Thursday, March 16, 2006

Mormonism and Evolution

Yesterday, I settled down at the bookstore and read a little tome called Mormonism and Evolution. This book contains the authoritative statements of LDS leaders on evolution. The last several chapters in the book give the common sense view that students should study evolution because this study is extremely valuable in understanding biology, geology, medicine, etc.. This rational face is what most Mormons show when talking to gentiles like me.

The first section of the book was extremely interesting. The early Mormon conflict with evolution was quite unique. Apparently, Mormonism promises that its adherents will become Gods (like the Heavenly Father) in the here after. This promise of Godhood is premised on an argument that Adam was a God just like the Heavenly Father. (Brigham Young apparently even toyed with the idea that Adam was God, and that Eve was one of God's many wives.)

Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken--HE is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do." (Brigham Young's 1852 sermon).


In this metaphysics, the Godhood that Joseph Smith promises his adherents is a direct result of humans descending from an Adam-God. Achealogy, genetics and other science that put humans in the primate family is a direct challenge to the genealogy that makes Mormons direct descendants of God. DNA results that refute the claim of the American Indians puts the Mormon theology of man descending from God in further conflict with science and evolution.

Now, I really don't think that this fantasy is the driving force behind most Mormon's faith. My guess is that most Mormons are attracted to the social structure.

I can see why, if someone held that they were a descendant of God and will become a multiwived-Heavenly-Father themselves, that evolution would be troublesome. The theory of evolution and genetics breaks the genealogy that serves as the foundation for such a belief.

The genetic code, the fossil record, our physiology and outward appearance puts us firmly in the primate family. Evolution does not really explain why humans reason and browse the internet while other creatures on this earth do not.

It was not until reading Mormonism and Evolution that I actually caught on to this unique under current of the Utah debate on evolution. I have to admit here, Evolution directly counters the speculation that the Heavenly Father (aka, Adam, aka The Archangel Micheal) came to earth with one of his wives Eve to spawn a separate species of whitesome and delightsome Godlets.

For that matter, I think the main current impulse for the Utah action is the simple human tendency for people to inject their philosophies into science (especially the science of evolution). Great example of people injecting philosophical nonsense into science are "modern" theories like Nazism. The National Socialists were pushing a view that an Aryan super race had evolved and that, to achieve its full glory, this highly evolved super race had to wipe out substandard races like Blacks and Jews. I've read a few things under the guise of Evolutionary Psychology that appeared to me to be little more than a new manifestation of the Material Dialectic.

Anyway, apparently Mormons are currently in a dialog on how they should deal with wild speculations made by their founders.

The actual study of geology, archaeology, genetics is so much more interesting than the weird things that philosophical or theological thinkers have tried to inject into the debate. I really hope that LDS students really aren't being confronted with the decision of choosing between good science and a fantasy that they are in fact Gods in training.

2 comments:

Mike Schoenfeld said...

Kevin by happen chance I came by your blog. Being a Latter Day Saint myself I find it humorous that there is a debate among members of the LDS faith.

If I may, for clarification, provide some further insite into the LDS doctrine on becoming like God. Achieving the status of divinity is predicated on our demonstration of faith in God not as to whether or not Adam or Brigham Young were or have become Gods themselves.

For me evolution is real and based on natural laws under the direction of GOD. In order to strengthen ones faith one has to also question their faith and seek answers by studying the words of Gods Prophets and then asking God for an answer.

If God wanted us to have all the answers to the universe there would be no need for faith.

Kevin said...

Although the links in my site go to anti-Mormon sites. The primary reference is a book compiled by BYU people of authorative references.

The one common theme in both the modern and historical authoratative statements is an emphasis that God created man in his image. The "The LDS doctrine on becoming like God" derives from the belief that man descended from God. We are not animals that evolving godlike features. We are part of a lineage of creates descending from an Adam-god. If we completely a full genealogy, we would trace our divinity back tot he seed of the Heavenly Father.

The evolutionary belief that man is part of the Primate family is a direct challenge to this lineage.

I suspect that tt was to establish this lineage that Young boldly proclaimed in 1852 that Adam was the Archangel Michael (aka, the Heavenly Father).

Of course the way out of this trap is to think of spirit as something different from body. Imagine, if you would, a black obelisk with apes gathered around it being infused with spirit. The true essence of the Heavenly Father is spirit ... so it is the spirit image, not the corporal image that counts.

Separating spirit from body gets you one step. The next trap the Mormons face here is the racist ideology that Smith held. Smith was imagining a whitesome and deslightsome race being infused with the spirit. He wrapped his new religion around a pseudo scientific genealogy of mankind where all of the people of color branched off this divine white race. People of color were smited for various transgressions.

Blacks have the Mark of Cain, Native Americans were the smited remnants of the Lamanites and Nephites. Orientals really weren't part of Smith's childhood so they did not play a prominent role. Various authors have them being a lost tribe of Isreal.

Living here in Salt Lake, I have been confronted with a large number of people who still hold this bizarre genealogy of man. I had a coworker who sold his house and moved from Salt Lake City to the suburb because people bearing the Mark of Cain were moving into his ward.

Of course, the way out of this hole is to suggest that we all started out black, but we become more whitesome and delightsome as we become closer to God (as suggested by a recent LDS authority who noticed that indians were started to appear whitesome and deligtsome to his eyes.).

The thing I find strange is that I live in a state where the fossil record is clearly exposed. I live in a state with the most beautiful landscape imaginable. This is where we see recent geology and the fossil record at its most beautiful. Yet, so many people miss it. I find I can't talk to people here about the intriguing geology of the Wasatch, as they are caught up in a fantasy where the earth was established to create a master race of Gods.