Many people do not believe in God. When you ask them why, you find that the kind of God they imagine is nothing like the true God. It is the same with evolution. Many people do not believe in evolution. Many others do believe in it. But the real question is, what do we mean by evolution? It seems to me that all the problems associated with evolution arise because we do are all talking about different things.
Warning: This page contains my personal observations, based both on church publications and the best evidence I could find. But it should not be taken as an official statement of Church policy.
|What is evolution?|
What is evolution?
I strongly recommend the discussion in the Talk-Origins" archive at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-definition.html
To quote just part of it:
|One of the most
respected evolutionary biologists has defined biological
evolution as follows:
"In the broadest sense, evolution is merely change, and so is all-pervasive; galaxies, languages, and political systems all evolve. Biological evolution ... is change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. . . . The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic material from one generation to the next."
"Evolution can be precisely defined as any change in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool from one generation to the next."
When biologists say that they have observed evolution, they mean that they have detected a change in the frequency of genes in a population. ... When biologists say that humans and chimps have evolved from a common ancestor they mean that there have been successive heritable changes in the two separated populations since they became isolated.
Unfortunately the common definitions of evolution outside of the scientific community are different. For example, in the Oxford Concise Science Dictionary we find the following definition:
"evolution: The gradual process by which the present diversity of plant and animal life arose from the earliest and most primitive organisms, which is believed to have been continuing for the past 3000 million years."
This is inexcusable for a dictionary of science. ... it specifically includes a term "gradual process" which should not be part of the definition. More importantly the definition seems to refer more to the history of evolution than to evolution itself. ... Standard dictionaries are even worse [in that they refer to "progress" or add in other extras.]
These definitions are simply wrong. Unfortunately it is common for non-scientists to enter into a discussion about evolution with such a definition in mind. This often leads to fruitless debate since the experts are thinking about evolution from a different perspective. When someone claims that they don't believe in evolution they cannot be referring to an acceptable scientific definition of evolution because that would be denying something which is easy to demonstrate. It would be like saying that they don't believe in gravity!
Or, as the generally excellent "Reasons to Believe" web site puts it,
"By its physical sciences definition, evolution simply means "change with respect to time." It is a theologically neutral term in that it assumes nothing about what causes the change. In the physical science sense of the word, the Bible teaches " evolution" as it frames the creation account in a chronolog of change through time. Genesis One sequences eleven spectacular transitions and affirms God's control over those transitions." - see the http://www.reasons.org/resources/faf/93q2faf/93q2word.html for more details, plus links to a huge amount of information on related topics.
The whole problem with evolution is in its definition. When we say "evolution is wrong," we are really talking about a popular (but false) view of what it is.
Evolution in its proper place
There is very strong scientific evidence to suggest that:
- Animals lived and died for millions of years before Adam.
- The types of animals changed with time. For example, the dinosaurs are no longer here.
- Some bones even look a little like humans. For example, Neanderthal man was human-like, but is now extinct. (N.B. scientists tend to make huge generalizations based on one or two fragments - there is plenty of guesswork in this area)
As many LDS scientists have noted, none of this conflicts with the book of Genesis. The scientific theories may or may not be true - but there is no reason to doubt them. There is, however, plenty of reason to doubt all the rubbish that is spoken in the name of evolution.
Why do some prophets speak against evolution?
Many apostles and prophets - notably Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie - have spoken strongly against the theory of evolution. But if you look closely at what they say they are only speaking against the implications of the popular view of evolution. None of the problems they correctly identify is actually part of evolution itself.
A prophet, however, must above all give a clear message. Since most people see only the popular view of evolution, the prophets must of course condemn it.
Evolution is a description, not a cause!
The popular view is that evolution CAUSES change. Rubbish! Evolution IS change. The changes are caused by God and by our own intelligent choices. This is the basic problem with evolution. Evolution does not specify how changes occur, only that they do occur. The great problems begin when we say "evolution by random selection."
The Great Lie: "random change"
This universe is not random. Everything has a reason. As Einstein put it, "God does not play dice with the universe." As discussed elsewhere, the word "random" just means "too complicated for us to understand."
Take for example when a species dies out. It is not due to random change. It is due to each individual animal making decisions that were not good enough to ensure their survival. Perhaps an animal did not avoid its predators. Perhaps it was not able to find enough food. These events are not random - they involve countless individuals making choices. Even "acts of God" (such as cometary impact or volcanic activity) are not random. They have causes.
"Random variation" is directed by God
Throughout my own life, and as far as I can see throughout human history, God has intervened in subtle ways to change things. It seems reasonable then to assume that God intervenes in every life and in every phase of the earth's history. Thus so-called random variations, the introduction, development, end extinction of species - all these things are according to God's plan, as prepared before the foundation of the earth.
|The prophets condemn the common (false) idea of evolution|
Many people in the church are strongly anti-evolution. This is good. Not because evolution is wrong, but because the commonly accepted idea of evolution is wrong. (Quotations are from Bruce R. McConkie's "Mormon Doctrine")
1. Evolutionists tend to over-generalizes
"The theory assumes that all present animals and plants have their origin in other pre-existing types, the distinguishable differences being due to modifications in successive generations. One or more common origins for all forms of life are assumed."
The fact that things change gradually is undeniable. But if we assume that ALL changes are gradual, we are being foolish. Adam, our common ancestor, was placed here by divine intervention.
2. Evolution does not apply to our own experience
"It would be impossible to take the tissues of the lower, or, indeed, of any order of fishes, and make of them an ox, a bird, or a man; as impossible as it would be to take iron and make it into gold, silver, or copper, or to produce any other changes in the laws which govern any kind of matter."
This is certainly true of life as we now know it. The scriptures only deal with 6000 years of history. The theory of evolution deals with millions of years, so it is irrelevant to our own experience.
3. Evolutionists tend to deny a personal God
"While it is true that evolutionists may be divided between theistic and atheistic groups, yet most of those professing belief in God consider him to be an indefinable force, essence, or power of an incomprehensible nature. According to revelation, however, he is a personal Being ... the personal Father of the spirits of all men"
Note that this is not an error with evolution itself, but only with "most" of its believers.
4. Evolutionists tend to ignore the pre-existence
"Every form of life had a spirit existence in that eternal world before it came to dwell naturally upon the face of the earth; and that prior existence, for all forms of life, was one in which the spirit entity had the exact form and likeness of its present temporal body. Animals, plants, fowls, fishes, all forms of life existed as spirit entities in pre-existence; their number, extent, variety, and form were known with exactitude before ever the foundations of this earth were laid."
Note that it is entirely consistent to believe in dinosaurs, Neanderthals, etc., and to believe in different types of species at different times, and to also believe that these existed in the spirit world in the same form. The important point is that any changes were instituted by God, and not by random processes.
"There was no chance whatever connected with the creative enterprises. All things were foreknown to that God who fathered man in his own image and who created all other forms of life for the benefit and blessing of man. Evolutionary speculation takes no account of any such revealed knowledge as this."
5. Evolutionists tend to ignore non-uniform conditions
Evolution has to assume fairly constant conditions on the earth. The fact that conditions have not all been constant is bound to lead to errors in the theory. Evolutionists can have nothing to say about the garden of Eden, the future sanctification of the earth or the resurrection of the dead.
6. Evolutionists look for our origins in primordial slime
"[Some believe in] the theoretical postulates that mortal life began in the scum of the sea, as it were, and has through eons of time evolved to its present varieties and state! Do those with spiritual insight really think that the infinite Creator of worlds without number would operate in this way?"
Those who know that God has guided this world know that he does create slime in the sea and he also creates humans. There are links between both (for example, we eat plants, plants eat dirt, etc.). But there is no causal link between the slime and the human, any more than the dirt under our feet "causes" us to live.
So, apostles continue to warn against evolution
Apostles continue to warn against the teaching of evolution. But if you look closely at each case, it is not because the earth was created in six twenty four hour periods, or because Adam was literally created from dust, but because accepting evolution normally means accepting all kinds of false baggage. Hence, Elder Boyd K. Packer recently (in the early 1980s) stated that the above letter from President McKay was not church policy. Is this because Elder Packer considered President McKay to be teaching false doctrine? Of course not. But Elder Packer is well aware that people use that letter to justify a full-blown evolutionist approach.
On balance, evolution is a false teaching. That is because of all the errors that Bruce R. McConkie listed. It is not because the theory is wrong in every detail. It is probably significant that, although people at the time said that Elder Packer's statements would be published in the Ensign (the official church magazine), instead they seem to have disappeared without trace. However, Elder Packer's began his comments with words that to me, sum up the whole issue:
"In the spirit of the Book of Mormon, please, may we drop all labels, all of the "ites," and "Isms," and "ists"? Let there be no 'evolutionists' nor 'creationists' nor any manner of 'ists'; just seekers after truth."
The bottom line:
Brigham Young, JD, Vol.9, p.316 - p.317
"My religion teaches me to embrace all truth in the heavens, on the earth, under the earth, and in the bottomless pit, if there is any there. My creed embraces all truth. If you have truth that I have not, let me know it, and it will come to where it belongs; and if I have truth which you have not you are welcome to it. There is no need of debate and contention in regard to truth and error, for debate tends to create a spirit of bitterness."