they became that through sustaining vote of the Church membership.

    In fact, you could argue that both were ordained in heaven to the positions they eventually held long before anyone died or The Fall itself.

    Death had little to do with it directly.

    And incidentally, the remarks of both have merely persuasive value with me. Neither are the last word on this matter. Wilford Woodruff isn’t my prophet. Gordon B. Hinckley is. Same for Harold B. Lee. The current Church leadership is, as far as I can tell, agnostic on the details of evolution or the earth’s natural history. I’m taking my cues from them.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 2, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  32. Seth,

    Regarding the death of the previous prophet being the event which brings to leadership the next, it has been explained this way:

    “There have been some eighty apostles so endowed since Joseph Smith, though only eleven have occupied the place of the President of the Church, death having intervened; and since the death of his servants is in the power and control of the Lord, he permits to come to the first place only the one who is destined to take that leadership. Death and life become the controlling factors.  Each new apostle in turn is chosen by the Lord and revealed to the then living prophet who ordains him.”  (Spencer W. Kimball, October 1972 General Conference, Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 34; emphasis added.)

    “At the moment when President Harold B. Lee passed away, President Spencer W. Kimball stepped forth to preside over the Council of the Twelve and, therefore, over the entire Church.   ’ President Kimball was at that moment the senior apostle of God on earth.  And as the last heartbeat of President Lee ceased, the mantle of leadership passed to President Kimball, whose next heartbeat was that of the living oracle and presiding authority of God on earth.  From that moment the Church continued under the direction of President Kimball.’ ” (Reed C. Durham Jr., quoting Bruce R. McConkie in New Era, Sept. 1975, p. 16; emphasis added.)

    “There is no mystery about the choosing of the successor to the President of the Church.  The Lord settled this a long time ago, and the senior apostle automatically becomes the presiding officer of the Church, and he is so sustained by the Council of the Twelve which becomes the presiding body of the Church when there is no First Presidency.  The president is not elected, but he has to be sustained both by his brethren of the Council and by the members of the Church.” (Joseph Fielding Smith as quoted by James E. Faust in Ensign, Nov. 1994, pp. 72–73; emphasis added.)

    Regarding the quotes from Wilford Woodruff and Harold B. Lee, they were both taken from lesson manuals prepared in the current decade under the direction of not only President Gordon B. Hinckley but the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.  The Introduction to the Wilford Woodruff manual states:

    “The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have established the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series to help you deepen your understanding of the restored gospel and draw closer to the Lord through the teachings of latter-day prophets.  As the Church adds volumes to this series, you will build a collection of gospel reference books for your home.”  (Emphasis added.)

    A reference book is “a book, such as a dictionary or encyclopedia, to which one can refer for authoritative information.”  (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000.)

    The Teachings of Presidents of the Church manuals are prepared by the Church’s Curriculum Planning committee.  Some individuals like to think this committee produces manuals that are out of harmony with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.  But actually, this committee functions under the direction of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

    In the specific case of the Wilford Woodruff manual, its development process was described in a letter from the Curriculum Planning committee posted on the internet by blogger Rebecca on February 2, 2006, at Feminist Mormon Housewives.”  Of course, the process did include the planning committee, but also:

    “Lastly, proof copies were sent to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve for final review. Once their suggestions were incorporated, the book received a final proofreading and was then sent for translating and printing.”

    Therefore, it seems to me that the Woodruff and Lee quotes do in fact accurately represent the views of the current Church leadership.

    Comment by R. Gary — June 2, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  33. mike d.,

    I’d expect the whole scientific community to accept uniformitarianism, hence why I said “there’s probebly no way to prove it, but I think it’s a possibility.” If I was a scientist I’d assume the same thing in my research.

    Clark,

    Makes sense. It wouldn’t change the order. My point was the time frame, like you said:)

    Personally, I don’t think it’s so simple that all the earth’s processes all happened one way or the other, but a combination of both and possibly others.

    Comment by Bret — June 2, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

  34. Let’s not forget, though, that because the rising of the sun is highly observable and therefore predictable, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the truth of *how* and therefore *why* is self-evident.

    Well yes, but the claims of evolution are now highly observable and predictable. Now we can make a distinction between predictions by lay folks and those by scientists in a particular field. I’m not sure that’s helpful.

    As for “self-evident” I tend to be dubious that anything is self-evident. What we typically mean is that in terms of the theories we hold to (whether scientific or folk) we can quickly interpret a phenomena. Certainly a lot of phenomena can be correctly interpreted by folk theories. Others can’t.

    I’m afraid I’m not quite sure that matters too much though.

    For my own part, I find just as much presumptuousness on the part of hard-core Darwinists as I do from orthodox Creationists.

    I admit I don’t quite understand that view since it seems to me that the evolutionists can point to evidence for their views whereas Creationists really can’t. (Beyond a particular reading of scripture)

    I’d avoid the name Darwinist though since modern evolution has about as much in common with Darwin as modern cosmology does with Newton.

    Comment by Clark Goble — June 2, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  35. Clark: “Well yes, but the claims of evolution are now highly observable and predictable.”

    I suppose the anology of the sun rising and falling will fail at some point in this discussion. But to stretch it a little further–

    Because the sun’s rise and fall may be observed and therefore predicted, it does not necessarily follow that the observer will construct a correct model as to why or how it rises and falls. Certainly, We’ve got a better handle on the “why” today than we did a thousand years ago thanks to the likes of Copernicus and others–though something like gravity must, at this point, still remain in the abstract.

    The shift from a geocentric model to a heliocentric model is huge! Now I realize that scientists must work from a set of assumptions to make any headway. But, as a non-scientist, it seems to me that all too often the scientific community will rush to “connect the dots” without considering more carefully whether there may be more dots to be discovered which may significantly alter the logical path of connection thereby revealing an entirely new matrix.

    So it is with evolution. Scientists (some, at least) tend to proceed with the notion that such difficult questions as the origin of life or the bases of consciousness will ultimately be answered by further research in evolution and related studies. That’s incredibly presumptuous if you ask me.

    Comment by Jack — June 2, 2007 @ 10:13 pm

  36. The analogy of the sun rising was about induction and now about theory making.

    Comment by Clark Goble — June 3, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

  37. Whoops “not about theory making.”

    Comment by Clark Goble — June 3, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  38. Clark, don’t you think, though, that inductive reasoning is the first threshold in the theory making process? And a recurring threshold as theories push their way into the abstract?

    Comment by Jack — June 3, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  39. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “threshold” but certainly induction is an important step. Theory design tends to be done with a combination of abduction, induction and deduction. That is one creates a hypothetical theory and thus via deduction works out implications and via induction test it.

    Comment by Clark Goble — June 4, 2007 @ 8:42 am

  40. Back to the original point, the purposes of the Atonement are to bring us back to the presence of God and to redeem us from death. That we are separated from God and that we will die are not in dispute.

    So the need for the Atonement does not magically vanish if the story of the Fall isn’t really historical, or the reality is somewhat different from the standard story.

    Comment by Jared* — June 4, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

  41. I tend to agree with #30.

    If Adam was cast out of the garden and entered into the L.A.D.W., then that would suggest that both states co-existed.

    Death existed outside the garden and Adam and Eve had their lifetime memberships revoked.

    Comment by JM — June 6, 2007 @ 5:21 am

  42. Re: comment #30–

    Why must evolution be the only explanation that makes sense with regard to the fall? If we were to explain away millennial conditions by virtue of evolution, then we’d have to wait quite a long season for the lion to evolve into the kind of creature that can lay down with the lamb, in which case it would probably no longer be a lion–or at least the kind of lion that charges that particular prophecy with meaning. “And the fierce carnivorous lion, after it has evolved into a gentle herbivore, shall lie down with lamb” doesn’t cut it metaphorically. It’s gotta have teeth and claws for that prophecy to have any significance at all.

    Now I don’t have a problem with evolution per se. In fact, I rather like the idea of God allowing as much participation as possible on the part of all living things, no matter how seemingly insignificant, in the developement process of creation. It’s just that I side with Galileo on the purpose of the scriptures. They are not a scientific treatise! Nor do they, IMO, serve as a companion to the sciences. They must be read on their own terms–with or without any justification from the sciences.

    I just crashed through my soap box.

    Comment by Jack — June 7, 2007 @ 8:40 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI