Evolution: The wrong tool for the job

As the evidence for evolution mounts, more and more LDS are looking for the middle ground and adopting some hybrid theory of creation, usually adopting some form of “Theistic Evolution” in search of a middle ground that doesn’t make their heads explode.

I’ve heard many interesting and creative theories that blend the two (evolution and “God”), but most avoid one really uncomfortable aspect of evolution: If you know what you want to make, Evolution is an inefficient and inexact way to get there.  Basically,  it is the wrong tool for the job.

The whole idea behind evolution is that you don’t know how it’s going to end up. It’s gradual change over time, with improvements being made bit by bit (or with punctuated big bits).

But supposedly God knew all along exactly what the end product was supposed to look like (namely: like Him). He knew the form and function of all the organs, and the total anatomy from head to toe.  This idea is most explicitly outlined in the LDS doctrine of “Spiritual Creation“, in which things are actually created in spirit form before their physical creation.  But how can that be possible with evolution?

This theory would suggest that God using evolution was a process with a goal; it had to come out just right so it would look just like Him. It couldn’t result in humans with three arms, or one eye. That’s not what evolution is.

So what is the purpose of spending millions of years just kind of nudging the process along, with false starts and dead ends? It would be like trying to make chocolate chip cookies, but instead of just using the Nestle Toll House recipe from the back of the package, you make thousands and thousands of different batches, trying to figure out how to make Nestle Toll House cookies. Then, finally, after years and years of experimentation, you arrive at the exact cookie that you could have made the first time by looking at the package.  Even if you used that method, you wouldn’t say that you “evolved” the cookie.  You would say you developed the cookie using trial and error.   Do we really want to suggest that God created our physical world using “trial and error”?

The other problem is the ongoing nature of evolution.  The story of the creation gives the idea of a creative “period”, and then the state where things are “created”.  2 Nephi 2:22 certainly frames the creation in such a way.  But evolution doesn’t have an end.  How could it?  How could God be evolving thousands of different species, each moving slowly towards their intended finished design, and then find that one moment in time where a species is “created”, and then have it keep evolving?  And what happens when some speices are fully evolved/created after 20 million years, but other species need 80 million years, or 100 million years?  Do some animals get their spirits first?  Are there animals even today who are not yet “created”, and are spiritless lifeforms waiting to evolve into their final “spiritual” form?

And what happens if a species evolves away from it’s spiritually created form?  Does it become “uncreated”?

Sure, God could use evolution (a time consuming and wasteful process) to “create” life to the exact specification he had alreay prepared, but why would He?  Other than the fact that some LDS need to reconcile the evidence for evolution with a belief in God-centric creation, why would anyone believe that?

(If you want to brush up on what, exactly “Evolution” is, I highly recommend taking 10 minutes of your time and watching this fantastic, wonderful and interesting video:  Evolution )

13 Comments

Filed under Doctrines, Teachings, Policies and Traditions, Uncategorized

13 Responses to Evolution: The wrong tool for the job

  1. “Evolution: The wrong tool for the job” presupposes that you have the definition for the job correct.

    • Cinepro

      If by “job”, you mean “the Creation”, I am just going by the traditional LDS doctrine of spiritual/physical creation, culminating in an Earth populated by plants, animals, and the first Human Beings, Adam and Eve, who are the sole ancestors of all humans living today. But I’m certainly open to alternate theories that are backed by the scriptures, the Temple, and statements by Prophets.

  2. I can’t offer a coherent alternate theory.

    I am open to revising our understanding of what the scriptures and words of the prophets mean after having received further light and knowledge through science. Old-Testament, New-Testament and “Modern” prophets may not have had the information necessary to understand a “more correct” story of the creation. I am also open to scriptures and prophets having been wrong on certain subjects.

  3. Cinepro

    While an attitude of openness is admirable, there is an unfortunate contradiction between the Theory of Evolution and the doctrine of “No Physical Death Before the Fall”.

    If we choose to accept evolution at the expense of redefining what “No Physical Death Before the Fall” means, we quickly find that doctrine reduced to silliness in our efforts to harmonize the two.

    But to some people, “Silly Doctrine” is better than “False Doctrine”, so I don’t fault them for trying.

  4. I don’t believe there was No Death Before the Fall ™ in a literal sense.

    I might add that I don’t believe that all standard Mormon doctrines can be rationalized with all scripture, words of the prophets, and Temple statements either, without having to “massage” them, so I don’t feel out of place reinterpreting certain beliefs in light of current science. Science does this all the time as well.

    As we become more knowledgeable and more capable I hope that our understandings of and explanations for our world become more sophisticated and useful as well.

  5. Cinepro

    Then there isn’t really much to discuss. The Official LDS Doctrine is “No Physical Death Before the Fall (In the Literal Sense)”.

    There’s nothing wrong with being “ahead of the curve” and letting the Church catch up to you in the years ahead. Perhaps decades hence, the Prophets and Apostles will talk about a new version of the story of The Fall that is more compatible with scientific thought.

    But until then, we must sit on the fringes and shake our heads.

  6. Rick

    Yes, and when all reasonable religious philosophies catch up with science, we’ll all be the same, and we’ll look back and call the words of the prophets and scriptures “man’s opinions based on what they thought to be true back then. Ala blacks were a curse race, plural marriage essential for exhaltation, etc….

    Oh the mental gymnastics!

  7. MC

    The question “why would God do that” has never had much traction among the true believers. The typical response is to shrug and say “God acts in mysterious ways,” and consider the matter resolved.

    I personally don’t see this issue coming to a head any time soon. As uncomfortable and manifestly absurd as a hybrid theory is, those who don’t outright reject evolution (a minority of members) will continue to manage their cognitive dissonance using such theories. The church will continue to claim no official stance while simultaneously continuing to teach doctrine in direct opposition to evolutionary theory, and liberal Mormons will continue to ignore those doctrines or twist them into metaphors.

  8. MC,

    Your last sentence really resonates for me. We sometimes put to much assurance behind our own studies and get distracted as to what we are supposed to be creating and establishing, Zion, here and now.

  9. Funny, I woke up thinking about this very subject this morning. In fact, my mind took it a step further when I considered that many members believe that God created worlds without number and that we have spirit brothers and sisters on other planets—presumably all evolved to be modern humans as well.

  10. bcspace

    “So what is the purpose of spending millions of years just kind of nudging the process along, with false starts and dead ends? ”

    The purpose would be to follow the laws of the universe God Himself created in order to bring about further creations. There is nothing about evolution/big bang that makes this active Mormon’s head explode. All fits very simply and elegantly within the context LDS doctrine. I’m quite sure other hypothesis’ and theories could fit just as well.

  11. bcspace

    “Funny, I woke up thinking about this very subject this morning. In fact, my mind took it a step further when I considered that many members believe that God created worlds without number and that we have spirit brothers and sisters on other planets—presumably all evolved to be modern humans as well.”

    Why do they have to be “modern humans”? Why can’t we broaden out the definition of God’s image to include many humanoid possibilities? If evolution is the modus operandi of creation, then people on planets with varying evironmental or other conditions could easily have (for lack of a better example) Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian, or Bajoran features.

  12. bcspace

    “While an attitude of openness is admirable, there is an unfortunate contradiction between the Theory of Evolution and the doctrine of “No Physical Death Before the Fall”.

    If we choose to accept evolution at the expense of redefining what “No Physical Death Before the Fall” means, we quickly find that doctrine reduced to silliness in our efforts to harmonize the two.

    But to some people, “Silly Doctrine” is better than “False Doctrine”, so I don’t fault them for trying.”

    Yet the Church itself has stated that there is no doctrine against a state of death before the state of no death in the Garden before the Fall. And the Church continues to point out rather forcefully, including in the seminary manual, that the methods and details of the physical creation are quite lacking and even nonexistent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *