48: Mormonism and Evolution

August 23, 2011
By

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the
controversies over the study and teaching of evolution at Brigham Young University that resulted in the resignations or firing of three of Brigham Young University’s prominent faculty members and a significant blow to the university career of another. This Mormon Matters episode tells key elements in the story of those 1911 events, but it primarily uses them as a launching pad for a tour of the history of LDS views and approaches to evolution from then to now, as well as more specific reflections on the various tensions between Mormon scriptural and doctrinal commitments and the main thrusts of evolutionary theory.

Joining Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for this episode are philosophy and intellectual history professor James McLachlan, and BYU emeritus and current science professors Duane Jeffery and Steve Peck, all of whom argue that these tensions between Mormonism and evolution are quite minimal, and that Mormonism actually contains many teachings and theological thrusts, including a rich history of viewing scriptural accounts of creation as primarily figurative, that are extremely accommodating to evolution—far more so than those of many other traditions that begin with God creating everything ex nihilo (out of nothing) and being in full control of everything.

We know that you’ll very much enjoy learning the history of Mormonism in its interactions with evolutionary science at BYU and beyond, as well as listening in on this far-ranging and insightful discussion about the science and religion interface within Mormonism and the broader world. After listening, we hope you’ll join in the conversation by commenting below!

Links to additional readings or blogs:

Gary James Bergera, “The 1911 Evolution Controversy at Brigham Young University,” (from the volume, Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism, eds. Gene A. Sessions and Craig J. Oberg, Signature Books, 1993).

James M. McLachlan, “W.H. Chamberlin and the Quest for a Mormon Theology,” Dialogue 29, no. 4 (Winter 1996)

Duane E. Jeffery, “Seers, Savants, and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface,” Dialogue 34, no. 1 (Spring 2001). This is an updated version of the original article, which was published in Dialogue 8, no. 3/4 (Autumn/Winter 1974).

Steven L. Peck, “Crawling Out of the Primordial Soup: A Step toward the Emergence of an LDS Theology Compatible with Organic Evolution,” Dialogue 43, no. 1 (Spring 2010). Because it is so recent, this article is not viewable online except to current Dialogue subscribers. However, the issue is available for purchase online.

Steve Peck’s blog, “The Mormon Organon: A BYU Biology Professor Looks at Science and the LDS Faith”

Essay by Steve Peck, “Why Mormons Should Embrace Evolution.” (Posted as a guest blogger at Jana Riess’s blog, Flunking Sainthood.)

Link to the papers or slides from the session on Mormonism and Evolution at the 2011 conference of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, held at the University of Utah, 11-14 July 2011. This session featured this podcast’s three panelists, plus David H. Bailey, who presented: “Creationism and Intelligent Design: False Friends”

William E. Evenson and Duane E. Jeffery, eds., Mormonism and Evolution: The Authoritative LDS Statements. Link to book available for purchase at Greg Kofford books

Howard C. Stutz, “Let the Earth Bring Forth: Evolution and Scripture,” with a foreword by Duane Jeffrey. Link to book available for purchase at Greg Kofford books

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71 Responses to 48: Mormonism and Evolution

  1. August 23, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I graduated in Biology in 2007.  Duane Jeffery and Steve Peck and two of my favorite BYU professors!  My evolution thoughts (http://bradcarmack.blogspot.com/2010/05/merging-lds-theology-and-organic.html) are largely similar to theirs.   The worldviews and perspectives on Mormonism of these two are, I think, quite similar to those of many in the Mormon Transhumanist Association. Go Duane, Steve, and James!

  2. Aaron B
    August 24, 2011 at 4:31 am

    With so many awesome podcasts popping up every other day, how the hell am I supposed to ever get any work done?

  3. August 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

    I just finished listening to the podcast. Very interesting. My views are similar to those expressed in the podcast, although I do subscribe to the scriptural view that there was no death before the fall. I believe the earth became mortal when the fall occurred, and that is when evolution was used by the Lord to create the physical earth.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      August 24, 2011 at 11:45 pm

      Thanks for joining in, Allen! Would love to know more about your synthesis. Extrapolating in my mind, if you’re saying the Lord used evolution to create the physical earth, the Fall must have happened on some other planet or in a spiritual realm? And if you’re basically on board with evolution, it would still be billions of years ago? Does your view with the scriptural overlay about no death before the Fall harmonize with what has emerged as a scientific consensus of the earth
      being 4+ billions of years old, with early cellular organisms emerging some 3.5 billion years ago (and presumably following normal cellular life cycles that could be seen as cells undergoing a “death”), or at what point in time do you start counting things as capable of “dying”? Or have I started with the wrong assumptions and asked questions that don’t apply to your synthesis? Hope you’ll share!

  4. Raedyohed
    August 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Does anyone ever type up transcripts for Mormon Matters?  The first half of this was so filled with historical details not found all in one place that it could be really valuable.  I noticed that even the discussants surprised each other at times with little tidbits regarding the history of the discussions over evolution in the LDS community.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      August 24, 2011 at 11:48 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this enough to hope for something in print out of discussions like this! I will tell you that there have been some discussions about doing transcripts, making them avail for purchase as full transcripts, but then also collecting and editing these to create “best of” Mormon Matters and Mormon Stories podcasts as printed books. Still in the talking about it stage, though! Write me separately if you’d like to brainstorm how to move it to next steps!

  5. Questions for LDS Physicists!
    August 24, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    I would love to have a conversation and be enlightened as to why creation ex nihilo is so quickly dismissed.  Does the Big Bang model give any support to creation ex nihilo?  Is elemental matter (with mass) eternal?  Can perfectly balanced matter & anti-matter be defined as nothing?  Can I also get a layman’s definition of a singularity point?

  6. Henri
    August 24, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    The current model suggests that the universe did come into existence out of nothing… Read Lawrence Krauss.

    • KC
      September 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Give Stephen Hawkins latest book “The Grand Design” a read, he suggests just such a model of the universe creation out of nothing. He suggests the reason something can come from nothing is due to gravity. See his book for much greater detail. Also would love to hear from the panalist on their views of Hawkings theory, creation out of nothing, as they were pretty adament against ex-nihilo creation.

  7. Amanda
    August 24, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    I love this discussion, especially the history of evolution with regards to the church. I had no idea that we have JFS and McConkie to blame for evolution haters in the church!

    One discussion point I really enjoyed was the literalistic belief that’s still taught in Sunday School these days regarding the creation story. I agreed with the arguments being made for why the creation story was not written to be taken literally, however, can the same be said for other famous Old Testament stories? Someone mentioned the flood story near the very end of the podcast, and while I think fits well into the non-literal stories in the OT, is it my understanding that the Church’s official doctrine is that this these stories are literal? It’s been my experience that the OT is read and taught very literally in the church, even from the pulpit at General Conference. Am I wrong about this? I have a hard time believing that people’s misconceptions regarding evolution v. the church are simply old habits that need to be broken if, indeed, the church’s official stance on the OT is that it should be read literally, just like all of our other scripture. Please enlighten me! 

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      August 24, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      Hi Amanda,

      I don’t know that there’s an “official stance” related to how we treat many of these stories. I do think it’s primarily habit in both pulpit and classroom discussions. Many folks have simply never been exposed to deeper, mythic readings and the insights that can come from such approaches. All in all, I’ve found a great deal of latitude in LDS discussions in my wards when it comes to reading a lot of OT stories as figurative/mythic. Jonah, for sure; Job, especially the God and Satan wager that frames it, plus when folks begin to see the “friends” as representing archetypal attitudes; Adam and Eve (similar to how discussed in this podcast); and the Flood. I have found that resistance fades pretty fast to at least seeing many of the elements as mythic when you are able to provide deeper readings during those moments as you are deconstructing much of the literalism. If you’re ready with nourishing alternatives, I find my fellow ward members ready to eat.

      Since you mentioned the Flood specifically, I have to take this chance to link to Duane Jeffery’s wonderful piece in Sunstone about the Flood, the history of its discussion in Mormonism, taking on some of the external ideas about it, showing the cosmology in play at the time and why folks then might have thought the earth could be completely covered in water, providing a tease to some features of the Black Sea area that could ground the myth in some event, etc. Anyway, I hope you’ll read it. One of my favorites! 

      https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/134-27-45.pdf

      Best,
      Dan

  8. Raedyohed
    August 24, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Henri, I beg to differ.  Current models, as proposed by Hawking et al. predict that the universe came from ‘everything,’ not ‘nothing.’  More plainly, it came from a singularity of infinite mass.  That’s about as far from nothing as you can get, speaking strictly within the confines of that singularity.  No one has ever suggested that all matter and energy originated form a total absence of matter and energy.  ‘Big bang’-like origins might seem like ex nihilo at first glance, but they aren’t.

  9. tld
    August 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I get the impression that the participants in this discussion look upon the Garden of Eden story as myth, along with the Flood. Where does a person stop? Is the story of Jesus a myth, along with his resurrection? It seems that when we find some religious event difficult to explain, we tend to explain it away as myth, rather than just accepting outright the possibility that the event never occurred, along with the consequences. If there were no Adam and Eve, then there was no Creation and no Fall. If there was no Fall, then there was no need for an Atonement. If Jesus actually lived, for what purpose? Certainly community is important, but at some point or at some level we need to believe, or disbelieve, that events as described actually occurred. It does not always work (nor do I think it particularly honest) to “put them on the shelf” or to look upon them as mysteries, the answers to which will sometime, somewhere be revealed.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      August 24, 2011 at 11:31 pm

      TLD, I don’t think the slope is as slippery as you think from looking at the Adam and Eve story as an origin myth and the Flood story as possibly based upon a real event but its details as presented in the Bible being more mythic than factual, to Jesus and resurrection and all the dominoes you see falling.

      I would love to engage you here more after you read some articles examining both things from the mythic lens. A good one on the Genesis account is: http://www.mormonmonastery.org/PDF/TheRedemptionofEve.pdf. (It centers on Eve, but starting about page 9 you can really get a feel for the original Hebrew, etc. that show it is mythic language presenting the players and themes as mostly in the realm of concepts and views about “humankind” rather than individuals. It also mentions a few of the places where LDS leaders have encouraged mythic readings. As I tried to have the panelists engage in the podcast, somewhere along the line it seems Mormon theology about Michael/Adam can’t be ignored–that at some point, Mormons have to assert that the human race began with some spirits that were different than those with pre-homo sapien bodies–but I ended up feeling okay when the panelists all said that they didn’t feel a need to nail this down right this minute. And I’d love you to read Duane’s article on the Flood that I linked to in my response to Amanda above. The whole thing feels so much more awesome and faith-inspiring than what you get with a literal reading of the Genesis account about the Flood.

      In terms of Jesus, I don’t think any of us would say he doesn’t exist or resurrection isn’t possible. I do, however, think there’s lots of room in Mormonism for opening up the straight line between Creation/Fall/Need for Atonement that you are articulating here (and that, indeed, is the primary way it’s been taught). For one thing, many Latter-day Saints are focusing on the Atonement as the healing of a subjective distancing of ourselves from God and our highest selves, rather than the need for healing a cosmic rift. And I, for one, have found this line of inquiry very inspiring. An article that deals with both Adam and Eve mythically along with opening to new views of what might be up with the Atonement is one called, “The Yoga of Christ,” by Phil McLemore. Here is a link to it: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/146-30-45.pdf

      Anyway, I’m not sure I’ve done anything to help alleviate your concerns about how far away from Mormonism we on the panel may sound, but I am doing my best here to say that I think we are playing within the LDS ballpark, and to ask that you give yourself permission to explore. I hope you’ll read and engage me/us.

      Thanks!
      Dan

      • tld
        August 25, 2011 at 1:37 am

        Thanks, Dan, for your thoughtful comment and the links. I will read them and perhaps get back to you with further comments of my own. In the meantime, I personally find it very difficult to not take the Book of Mormon scripture concerning Adam and Eve, the Fall, and the Atonement literally. On the other hand, the evidence for the human race evolving over hundreds of thousand of years is very strong. In this instance it seems to be an either/or situation. Either a person accepts the Book of Mormon as true when it says that Adam and Eve were the first parents and the scientific evidence as false or the other way around. I realize that there have been attempts to reconcile the differences but I personally have not found them convincing.

        Best regards,
        Tom

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          August 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm

          Would love to have you share the angles of approach to reconciliations that haven’t been convincing to you and why.

          For me, given the nature of scripture as generally far more interested in focusing on relationships with God and each other, teaching values, and providing messages of hope as well as warning rather than reporting historical facts, even if the Book of Mormon or LDS prophets talk declaratively of things like Adam and Eve as our first parents, I don’t think we have to limit their intent to factual declarations. And especially not so if we recognize, as many LDS leaders have, that the story of Adam and Eve is more about describing a covenant between God and the human race and the nature of life and its challenges and blessings than it is about specific individuals who are the providers of the genetic material that make us homo sapiens rather than some other species. 

          Anyway, as I’ve said in other responses in this discussion, I simply find the stories of the creation, flood, Jonah, and so many other things so much more powerful when read mythically (as the authors of the scriptures, it seems from things in the texts themselves, intended them to be). And as such, I have lost all inclination to look at any scriptural or prophetic declaration as setting up a genuine  “either/or,” even ones that say “its either this or it’s that”! Prophets, ancient and modern, have lots of reasons to set up dichotomies other than simple reporting that “this is the way it is; this exhausts all other possiblilities for how what I am saying is true.”

          Looking forward to more discussion with you!
          Best,
          Dan

          • tld
            August 25, 2011 at 8:27 pm

            I don’t know whether this is the proper venue for continuing this discussion, but I think I understand, and respect, where you are coming from. Those who take scripture literally will obviously disagree, as will those who see in them no divine involvement. 

            My problem, and it is a problem, is that I consider it possible that there is only a material world and everything can be explained by brain function. If this should be the case then scripture is a product of brain function. It may contain useful and inspiring information, but this would be of no more value than any other inspiring writing.  

            While I consider a material world, only, a possibility, I see too many anomalies to make it a certainty. Consciousness is one of these anomalies along with the possibility that it may exist separate from physical reality. There is also the possibility that consciousness may be the source of physical reality. Or, putting it differently, we could be experiencing a virtual reality, controlled, perhaps, by a cosmic consciousness or a consortium of divine consciousnesses. If such were proven to be the case, would that change the way we view scripture?

            I appreciated Phil McLeMore’s article. I was for a long time a fan of P. Yogananda and have and have read many of his books. For a number of years I was a student of A Course in Miracles, and wrote extensively on subjects pertaining to the Course. Both Yoga and ACIM seem to say much the same thing: we are perfect sons of God, we have become enamored with the illusion of mortality, and we need to WAKE UP. Waking up to who we really are is the atonement. It has nothing to do with an Adam and Eve, their supposed Fall, and something that happened with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Although, admittedly, the Adam and Eve story could be viewed as a metaphor. If we go along with Yoga and ACIM, how do we view scripture such as the Bible and the Book of Mormon?

            Of course, it is possible that coming here and inhabiting mortal bodies is not a mistake. It may be something we planned. But we may have done this multiple times in the past and we may do it more times in the future. (Or, if we remember past lives, perhaps we are reading from the Akashic record of other people’s lives. How would we distinguish one from the other?) How would reincarnation, if it should be a fact, affect our reading of scripture?

            There is a possibility of another reality outside of this physical reality, which we refer to as the spirit world. Accounts given by those who have experienced this alternate reality describe it as a place of continuing progression and not a temporary way station followed by a literal resurrection. While they often describe having bodies, in other descriptions these bodies, and the bodies of others they see, are recognized as illusions. This level of reality may ultimately consist of pure consciousness. Knowing this, how would it affect our reading of scripture?

            Do you see my problem? And this is only a part of my dilemma. Life was much simpler when I was a believing Mormon and took as fact the events described in scripture. No doubt, you in your own way, have had a similar experience.

            If there was any inclination to consider these possibilities, as well as others, what affect, if any, would this have on the discussion of Mormonism and evolution?

            Regards,

            Tom

          • aurobindo
            August 27, 2011 at 6:41 pm

            tld,

            Despite the multitude of heterodox paradigms you touched on here, I’m right with you.  That is, I’m drawn to the same sorts of perspectives (yoga, ACIM), and see little value in reworking the Adam/Eve narrative into something that doesn’t conflict with science but still lets us be LDS.  

            Put a different way, the yogic view strikes me as more intuitive, more rooted in direct experience, and more constructive than the view implied by the Adam/Eve fall and Christ atonement.  So if it turns out that the stories probably didn’t literally occur anyway, why search for ways to make them meaningful?

          • tld
            August 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

            Aurobindo,

            I agree with you as far as it goes. My problem, from what little I know of the afterlife (if such exists), is that mortality is a planned event and not a mistake. I have yet to reconcile this discrepancy in which one point of view states that we are perfect and need to wake up and return to that perfection while the other states that we are on the road to perfection, and mortality is one way in which we gain experience along that road. Neither one of these viewpoints requires a literal resurrection nor do they limit who can achieve, or who has already achieved, perfection. Perhaps you have worked all of this out and would like to share your insight.
            Best,

            Tom

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            August 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm

            Enjoying this discussion! Thanks!

            I am an active participant in the LDS church and its ongoing discourse. That
            discourse includes narratives such as Adam and Eve, most often taken
            literally and not in the more expansive ways pointed out by those who
            look at the narratives deeply and from multiple angles (including yogic-type ones, which views are the ones I have found myself most drawn to). So, in response to Aurobindo who wonders about the value of trying to rework these stories and remain LDS, I guess I simply have to say that I gain a ton of
            valuable things from participating within Mormonism and, because of that, genuinely find myself able to overlook most Sunday lessons and their lack of depth or insight.

            On the other hand, taking the injunction seriously that the body of Christ needs every member, I have also found fruitful opportunities to bring my whole self (including the outside reading and thinking I’ve done) into discussions at church and with ward members in outside interactions, and now here in MM and other online forums, with good results. Furthermore, as McLemore points out in Yoga of Christ (and in another article that will be out soon in Sunstone that I had a chance to help edit), these sensibilities are right there in not only the NT but LDS scripture as well. To raise them in church or in forums like this is not really “reworking” them to let us still be LDS. To me, it’s pointing toward Mormonism’s best and most ennobling elements.

            In response to Tom above, I am wondering if you might replace “perfect” and waking up to our perfection and returning to it with “divine” and waking up to who/what we are as eternal beings made of Godstuff who like Christ are moving from grace to grace (even if in multiple lives, which I’m very open to). Anyway, that’s how I reconcile purposeful mortality geared toward growth with the idea that we’re already immense, radiant beings with unlimited potential.

            Again, thanks!
            Dan

          • tld
            August 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm

            I don’t know about you, but I am running out of column width. So, if you don’t mind, I will continue this discussion down below.

            Tom

    • JBS
      February 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      If Adam and Eve are archetypes of mortal humans, then it makes sense that Michael can be an archetype of premortal humans.

  10. Jacob M
    August 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    What a broadcast! I felt so sorry for those brethren being kicked out of BYU. My heart aches for the challenges they had to face. Thank you for telling their story, as it is one we need to get hear. I had also heard before about the public disagreements between Talmage and Smith, but had no idea how intense it got, or how public, really. I wish the modern church would be as open to disagreement as they were.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      August 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Glad you enjoyed, Jacob. Highly recommend the following article for
      more of an overview on the Roberts and Smith and Talmage debates:
      http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=7109 . The link here is to a reprint of it as Chapter 6 in the Signature Books
      collection, Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism.

      • Jacob M
        August 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm

        Thanks, Dan. That was quite helpful.

  11. Jacob Brown
    August 25, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Wonderful podcast! Lots of good information and insight. I enjoy listening to a discussion where we really try to detach ourselves personally from what is being said. No one got defensive about the candid portrayal of the conflict between J. F. Smith and B. H. Roberts on evolution. It just was what it was. And no one felt beat up over the difficulty of dealing with Michael in relation to the metaphorical Adam. It really opens you up for learning when you can talk this way.

    I was a little surprised by the loaded terminology “evangelical atheist.” I think the New Atheist movement has at least allowed people the opportunity to think about their religion more deeply in America where in the past we may have cherished our beliefs in more private isolation. These activists have forced us to really think about what religion does and does not do for us.

    This leads to my second surprise. I think I heard someone mention that one thing science cannot provide for us is morality. I guess the assumption by this person is that religion provides this. I’m pretty sure the philosophy of morality has been around for many centuries and has a pretty solid foundation without any religious claims. Even many scientist have shown that morality has a very useful purpose or individual survival.

    Did y’all miss “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris? He is not presenting original material here. We just are not raised with a moral conciousness outside of religion in the United States for historical reasons. I wish we all had an educatin in moral philosophy. I think it would help smooth out some of the more heated debates in this country over social issues.

    • KC
      September 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      Good points, I thought the term “evangelical atheist” was also dismissive of the arguments that
      those in the movement, Sam Harris, Dawkins etc. put forth. I much rather enjoy the debates between these guys and the religious apologists. And certainly they have caused us to more fully examine our beliefs.
      Also, in the discussion of the nature of the “spirit” one of the panelist said that science cant
      examine or make claims about the spirit. That its beyond science or something like that was said. 
      I don’t agree, there is all kinds of research in the realm of the area of metaphysics, paranormal and such things as the idea of the “spirit” would fall. There’s parapsychology and all manner of study of related fields.  I suggest Michael Shermer’s book “The Believing Brain” while he may not talk directly about the “spirit” he presents a plethora of evidence regarding how beliefs develop including spiritual beleifs, their origin, how they evolved, their relation to the brain, and the mind-brain connection, including whether the mind or (spirit) is seperate from the brain.

      Also, one should look at the research of Dr. Michael Persinger neuroscience researcher and
      professor at Laurentian University. His “God Helmet” is used to replicate very similar experiences
      to the spiritual experiences and manifestations that religious people have. This is done by
      electro magnets that are placed above the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

  12. Allen
    August 25, 2011 at 3:01 am

    I have a sister who was an atheist. We discussed morality one day, and she said she believes in morals, because they preserve our society. To her, morality had nothing to do with God. It had everything to do with our treatment of others and in so doing preserving our civilization.

  13. Andre
    August 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks a lot for the good overview!
    To Amanda and tld:
    Your question concerning a “slippery slope” about what to take literal and what not was also recently adressed here:
    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2011/08/the-flood-global-or-localized/
    and here:
    http://www.patheos.com/community/mormonportal/2010/12/04/the-scriptures-an-anthology-or-why-jonah-and-the-book-of-mormon-have-no-bearing-on-each-other/
    Hope that is helpful.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      August 25, 2011 at 3:00 pm

      Thanks, Andre. Both links are to good pieces.

    • tld
      August 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

      Thanks, Andre, I agree with Dan.  I suppose one person’s literalness is another person’s mythology. I suppose the Book of Mormon, or parts of it, could be viewed either way. 

  14. Jacob M
    August 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Allen and Jacob Brown do have a point about morality and atheism. Ask any atheist about morality and they will almost always tell you that they have morals based on how to treat other people.

    • tld
      August 25, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      An interesting question, to me at least, is, assuming evolution and the existence of homo sapiens sapiens for well over 50K years, did they have morals? 

  15. Jmclahclan
    August 26, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Just a couple of quick points.  First to Henri.  I’m not a physicist so I would bow to you and  Raedyohed on these matter and yes I think it would be good to get a couple of LDS physicists on Mormon Matters sometime.  My point was that Creation ex nihilo raises some theological and philosophical difficulties.  Especially if one accepts evolution.  As a doctrine creation ex nihilo appears about 250 AD as a way of defending the omnipotence of God.  No chaos, nothing opposes God’s power.  It also places God completely beyond space and time.  So why would God create a world in which cosmic evolution takes billions of years and includes the suffering of billions of creatures before getting to human beings who also aren’t doing so well.  Remember Darwin’s problem with the Ichneumonoidea  that wasp that lays its eggs in another creature and they hatch and eat the poor thing alive.  I know that theistic philosophers and theologians have responses to these questions but its still a problem that comes up with creation ex nihilo.  There are also problems with human freedom if God knows everything that will happen (being outside of time) and nothing can go against God’s will.  There is a lot of ink that has been spilled about this at least since Origen and Augustine it doesn’t really come up if one rejects creation ex nihilo.  Other things come up of course but not these.As to morality and God I thinks Mormons actually share something with Atheists here.  Remember “The Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief, Matthew 25, and Mosiah’s speech.  Morality for Mormons seems to arise not simply because of Divine fiat but, like some Atheists, because we are related to others, they are our brothers and sisters.  Mormons have, I think, something more than atheists here in that they believe those others are divine and that they are literally related to them.

    • tld
      August 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      It is difficult for those of us who have been brought up in a culture where everything is matter to imagine an immaterial existence. But apparently, like a fish in water, we live immersed in an immaterial existence: our individual consciousness. There are those who suggest that each of us, using our consciousness, create our individual 3D material world. If consciousness is real, and has an existence separate from brain function, then it is not a great leap of imagination to think of a cosmic or primal consciousness that has brought into existence the material universe. Furthermore, this primal consciousness could have brought each individual consciousness (you and me)) into existence and may be using us as agents, feeding our experiences into this central source. In this way, primal consciousness (God, if you will) is aware of all conscious experiences, or, as has been said, is all knowing. I do not find it difficult to imagine this primal consciousness directing the evolutionary process to the point where each of us can intelligently interact with and modify the material world, thus providing primal consciousness with an ever increasing richness of experience. But, of course, there are many other possibilities.

      Tom

  16. Jacob Brown
    August 26, 2011 at 2:11 am

    I realize it is very difficult to appreciate that morality can and does exist separate from religion. It is so common to feel that if someone goes inactive, loses their faith, or doesn’t believe in God they are less moral or will eventually became so.

    There was just a podcast on Mormon Matters discussing whether religion motivated Breivik and others in their “horrific acts of violence and depravity.” Some atheist will point out that much of the violence and tragedy of our past was done in the name of religion. Some religinists will point out that much of the violent of the past century was done because governments abandoned or banned religion.I think both sides are wrong. If we defend religion by saying the religious nuts are not our responsibility, then shouldn’t we also fairly say that the religious super heros are not our responsibility either? Otherwise, we become like the high-paid executives that testified to Corgress at the beginning of the recession. They argued that the failing market was beyond their control so that they deserved no blame. However, in times of economic boom they claim a big reward for their performance because of their superior control over the market. Maybe the correlation between morality and religion is like the correlation between executive performance and market returns. It is very weak.

    Has morality has been around a lot longer than religion? Which came first? Do we get or morals from God or do they exist outside of him? Do we believe in a morality of authority? That doesn’t sound very Mormon to me. Although, the current institutional church is built on this idea in many ways, and there are instances in scripture and Mormon history that highlight the virtue of obeying authority even when it violates categorical moral reasoning.

    • JT
      August 31, 2011 at 8:29 pm

      You may be interested in Jonathan Haidt’s Work which builds on an evolutionary psychological framework (so yes, morals go back really far, and are contiguous with the social behavior of other species)

      http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/mft/index.phpIf you want some interesting audio talks, consider: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/morality10/morality10_index.html#haidtvid

  17. JMcLachlan
    August 26, 2011 at 2:15 am

    That was the first time I’ve ever posted on one of these things ever.  I really should proof read I didn’t even get may name right.:)  Thanks Dan, this was really fun to do.  Jim

  18. August 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Dan, you said you would like to know more about my thoughts concerning evolution and the Fall of Adam. I discuss this in detail in my blog on Science and Mormonism, so rather than discuss it again, here is the link to my comments. I share with tld concern about evolution and the scriptural account of the Fall of Adam. Yet, I believe evolution was used in the creation of the physical world.

  19. August 26, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I was so proud of my six-year-old son when he told me about a disagreement he was having with his cousins:

    “They think God created dogs and wolves. But I told them that God only created wolves and then dogs came from wolves.”

    Is that not just the perfect example of the traditional “creationist vs. evolutionist” debate.

    Of course, while I was entertained by the story, my instant concern was that my son might be heading in the “Mr Know It All” direction, so we talked about that.

    Because HOW he interacts with his friends is FAR more important than whether he is right or not about the particular details of doctrineor science.

    P.S. He followed up my no-one-likes-a-Mr-Know-It-All chat with a classic comment:
    “But, dad. Whenever friends think I’m wrong at school, we go ask the teacher and I’m always right.”

    (I’d lectured him enough already so I let it go so I could go tell my wife.)

  20. tld
    August 29, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Something has come up and I will have to continue this later.

    Tom
     

    • tld
      August 30, 2011 at 1:13 am

      Dan,

      I have to admit that you have much broader insight into some of these issues than I do, and I commend you on your attempt to bring these insights to the Mormon community. I have mixed emotions about pursuing this discussion further. On the one hand I, as you, enjoy Mormon community, probably because it has always been a part of my life and I hesitate saying things that may be disruptive to that community. On the other hand I feel that the Mormon plan of salvation is deceptive in that it makes claims and promises that, in my mind, have a low probably of being fulfilled. Two of these that particularly bother me are the expectation of a literal resurrection and the belief that every soul will be assigned for all eternity to one of three degrees of glory, with no apparent possibility of advancing from one to another. All of the near-death experiences I have read (except for a few Mormon experiences) and various other sources present evidence against these possibilities. It is more probable that when we die we will find ourselves in an environment in which we all have equal opportunity to progress, and how fast and far we progress will depend upon our desire and motivation. I personally find this possibility much more satisfying. Of course we have no way of knowing which, if any, of these will be actualized. They are just two of many possibilities. I grew up as Mormon and for many years accepted what Mormonism teaches as the preferred possibility (indeed, as the one truth). Now I am not so sure.

      If you prefer to use the term divine rather that perfect that is okay with me. I was merely repeating what is stated in ACIM and I believe also some versions of Yoga: that we are the perfect Son of God. In this belief there is no need to progress towards perfection because we are already there. This belief can be very attractive, but I no longer accept it in the way I once did. 

      Thanks,

      Tom  

      • aurobindo
        August 30, 2011 at 9:03 pm

        Tom,

        I heard a Sunstone presentation in which Robert Beckstead interpreted the resurrection passages in BoM and elsewhere as reincarnation, a realization which first occurred to him on his mission and was confirmed (in his mind) when he learned more about Joseph Smith’s and Heber C. Kimball’s teachings on multiple mortal probations.  Pretty speculative, but interesting nonetheless.  I was thrilled when I first heard this perspective, but as I reflect on why I was thrilled, it was because I now felt license to believe in reincarnation.  But here again, if I’m more confident in reincarnation than the orthodox Mormon conception of resurrection, why go to the effort of reinterpreting Mormon doctrine?  The only reason would be if Mormon doctrine offered something valuable that reincarnation didn’t.  And that isn’t clear to me.

        As for not being able to progress between kingdoms, how rigid is our doctrine on that really? I mean, if “eternal damnation” is only phrased that way so that it may work more forcefully on the minds of God’s children (per D&C 19), isn’t there some room to believe the three degrees of glory may have at least semi-permeable partitions, or are even just symbolic approximate pointers to the fact that our station in the next life is influenced by what we do in this life?

        • tld
          August 31, 2011 at 1:58 pm

          Aurobindo,

          It might be helpful for us to acknowledge two diametrically opposing philosophical positions. With one, such as Mormonism, matter is not only important but essential. With the other matter may serve a temporary useful purpose, but from an eternal perspective it is a hindrance. Stating this in another way, the term frequency is often used. From one perspective, matter is gross and of lowest frequency. As one progressed up through the various levels towards godhood frequency increases and all semblance of physical form disappears. From the other, spirit must be reunited with matter (the body) in order to eventually achieve godhood.

          With Mormonism there are bodies telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. It is my understanding that these bodies are formed during the resurrection. Only those with celestial bodies can achieve godhood. I am not aware of any discussion of how these bodies can be changed after the fact, allowing a person with say a telestial or terrestrial body to obtain a celestial body and possible godhood.

          But from my perspective any discussion of this possibility is moot, since the consensus, if there is any, seems to be moving towards the acceptance of frequency as the defining factor. Based on this, we are now in physical bodies of low frequency. When we die, we may find ourselves in a body of higher frequency (sometimes referred to as an astral body). The yogi P. Yogananda was mentioned previously. He reportedly had the opportunity to meet with and touch the resurrected body of his former guru, Sri Yukeswar. Yukteswar told Yogananda that “God encased the human soul successively in three bodies — the idea, or causal, body; the subtle astral body, seat of man’s mental and emotional natures; and the gross physical body.” (Autobiography of a Yogi, p. 477) Yukteswar then went on to describe his experiences with these different bodies in the afterlife. Of note was his statement that the body Yogananda saw and touched was a materialized body projected for Yogananda’s benefit. 

          Undoubtedly the importance of the physical body will continue to be taught in Mormonism, primarily because it is essential to the plan of salvation. There may be those who will find a way to work around this, but at present I do not see a way to reconcile the differences.

          Best,

          Tom

             

  21. JT
    August 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I appreciate the decision to address evolution and found the information regarding the history of its teaching at BYU and the LDS leadership’s official pronouncements interesting.

    However, the discussion of the harmony between evolution with LDS theology was Panglossian and smacked on Lysenkoism, at least in the colloquial sense (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism).

    The heart of my criticism is that NATURAL SELECTION was never grappled with.

    Evolution is driven by profoundly contingent and indifferent random genetic mutation that rides on a bed of deep quantum indeterminacy.  There is no predetermined endpoint and absolutely no evidence for any divine intervention.  The moment one suggests there is, it is no longer science and a conflict between science and religion is created, with religion being the unwarranted self-serving intruder whose motives derive from the corners it has painted itself into by prior false claims.

    Did I say brutal?  Yes.  Every living Latter-day Saint stands on a proverbial mound of sentient beings that suffered horribly painful deaths as they were ripped apart by cousins (including microbes) whose genes were randomly endowed with slightly more advantageous DNA sequences.  Our existence required 99.9% of these cousins to fail to extinction.  (Evolution is no Respector of persons!)  It is easy to (pan)GLOSS over this, especially when trusted ecclesiastical authorities ignore it and trusted faithful LDS scientists pave the way.

    Does this mean that evolution is inconsistent with some construal of God?  Of course not.  

    But let’s just be clear about His modus operandi first and how well our received construals fit.   This is a “creation” that required billions of years and tens of billions of anonymous humans suffering through short hunger-, pain-, disease-filled lives in omni-threatening surroundings just to get around to giving a few chosen ones the inside scoop on His “plan of happiness.”

    • JT
      August 31, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Here is the “note”  mentioned

      Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virgina, delineates the following moral dimensions that govern human individuals living in social groups

      (1) harm/care
      (2) fairness/reciprocity, 
      (3) ingroup/loyalty, and 
      (4) authority/respect
      (5) purity/sanctity

      See http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/mft/index.php for a portal into this work.

    • Rude Dog
      June 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm

      Holy Cow JT, that was excellent.  I was perusing through here and I’ve been here before, but I don’t remember your post.  I’m going to copy and paste it into my quotable quotes section.  Thanks for the uplift.  

  22. JT
    August 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I don’t want to be more of a  party pooper, but I also found the discussion of subjective experience and consciousness as under-informed and a misdirection, even if unintended.  This is because one cannot jump immediately to this safe haven when well-established related science has plenty to say.

    For instance, evolutionary psychology, though in its relative infancy, is generating good evidence that human morality, in all of its dimensions (see note below), are naturally selected innate psychological systems.  Also, neuroscience is showing how our personalities and behavior are largely determined by the contingencies of our inherited brain structures and can be dramatically altered by the slightest chemical or physical perturbation.

    What’s [left for] a soul to do?  Well, it seems less and less and there is no scientific reason to assign it any function.

    Again, does this conflict with the existence of god(s)?  No.  But should a person give some serious consideration as to whether his or her received construal of such fits the facts of the world?  I think so.

    Just saying that there is no conflict between science and religion does not mean that there is no conflict between the science you don’t know and the particular religion you do.  

    • JT
      August 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      Here is the “note”  mentionedJonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virgina, delineates the following moral dimensions that govern human individuals living in social groups(1) harm/care(2) fairness/reciprocity, (3) ingroup/loyalty, and (4) authority/respect(5) purity/sanctitySee http://faculty.virginia.edu/ha… for a portal into this work.

  23. JT
    August 31, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Just a quick thought about the conflict between science and religion.

    I think this is the wrong question if one takes science to be a methodology and not a metaphysics.

    As a methodology for generating and refining knowledge science IS clearly at odds with religion.  In a nutshell, Moroni 10:4 is no scientific procedure.

    Naturalism, on the other hand, is a metaphysical position that can be compared and contrasted to a religious metaphysics which we can call supernaturalism.

    These are definitely in conflict, by definition – especially if one takes the tradition Western monotheistic position of God being beyond or outside nature.

    Now Mormonism, in a sense, make a very interesting move.  They deny supernaturalism in a sense.  The best example is to say that all spirit is matter, just of a more refined type.  Spirit is substantial, it just can’t be detected by present scientific analysis.

    But hold on a minute!  This is just “sciency” word borrowing.  It stands on no firmer ground than reincarnation, UFOs, etc.  It is an assertion made without any empirical support than religious methodology applied to the revelatory claims of Joseph Smith, which left no material evidence.

    Doe this mean it cannot be true?  No.  But wether it is or not is at most anyone’s guess/faith-in-dogma.  

    No rational person can be expected to give it any higher status. No faithful LDS is expected to base their belief on anything more than non-scientific evidence.

    Stephen Jay Gould came up with the very ecumenical “non-overlapping magisteria” position.  It seems to me that this is all well and good except for the fact that religions are compelled occupy the real world and base their authority on claims to privileged knowledge of it.  The problem is they can never get it right.  Mormons ought to know this better than anyone.

  24. JT
    August 31, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I am really going to wear out my welcome here, but here goes anyway.

    I could not help but hear a gentle ad hominem attack of the “New Atheists” in the form of equating them with dogmatic evangelicals, which is ironic in the context of a religion that has over 50,000 missionaries with little or no education beyond high school preaching from manuals.

    Harris, Dawkins, Hitchen’s and Dennett (to name he headliners) are rarely gentle in their criticism and ridicule of religion, but they do not lack for thoughtful reasoned arguments based on good evidence.  What is more, their “attacks” are directed against religions that make imposing unwarranted propositional claims that do demostrable harm (and criticize “liberal” believers only for giving them cover).

    These men are not imposing their beliefs on society or seek the governments help to do so (unlike the Christian Right and the LDS Church (Prop 8).  They write books and give talks that no one has to attend.  In their personal lives they are productive, law abiding, responsible, considerate, nonviolent, engaged citizens who support their families, civil liberties for all, and various prosocial causes.

    I can understand why a benevolent believer might feel unjustifiably caught in their dragnet and would counter with charges of them being no better than the dogmatic theists they associate with, more or less.  But their arguments refute this characterization.  What is more to the point, they are not addressing the benevolent believer who does not overreach in their propositional claims and threaten the separation of church and state.  Their criticism to the “moderate” theist is that they provide cover for the more virulent varieties.

    I think it behooves us all to carefully examine their arguments on their own merits, neither giving them some special authority (which they would eschew) nor dismissing them out of hand based on an opinion borrowed from a faithful LDS scholar.

  25. JT
    August 31, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Given everything I’ve said, I do acknowledge that I still need to read these BYU scholars’s linked papers and blogs that Dan was so good to include and they were so generous to share.  I know that I can’t provide a complete accounting of my ideas in a few lines of comment, and that can only be more true for an short interview shared by three and a moderator.  
    So, I am looking forward to reading them all with a mind pried open as far as my genetic dispositions and experience can allow!  (Implicit assumptions duly noted).  I hope my style of presentation is taken in the spirit of honest debate and not cheap polemics.

    Thanks Dan for this program.  It was as excellent production of the highest quality in my opinion. 

  26. September 3, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Sorry to spoil the big happy Group Think on evolution taking place here, but for lurkers who read this and other pro-macroevolutionary LDS-themed blog sites, I want to add that there are several LDS scholars who reject theistic evolutionary notions. Of these, the idea that a supreme being left the creation of Adam and Eve to the visscitudes of natural selection acting on random mutations in the genome is exceedingly problematic. Even the world’s most famous theistic evolutionists Francis Collins admits that there are legitimate concerns with claims that the creator used evolution to create humankind.

    Ciao!

  27. KC
    September 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I wonder if we can so easily dismiss Adam or put the question aside as one of the good panelist suggested.  If this were some obscure doctrine on the nature of Kolob I would agree but this is Adam.  He is central to mormon theology. He is forefront in the Temple, in the Book of Mormon, if Adam is not to be taken literally than who will be there at the great meeting to take place in Jackson County at the 2nd coming?  I just don’t see how, sorry don’t know if it was Steve or James, that said they could just put the question of Adam away till further knowledge is had, knowing that there is no place for Adam of 6000 yrs ago in the human evolution.  I respect the guests tremendously, but for otherwise extremely intelligent people I don’t see how you can be at peace with the idea of Adam while acknowledging the story is not to be taken literally. It’s a paradox in reason.  And what of Mormonism if we don’t take the story literally as the vast majority of mormons do (my observations based on sitting in church for 3 hrs every week for 40+ yrs)?

    It seems like so many of the teachings in the church, when they run into conflict with society or science we just deemphasize them until they fall out of favor and die ie. Adam-God doctrine.  All the while we are left wondering about these men from whence these ideas came who are supposed to be Prophets, Seers, and Revelators?

    by the way, I thank God for Duane Jeffery. your article on the Noachian Flood was the first thing I read a couple of years ago that helped me come to peace with so many of our literalisic beliefs.

  28. KC
    September 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    I wonder if we can so easily dismiss Adam or put the question aside as one of the good panelist suggested.  If this were some obscure doctrine on the nature of Kolob I would agree but this is Adam.  He is central to mormon theology. He is forefront in the Temple, in the Book of Mormon, if Adam is not to be taken literally than who will be there at the great meeting to take place in Jackson County at the 2nd coming?  I just don’t see how, sorry don’t know if it was Steve or James, that said they could just put the question of Adam away till further knowledge is had, knowing that there is no place for Adam of 6000 yrs ago in the human evolution.  I respect the guests tremendously, but for otherwise extremely intelligent people I don’t see how you can be at peace with the idea of Adam while acknowledging the story is not to be taken literally. It’s a paradox in reason.  And what of Mormonism if we don’t take the story literally as the vast majority of mormons do (my observations based on sitting in church for 3 hrs every week for 40+ yrs)?

    It seems like so many of the teachings in the church, when they run into conflict with society or science we just deemphasize them until they fall out of favor and die ie. Adam-God doctrine.  All the while we are left wondering about these men from whence these ideas came who are supposed to be Prophets, Seers, and Revelators?

    by the way, I thank God for Duane Jeffery. your article on the Noachian Flood was the first thing I read a couple of years ago that helped me come to peace with so many of our literalisic beliefs.

  29. JT
    September 4, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I read with interest Steven Peck’s article “Crawling Out of the Primordial Soup: A Step toward the Emergence of an LDS Theology Compatible with Organic Evolution.”
    Dr. Peck outlines several Christian theological attempts to harmonize full-blown natural selection and talks about how they may (or may not) provide starting points and insights for Mormon theological accommodations of evolution.  
    Early on Dr. Peck makes the qualification: “these are not statements of my belief. Rather I offer “‘toy’ models—ideas that we can play with to test their utility and durability.” 
    I respect and agree that his ideas match this modest self-assessment.  But for this same reason, I find the enthusiasm he expresses in his final statements incommensurate with this.  In particular, I find his statement:

    “To me, evolution is an empowering idea. Linking it to our theology provides answers to several perplexing questions.”
    clearly overreaching any of his speculative suggestions.   

    Notwithstanding my own opinion, I found the following statement his most speculative “overreach”: 

    “Perhaps the LDS conception of theosis … suggests a Darwinian selection process in which elements of trial, testing, and proving are inherent parts of progression through the first and second estates of pre-mortal and mortal existence.”

    Now there is something to chew on in terms of imagining the eternal/spiritual analogs to heritability, variability, and natural selection!

    To his credit Dr. Peck points to Christian biologist, Joan Roughgarden’s alternative “cooperation” based model of selection in support (as opposed to “selfish” genes).  I cannot comment on this theory other than it is not, to my knowledge, mainstream, and warrants checking for theological bias.  Dr. Roughgarden has had exceptional life experiences that might motivate her reading of the data.  I do know that the pure gene-level selection model has serious contenders (e.g. multi-level selection theory championed by E. O. Wilson and David Sloan Wilson) but none seem to provide an “in” for theism.  I hope that Dr. Roughgarden’s ideas are given their deserved consideration by the scientific community.  Maybe they offer faithful LDS a foothold toward a solution what I see remains a very serious theological problem – one worthy of the leadership maintaining an inspired silence about.

  30. September 5, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    JT
    “Evolution is driven by profoundly contingent and indifferent random genetic mutation that rides on a bed of deep quantum indeterminacy.  There is no predetermined endpoint and absolutely no evidence for any divine intervention.  The moment one suggests there is, it is no longer science and a conflict between science and religion is created, with religion being the unwarranted self-serving intruder whose motives derive from the corners it has painted itself into by prior false claims.”

    I like this JT. Science, by definition, is devoid of the supernatural. Thus theistic evolutionary notions are not scientific by contempory criteria. It seems that evolutionists like to hammer intelligent design for including supernatural intervention and thus they conclude that it is not science. Now that sounds a bit like the pot calling the kettle ‘black’.

  31. JT
    September 6, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Some listeners may appreciate the thoughts of Professor Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and author of the book “Living With Darwin: Evolution, Design and the Future of Faith.” (Oxford University Press, 2006).  Professor Kitcher approaches the topic with sensitivity and sympathy toward believers trying to come to terms with evolution. 

    Here is a link to a podcast interview in which he discusses the book.

    http://www.pointofinquiry.org/philip_kitcher_living_with_darwin

  32. Johnmstutz
    September 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks Dan for a great discussion.
    Duane Jeffery was a great influence in my education. He and my father (H.C. Stutz) provided a wonderful foundation for my ongoing study and awe of the earth and the universe. While I now have many more questions than answers, it makes for great discussion and speculation. Thanks for providing this forum.

  33. Martin
    September 7, 2011 at 5:17 am

    Martin.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Sorry, but I am a Purist. I am related to James Mclachlan and know that he will do fine. My concern in all of this is that Satan is only second to Jesus in His pre-mortal intellect (not his priesthood power), and can deceive even “the very elect”; that is the most intelligent also. Keep things simple and know that true faith is to believe and act on the very words of Christ. Let’s keep His doctrine simple Brothers. We “Believe all things and hope all things” that are true. If we (men&women) were truly humble, we would recognize that we only discover truth, we don’t create it. Let us all be on a prayerful discovery of truth. After we receive  a witness of the divinity of this Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, let’s just simply live it, without hypocrisy or deception before Him. Let us not wonder in the continuum of intellectual foolery. Just my take. Thanks

    • Anonymous
      October 8, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Without “intellectual foolery,” you probably wouldn’t live past the age of 30, let alone be able to broadcast this message to the world without walking by foot and delivering it personally.

  34. Anonymous
    October 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I think characterizing the issue back in 1911 as quite minimal is not a truthful statement.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      October 8, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      If you’re referring to language in the original post write up, the claim is that the panelists see the tensions between Mormonism and evolution as quite minimal, not the “issue back in 1911.” 

      • Anonymous
        November 22, 2011 at 5:34 am

        Just to clarify that it was early apostles getting evolution wrong is what I was characterizing as not minimal (in my opinion).

  35. Anonymous
    November 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045555/1910-12-17/ed-2/seq-3/

    With the above link, you can read the Deseret Evening News for December 1910 which contains Pres. Joseph F. Smith’s address … ‎”Diversity of opinions does not necessitate intolerance of spirit, nor should it embitter or set rational beings against each other.” “Our religion is not hostile to real science. That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy.”
    -Joseph F. Smith. (First Presidency message, Dec. 1910)
    The page is beautifully laid out.  I think you will enjoy reading the whole message from this photograph of the original.

  36. Taylor
    November 14, 2011 at 5:27 am

    I struggled with evolution and my faith for years and went from one extreme to the other and after reading Daniel C. Dennet’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea I nearly abandoned my religion.  I have found my way back and that beginning was from a spiritual experience that helped me to understand that I did not have to choose the false dichotomy that you spoke of in the podcast.  I learned that love is eternal and that the love felt by myself for those who came before me and those who will follow after me is the only thing that matters and is what binds it all together. 

    There are certain things that we have to let go and realize that we don’t have to find all of the answers for or to know all things at this time.  We also have to let others find their own way through this and to be gentle in our reproaches of them.  What is essential is that we receive sacred ordinances (which fulfill the bonds of that eternal love that I spoke of), keep our Heavenly Father’s commandments and serve our brothers and sisters.  Those that have partaken of the gospel’s blessings are heirs of salvation whether they accept all that has been found by science or not.

    You spoke of the subjective human experience in your podcast.  This remains one of the great mysteries that we have not yet explained.  I myself have many unanswered questions and most of them I have been able to leave to the time when they are revealed to us.  However, in my work and in my church calling I regularly witness individuals that suffer from poor choices.  I have learned to develop greater compassion for them.  My experience makes me continue to wonder about agency, subjective experience and what it is that we actually have control over. 

    I have observed the effects that chemical messengers (dopamine, serotonin, and so forth as well as hormones) found in our bodies have upon us as biologic beings.  I have seen the  influence these chemical signals can have on our thoughts, actions and feelings and know that they influence our choices in very powerful ways.   So many people suffer from addictions that (I think) are attempts to bring some sort of balance to their mental experience. Others walk about in despair wondering what it will take to bring them some sort of mental peace and a feeling of being whole.  It is my feeling that we need to find new ways of thinking about helping them and feeling about them and who they are and what they represent.

    I always feel that the Lord, in his earthly ministry, had a great advantage in healing the lunatic or those “possessed with an unclean spirit”. These individuals greatly benefited from His perfect insight into human frailties and imbalances.  Healing the mind and helping it to control the subjective will be a great achievement.  This also, for me, represents a great challenge to our being human in the first place.  Often, our mental anguish is the source of great creativity. 

    If we find ways to extinguish human mental suffering will we essentially remove the one thing that has driven us forward and made us strive to make the world a better place?  Does our imperfection and our experience of the subjective give us the one thing that actually makes us who we are in the first place?  If we can actually develop the means of managing such things, have we shown that even the subjective is still a biologic experience that is not separate from the spiritual and no different than managing blood glucose or blood pressure? 

  37. Taylor
    November 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    As I slept on my last comment and considered the subjective experiences that we have in our lives, I think that they are the ones that keep us grounded in our faith.  I don’t think that all subjective experiences are stimuli/response and purely objective in their nature. If they are, then what value are they to us in the discernment of truth?  There are times and ways that such things happen to us that manifest that they are truly from outside the realm of possibility of little chemical reactions in our organic brain.  We have to learn to trust these types of feelings and as we gain experience with them, we learn how things work and are less likely to deceive ourselves or others.

    For example, I feel the spirit when I participate in ordinances, study my scriptures, pray, serve my fellowmen and so forth.  I find that I have more of these experiences when I do the things that are right (keep the commandments) and that these experiences affirm or reaffirm the truthfulness of the gospel.  I feel the spirit less when I do things that I have been taught will drive it away.  If I have unresolved sins, angry feelings, unrighteous desires I drive the spirit away.

    In Moses chapter 1, the Lord tells Moses that he cannot behold all of His works and remain in the flesh.  Moses is then tempted by Satan and notes that he can behold him with his natural eyes.  I have come to understand that the Lord reveals Himself to us only to the extent that we are able to comprehend and that any more knowledge than that would be of no benefit and possibly harmful.  When we have moments that seem to be expansive, beyond what is revealed in scripture, and insights that show us possibilities of “things as the really are”, we should treasure them in our hearts and ponder them and wait upon the Lord to reveal further truth to us. 

    We are not authorized to speak greater than the Lord has chosen to reveal Himself to mankind as a whole and I think the reasons for that are obvious and elucidated in Joseph Smith’s statement:

    “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have
    of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I
    permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.”

    If some insight received by myself is one that would shake the faith of another why should I proffer such insight other than to build myself up in the eyes or better, the ears of my audience?

    However, there are those that need to know that they need not abandon their faith by having to accept literal interpretations of things that do not seem to square up with their understanding of the world.  I think that there are times, when moved upon by the spirit, we offer the idea that to have such insights about who we are and what our origins are to those who need to hear them in order to preserve their faith and testimonies is the right thing to do.  However, we must exercise extreme caution to not go beyond that point.  To do so, in my opinion, is not right. 

    I have learned to live by this one insight in my own life:

    If I can feel the Holy Ghost’s presence with me then I stand approved before the Lord.  If when I sit in Sacrament Meeting and participate in that sacred ordinance I feel that spirit then I am worthy before my maker as His son.  If I cannot, then I need to examine what it is that I have done or am doing, or what it is that I am thinking and to move closer to where I feel the spirit rather than farther away from it.  I think this is why the prophet Joseph said what he said in my earlier quote.  He understood the real purpose of the gospel was to draw men closer to God.

    I think what matters to our Heavenly Father is that we obtain the ordinances of the gospel, live the best that we can as He has revealed to us through His prophets and walk by faith.  This existence is one that does not allow us full comprehension of things as they really are. The only way to survive it spiritually intact is to have our lamps filled with oil, our wicks trimmed and to await the bridegroom’s arrival.  If we cannot feel the spirit in our lives on a regular basis, we will lose our place in the Lord’s Kingdom and fall short of becoming who we have the potential of being.

    I testify of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know that the Book of Mormon is scripture revealed to us and that it truly is a book for our day and our situation.  I know that God lives.  I know that we must be faithful to the gospel, seek the spirit in our lives in order to fully partake of the blessings the Lord desires to give us.  I trust the subjective and experience it in my life enough to know how to use it well enough to protect my testimony of the gospel.  I would hope that each of us not become too proud in our understanding of the world around us that we talk ourselves out of the one thing the gospel was designed to give us and that is eternal lives (see D&C 132:26-27) which is what were seeking to obtain when we left God’s presence in the first place.

  38. March 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    In the future, I would lik

    • Allen
      July 19, 2012 at 1:08 am

       “all life has common ancestry”

      Just to clarify that statement: “all physical life has common ancestry” Evolution says nothing about our creation and lives as spirit children of our Heavenly Father.

  39. calabiyau
    February 11, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    What is the meaning of the seven seals from Doctrine and Covenants 77:6 if the earth really is 4.54B years old? Joseph asked God a question regarding the meaning and God answered that the seven seals represent the “hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence.”

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