Evolution: Best Explanation?

According to a Pew Forum poll (conducted in 2007, released in 2008), only 20% of Latter-Day Saints feel that evolution is the best explanation for human life.

I’m a little miffed about this study for asking if evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life, as opposed to asking if evolution is the best explanation for the origin of species (human or otherwise).

People might interpret this question to mean is abiogenesis the best explanation for the origin of life. As a member of the church, would this kind of wording make a difference to the way you answered the question?

Many of the things LDS are taught about the creation story are metaphorical. For example, nobody believes there are actual cherubim with flaming swords guarding any literal tree of life; intelligent people do not throw out evidence because of a metaphorical story.

When science speaks about evolution—it generally refers to the way species change and are formed, it doesn’t usually address how life started, nor does the creation story literally address the way species evolve.

Bad Educators, Evolution and God’s Hurricanes

We attended a branch today for the baby blessings of some of our friends. It was nice having a bit of a break from our ward and being somewhere new. Things are always different to some degree in a branch given the very fundamental differences between a branch and a ward.

Sacrament meeting was quite normal. It was a fast and testimony meeting, which can always be fodder for good blog material. Only one thing caught my attention though. In one person’s “testimony”, he made mention that God’s hand is evident in the recent barrage of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. He made particular reference to Hurricane Jeanne and God’s hand guiding it wherever it goes.

Naturally, I have a problem with this thought. I have a problem believing that God directed a hurricane to the poorest countries in the western hemisphere in order that one and a half thousand people would be killed. What horrendous sins could these 1,500 men, women and children committed that would warrant God sending a relentless hurricane to a country already reeling from thousands killed this spring in massive floods and February in civil war.

Sunday School was quite uneventful. Then along came priesthood.

It is a joint elders and high priests meeting. I am not sure what the lesson was about since it seemed a mishmash of this and that. Supposedly, it was loosely based on a Meridian Magazine article of which I did not catch the name. Two points came up with which I took issue.

The first issue started when the instructor started discussing the deplorable moral condition in the public school system. Naturally, many in the meeting agreed with him and were quick to offer their support in similar veins of detesting the poor jobs of today’s educators.

After about fifteen minutes, I grew tired of it and spoke up. I reminded everyone that it is not the responsibility of our educators to teach our children about morality. It is not the responsibility of our educators to teach our children right and wrong. Actually, when it comes down to it, that responsibility doesn’t even lie with Primary and Sunday School teachers. It lies with the parents. Parents have the God-given responsibility to teach children morality; to teach them what is right and wrong and why we need to “choose the right”. If today’s generation is derelict, delinquent and disregardful, we should not look to the teacher to lay blame. We should take ownership of our failure to fulfill the responsibility that is given to us.

The second issue started when the instructor showed that in 1830 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organised and subsequently taught that six years later Charles Darwin introduced his theory of natural selection. The instructor then used this chronological comparison to point out that evolution is the work of Satan.

To be sure I understood the instructor’s message, I restated, “Are you saying that evolution is satanic”.

“Yes.”

“I completely disagree.”

That’ when the rest of the lesson was shot. From there, it didn’t take long for someone to say that evolution opposed Jesus Christ; that we didn’t come from apes; that evolution is a false doctrine; that the temple teaches that evolution was not how God created Adam.

Expectedly,  I addressed those issues. Actually, I didn’t address how evolution opposed the Saviour. Rather I asked how it opposed the Saviour. There was no answer given.

I reiterated the ignorant argument that we didn’t come from apes. I clarified to this brother unfamiliar with the theory of evolution that apes and humans shared a common ancestor, not that humans came from apes.

I asked the individual who stated evolution was a false doctrine why he thought that. He said “the prophet”  said it is. In all the years I have been studying statements of general authorities on evolution, I have yet to come across a single statement that said it was a false doctrine. The closest I have ever seen is when Joseph F. Smith claimed evolution was a theory of man. Of course, the theory of gravity, the theory of wave-particle duality of light and the theory of relativity are all theories of men. Being a theory of man does not make it false.

Finally, I corrected that the temple offers no clarification whatsoever regarding the process God used to create the earth and Adam.

I felt alone in that class. I felt alone among many brethren in the priesthood who hold fast to traditions because they do not want to take the time to research information for themselves. I felt alone since no one came up to me after and commented either way on my contribution to the discussion. I should point out that one other brother did mention that Brigham Young stated that we do not know what method God used in the creation.

You know, if the subject of evolution being taught in the schools had only been mentioned in brief passing, I likely would not have said anything. What made me respond was the statement based in ignorance and assumption that stated evolution was absolutely of Satan.

Maybe if the instructor had stuck to the lesson materials suggested by the correlation department, we wouldn’t have had this mess.