Plenty Coups and Believing in Evolution

I’ve been thinking about evolution of late. Not so much about evolution as such, but about people’s resistance to it. I’ve been thinking about the fear that some experience as they face the prospects that a new scientific age is bringing to an end their way of seeing the universe. The simple creationism of a Harry Potter-like God that was appropriate in the Seventeenth Century, and which we borrowed from the Greeks, is giving way to more complex conceptions and more Mormonism-informed perspectives. These are leading to even deeper engagements between science and religion. These require readjustments, however, to our ways of dealing with the natural world and its history. I’ve not been very sympathetic to the difficulty of the kinds of reframings that have been required of Mormon creationists nor perhaps understood their difficulty—being as seeped in evolutionary theory as I am 24/7. But I want to help those still embracing these creationist ideas that are largely right out of a fellow named Plotinus. Cheep creation not part of the restoration as much as people want to hold on to it.

The book, Radical Hope has opened new vistas to me in regard to doing the kind of deep reframings necessary when large cultural shifts are inevitable. The book is subtitled, “Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation.” and it explores surviving the complete loss of the ones cultural perspective. It explores it through the life of a Crow visionary named Plenty Coups. Plenty Coups’ life straddled the time between the traditional Crow way of life and the take over by the US Government of all Indian affairs. He was raised in a culture in which everything was couched in terms of their continual war with the Sioux. Young children were raised with the idea that being a warrior and counting coup (a way of letting your enemy know that it was you, a Crow, who was the one killing him by touching them with a stick before striking them down) was the highest good and the aim of a well-lived life. Women did not just prepare food for the people, but they nourished the warriors. Plenty Coups’ world began to collapse as the buffalo disappeared and within a few short years his way of being was completely gone as the white settlers took over more and more of their lands. They joined the US Government in their fight with the Sioux, their traditional enemy, and in the end were the only tribe that was allowed to settle on their original tribal lands. Of course the other tribes looked at this a betrayal, but to the Crow, the US was just a powerful people, with whom they had no real quarrel, while the Sioux had been their mortal enemy for over two centuries.

In any case, suddenly everything they had lived for changed. The buffalo and the beaver on which they depended had been hunted to nothing. The other tribes, who had fought against the US, had been parceled out to reservations and their culture had been destroyed, and in fact made illegal. As a result many of the native peoples did not know how to live in the new world imposed on them. Plenty Coups, however, provided a way to help his people reinterpret their old ways in a new context that was unique among these native tribes. The change was severe in this case; everything they had believed in had become meaningless. In fact, Plenty Coups said that after the US had taken control of their lives “Nothing Happened.” The book is an exploration of what he meant by this.

What Plenty Coups meant, goes beyond the fact that his way of life had become meaningless. They were even more lost than that, they had even lost the context where meaningless or meaning could be conceptualized. The ground and context for meaning itself had been destroyed. That’s why “nothing happened” nothing could happen, all categories had been wiped out. Even though he went on to lead his nation in learning to farm, promoted education among his tribe members, and in fact became a representative of Native rights in Washington DC, ‘nothing happened.’

In readjusting to a world where evolution is real, things are not so bad as that. Still there are huge readjustments that are necessary in order to view the world through both scientific and religious lens. The book suggests that the way to handle this is through courage in the face of risk. He argues that as finite beings we are always face to face with the fact of our finitude and our abject and absolute vulnerability to forces beyond our control. Including the risk that new information and new understanding brings. Courage means to face boldly the reality that we are always at risk and there are things we cannot control. The difference between Plenty Coups and the other Indian leaders was he saw clearly that the buffalo and beaver were gone. He saw that the European settlers were unconquerable, while other Indian leaders kept a false hope alive that they would drive the Europeans out, or that an Indian messiah would arise to free them, or that by doing the Ghost Dance they could bring spiritual help from the other side that would defeat the settlers. The book shows that by not facing the reality of the situation, by having a ‘hope’ that focused on winning or beating the white settlers the other chiefs actually destroyed their people.

Facing the reality of a religious world that includes the evolution of humans, is hard to face for some. And it has been hard for me to recognize the pain that others face in dealing with these new realities. And it does require painful readjustments. But as Plenty Coups showed, facing realities is the best way. To face these new risks of reinterpreting our deepest understandings of fundamental things requires courage.

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  1. clarkgoble says:

    There actually are readings of Plotinus that are very conducive to evolution and modern philosophy of biology. Also note that Plotinus had a kind of holism that was antithetical to the “natural kinds” argument that fundamentalists often adopt.

  2. “I’ve been thinking about evolution of late.”

    Pfffft. With all due respect, Steve, when was the last time you stopped thinking about evolution?

  3. The Right Trousers says:

    “In readjusting to a world where evolution is real, things are not so bad as that.”

    For some, that’s right. For others, a world where humans evolved is a world without God, without right and wrong, and without purpose. This is reinforced by the rhetoric they listen to (which says exactly that) and the beliefs of those who screetch the loudest about evolution being Scientific Fact.

    If God, judgment and purpose were suddenly taken away, I believe most Saints would find themselves in “nothing happened” land right quick. What does anything mean without those?

  4. He’s usually known as Plenty Coups. I first learned about him during a visit to Chief Plenty Coup State Park in Montana. He was an interesting man, a visionary, with a fascinating life story.

  5. Scott, I’ve been thinking a lot about many coups of late, specifically the rare Honduran variety.

    Well said, Steve. This sort of shift is never easy.

  6. Yeah Steve, along with Scott, I laughed at your opening line!

  7. John Mansfield says:

    I’m having a little trouble with the idea that Russell Nelson, say, is steeped in Greek-derived philosophies and rejects Mormon-informed perspectives, and is leading the Church to destruction. It shows how little we understand the world unless everything is interpreted from the perspective of evolution.

  8. gfe, holy cow you are right! I should not write these at night. I changed it accordingly (note: I wrote ‘Many Coups’ as his name, it was ‘Plenty Coups’ as pointed out.

  9. John, we are all seeped in cultural baggage. It is hard to sort out and no one escapes. When it is recognized, it can be corrected but we should not expect 21st century physics, for example, to show up in the writings of ancient Hebrews. Things change as we learn more. She we have new information the task is to see how it aligns with the deeper truths that matter.

    The Right Trousers, evolution says nothing about “God, judgment and purpose” or deepest values, even science recognizes do not come from evolution. There are those to use evolution to promote their atheism, but they are just wrong. Serious philosophers of science and religion know that. It’s a category mistake to think that you can get anything about God by looking at evolution either to embrace or deny it.

  10. There are those that would rather go down destroyed with something, then give up everything so that “nothing happened” becomes their future. When this man’s culture died, his people became the walking dead. I am not a multi-culturalist and believe (if I understand your explanation of his people’s history) giving up when you are defeated is the best choice for survival. Still, even Jesus Christ asked what good is it to win the world and destroy your soul?

    Even though I am an Evolutionist, I can still say the same for the Creationists. I understand why they hold fast to an outdated theology that is not very Mormon in origin. It is the principle they are holding on to as much as the theory. Perhaps there is a better way to hold on to such principles, but it is the supporters of Evolution (as The Right Trousers points out) that perpetuate this war. At best it can be said they goad the opposition.

  11. “There are those to use evolution to promote their atheism, but they are just wrong. Serious philosophers of science and religion know that.”

    I don’t doubt that. The problem is that the general public never hears from these serious philosophers of science and religion. Where are their books? Where are their quotes in newspapers and articles dealing with the clashes? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear, is there still a sound?

  12. psychochemiker says:

    I completely agree with Jettboy.
    The problem is the atheists think they own Evolution. Separate Evolution from atheism, and you may be able to make inroads.

  13. Here is the Rub or rock in the shoe : If you believe in Evolution, you believe by changing.. Life Forms/Cultures live on. Holding onto the old ways means they die. (??).

  14. Don’t many of the Intelligent Design people accept the fossil record and acknowledge that species evolved up from simpler organisms? I’m not that familiar with ID, but thought they are the ones who write about non-atheistic evolution.

  15. #11 Theologians make poor copy. Richard Dawkins does. Here is a list of readings you may find helpful.

  16. MikeinWeHo, It’s just evengelical creationism trussed up like a science. The danger is that they claim to be a science and have a wacky non-scientific view of evolution that adds nothing to evolution or theology. I complain here more completely.

  17. John Mansfield says:

    “It’s a category mistake to think that you can get anything about God by looking at evolution either to embrace or deny it.”

    Yet, SteveP has found it worthwhile to ponder what the theological implications of evolution are, such as concluding that God wouldn’t be a wand-waving wizard. Or maybe the reasoning was in the other direction, that the preciousness of his creations is an indication that the Creator (if I may refer to him as such without offending anyone) must have carried out his work through evolutionary processes.

  18. John Mansfield says:

    SteveP, you have described yourself as person of faith, which I suppose means that you believe that our world is in some way the product of a creator, an intelligent being with a design, even if those terms have been tainted by “creationists” and “intelligent design” advocates. You write at length about what you don’t believe, which is whatever those wacky anti-science religionists are promoting. It would be interesting to read something on what you do believe. From your interesting essays, I’m having trouble recalling any of your thoughts on what it means that our world was created by God that is distiguishable from the absence of a creator.

  19. If we look at evolution in isolation, it is easy to see the arguments of the atheists who use it to their ends. But when we couple some other points of Mormon theology, such as the eternal and uncreated nature of humankind, a lot of the barriers to understanding evolution in Mormon terms becomes easier. The problem I have found is that often some of the Mormon creationists I encounter are also pretty fuzzy on the preexistence, and the concept of being co-eternal with God. For those folks, as Jettboy points out, embracing evolution truly seems like pulling away the foundations of their faith. For some of them, it is a reality they choose not to face.

  20. John, take a look at Faith Science blog it is full of expressions of what I believe. Here is a good example.

    kevinf, yes I’ve found the same. If you try and pin down anyone on their belief it gets fuzzy after a point. We quickly realize that there are many fuzzy edges. We work with what we know and from what we have through revelation from both scriptural and natural sources. Faith is a way of knowing. I just get bothered when people say it’s the only way.

  21. Fine post, Steve. I recognize that for some Mormons, evolution appears to be a very high hurdle for them to clear. I’m inclined to think it’s not as big a hurdle as most people think.

    One mark of a healthy culture is that is can adapt to changed circumstances and even changed worldviews. Mormonism is a healthy culture in that sense — it adapts well to big changes: migrating to the West; giving up polygamy; giving up racial doctrines, or at least trying to. If rank and file Mormons realized how much of the traditional anti-evolution Mormon bias is simply repackaged fundametalist/Evangelical doctrine (where it flourished under the banner “Young Earth Creationism”) it would be easier for them to give up.

  22. I am fine with accepting whatever ends up being true in the end and I know that all things have not yet been revealed, but I do have a difficult time resolving evolution across species with the creation story found in the scriptures as well as the Mormon temple ceremony’s telling of that same story.

    Apparently, all things were created spiritually first and those specifically created spirits were then placed into temporal bodies that matched the spirits being put into them, then each one was specifically commanded to multiply in its own sphere and after its own kind. I don’t see any evolution in there. I do see evidence in those passages that evolution of species didn’t happen and was specifically commanded not to happen.

    I actually see the similarities across species as being a kind of balancing on God’s part to allow those who don’t want to believe in Him to believe that it all came from dust somehow without Him (and that’s in many cases how it’s being used) – so that nobody’s forced into believing in Him because of the overwhelming evidence around them. I think He’s planned it so that every person comes into this world sitting on the fence with a balance of enticements on both sides so that the choices we make are completely our own choices rather than being coerced by what’s here when we get here. Or not. Just my 2¢.

  23. Hi Steve, I am going to be critical here, so once again, I say that I like you, so please do not take this personal. I agree with John Mansfield. I have seen you say a few times that you would try and explain just how you maintain your faith in light of your beliefs in evolution. I am still wait for that to happen.

    I think something that might have made a difference with the American Indians, was the Christianity that was taught to them in place of their existing beliefs. Something I think many of them thought to be better. I only wonder what would have happened if they were given nothing to fill the gap with?

    Driving across any reservation today, I am not sure we did a good job helping them adjust to the new way of life.

    Again, I only wonder what the landscape will look like if we abandon our faith with something less than a God that can cause something to come about without sitting on His hands waiting billions of years for evolution to do something He cannot? Or if He can, why would He not do so?

  24. CEF, I like you too. You asked great questions at the end, I don’t have any answers. My only claim is that it is important that we begin the process of accepting that evolution is real and finding a way to embrace both. Did you read link in #20? People keep saying I don’t express my faith enough even though it’s all over the place on my other blog. Check it out over there.

  25. Steve, I did read that, so it is not that I think you are a man without faith, I was very impressed with the faith that you so eloquently expressed.

    What I have seen you say, is that someday, you will share with those like me, just how it is that you maintain your faith with the kind of evolution you hold to. I am trying to do the same thing and find it hard to do so. Some things just do not add up. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  26. Steve,
    I’m going to risk sounding extremely glib, so brace yourself, and know that I’m not trying to be an idiot, but am asking sincere questions and would appreciation genuine answers. In other words, I’m not challenging, I’m asking.

    I have a really hard time with the ID/evolution discussion–not because of whether I believe in one or the other, or because I fear losing something of value in accepting or rejecting one or the other, but because I just don’t care how the Earth got where it is, or how the fishes and animals and creeping things, or humans got here.

    Working from the assumption that we all believe in God and the basic truth claims of the LDS Church, I need you–or someone else–to help me understand why I should care. How does this help me going forward? Is a “testimony” of the truth of how the Earth was created an essential part of the gospel? How does my belief in ID or evolution help with everyday gospel living?

    Certainly, I understand interest in professional-gospel intersections–for a professor of evolutionary biology, I expect you to be interested in this, just as you would expect me to be interested in resource allocation decisions in the Church because I’m an economist. What I want to know is why an economist who fights just to have FHE and make it to the temple regularly needs to form an opinion on a subject like ID/evolution–or actually even just care enough to have an opinion.

    Another way of asking my question is this: Should this debate get more play in Church meetings, General Conference, Ensign Articles, etc…and, if so Why?

    (Also: Responses involving a variation on “because we should learn all things” are not helpful. I know that. What I want to know is why this should be pushed to the front of the line, if it should be.)

  27. FYI: I do believe in evolution. My question/problem is that I do not currently derive any value from that belief, because it doesn’t influence any decisions I ever make. I would like to find value in that belief. This is what I am asking.

  28. CEF, Thanks for that. You are exactly the kind of person I’m writing to. I want to create a space in the church where those who look deeply enough at evolution and are concerned that there is no place for them because of the anti-evolution rhetoric that so fills our discorse. Those who might feel squeezed out. Scott, this answers your question too. Your response is completely legitamate, and as long as you are willing to live let live I don’t expect you to feel like you have to learn anything about it. If someone honestly believes, though, that the church and evolution are incompatible, and then learn how ‘beautiful’ (David O. Mckay’s word) and compeling the evidience is for it, then they might feel like they must choose. In fact, I personally know some who have left because they thought they must pick between faith and rationality. If your response to evolution is, ‘meh’ then that’s fine as long as you recognize that you don’t have to choose between evolution and the church. In fact that’s exactly the discource I’d like in the church literature, meetings, etc.” Believe in evolution as the facts warrent, don’t believe if you want, but either way we are fine.” However, evolution touches on our deepest doctrine and two of the ‘three pillers:’ Creation and the Fall. I think this is ever going to be a touchy subject until we get some LDS theologians who are willing to explore a fully faithful, fully evolutionary account of these topics. But, no I don’t think you must learn something about it if you are not bothered by it. Heaven knows I’m not going to learn anything about economics.

  29. #26:

    This is a valid argument. A very early form of it was put forth by Buddha. Buddhism specifically doesn’t talk much about creation. The famous sutra talks about someone being shot with an arrow. Does it make sense to first ask about where the arrow came from, how it was made, etc., or should the focus be on curing the patient?

    I do think, however, that the answer is very important to many people for several reasons:

    1) Cognitive dissonance: Many people (me included) have a scientific background, or at least interest. There is a conflict between Young Earth beliefs prevalent among more literalist Mormons (and others) and the mass of scientific facts accumulated over the past decades. Some choose to ignore the issue all together, which is find for them. Others need to resolve it somehow in order to preserve their faith in the face of supposedly contradictory information.

    2) Faith: In essentially any religion, we are asked to base it on faith. The percentage of people on this earth who have “seen God” appears to be extremely small. We are therefore essentially asked to “throw our hat” in the ring with someone who has received this revelation. In our case, it started with Joseph Smith. In other cases, it may be Mohammed or someone else. Even in the short time our faith has been around, there have been various off-shoot Mormon groups who claim that their branch is right.

    So, there are people of just about any denomination, be it Mormon, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, etc., who all claim to have had a “feeling” or a “revelation” that their particular faith is right. Many of these default to the religion in which they were born and raised, but their devotion to it is sincere and real.

    To have faith in something, however, you are supposed to “study it out in your mind” first. Does it make sense? If some group came up to me and claimed that the earth really orbited a giant purple cow and the light we saw came from its hooves rubbing together, I’d probably see if that made sense before approaching God about it. In a similar fashion, teachings of the Mormon (or any other) faith should be consistent with reality. If the Catholic church still clung to the notion that the sun orbited the earth as they did in Galileo’s time as a base tenet of their beliefs, I guarantee that there would be far fewer Catholics today regardless of their teachings on other things. It doesn’t make sense.

    So, resolving things so they make sense is an important foundation of faith. Now, there are always going to be areas where we just have to go on faith, but resolving conflicts to the best of our ability and “studying it out” before approaching the Lord makes sense.

    3) Further knowledge: Suppose the God wanted to give us more information about how the earth was created, etc. We have been told that in the last days, that knowledge was going to come forth. How do you think he’d do that? Would we have a revelation about science from our prophet? Or would God perhaps inspire people in that field to bring forth knowledge? Perhaps our goal as Mormons should be to embrace the knowledge that has come forth and fit it into our frameworks. This may involve a painful change, as when people had to give up polygamy which had been taught as the only way to get into the Celestial kingdom.

    I feel that knowledge revealed through science over the past decades is God’s way of teaching us. Perhaps we need to reevaluate our interpretation of scripture in light of this. God didn’t “die” when the earth was no longer the center of the universe – He is bigger than that. I also don’t think He’ll “die” when we come up with a way to incorporate scientific truth revealed to man with historical interpretations of the Bible.

  30. Here’s the one problem I have with the comparison of Native Americans in the “Nothing happened” scenario and anyone of faith accepting the reality of evolution. In the first case, the Native Americans were dehumanized, massacred, and disenfranchised. I would hope that the inclusion of evolutionary theory for those of us who also believe that God stood at the helm of creation (how ever it happened) would be an enlightening, exciting thing–a “brave new world” with new possibilities and ways of seeing our world AND our religion.
    Great post.

  31. Steve, why should any LDS thinker need to give a fully evolutionary account of either Creation or Fall? To do so he or she would have to assume that the two kinds of discourse (evolution and faith) are relevant to each other, but what justifies that assumption? Those on both side of the debate, when there is a debate, make that assumption, but they do so without ever giving good reasons for it.

    If, as I think, the assumption is false, then the thinker of faith need no more give a fully evolutionary account of Creation and Fall than the evolutionist need give a faithful account of species change.

  32. Steve,

    Thanks for your response–it was basically what I was hoping for, and I think I understand and agree with everything you said–particularly your point about needing a safe haven for those who feel out of place for a differing view. Perhaps it because I don’t see it as a threat that I am often curious about all the noise made over it.

    As far as it touching upon 2 of the big pillars, I agree that it does touch them; my “meh” attitude toward evolution right now is not a lack of interest in how I got here per se, but rather a lack of belief in any current understanding to impact my theology in a meaningful way. As you said–if some fully faithful ninjitsu-level theologians would show up and help me to see how the creative process does affect me, I am totally prepared to abandon my meh.

  33. Jim, it seems necessary (well, maybe not ‘necessary’, maybe ‘worthy’ is a better word) because of the claims we make about God as creator. What does it mean if, as to all appearances it looks like, things evolved in a context of an unimaginably cruel and wasteful process? Red in tooth and claw, dead ends, etc. This deserves some theological attention from LDS perspectives (I think). To me it’s an argument that this must be a necessary way for creativity and complexity to arise in free ways. I’m launching into too much theology for this tread, but what the Catholics (Küng, Haught) and the others (Peacocke and Deane-Drummond’s Christology in particular) are doing I think is important for Mormons as well because they are responding to some of the tensions that evolution brings to creation. If evolution really is ‘how’ it happened, ‘why’ is a really good theological question because it bears directly on question about God’s action in the world.

  34. I wonder why commenter #18 thinks that there would be any difference in a created/noncreated world from the perspective of the created. Is there any reason to think that ANY intervention in the universe would be necessary on the part of the creator, after setting the initial conditions (big bang or whatever), in order to eventually have the system spit out homo sapiens? I can see why he would intervene when sentience was on the scene, but before that there were no decisions being made, so all outcomes were determined by the initial conditions (assuming His computing power really is infinite, so all quantum interactions could be predicted…).

  35. I feel some confuse “evolutionary processes” with Evolution. The big ‘E’ made all the difference. The big ‘E’ is without a God, Plan, or ID.
    In my view, at this time, you may put ideas of “evolutionary processes” into Mormonism. But big ‘E’ Evolution (as a science) has it own rules as to how it will be defined. I do not think Evolution has a God or Plan as part of it’s definition(?)

  36. John Mansfield says:

    Owen, a heavenly father who passively observed the fall of each sparrow for 14 billion years until the hour came that there were intelligences in need of redemption and minor succor such as healing disease? Perhaps. Not what I would think, but that’s no limit to what could be.

  37. I’m interested in what you all think of my previous post (#22). I just want some feedback to help me become more well rounded – or something. Thanks.

  38. rcronk, I thought it was novel and interesting that you suggest God intentionally put fake evidence in the fossil record so that people would have a place to go who didn’t want to believe in him. I don’t think such fake evidence is necessary for there to be a lack of coercion toward faith, and it doesn’t sound like the God I believe in, so it’s not an explanation I like, but it’s interesting.

    For myself I have no trouble accepting evolution as the process by which God created man and other species. I have always liked the idea that God operates through laws, and that he is subject to them, as it was by obedience to them that he became God, and that we can advance by obedience to them as well. I see no particular conflict between that idea and our scriptures. I do a see a conflict between Bible literalism and the rest of our scriptures.

  39. MCQ – thanks for the input. I wasn’t suggesting that God put fake evidence in the fossil record, but rather that He created species that were similar to each other so that if people wanted to be atheist, they could have a reasonable argument without seeming ridiculous.

    I mean, having the forms of life we have here on earth out in the middle of nowhere on a rock floating through space is a pretty big obvious sign to me at least that someone was involved in bringing order and life to our floating rock, so it would take something to balance that out so that this would be a fair test for us, wouldn’t it? In my experiences with Him, He seems to go out of His way to keep things balanced so that the choice is always ours. Like on my mission, when we’d have a powerful spiritual experience with a family, the very next day, the anti-mormon brother-in-law would just happen to stop by and spend a few days, etc.

    It’s an interesting paradox that God wants us to think things through and use our heads, but that sometimes our faith is tested to its extremes when we have to believe in Him against what we think is powerful evidence to the contrary – which kind of goes against using our heads in some cases – or maybe it’s about not pridefully thinking that imperfect mankind has it all figured out.

  40. Steve Evans says:

    rcronk, that is an, er, novel theory.

  41. rcronk, the problem I see with any move toward God doing something so that interpretations can hold but do not reflect how he actually did things, implies manipulating for the purpose of deception. If he placed, on purpose, things in an evolutionary sequence like we see (invertebrates, fish, reptiles, mammals, man, etc.) with the intent to make evolution a possible explanation that is an act deception. We know that God cannot lie and therefore what we see must be what happened. Our interpretation might be screwy, but as evidence accumulates you are forced either to think God is tricking us (which I reject) or this is part of the wonder of the universe He wants us to discover.

  42. rcronk,

    I see what you are saying, but I think that there would be plenty of folks that would choose not to believe in God without strong physical evidence in the fossil record that evidences evolution. There were plenty of non-believers prior to Darwin, right? Even in the scriptures there were multiple times that whole societies fell into disbelief, and that was way before a scientific era that provides in the minds of some a reason for not having faith in God.

  43. Steve Evans – “Argument from personal incredulity” isn’t a valid argument – especially when delivered in a snooty manner. :)

    Argue against the theory on its merits or the lack thereof. I’d actually really like to hear from you and people like you who disagree with me so that I can find the holes in my theory. Help me out, ok?

  44. SteveP – Thanks! That feedback helps. Well, we do have other situations in scripture where people have been allowed to make incorrect assumptions when things are allowed to look differently than the truth – like Nephi wearing Laban’s garments to “trick” Zoram. What about God not being visible to us in the first place? That’s not reality – He does in fact exist doesn’t He? So why not be visible? Isn’t that deceptive? Perhaps our advancement is the highest law and all other laws are subservient to that highest law? Thoughts?

    Sonny – Thanks. Good points. God knew evolution and science and man’s theories would get more persuasive in the last days and so would it make sense that stronger “evidence” in both directions would come to light and wouldn’t God know that this would happen and so provide balance by planning in advance? Just a thought.

    All – My theory rests on the premises that the creation story, especially the more detailed version in the temple, is true. That is based partly on the premise that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that we have multiple prophets in multiple books of scripture beginning their books with the same story and they are true prophets as well, etc. It’s also based on the premise that man is imperfect in knowledge and wisdom. So since I believe it is true (specifically the part about spirits being created and planned out beforehand, then physical bodies made to match the pre-planned spirits, and then a command to multiply after their own kind and in their own sphere), I have to make sense of why man’s theories don’t match these things that I believe to be true. This is the best I can come up with so far and I’m open to tweaking it given your feedback, so thanks for your feedback.

  45. rcronk – fwiw, it used to be stated explicitly in the temple that the creation story of Adam and Eve was figurative. Perhaps it was removed because some people were taking it too far, but I am fine with the way it used to be phrased.

  46. Ray – Thanks for the feedback. I wonder if that means the part from the creation of Adam and Eve forward is figurative or if that includes the creation of things before them. Also, when making something figurative, the important aspects of the story are kept to convey a deeper and possibly more universal meaning by not getting bogged down in specifics that are relevant just to the instance currently being portrayed. I’m a software engineer and one of the most important parts of my job is to take specific instances of code and turn them into more figurative or generic, reusable forms, so I’m familiar with the concept of making things figurative and why it is done.

    It seems to me that during the 6 creative periods, the emphasis is on planning it out specifically first, and then going and doing it – kind of how we should do things ourselves – think/ponder/plan and then go and do it the way we planned. The language and concepts given in the temple during that part of the ceremony are simple and plain yet very specific as I have stated above. I take them as they are. I don’t think the parts I’ve mentioned and the concepts they convey are changed by being figurative or not – either way, they convey designing and creating specifc species spiritually first, then physically, all the while commanding them to multiply after their kind and in their own sphere.

  47. “Facing the reality of a religious world that includes the evolution of humans, is hard to face for some.”

    True. But an even more difficult reality to face — for some — would be an evolutionary one with God in it. And yet that reality seems to be moot in the scientific community.

    Why the double standard?

  48. Jack, The idea that scientists are all a bunch of atheists is just wrong. My question is why economists ignore God in their models? Why the double standard?. I’ve never heard a single market analysis of product development that has put God in their equations. What a bunch of atheists.

  49. Ha, I like that SteveP.

    rcronk: “What about God not being visible to us in the first place? That’s not reality – He does in fact exist doesn’t He? So why not be visible? Isn’t that deceptive?”

    No. Just ask the Brother of Jared.

  50. SteveP: “The idea that scientists are all a bunch of atheists is just wrong.”

    I said *some* would have a hard time with the idea of God. And then I went on to question the motives of a community — not individuals.

    Re: Economists — Somehow I don’t think it would necessarily be taboo for an economist to be overtly informed by christian ethics when balancing a budget. But in science any inference of God is absolutely forbidden.

  51. Steve:
    If only you could take your own advice. It is not only religious thinking which dissuades some from the faulty theory of evolution. It’s the theory itself.

  52. Left Field says:

    Scientists, economists, bricklayers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers all might (or might not) be informed by Christian ethics in performing the duties of their profession. But none of them invoke divine intervention in the actual performing of experiments, laying of bricks, or baking of bread. Why are scientists singled out for derision in this regard?

    Surely you’re not suggesting that science is not guided by ethical principles?

    Informed by Christian ethics = apples.

    Inferring God as a necessary component in professional activities = oranges.

  53. There are many folks who theorize that biology and evolution theory are inseparably connected, but they do this largely due to the peer pressure exerted upon them by people who are bent on philosophical naturalism. There is no empirical reason for the ‘how and why’ to be mixed up with the what.

    I reject the notion that the place to begin is from the stance that evolution is absolutely true. Evolution must be proven first – on a scientific basis, not a popular vote. There is no phylogenetic chain linking any species with any other. Descent with modification and variation are all well and good but do not constitute evolutionary proof – meaning man and apes are not related. You can’t point to evolutionary gaps and then make the claim ‘oh, it would have happened just the way I said it did if you give it enough time.’ Either prove there are unbroken links or accept that fact that you don’t really know.

    Yep, give it enough time, and your can of coca-cola will evolve just in time for you to drink it. Evolution is all wishful thinking. A fish ‘wished’ it could crawl on land, and in a very long period of time, its wish was granted. Later the fish wished it could fly, and in another very very long period of time, its wish was granted. Its very elusive, this evolutionary force, very invisible, very slow-moving. You have to have special eyes to see it.

    So how did spirit evolve? There is no room for spirit in evolution, although real science would admit of the possibility of a higher order of things if that is the evidence. Many scientists pre-Darwin had no qualms at all about mixing their faith with their findings. Why are evolutionists in general so anti-faith? If there were a God, could modern science find the evidence of Him?

  54. It is also a huge mistake to think that Intelligent Design is just creationism ‘gussied up’. I don’t care what Judge Jones thinks, or the philosophical weaknesses of the Dover Decision, evolution is a form of religion, complete with creeds of faith and high priests, and a crowd of believers.

  55. Left Field says:

    Mike, your comments in 53-54 are a a re-hash of standard talking points attacking a cartoon version of evolution as presented by the anti-evolution crowd. Take a course in evolution and then come back and formulate a critique based on the actual science.

    Your talking points have about as much credibility as an attack on Mormonism from someone whose sole knowledge of the subject comes from having seen The Godmakers and having read the Salt Lake Tribune comments section.

  56. Actually, I think Mike is on to something. I hearby declare that evolutionary theory shall not be proven until I see a gorilla transform into a human being before my very eyes.

  57. Actually, I think your talking points are old rehashes. I think this ‘evolutionary threat to my way of seeing things’ is a huge joke. And the main thing propping up evolution is money, ego, anti-theism, and arrogance. All the hot air in the world is no substitute for the facts.

    Take a course in Intelligent Design, and then come back and tell us if your paradigm shifts or you are stuck in your old dinosaur ways.

  58. Actually, I think John C. is on to something. I hereby (not hearby) declare that intelligent design shall not be proven until my evolution professor determines it is not a religion.

  59. Left Field
    Your talking points have about as much credibility as anonymous talking points could possibly have.

  60. Mike ,”no phylogenetic chain linking any species with any other” Mike, you may have missed it, but there is this new discovery called ‘DNA’ that actually does show that we are related to apes (and every living thing). Mike I dare you to read The Relics of Eden by LDS author Dan Fairbanks, a book laying out the DNA evidence for evolution. I double dog dare you.

    Evolution has been proven. As strongly as science has proven anything.

    Left Fields analogy with God Makers is right on the money. John C., could it be a chimp? That would be easier. And here is an icky fact, humans and chimps are close enough to make a ‘chuman‘ mule-like thing.

  61. Whoa Steve (48)–I think you’ve forgotten one very important thing–economic models don’t need to explicitly account for God, because economic models, and economists generally (well, at least those who agree with me politically, anyway) are inherently inspired. God is implicit in all that we do.


  62. Clinton Bartholomew says:

    Mike: “There are many folks who theorize that biology and evolution theory are inseparably connected, but they do this largely due to the peer pressure exerted upon them by people who are bent on philosophical naturalism.”

    Mike I understand your view on this but I must respectively disagree. I am post-doctoral fellow with a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology. What you fail to realize is that ALL current studies of biology are based on evolutionary underpinning. One of the most obvious examples of this is the current research paradigm followed across the world for understanding biology. All biologists who study how cells work or how they fail to work (disease) study it using model organisms.

    The most widely used model organisms are: (1)bread yeast (S. cerevisiae, (2) fruit flies (D. melanogaster) and a worms (C. elegans), (3) fish (D. Rario), (4) Mice (M. musculus), (6) Chimps or Humans. As you move from 1 to 6 the cost and difficulty of performing experiments increases and the number of biological “tools” decreases. When we want to understand a biological process we often start in #1 and gradually progress to #6. You may be surprised to learn that ~90% of what we learn in yeast is directly applicable to human research. The reason we study things this way is because these organisms are evolutionarily related. If they were not then such an enterprise would have failed 20 years ago.

    I was watching the television a few years back when a news program came on which analyzed what the reporter believed was misspending by the US government. They complained about money spent on studying fruit flies, after all, what could fruit flies have to do with human. The answer should be obvious now.

  63. Whoa both of you!
    Intelligent Design has been proven beyond all doubting. I challenge you to read William Dembski’s “No Free Lunch” (Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence) or “The Cell’s Design” How Chemistry Reveals the Creator’s Artistry. Yes DNA proves Intelligent Design by clearly showing the signature of intelligence, not random forces.

    That’s what the DNA proves. If you see an incredible metropolis in the middle of a desert, it didn’t arrive there by random chaotic forces. DNA shows clearly that a superior intelligence designed it.
    How does Dan Fairbanks “LDS-ness” mean anything to this conversation?

  64. With all due respect to the time you put in earning your degree, I respectfully disagree with your conclusions. Apparently people’s degrees can prove evolution or intelligent design, based on a sampling of the literature out there.

    I would suggest scanning for an entertaining afternoon finding people with degrees in the medical field of the 1800’s who advocated bloodletting as a viable medical practice:

    “Why has blood letting lived? It has lived because so many men of the first rank in medicine have pronounced it meritorious and efficacious. Its merits must indeed be great or surely the lack of reason and judgment in its use which its history shows, must have killed it.”

    Wm. Duffield Robinson, M.D. Philadelphia, PA. “Transactions of the American Climatological and Clinical Association”, p. 142, 1917.

    Evolution is mathematically impossible. A man with a degree said so.

  65. Mike,

    Although less detailed, I’ve been putting together a series of posts that is similar in content to Relics of Eden. See my series-in-progress, What Separates Humans from the Animals?.

  66. Jared,
    “Genomes can be like that and, wouldn’t you know it, the remains of vitellogenin are in our genome, as well as the genomes of other placental animals. Genes that have become broken and degraded by mutation are called pseudogenes, and there are bits and pieces of between one and three vitellogenin pseudogenes in the human genome. (The number is debatable because two of the copies are degraded to the point of being difficult to statistically distinguish from background sequence.”

    All your literature leaps to similar conclusions with no basis in reality other than your presumptions: you think it is so therefore it must be so. This is not science it is faith. You can’t start out by assuming what you have yet to prove.

    Perhaps when you are steeped in the evolutionary dogma you lose your ability to not think in circles. But it is still circular reasoning and not scientific proof.

    I have observed the following to be true in my life: if it isn’t managed, it gets worse. I have found very few processes in life that don’t need intelligent oversight, and in the absence of that intelligent oversight conditions deteriorate. The lawn, the bank account, the automobile, the marriage, the intellect, the spirit, all seem to require constant attention or they turn do decay. I find evolution not only implausible, and unlikely, but it violates all observation of the way things work in the real world. At least Intelligent Design lines up with the observations any intelligent rational adult, who is willing to face the paradigm shifts in life, can make.

  67. Jared* Thanks for that link. It is a great series!

    Clinton, very nice example.

    Scott, I believe!

    I address Dembski here. He’s been refuted so many times and so thoroughly it’s amazing people are still quoting him. Dan’s LDSness is not relevant to his arguments. But some LDS who are interested in learning something about evolution might find it interesting.

    You mean the science of 200 years ago was not as good as now? Bloodletting? Yes by all means let’s dismiss it all of modern science then. I had no idea.

  68. SteveP
    Evolutionists have been refuted so many times by so many superior arguments its amazing people still teach it. And its doubly amazing that they think quoting LDS scholars has any objective means of bolstering their assertions.

    The science I quoted was 100 years ago. Those who fail to learn from history are destined to repeat it. And I do not dismiss modern science, I embrace the truth and light in it, and reject the faulty, the spurious, the unscientific. The lesson here for thinking people is what the author of the above article attempted to point out: Your beloved paradigm may be faulty and it may be difficult and damaging not to be able to see it for what it is and to let it go.

  69. Mike,
    There is no way to prove anything beyond all doubting in science (Intelligent Design or Evolution or anything else). That’s just dumb. Don’t let your rhetoric get away from you.

    Also, your rebuttal to my snark proves the point. I implied you demanded the impossible as proof. You responded by offering your own version of the impossible. You aren’t being a honest partner in a discussion if you insist that the other side can only win by doing the impossible. Stop being a jerk.

  70. Mike,
    Further, every single fallacy and generalization that you are condemning in others you are exhibiting yourself. Creationist, Know Thyself! Also, shush!

  71. Interesting, SteveP, isn’t it, that you would doubledog dare me to read your books, but you won’t read the ones I suggest.

    I don’t care if evolutionists exercise their misguided monopoly for time and all eternity. The ability of people to believe an illusion is unstoppable, you can only expose them to truth and light and let them choose.

  72. #70

    There is a tendency in people to see their own faults in others. Each of my responses to you has been a reverse of the argument you have used against me, deliberately so.

  73. I’ve read extensively Demski’s papers his books are just rehashes of his papers. His rebuttal from philosophy, mathematics, and biology has been complete and decisive. Specifically, his application of the No Free Lunch theorem has been mathematically proven to be misapplied. Did you bother to read my rebuttal?

    But Mike, you’ve offered the kind of argument that no one can refute: The argument from ignorance to which there is no reply. Touche you win. I stand speechless before you.

  74. Left Field says:

    No point trying to have a substantive discussion with a self-professed echo.

  75. Mike,
    Go stir the pot elsewhere.

  76. SteveP,

    I commend you for working in a doubly difficult field–where you get criticism from some people of faith who have trouble fitting evolutionary origins of life with the concept of a Creator, and some people without faith who also have trouble fitting evolutionary origins of life with the concept of a Creator.

    Personally, I think both groups are coming from a “God of the gaps” theory.

    I suppose even meteoroligists and climatologists face the risk of being characterized as atheists. For example, in the well known account of the rain after the Saints accepted the renewed law of tithing from President Snow, a Godless meteorologist or climatologist might hypothesize that the rain occurred based on normal meteorological or climate reasons, without any need for Divine intercession. If that were true, though, what need is there for a God in his or her worldview.

    The same is true of Godless economists or psychologists who might hypothesize that the blessings from tithing on one’s income come about for natural psychological or economics reasons–what place is there for God in such a worldview?

    And what about Godless health professionals, who hypothesize that the longer life span of Mormons (and Seventh Day Adventists) come as a natural result of following naturally healthy principles like avoiding tobacco? There is no place for God in such explanations or understandings.

  77. Clinton Bartholomew says:

    “I commend you for working in a doubly difficult field.”

    I have worked in the field of biology in Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, and Michigan. I have never once received criticism for my belief in both God and Evolution by another scientist. I have faithfully attended wards in each of these states and I have yet to receive any criticism from any member of my wards on this point. I will point out that I am openly vocal about my beliefs in both God and Evolution in both venues.

  78. Mike:

    I won’t say that your beliefs are wrong, although they are different from mine, because I can’t prove the answer either way. However, your thought process and arrogance precludes even starting a discussion with you. It would just be a waste of my time.


  79. Re: #66

    you think it is so therefore it must be so

    Maybe sometimes, but not in this case. DNA sequences lie much more in the domain of fact than imagination.

  80. Mark D. says:

    The really interesting questions for evolution and religion revolve not so much about how we got here, but where we will end up going. The standard perspective on evolution denies that there is any possibility of establishing the reality of the spirit or of spiritual things – all such inquiries must be condemned as illegitimate before they even begin.

    Notably life after death. The standard model does not deny life after death, but rather denies that there is any science that governs its operation. i.e. post-mortal spirits (if they exist) operate either exist in a world bereft of natural laws, or exist in a world that is so utterly disconnected with the world that we are now in that rational thought about them is impossible.

    If there are spiritual influences of any kind, and those influences have a non-epiphenomenal effect on the way we think and feel, the standard model’s insistence that no such effects can be accounted for, in principle, is wrong.

    One last thing – I personally think the evidence for common descent is compelling, but the idea that it is as well established as quantum mechanics or materials science is ridiculous. Scientists can use the latter to predict physical measurements accurate to twelve decimal places. The accuracy comes in part due to its primary application to simple devices on a small scale. Evolutionary biology is at the other end of the spectrum.

    Large scale evolution cannot only not be predicted, it can’t yet even be duplicated. Nor can it be simulated with any fidelity – i.e. with a model solely derived from known physical laws. We cannot yet accurately simulate a single cell on such a basis, let alone the mind body problem, or the evolution of species.

  81. SteveP:

    Sorry, I am late to all this fun. I cannot help but respond to Mark D.’s comment just above that evolution lacks an accuracy to “twelve decimal places.” Since when does study of the genetic code lack true scientific precision? Our evolutionary history is VERY MUCH written in the comparative sequences of DNA across species. Critics of evolution who make such complaints have much more homework to do. DNA analysis is just ONE example of high accuracy.

    The phenomenon of evolution IS as factual as gravity or the organization of elements on the periodic chart. While it is true that scientists have a lot of work to do to provide a full account of evolution, the facts are facts. Even LDS scientists must account for evolution. Otherwise, our heads are in the sand.

    Count me as a LDS evolutionist. Theology and science are BOTH essential parts of my culture.

  82. SteveP wants to “create a space in the church where those who look deeply enough at evolution and are concerned that there is no place for them because of the anti-evolution rhetoric that so fills our discourse.”

    Here’s some friendly advice, SteveP. born out of personal experience.

  83. Mark Brown says:

    All of a sudden I’m starting to lose my childlike faith in evolution as a religion and in the high priests group of SteveP, Clinton Bartholomew, and S. Faux. Brethren, you have been blinded by pride and the craftiness of men. The scales have fallen from my eyes now and I realize that evolution is a fraud, because no chimpanzee is dumb enough to make some of the assertions that are found in the comments of this thread.

  84. Well put me in the Creationist camp. I started out believing that God literally created the earth and Adam and Eve (directly), but then I matured and had several paradigm shifts in my life. At this point I started learning about evolution. This was after college. But there came a point in my learning where I thought, “wait, this is what they are basing the theory on?” I kept on assuming that I would come across the mountain of irrefutable evidence, the proof of the theory. There is a lot of data, but the theory is weak. I won’t rehash it all, but the bottom line for me was that I went back to creationism. First I was miffed that people had told me Creationism was true, when in fact science proved Evolution. Then I was miffed that Evolution doesn’t actually have much of a foundation, so I went back to Creationism.

    Obviously I don’t expect to convince anyone here in this post. I am just describing my experience, which is what the topic seems to be about. Like I said, the weakness of the theory of evolution itself is what caused me to drop it. However, now as I read the scriptures, it seems plain to me that the Lord created the world and Adam and Eve as he said he did. In the temple, we are reminded over and over that the animals and plants are commanded to reproduce “after their own kind.” I believe that the creation story is part of the endowment largely to remind us that God is the Creator. Nothing kindles his wrath more than when we do not acknowledge his hand in all things (like creation), and by their fruits ye shall know them (evolution does not lead men to Christ).

    I admit that it is frustrating to not know exactly how creation occurred, and I understand people’s wanting to harmonize modern science with their religion, but I found that most (practically everyone, including scientists) make huge assumptions that “someone” has done the research, or proved the theory, that the causation has actually been demonstrated, but that’s not the case. So I am a Creationism, after being in the Evolution camp.

  85. create a space in the church where those who look deeply enough at evolution and are concerned that there is no place for them because of the anti-evolution rhetoric that so fills our discourse.

    I agree completely.

    It occurred to me to wonder how two omnipotent beings could get along — one an evolutionist and one a creationist. It then occurred to me that one model might be to “do everything to accommodate someone’s values” even if you know the truth and cost of those values.

    I find myself again circling back to the importance of “love your neighbor” over truth and personal values. Scripture doesn’t say “love your neighbor” except when you know the truth. Maybe there is a reason for that.

  86. Mark Brown’s comment (#83) is a case in point that some “painful readjustments” are needed, as asserted by SteveP.

    The life science profession is deeply embedded into the fact of evolution. Can Latter-day Saints be life scientists? I think so, but it is a little painful (but not really) to enter into this religious community (the blog world) and then be associated with “blind pride” and “craftiness.” Does this name-calling really further the argument? No, but it is interesting that the topic of evolution produces such responses in our Mormon community. The responses suggest a sense of threat. To me, there is no threat.

    No one (among the “evolutionary high priests”) is arguing that God does not exist or that God is not important. This issue is merely reporting the world (nature) as we find it in existence. Slay the messengers. Fine, but evolution is still pervasive and IMPOSSIBLE to ignore.

    The Mormon public is welcome to ignore evolution, but us life scientists who are LDS really cannot. If we did, then that would be the fraud.

  87. S. Faux, you just drew out a very important point. One cannot be in the life sciences without engaging directly with evolution. To decide that being LDS and an evolutionist is impossible (unfaithful, less than faithful, suspect, or subversive) is to decide that LDS believers cannot be life scientists. I reject that. Again nice point S. Faux, that’s absolutely right.

  88. Left Field says:

    I was a little insulted that Mark B. hadn’t included me among those blinded by pride and the craftiness of men. But then it hadn’t occurred to me that Mark’s comment might not have been intended with irony. Perhaps there’s irony in that too.

  89. I just wish more people realized there is a difference between what was labeled “Godless evolution” in early Church statements and evolution without any qualifiers. It doesn’t have to be creationism vs. evolution, but so many people think in black and white and create fights where fights don’t need to be.

    For a different twist, if anyone is interested:

  90. That’s a nice post Ray.

  91. Mark Brown’s post was, I’m pretty sure, irony. He’s my internet Bishop and I’m pretty sure he would call me on the carpet if I erred.

  92. Mark D. says:

    S. Faux, When I say twelve decimal places, I mean that the laws are accurate enough to provide predictive power to that degree for experiments that have never been done yet, simply based on existing theory, a theory with unparalleled statistical accuracy.

    There are no theories of large scale evolution that provide predictive power to even one decimal place, even on a statistical basis, because there are no numerical theories of large scale evolution, and if there were we have yet to have the ability to verify the completeness of such theories under controlled circumstances.

    Here completeness is the essence of the debate. If the evidence of things spiritual can lurk in between decimal places twelve and thirteen, how much more so between decimal places one and two?

    God of the gaps you say? But what if, just maybe, there are gaps that cannot be closed in any other way. If spiritual things are real, there most certainly is an un-closable gap between a world with and without them, and science will eventually have to deal with it. Can human civilization exist without spirits? If yes, the totalitarian model of evolution just might be right. On the other hand, in the long run we are all dead.

  93. Mark D., Yes, if you are trying to predict how fast a ball will drop in an airless environment. But there are sciences that explore complex issues that are not predictive but explanatory (you know the other activity of science).

    “because there are no numerical theories of large scale evolution,” Wrong. I have papers that are numerical theories of large scale evolution. And mine is a single paper in sea of such papers.

    It continues to boggle my mind how often people make claims about the science of evolution without having a clue to the depth of the science nor its activities. They claim understand what it does and what it predicts without out knowing even the most basic fundamentals of the science let alone its research activies. Please take a look at the current issue of Evolution the premiere scientific journal in evolution and feel free to pick apart any paper in there. What arrogance to make claims about its predictive power when you know nothing about it.

  94. “But what if, just maybe, there are gaps that cannot be closed in any other way. If spiritual things are real, there most certainly is an un-closable gap between a world with and without them, and science will eventually have to deal with it. Can human civilization exist without spirits?”

    If Joseph is right, that spirit is matter, then I am not sure there will ever be such a un-closable gap. For what it is worth, I long ago abandoned building my personal faith upon a God of the gaps. If, just maybe, there turns out to be a gap that cannot be closed any other way, and that is an additional proof of God, wonderful. But I am not holding my breath.

  95. Ray (#89), I hate to pour cold water on your otherwise helpful comment and linked post, but I’ve never seen a Church statement containing the phrase “Godless evolution.” And I’ve seen a lot of Church statements.

  96. R. Gary, I have the nasty habit of putting things I want to emphasize in quotes – thus creating my own phraseology. I do it regularly, as it was something I learned in school. By doing so with “Godless evolution”, I simply meant that there is a regular emphasis in early Church writings on rejecting a view of evolution that removes God from the process – and that rejection follows into our more recent statements, as well.

    The central point of the 1909 “Origin of Man” is that we were created by God in his image. We’ve had this discussion already, so I’ll make only this narrow point about it here.

    Even Pres. Packer couched his early criticism of evolution in those terms. For example, in 1984 he said, “Surely we, His children, are not, in the language of science, a different species than He is?” (The Pattern of Our Parentage – 1984)

    Elder McConkie rejected evolution in the following terms: “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.” (The Caravan Moves On – 1984)

    Elder Nelson: “We are children of God, created by him and formed in his image. At least 55 verses of scripture attest to our divine creation.” (The Magnificence of Man – New Era, October, 1987)

    There are many such examples. My point is that as I read the statements by the Brethren with regard to evolution, they almost always are couched in terms of rejecting evolution as an “accidental” process (as one article I read called it) – as just a product of an undirected big bang – as “godless evolution”.

    I apologize for the way my use of quotation marks in the previous comment was confusing.

  97. Ray, my good and thoughtful friend, godlessness is only one reason given by our leaders for rejecting evolution. For example, President Packer finds human evolution incompatible with “an understanding of the sealing authority,” which (he said twice for emphasis) “cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts.” [1] And it is “equally false,” he said, that God used evolution:

    “I am sorry to say, the so-called theistic evolution, the theory that God used an evolutionary process to prepare a physical body for the spirit of man, is equally false. I say I am sorry because I know it is a view commonly held by good and thoughtful people who search for an acceptable resolution to an apparent conflict between the theory of evolution and the doctrines of the gospel.” [2]


    1. “The Law and the Light,” The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990, p.22; italics in the original.

    2. Ibid., p.21.

  98. Those of you who claim to have read Dembski, please demonstrate some small inkling of having done so. for example, maybe you can discuss briefly whether you think his choice of a probability bound was appropriate.

    I apologize if I have offended anyone, I maybe get a little over passionate, and I get a little testy when people think its ok for them to use arguments that they then resent having applied to themselves.

    Interesting the lengths you all will go to to block my comments here.

  99. It is very interesting to me that so many folks have preconceived that evolution is so, that they find justifications for it everywhere. The data is overwhelming they say, when in fact, the same data is available to everyone, but not everyone agrees with the interpretation of the data.

    Jared gives us a post stating that there is a link between two similar biological structures in two dissimilar creatures. He then concludes that evolution is proven based upon this similarity. How he makes that leap is instructive, because science should systematically reject such leaps of faith, should reject “a priori” conclusions, yet here is a prime example of exactly that.

    This is a critical point. Scientists should maintain detachment and rigor, or you don’t have science. Assuming a link between two things that may or may not be so linked is a huge fallacy. The link must be established without presumption or assumption. It must be beyond personal wishes or political agenda.

    I don’t know how you would prove a relationship between them, and I don’t know why you would do so unless you were attempting to justify a conclusion you had already made. Let the evidence motivate you to come up with a method to establish your hypothesis systematically and rigorously. And realize that you may or may not have all the answers, but don’t insert an answer just because you are trying to fill a void.

    Interesting the lengths you all will go to to block my commenting here.

    Can’t handle the discussion?

  100. #67

    Your ‘refutation’ of Dembski is nonesuch. I’ve read Dembski, and I’ve read you. You are a squirt gun. Dembski is a fire hose. If that’s all you can say in rebuttal to Dembski, I seriously question whether you have even read a single page he’s written or whether you are just perpetuating the gossip you’ve heard from other evolutionists. Either way, your ‘refutation’ needs a lot of work if you want it to be in the same league as Dembski’s.

    Now it would seem my point went over your head. I don’t think you are listening too carefully. The reason I gave the example about bloodletting, was to demonstrate that even in 1917, less than a hundred years ago, men of high academic achievement and understanding, doctors in their field, lecturers at colleges, all had a high regard for the practice of bloodletting. If you go back earlier in time, you find even more enthusiasm for questionable practices. If you think we are different today, that we have finally attained the end-all be-all of medical excellence, then that may be your opinion, but as far as I’m concerned, we may be just as different in our outlook 100 years from now as we are from those who preceded us by 100 years.

    Now to your assertions here which are quite unfounded and should be rejected by anyone who wants to systematically and doggedly get at the truth of the matter:

    You said: “I’ve read extensively Demski’s papers his books are just rehashes of his papers. His rebuttal from philosophy, mathematics, and biology has been complete and decisive. Specifically, his application of the No Free Lunch theorem has been mathematically proven to be misapplied. Did you bother to read my rebuttal?”

    OK, so you admit you haven’t read the book. First read the book. You claim he’s been rebutted from philosophy, mathematics, and biology, but you make no citations of where this is so. Yes, I read your rebuttal. Wow. It’s pretty clear you have no idea what Dembski is saying. And that you don’t do math.

    Go ahead, block me some more. Then you don’t have to deal with discomforting ideas. You don’t have to have your paradigms challenged.

  101. Peter LLC says:

    you don’t do math

    Mods, can we get a facepalm smiley around here for the times when words just can’t express how dumb stuff is?

  102. If you don’t want me here, all you have to do is ask me. I won’t trouble you with troubling thoughts anymore. This is obviously too much for you to bear.

    Authoritarian scientists strike again. The discussion is over. Long live the King.

  103. Peter LLC says:

    I admit, Mike, you set the bar high with your probing analysis of squirt guns and fire hoses. But let’s give the objects of your scorn a few hours to get home from church before shutting down the dialogue, shall we?

  104. I didn’t shut down the dialogue, it was the ones who claim we should be ready for paradigm shifts who did that.

  105. Mark D. says:

    SteveP, I suspect you are misunderstanding what I mean by “large scale”. Here I mean the evolution of complex biological systems. For example, given comprehensive information about an environment, give the statistically expected time when creature A without ocular fidelity will develop such a capacity, or develop such a capacity in any given way. Alternatively, provide an accurate statistical distribution of the non-trivial biological systems a given species has any probability of evolving over the next ten or one hundred million years or whatever may be required.

    Such problems are not mathematically tractable (to put it mildly). Because they are not mathematically tractable, there is no way to predict the large scale (macro, new subsystem) / long term (~10^7 yr) evolution of a biological ecosystem on even a statistical basis. I don’t deny one can provide numerically accurate estimates for minor / trivial mutations over periods of tens to hundreds of thousands of years.

    QM addresses problems with extreme numerical accuracy rather more complex then balls falling in vacuum. The properties of solid state systems with 10^30 particles, for example. But there is no question that the problems that can be solved with such accuracy are radically more simple than predicting on any statistical basis whatsoever how a biological ecosystem will evolve in a macro scale over a period long enough to matter.

    So we can’t wait long enough to verify any such predictions in real life, we can’t compute the terms of any vaguely realistic estimate, and the computing power to make even a single physically accurate statistical run of the macro-evolution of an ecosystem over a period long enough to matter is at least ten orders of magnitude larger than what is available at present. And we would need thousands of such runs.

    As I said, there are no physically accurate computational simulations of a the operation of a single cell. Unlike (say) a nuclear bomb, which is barely within contemporary computational capacity on systems that occupy whole warehouses, a cell doesn’t have a structure that can easily be abbreviated above the sub-molecular level. A molecular level quantum mechanical simulation of what a cell does over a single day could easily take more computational power than there is available in the United States. That is why no one has done it yet. I don’t have to be a biologist to know that.

  106. Here Mark (Not Mark D.):

    These are two articles from the journal Biology and Philosophy. They turn the Mississippi River on your fire hose. NFL is the technical term for the technique Demski uses (in case you did not recognize it, you see Demski’s books are just dumbed down versions of his detailed arguments for scientists). His books are for the general public.

    Interestingly, although I am not expert enough to evaluate Demski for you, I was for the Journal, l as I was a the lead peer-reviewer for the second paper listed. You see my degrees are in mathematics and I do mathematical evolution. Demski is laughable to mathematicians although he can hand wave enough to bamboozle the general public. Not the Dover Judge.

    Intelligent design and mathematical statistics: a troubled alliance
    Peter Olofsson
    Volume 23, Number 4 / September, 2008

    Intelligent design and the NFL theorems
    Olle Häggström
    …nbsp; Another look is taken at the model assumptions involved in William Dembski’s (2002a, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot be Purchased without…

    If you go here you can see more papers (and even a laughable whine by Behe):

  107. Mark D. Did you look at the journal link I sent? You were suppose to find scientific fault with those articles (and some are about prediction). You are largely misunderstanding science (many people do I’m not singling you out). There are two contexts, one of prediction and one of discovery. Entire fields (like astronomy) that are largely made models that seek explanation. QM is hardly at good example of the general activities of science. If science were only predicting things down to 10 decimals we would be left with a few physics problems and have to abandon everything else.

  108. Mike: I am listening to you, as I am to Steve P. For me, the case is still open. I think Mormons are too quick to say they believe in Evolution, without an understanding as to what that means, and what they must now give up in their Mormon thinking. I certainly accept Evolution as a great working Model in science and is not failing there. But, FOR ME, ‘something’ has not fully passed MY smell test. I feel like the guy who KNOWS he just married his soul mate, but also knows it’s her fourth marriage.

  109. Gary, Don’t forget the talk you quote starts by some very explicit statements that this is his opinion. He makes it clear he is not speaking as an apostle. You often leave that out.

  110. Mark D. says:

    SteveP, I do not pretend to deny that evolution in general is a developing science in the true sense of the term, and that microevolution in particular is a well developed science.

    My objection here is only that macro-evolution is not remotely developed enough to close the question on the completeness of the “totalitarian” model of biology – the assumption that factors beyond chance and necessity play no material role in the development or operation of the human brain, for example.

    I can find all sorts of really impressive stuff about micro-evolution, but I have yet to see much beyond the descriptive stage for macro evolution, hence the relative irresolvability of the debate about punctuated equilibrium and the like.

    The debate about the mind-body problem and reductionism in cognitive science is similar. If one could simulate a human brain down to the cellular level or better, and demonstrate that the person so simulated had similar character and capacities (i.e. “intelligence”) and capability for growth as the corresponding real person, one would have a pretty convincing demonstration that humans are nothing but molecular machines.

    On the other hand, one would have a pretty convincing demonstration that the prospect of life after death is virtually non-existent, because all of the factors necessary to explain human capacity are both physically reducible and necessarily destroyed with the demise of the body.

  111. SteveP, it’s true. He has two hats. So now I’m confused. Which hat is steeped in the cultural baggage of the Greeks? And does it really make any difference to post Greek biologists which hat he is wearing when he talks about evolution?

  112. Steve Evans says:

    Mike, your dumbness transcends all bounds. If you’re going to be a creationist — and you certainly can be, if you like — at least be a SMART one. NDBF Gary is a pro; leave the heavy lifting to him.

  113. Left Field: “Informed by Christian ethics = apples. Inferring God as a necessary component in professional activities = oranges.”

    I never said that inferring God was a *necessary* component. I suggested that while it *might* happen in certain professions, it can *never* happen in the sciences.

  114. Left Field says:

    Jack: I was responding to this statement:

    “Somehow I don’t think it would necessarily be taboo for an economist to be overtly informed by christian ethics when balancing a budget. But in science any inference of God is absolutely forbidden.”

    You changed topics mid-sentence. Being “overtly informed by Christian ethics” is worlds away from inferring God in ones professional work.

    In fact, both scientists and economists might well be informed by Christian ethics, and many are. Conversely, neither scientists nor economists invoke God in balancing budgets or performing experiments. Although economists(and scientists) might be informed by Christian ethics, It is not true that economists “might” infer God in the work of balancing a budget. What mathematical term describes God in a budget and why would any economist think it helpful or imperative to introduce such a term?

    So scientists, economists, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers all do their work without invoking God, yet scientists are the only ones called to task for failing to do so. Again, why the double standard?

  115. Whoops in #106 I meant Mike not Mark.

    Mark D. The materialist assumption for science is right. If it fails we’ll see it, but we cannot assume otherwise and do science, as soon as you say there are other influences you have no way to do science. This is true of physics as well as biology. The second you say, “I think spirit matter is influencing this.” you have entered metaphysics and that is no longer science. It still might be meaningful and I think it is meaningful, but it is not science. And that’s fine. Science makes no claims that its the only truth discovering method, but it does claim to be the best method for discovering those material things that do make up the universe. You are confusing what sciences claims it can and can’t do.

    The distinction between micro and macro evolution has been co-opted by the creationists to mean something no biologist takes as meaningful. Macro evolution just is micro-evolution over time. To a biologist, those who say I believe in micro evolution but not macro evolution are making a statement something like, “I believe in inches, but I don’t believe in miles.”

    Steve, yes! R. Gary does creationism right. And R. Gary, science and religion both are seeped in the cultural baggage of the Greeks.

    Left Field, yeah Jack is being incoherent.

    If my mechanic said to me, “The problem with your car is you need to pay more fast offerings” I would find a new mechanic, but this seems to be what people like Jack and Mark D. are arguing for. I don’t think my mechanic is an atheist just because he looks for engine problems in the physical realm. I don’t expect the reason the car won’t run to be some cause other than something being broken or not working right. A busted fan belt or something. Yet when scientists do the same they call them godless and people complain that they don’t see the world right.

  116. Another take: Biological Evolution is only part of the understanding of humans. It’s Man as animal. But humans transcends biology with their culture.
    In the last 50,000 years, man the animal has stay about the same. But his culture has evolved many, many folds.
    Man the individual dies. Man the group does not. But even more so, his culture lives on.
    So we are talking about two different things: the animal evolution of man, and the cultural evolution of man. In either case, The individual’s life or it’s post-life means little. In Mormonism however, the individual’s life or a post-life means a lot.

  117. Mike,
    “If you don’t want me here, all you have to do is ask me. I won’t trouble you with troubling thoughts anymore. This is obviously too much for you to bear.”
    I have personally called you a jerk and told you to go away several times. You have been IP blocked several times, which you acknowledge. Yet you continue to switch IPs and you continue to comment. If there was anything else I could do to make you feel unwelcome here, I would do it.

    For clarity’s sake, I don’t like you. I don’t like your comments. I don’t like the manner in which you conduct yourself. I don’t like how you blame others for your problems. Go away. Don’t come back. Leave forever. Take a hammer to your computer. Move to Montana and conduct all your business by mail. Die a horrible lonely death. Leave us alone.

  118. Mark D. says:

    Macro evolution just is micro-evolution over time

    Maybe so. However if (big if) micro-evolution is understood as strictly a product of chance and necessity (in the narrow sense), such an assumption is tantamount to the claim that all spiritual things are epiphenomenal at best, that nothing distinguishes human civilization from a collection of machines, that there is no life after death, no pre-mortal life, no resurrection, that morality and ethics are entirely subjective and/or incidental to physiology, and so forth…

    All those things are the implications of the totalitarian model of biology, and physiology, and psychology, and sociology, and so on that such an assumption is based on. I happen to think that something is fundamentally wrong with defrauding one’s neighbor (for example), and the totalitarian model of biology leaves not the tiniest shadow of the doubt that that is actually the case.

    Methodological naturalism, etc is fine – the insistence that that is all there is is not. That is the crux of the whole problem. The inevitable conclusion that philosophy and religion and morality and everything that exists is a sub-division of quantum mechanics.

  119. Mark D. says:

    I say that as someone who maintains that spiritual things in general do not violate any physical laws by the way. No magic required. Just a handful of things beyond the strictly mechanical and stochastic…

  120. #118: Mark, A bit dark, but it is why I say think twice (or about) as to what Evoution means before claiming “I believe in Evolution.” This is not to say SteveP is not 100% right.

  121. Mark, funny you use “Totalitarian” biology when (for a time?), the Russians liked Lamarckian Evolution.

  122. Hey, don’t diss Lamarck, he’s making a comeback.
    And plenty of good evolutionary biology is done in Montana, so step off!

  123. #122: I hope Lamarck makes a comeback. He may be the needed ‘work around’.
    I have nothing to say on Montanan’s work with their farm animals.

  124. Mark D. says:

    Bob, “Total-itarian” is certainly a neologism in this context.

  125. Alex,
    No disrespect to Montana intended (it was a Unabomber reference). Plenty of disrespect to Mike intended.

  126. #117 :)

  127. And I have been in every square inch of Montana and love it. I wish I was living there now.

  128. I can see Montana from my porch…

  129. Left Field: “You changed topics mid-sentence. Being “overtly informed by Christian ethics” is worlds away from inferring God in ones professional work.

    Being *overtly* informed by Christian ethics IMO means making no bones about the fact that one is trying to do what Jesus would have them do. I don’t think that is worlds away from inferring God — especially in the case of the economist who is influenced to balance a budget this way or that by what he thinks God thinks.

    That said, I’m not anti-evolution or science — I tend to follow the consensus. What I don’t like though is this sense of removing the Creator from Creation — on the part of the scientific community, that is (not individuals). Gone are the days when brilliant men and women could look up into the heavens and praise God for the beauty of the universe without fear of rejection by their colleagues. Nowadays one must silently shout praises to God in his closet while giving Darwin all the Glory in peer reviewed journals.

  130. Left Field says:

    Please show me a peer-reviewed economics journal where authors praise God, and then we’ll talk.

  131. Left field,

    I can’t. But I don’t think that’s where the battle ground is. You show me where economists are theorizing about man’s origins and then we can draw our weapons.

  132. Hey! It’s self-replicating!

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