Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Do Mormons Think of Evolution?

I have not come across an official statement from the LDS Church that attempts to directly answer that question. The nearest thing that I have found is this statement from the First Presidency, which does not tackle the question head on: Is Evolution true or false? But I think it is fair to say that officially the LDS Church does not accept Evolution. I think it is equally fair to say that the vast majority of LDS do not accept Evolution. Those who might would be a very small minority. Modern LDS scripture also affirms that Adam and Eve were real individuals who were created by God in the Garden of Eden. The only part of the story that may be considered figurative is the teaching that God made Eve out of Adam’s rib.

Of course the theory of Evolution has several aspects some of which may be true. For example, “natural selection” is something that can be observed in nature. It enables various species to adapt to changes in their environment. If you spray a population of mosquitoes with a given pesticide, for example, a small percentage of them that have a natural resistance to it will survive, and will then reproduce to create a genre that is resistant to that pesticide. But observable natural selection will always take place within a given species. There are no known instances, as far as I know, that through natural selection one species has “jumped” to become a different species. If anybody knows of such examples, I would be interested to hear it.

But Evolution, meaning the development of one species into another, and the development of higher life forms from lower ones, is a false theory that has no support either in science or in scripture. I believe that the LDS Church rejects that theory. This is in contrast with the Catholic position which appears to be conciliatory towards Evolution. Here is a quote from the Pope:

The Pope . . . also said that while there is much scientific proof to support evolution, the theory could not exclude a role by God.

* * *

In his talk with the priests, the Pope spoke of the current debate raging in some countries, particularly the United States and his native Germany, between creationism and evolution.

“They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,” the Pope said. “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favour of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.” Source: newsmax.com

I believe that the LDS Church would reject that teaching. There is in fact no scientific proof for the theory of Evolution. There may be proof for natural selection, as explained above; but that is not the same thing as Evolution. There are also many fossilized remains around which scientists can build a theory. But that remains only a theory. That is not the same thing as scientific proof.

The question of how you define a species also becomes relevant here. Interestingly, the scientific definition of species is identical scriptural one! In science, a species is defined as a class of living organisms with identifiable characteristics that can interbreed among themselves and produce fertile offspring. That is the key requirement. For example, a Bulldog and an Alsatian look quite different in appearance; but they are identified as belonging to the same species because they can mate and produce a fertile offspring. On the other hand, there are certain types of woodlice that look identical in appearance, but classed as belonging to different species, because the two cannot interbreed. Some animals of different species can interbreed, but produce an infertile offspring. A horse and a donkey, and a lion and a tiger are two examples. The following are some scientific definitions of species that I found on the Internet:

(biology) taxonomic group whose members can interbreed

A classification of related organisms that can freely interbreed

A reproductively isolated aggregate of interbreeding organisms.

A group of organisms that can reproduce with each other.

the taxonomic division of freely interbreeding population of wild or naturally occurring individuals below genus.

a group of interbreeding individuals in a population that is reproductively isolated from other groups of organisms

a group of organisms that share similar characteristics and can interbreed with one another to produce fertile offspring.

In the scriptures a species is defined in the same terms:

Genesis 1:

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

* * *

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Thus both science and scripture define a species on the same terms; and there are no known examples in nature, as far as I know, that one species has jumped to become a different species (mutation of viruses perhaps excluded). God has determined the boundaries, and they are impassable. Scientific “theories” are not sufficient to overturn the decrees of God.

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