Sunday, October 10, 2010

Neither believe nor disbelieve

I neither believe nor disbelieve... but ponder and wonder in amazement of the possibilities.

Recently during a discussion with some members of the church, a few of them made it very clear of their disdain and opposition to the Big Bang and the Theory of Evolution as a whole. They were actually making fun of scientists and others who would believe such non sense, proudly stating that such things are false doctrine. These individuals seemed to indicate the only possible stance was creation 6000 years ago, done over a period of 7 days. I held my tongue for the most part passing off a "who knows exactly how it all happened" and then left it at that. I didn't wish to offend and realized these individuals were not yet ready to fully understand this more complex matter of the gospel as well as considering it's unimportance to personal salvation. It still remains in my mind that it's true no one does know for sure and maybe what they believe is a possibility. Some are still receiving milk while others are now capable of introducing some meat along with the milk. But it got me thinking more about the subject. When it comes to these types of truths that are merely still in theory form it is fun to discuss and debate the possibilities and how each can or can not apply to the pre-established truths and doctrines.

To set the record straight, I neither believe nor disbelieve the Big Bang or Theory of Evolution. I maintain the stance that it may be a possible explanation for creation and continuance. As I see it, if it does not contradict completely the pre-established revealed knowledge than I can not discard it as hokum. The same goes for other schools of thought on creation and timelines etc. I find many compelling views and opinions on the differing sides. The fact is, we do not currently know exactly 100% how it all happened as we have theories mingled with revealed truths and to state otherwise with a surety is the only hokum that exists. I do believe we need to look at both science and revealed religion to help us understand and put together the mysteries of which we may or may not figure out or get right. As I have stated I maintain a stance that what we have discovered thus far via science is a fair possibility of creation explanation and I think there is fair argument for it within the church as I see how it may fit nicely in explaining and bringing harmony of the two studies. What we know is, that God created the heavens and the earth and he created us in His image. How he did it we do not know. He gives us hints and insights throughout scriptures and science but this is where it ends. What we have left is speculation based upon the best information we can find. Some may lean one way and some another. This is completely ok with me. For now I don't think we need one stance or another but more of a middle ground of possibility, it is up to God to reveal to us in His own due time these certain mysteries.

One of my favourite books of all time is "Earth in the Beginning" by Eric Skousen. Many of the things he presents in his book do make a lot of sense to me as well. I can't say I align completely with his point of view, but he makes compelling arguments and tries to back things up with scriptural interpretation. He discusses such things as "Prophets providing the overview and science helps fill in the gaps". He talks about God's possible chronology, cosmology, earth's spiritual and subsequent physical creations. He delves into forms of evolution and possible future of our globe as well as many other things including a possible explanation for dinosaurs. I love how it tries to make sense and harmonize all information we have before us and theorise the possibilities. That is what I am all about. This is exactly why I love this book and recommend it as a must read, regardless of whether or not I agree with everything it purports.

I have including the following article just to show how there are some within our church who can look at a more non traditional view point of creation and be ok with it. The point I would like to make by all of this is we should not judge or put down another who may tend to side with one stance or another. Although I take the stance to not lean strongly one way or another at this point in time, I offer the freedom to others to believe and worship how, where or what they may. So some may choose to believe that evolution is not compatible with there religious beliefs while others do. Interesting to note that according to a 2004 Gallup poll, 45% of Americans stated that human beings had been created by God in their current form less than 10,000 years ago. In 2009, on the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, Gallup found that only 40% of Americans "believe" in evolution. It's funny how we choose to accept some theories of science over others without a second look, like Gravity, etc., while others are hotly debated. We need to remember that pure religion does not contradict true science and that true science does not contradict pure religion. This article is by BYU scientist Steven Peck, who can explain far better than I can possibilities that Mormonism is not only compatible with evolution, but why Mormons have unique theological reasons for embracing it. He does this with wit, humour, and style. His reasoning may not be doctrinal but it displays to me reasons enough to accept a possibility of this school of thought.

"We can not make what we find fit our interpretation, we must make what we find develop our interpretation" - Kent Wentzell

Why Mormons Should Embrace Evolution: BYU Biology Professor Steven Peck
By Steven Peck

I am a Mormon. And an ape. This pairing is not customary, notwithstanding most Mormons, as members of the human race, are. There is nothing terribly exceptional or unusual about my apishness, but I thought it necessary to point out, because I want to talk about this a bit. Like many Mormons, I am big on genealogy. Although, I must admit, my recent ancestry has captured me less thoroughly than my deep heritage. Still, let's not go too far back, I don't want to talk about my invertebrate, fishy, or even reptilian past. I want to natter about two of my ape-line grandmothers.
One of my grandmothers was a small thing, with a head about the size of a chimp. But here is the incredible thing--she walked upright. Her hands thus free allowed her to fashion rocks into a slightly more useful form. Take a chip off a stone here. Flake off a bit there. And voila! You have just the thing needed to hack open a bone with a little more panache. My grandmother was a lovely woman, and even if she and I are not in the same species, I owe much of what I am
My other grandmother, a little more recent, looked a lot like me. I've got her eyes and nose. And her braincase. This woman's ancestors, fully human for about 600,000 years, made remarkable stone tools. A stunningly brilliant act of functional craftwork and tool manufacture compared to my, and her, more distant ├╝ber-great grandmothers. Even so, sadly, nothing had changed much for a few hundred thousand years. Same old same old stone paraphernalia. Then about 50,000 years ago something astonishing emerged. My grandmother's folk, living sometime around then, invented art! Her people started decorating things. Gear was made without a practical day-to-day function; fashioned just because it looked elegant. Her people painted cave walls. Established Rituals. Made music and likely danced (dancing has not fossilized well). The dead were honoured in new and elaborate ways. Grandmother's peeps suddenly were wildly inventive! What a woman.
Her tabernacle, I think, was almost ready for something extraordinarily special that God had in mind for his spirit children.
Mormon theology is uniquely positioned to embrace an evolutionarily-based theology. The first reason is that we believe in continuing revelation. We believe in updating our text. God continues to expand our views, deepen our understanding, and reshape and even radically change our current understanding. In an early revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed: "Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding." D&C 1:24. Therefore, we are open to new thoughts and views, because we believe God varies the manner of his message to our circumstance, understanding, and perspective. In addition, Mormonism has a history of being friendly to science.
In fact, Joseph Smith was called by some of his most thoughtful followers, "a scientist." Evolution by natural selection is the most important scientific discovery of modern times (I am stoically unapologetic about the lack of equivocation in that statement). The evidences for it are staggeringly abundant, detailed, and scientifically undeniable. Our perspective of an open canon allows us to accept this new revelation from the book of nature without getting stuck in past pre-Darwinian quagmires. Mormons are all about continuing revelation. It's what we do best.
Some will undoubtedly point out to me that there were apostles who once said that evolution was of the devil and all that. These men were, of course, the children of their culture. Anti-Darwinian fervor swept through America at the time they were living, and Christian fundamentalism waged a war on science that continues today. That they were caught up in this distraction is neither surprising nor disturbing. We are all the victims of our times. Hello! That is why the Lord speaks to us in our language (as broadly construed). I suppose if the apostleship had been, counterfactually, filled with scientists, the business-savvy mavens now would trace out how uninformed they were about modern corporate practices, and the tale would be about how, say, the church was driven into inefficiency, or even bankruptcy. You know scientists. But this needn't worry us. Things are getting straightened out now. Evolutionary thinking is on the way in, and static old creationism on its way out. Adieu. What about Adam and Eve? The Fall? Yes. We will keep all our essential doctrines. It will take some sorting out. Of course. But we are a patient people.
The second reason Mormonism is evolutionary theory friendly, is that it is deeply materialistic--in the respectable sense. Meaning there is something wonderfully essential about matter. We came to Earth from a preexistent, materialism-lite, to be made of this kind of matter--the kind of matter that we now see shuttling about the universe. There was something wildly vital about our connecting with this proton-neutrony stuff; necessary even to the point that we wanted to be hooked up with it eternally. Like God. We, as material . . . somethings, have the opportunity to change, grow and become something new and astonishing. Like my grandmothers did.
Of course, I've just sketched a wildly broad-brush, cartoonish view, and there are a lot of details to be worked out, but in short, Mormons believe in a flavor of eternal evolution. How wonderful that this is paralleled in the history of the Earth. This, also links me physically to all the creatures of the Earth. My physical body, formed in an evolutionary process, is part of the history of this Earth. This Earth that I believe is my final destiny. Mormons believe this will be our final home, along with the creatures that lived here. The very same creatures that evolved and emerged on this planet. Circles within circles. Worlds without end. What a breathtaking thought that I am connected to this Earth's physical processes in deep time--past and future.
I am a Mormon. And an Ape. On my way to something wondrous.

What do you think of this article and this topic of discussion?


Colin C said...

I believe that many of the scientific theories that exist can fit in with the gospel. We don't always know how necessarily, but there is much we don't know.

I found once I joined the church that there was no science vs religion argument but that they are directly related. When you read about the big bang for example, there is a good theory about how various elements were formed in that process. I don't see why that process couldnt be the work of our heavenly father. I think science is learning a little bit about how heavenly father does his work.

Gunner said...

I couldn't agree with you more, well said. This is one of the things I love best about our church. We have a religion not just earth based, but for the cosmos. It gives meaning and purpose for all people and all life. The hard part for me, being raised in the church is not understanding why more people that investigate can't see clearly the wonderful inclusive truths about our theology. Thanks for your comments.

Gunner said...

My wife loves facebook but I stick to blogging. I don't have twitter either. Thanks for your comments.