There are 106 thoughts on “The Theory of Evolution is Compatible with Both Belief and Unbelief in a Supreme Being”.

  1. Amen! Thanks Br. Belnap. I’ve also been influenced by several church leaders, including professors at BYU who both taught evolution, and served in positions such as Bishops and Stake Presidents. To me that is evidence that it is perfectly okay to accept evolution (as a mechanism) and function as an active believing member.
    Ultimately we should searching for truth, and be unafraid of whichever channel it comes through – revelation or science. Truth is what we seek.

  2. 14. Why this article? One responder questioned the appropriateness of publishing this article because it raised a lot of controversy. In addition to the comment by Mike Parker (Sep. 9), I add the following:
    Regardless of whether biology, geology, anthropology, or a related field becomes one’s profession, many of us who learn about evolution are confronted by promoters of atheism who use evolution as evidence of atheism. Promotions of atheism can be very compelling. In addition, as portrayed in the popular media, the orientation of Western culture is becoming more secular. At least part of the secularization is because influential people think the biblical creation story is a fable. People need to know that alternatives are reasonable. People need to know that faith in God and acceptance of science are compatible.
    I had a teacher in graduate school who promoted a godless point-of-view. One day in a class on biophysical chemistry, my professor “bore his testimony” by saying that everything could be explained by chemistry and physics. The context in which he said this and his lack of clarification strongly suggested that he was promoting atheism. Fortunately, I had other examples of scientists who believed in God. A few active members of my Latter-day Saint ward, including my bishop, were scientists at Purdue University, where I attended. One of these active members was on my thesis committee. A fellow biology graduate student was a Jew and a good friend. He was very observant in the orthodox tradition. One day I was talking to him and another professor on my thesis committee who belonged to a Protestant church. We were commenting that a poster advertising an upcoming lecture by James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, mistakenly called Dr. Watson the “inventor of DNA”. The professor replied that he “prayed to the inventor of DNA every night.” Another good example was my major professor. Before having dinner at his home, his family and I joined hands around the table and prayed. They attended a Lutheran church. In one of his children’s bedrooms was a plaque with a very familiar verse: “I am a child of God and He has sent me here . . . .” All of these good examples were people who also accepted evolution. One of my stake presidents there was a plant breeder for a local agricultural company. When I told him my field of study was biochemistry, he volunteered, “Ah! those people that think evolution isn’t real. I use it in my work every day!”
    My approach isn’t about “sugar-coating” scientific data or doing “mental gymnastics” with the scriptures. I don’t think that is helpful or necessary. I accept the scriptures as truth and scientific observations as fact. Geologist and apostle James E. Talmage wrote, “Discrepancies that trouble us now will diminish as our knowledge of pertinent facts is extended. The Creator has made record in the rocks for man to decipher; but He has also spoken directly regarding the main stages of progress by which the earth has been brought to be what it is. The accounts can not be fundamentally opposed; one can not contradict the other; though man’s interpretation of either may be seriously at fault.” (“The Earth and Man”, The Latter Day Saints’ Millennial Star 93; No. 53; 31 December 1931; 851.) The use of evolution in designing proteins and constructing objects is new knowledge that has come into the world. How antibodies work is also new knowledge. I think this new knowledge can help us gain new understanding of how God could have formed life on earth.
    I respect my colleagues and others who are agnostic or atheist in their belief about God. As our faith teaches, we allow each person to believe how he or she chooses. These colleagues and friends have been kind people who have respected my belief in God. I have learned good things from them, even moral lessons. However, people who espouse atheism need to know that evolution is not proof of their point-of-view. Youth, especially, need to know that faithful alternatives exist. Many responses on this website clearly show that the idea is prevalent within the Latter-day Saint community that evolution is incompatible with faith in God. This is simply not true as my active Latter-day Saint brothers showed me in Indiana and as the National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine have stated (see brochure mentioned in my earlier post).
    Of course, being a good parent, helpful neighbor, reliable employee, and doing my duty in the church is more important than knowing how God created life on earth. But, reconciling evolution and creation has helped build my faith in God and, hence, helped motivate me to do those more important things.

  3. I don’t disagree with processes such as genetic drift. My objection to commonly described evolutionary theory is based in an application of logic to the mutation/selection process.
    Consider moths and butterflies. Some employ camouflage, some are brightly colored, some mimic other insects in their color and markings (like the Bumblebee Moth, but we can still readily tell them apart from actual bumblebees.) Obviously Nature doesn’t much care what kind of marking they have – a wide variety all survive quite well.
    According to the booklet on “Science, Evolution, and Creationism” from the National Academy of Sciences that Dr. Belknap recommended, this variety has occurred because “mistakes in the [DNA] copying process” have acted as evolutionary “experiments” which are then deemed, through the natural selection process, as either enhancing or diminishing the creature’s “fitness” or else these changes simply result in a neutral change. Because biological changes cannot be “directed toward predetermined, specific goals” we must assume organisms must constantly be in a state of experimentation. There is no particular reason the Bumblebee Moth has stopped where it is in its evolutionary development with no further experimentation going on. If a descendant looks even MORE like a bumblebee, then Nature would love that, right? If any descendants veer away from looking like a bumblebee, well, there’s nothing to say that form would not survive – as Nature is very tolerant of nearly anything and because the ANCESTORS of those moths had to have come through a similar form and coloring to get where they were anyway.

    • Central Texan,
      Thank you for your comments. I’m not clear what your logical objection is in your latest post. Perhaps the following comments will help:
      a) The NAS brochure states that although changes in inherited traits are undirected, “biological evolution is not random” (p. 50). That is a critical point.
      b) Mistakes in copying DNA are one way random mutations can be introduced, but we should view this as an important mechanism for allowing life on earth to survive. Mutations can produce inherited traits that are harmful to progeny (for example, mutations that increase the likelihood of Huntington’s Disease or breast cancer in humans). Mutations can also produce inherited traits that are helpful to progeny (for example, researchers think that one or more mutations helped people survive the bubonic plague). So, an “optimistic” way to think of the random mutations is that mutations can help a population of organisms survive some future event. If the population contains enough variety, the chances of surviving some future event are much higher.
      c) In the bumblebee moth example, yes, mutations are still occurring. In many generations, perhaps thousands of years, the descendants of bumblebee moths could look very different from the way they do today. What characteristics they have will depend on what changes occur in their environment. If drastic changes occur and if the moths have the right inherited changes, the moths will survive but will be different from current moths in some manner. To use your example, if bumblebee moths end up looking even more like a bumblebee, that will be helpful if predators for the bumblebee moth are frightened by bumblebees. If the predators gain a taste for bumblebees in the future or the predator gains the ability to sense the difference between a bumblebee and a bumblebee moth, then the bumblebee moth will probably have to change to survive. Perhaps it would be able to camouflage itself in a different way (for example, to look like the bark of a tree).
      d) Mutations don’t have to just allow a population to survive. They may impart a new function that is advantageous. For giraffes (which you mentioned in your first post), a short-necked ancestor could have developed mutations that lengthened necks and allowed for the other changes to control blood pressure. The short-necked variety may have survived regardless. However, having longer necks probably means that the competition among short-necked animals for food was reduced.

  4. My thanks to those who have provided arguments and references in support of my thesis that evolution is compatible with a world created by God. Thanks to those who have provided statements and references in answer to questions posted by responders. Thank you also to those who have commented positively about the things I have written, whether you agree with my thesis or not. Finally, my thanks again to all who have an interest in this topic. A few more comments in response to the posted responses:
    10. Before and since my response on September 9, several responders have shown that they assume that evolution=atheism or evolution=“an accidental process”. These assumptions are not based on science. The view of Will Provine, quoted by David H, is a religious view. (I use the term “religious” broadly to mean any belief system, including belief in God or atheism.) Will Provine’s view is not scientific. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine do not define evolution this way (see http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11876/science-evolution-and-creationism). Their report emphasizes the mechanism of biological evolution. They also emphasize that many scientists find evolution compatible with faith in God, so does the evolution website sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley: “in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution”, see (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/misconceptions_faq.php#h1). See also answers to questions “Is evolution a random process?” and “Does evolution prove there is no God?” on the PBS Evolution website (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/faq/cat01.html).
    For those who have expressed the assumption that evolution=atheism, what does the implication that evolution is a constructive process mean? If the designer of a protein (to perform a specific function) uses evolution (random changes followed by selection) to achieve that purpose, does that mean that the result was accidental or without design or purpose? No, the designer achieved his or her purpose. So, if God used this same process to create life on earth, how does this undermine belief in Him or belief that He created the world?
    If many scientists think that evolution was a godless process, must I agree with them? If thousands or millions of our Christian brothers and sisters think that Mormonism is unchristian, does that make it so?
    11. Please note that I do not assert that my arguments prove that God created the world by evolutionary processes. I am merely arguing that people using evolution for constructive purposes proves that the Creation could have happened through such means.
    12. If current scientific understanding is unclear on how the first life started, how is that a flaw in evolutionary theory? Many scientific—and religious—principles raise significant, unanswered questions. Is the law of gravity flawed because it cannot explain how gravity works (i.e. how two objects with mass have an attraction for one another)? Is our belief in Christ’s atonement flawed because we cannot adequately explain it?
    13. Some comments imply that my views are incompatible with comments from church leaders and the scriptures. Church leaders have clearly stated that we do not know the mechanism of how we came to be on this earth. Church leaders have had opposing views on the mechanism of creation. The only thing we know clearly from the scriptures and church leaders is that God put us here by divine design. My views on the mechanism may be different from your views, but this is no reason to imply that one view is right and one view is wrong by scriptural criteria. This is no reason to imply that my views are in opposition to some clearly stated church position, as was implied by the comment on same-sex marriage.
    I hope to add more comments later.

    • Dr. Belnap,
      You gave a pretty good comeback in your comment 12:
      “12. If current scientific understanding is unclear on how the first life started, how is that a flaw in evolutionary theory? Many scientific—and religious—principles raise significant, unanswered questions. Is the law of gravity flawed because it cannot explain how gravity works (i.e. how two objects with mass have an attraction for one another)? Is our belief in Christ’s atonement flawed because we cannot adequately explain it?”
      The reason I think that evolutionists’ failure in more than 100 years to learn how life started, is “a flaw in the theory of evolution” is that – if evolution were true – there would be evidence of non-life evolving into life, and by your own admission, in more than 100 years there is no such evidence.
      You give good examples of truths that are still truths despite being difficult to explain. But even the average observer can see the truth of gravity without knowing how it works: e.g. the famous apple falling from a tree, a spilt drink falling to the floor, our falling down rather than up, etc. Many of us are still amazed at astronauts floating in mid-air when the power of gravity is removed.
      I like your excellent example of the truthfulness of the atonement despite our incapacity to fully understand how Jesus did the atonement. Even our enjoying the blessings of the atonement is such an internal experience that our explanations do NOT prove the truth of the atonement but only suggest the truth to others. But our belief in the atonement should NOT be based on scientific evidence but should be based on receiving answers to prayer. As mentioned before – in support of your statement that the existence of God cannot be proven or disproven – we are required in this earthly test to learn ultimate spiritual truths by going directly to the Father, by answers to prayer as Moroni says in Moroni 10: 3 – 5.
      Thank you for your thoughtful article and comments.

      • Lanny,
        Thank you for the kind words. I have a three follow-up comments:
        a) Just to clarify, I am not suggesting that the atonement should be understood by scientific means. I mean that the atonement is not understood by religious means, i.e. the scriptures and modern revelation have not yet provided a complete answer of how the atonement works and how Christ could pay for all of our sins. I agree with you that each person must go to the Lord in prayer to apply the atonement in his or her life.
        b) The length of time required to answer a question is irrelevant. Some religious and scientific questions are very difficult to answer. How life originated from the sterile earth is one of those questions. Some hypotheses have been made (see the post by Mike Parker on September 7 for some references), but nothing is settled yet. Be careful in arguing that 100 years (actually 156 years since Darwin’s first book was published) is enough time to answer that question. One could also argue that 2000 years of Christianity (or ~6000 years since Adam and Eve) is enough time for us to learn how the atonement works.
        c) Evidence for evolution is similar to that for gravity. We also have very good evidence and explanations for how inherited traits are passed to progeny (e.g. DNA mutations). Evolution is only a mechanistic explanation of how life works. It is not a statement that life is random and unpurposeful. That is conjecture.

  5. Bro. Belnap you used a “Strawman”. First you correctly pointed out that the argument that is used against neo-Darwinism that random mutation is like an explosion in a printing press, etc. and then proceed to use a similar argument against ID, i.e “irreducible complexity”. You state that ID claims that somethings in nature are so complex that they couldn’t possibly be created by natural means. Michael Behe’s argument is not that at all. He uses the analogy of a mouse trap compared to the bacterial flagellum. Both have a purpose and if one component is removed the function is lost. Therefore gradual evolution does not account for there existence. Read Darwin’s Black Box. Michael J. Behe is an American biochemist, author, and intelligent design advocate. He serves as professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and as a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Wikipedia

    • Hi Steve,
      See “Stepwise formation of the bacterial flagellar system”, by Renyi Liu and Howard Ochman, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2007, for an example of a study that shows why the scientific community is not impressed at all with Behe’s argument about the bacterial flagellum. You can find the full text of the study here:
      http://www.pnas.org/content/104/17/7116.full
      After reading that, you might see why intelligent design is failing to come up with a good reason to posit intelligent intervention as being necessary for biological complexity.
      On a related note, one interesting observation that has been made about proponents of intelligent design is that they are not in a position to fully appreciate the grandeur and magnificence–the ingenuity–of God’s handiwork (i.e. the Universe itself). This is because they deny that the Universe could give rise to complex life naturally and without intervention. A scientist who is not a proponent of intelligent design, however, can fully appreciate how ingenious God’s handiwork (the Universe) really is. They can see it as a work of creation that does not need additional tinkering and intervention in order for it to produce beautifully complex life forms like the ones we see all around us. In other words, it is good news for a believer in God as the Creator of the Universe to recognize that life can arise and evolve naturally in that very Universe.
      Cheers!

  6. “Has it increased or does it now increase faith in Jesus Christ? Does it increase faith in the atonement?”
    I don’t find these to be particularly useful questions in discussing whether a scientific theory is true or false. Does the theory of gravity increase faith in Christ? Or how about the general theory of relativity?
    What is relevant is not whether or not something ought to be true.. but whether or not it is in fact, true. If it is (and science has overwhelmingly affirmed that it is), then we must take another look at our understanding of the doctrinal explanations of the creation.
    The church has no official position, so it would be completely wrong to teach or proclaim at church that the theory of evolution is false. We have NO revelation stating this definitively, and you won’t find such a statement in our current lesson manuals.

  7. An important question is how the theory of evolution coincides with the Lord’s work. We know from the Lord’s preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:21, an intended effect of the Restoration is “that faith also might increase in the earth.” Twenty eight years after this revelation was received, the theory of evolution made its debut with publication of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. It therefore is natural, an indeed necessary, to ask how the theory of evolution advances the Lord’s purposes. Has it increased or does it now increase faith in Jesus Christ? Does it increase faith in the atonement? Everyone knows the answer to these questions. Since its inception, Darwin’s theory has presented one of the biggest stumbling blocks for the advancement of belief in God and continues to detour the modern mind from even the need for a belief in God. I doubt we are unique, I would suggest that evolutionary theories have been advanced in other dispensations besides our own. We are not on neutral ground.
    So, what are the guide posts? Moroni, who saw our day and knows are doings, gives us the following counsel, “wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for everything which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. Moroni 7:16-17

    • Thank you for your insightful comment Brent! This is one of the challenges of living by faith. I know that scienctists are sure that evolution is true, but as I’ve learned and read about evolution over many decades I’ve never felt that it is true. Rather I’ve felt a stupor of thought in relation to this subject. I know the rational man would say I should not trust my feelings, but I’ve learned over the years how the Spirit speaks to my heart and mind and I choose to follow the Spirit, even when it flys in the face of science.

  8. As the modern world evolves so does the knowledge and understanding of man, both scientifically and religiously. Some see modern science as proof that God does not exists, others see our discoveries as proof that our bodies alone are so vastly complex we could not simply have “evolved”. However the fact remains that you cannot have faith if you require physical proof of Gods existence, and religion alone does not explain all the natural wonders of the world. We can see however that people who have allowed their minds to be flexible, and willing to put forth the effort to understand our world scientifically or spiritually. Have the greatest understanding of those subjects.
    Evolution therefore is real from both a scientific and religious point of view. For example before Christ was born the gospel was directed according to the commandments provided to the prophets such as Moses. After Christ was born he did away with or, you could say “evolved” the gospel to a more purified state. This shows us that evolution is a very real part of Gods plan.
    Dr Belnaps article shows us that both fields can exist without one idea destroying the other. I believe as time goes on those who study our worlds natural wonders will see that God has done all things through an pure knowledge of the Universe. Not simply through the power of what seems almost like magic. Our true test is that while we are in our mortal state we only see a part of the universe. The veil is put on us so that our faith may be tested. Otherwise we would not be able to seek him out through faith.
    Good article, those who read it with an open mind will see it as it was intended, a thought provoking article on how Gods plan is incredible and. that if we apply ourselves we can know many of the mysteries of our Heavenly Fathers plan.

    • @Scott Bakersfield
      Your use of “open mind” reminded me of this paragraph from the Rational Wiki.
      “While there is some philosophical validity to the distinction between open and closed minds, particularly in the case of empiricism, when used in an argument on the internet it’s almost always a form of whining. Being told to be “open minded” about something — like being made to listen to Michelle Malkin for example — is usually a code for “you’re not going to like this, but I want to subject you to it anyway”. Conversely, being told that you are “closed-minded” is generally a means of asserting that “I don’t like the fact that you’re proving me wrong, so I will pretend that your failure to agree with my argument is a philosophical deficiency”. Being told you are “close minded” simply shows that the one writing is confused about the difference between “open” and “fair” (or is simply lazy in their writing). “

  9. Although I don’t believe in the theory of evolution, some of these comments by Dr. Belnap are outstanding – for example: # 4 comment:
    “4. Observations and faith. My views are motivated in part by the following experience. When I was in college at BYU, I took a religion class that discussed some of the evidence for the Book of Mormon. For example, we talked about the book coming from a very unlearned young man and the fact that the witnesses who saw the golden plates never denied their testimonies of that observation. I was astonished when my professor insisted that this evidence was not proof that the Book of Mormon was true. He told us we had to get our own spiritual conviction. I didn’t want to have to work for a spiritual conviction! I wanted the easy way out! My professor explained that those facts were just consistent with the book being true. God seems to give us just enough to help us see we aren’t crazy, but not enough to make it a mathematical-like proof. But, those who think otherwise can also find evidence for their position. Faith is required for either belief in God or belief in atheism. The principal evidence that God is the creator comes from the scriptures. That is what I believe and hold on to. Secondary evidence is the order, complexity, and beauty (see Alma 30:44). But, our atheist brothers and sisters have a different view from the same secondary evidence.”
    “I am not embarrassed about faith, but I think we have to do the spiritual work necessary to build faith. I find my faith strengthened by what I learn through science, including evolution. My views are also motivated by the scriptural statements that signs follow belief. In other words, faith must come first. Then we can see physical things through spiritual eyes. As was pointed out in the responses, people in the Book of Mormon saw the prophesied signs of Christ’s birth come to pass, but later excused them as mere happenstance (3 Nephi 1-2).”
    The only clarification I would make to this great comment is that there is even one greater source than the scriptures: answers to prayer as Moroni says in Moroni 10: 3 – 5:
    3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
    4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
    5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
    Dr. Belnap’s story about his BYU Book of Mormon class is right on. I have a Master’s degree in English, and have graduate work in film, and have read a lot of Shakespeare and other great authors. General authorities often quote Shakespeare. Yet Shakespeare or any of the other great authors could not have written many parts of the Mormon: e.g. Abinadi’s great talk to King and the priests, Alma’s discourse on faith. Yet this does NOT prove the Book of Mormon is true, but only suggests it. As Moroni says, you have to pray about it.
    In fact, I also agree with Dr. Belnap that no one can “prove” or “disprove” the existence of God. God purposely set up a world in which we have to go to Him to learn whether He exists, and learn about Him. Even if we read the scriptures, we have to do as Moroni says, and pray to learn the truth. After all, we’ve already been tested as to what we would do when we lived in the presence of the Father. Now we are being tested to see what we will do when not in the presence of the Father. If God provided a scientific way of knowing that God existed or that the Book of Mormon is true, we would just be repeating the same test we had in premortality. Now we’re being tested to see if we’ll go to Him for ultimate truth.
    I also liked comment 7, which shows a serious flaw in the theory of evolution:
    7. How did life start? That is currently unknown. Remember that evolution is an explanation for how life came to be from primitive or ancestral life forms.

  10. Thank you all for your interest. I have a few comments in response to some of your responses:
    1. Several responses suggest that the authors of these comments are not considering that random variation followed by selection (evolution’s mechanism) is a constructive process. Please remember that people are using this process to get desired outcomes in proteins and machines. Some people are even calling this “design”. If this is a constructive process and if God used it to make life on earth, this is much different from the unscientific idea that evolution is an accidental process. Believers in God have nothing to fear from learning about evolution! Just stay away from the notions that evolution means that life is accidental and meaningless and morality is irrelevant—those ideas are speculation.
    2. Evolution and the Fall. In writing the section “An Imperfect World”, I was impressed with how the “fallen” world would be expected to be imperfect and cruel. That scriptural idea is consistent with the kind of world that would be created by an evolutionary process. Some atheists claim the “less than optimal design” is evidence of a godless process, but I disagree. I think it is another example of the congruence of scripture and nature.
    3. Proving God exists or does not exist. In my article, I have not intended to make fun of or belittle people who have sincere beliefs in “creationism” or “atheistic evolution”. My point is that whether they know it or not, these efforts really are trying to prove the existence or non-existence of a creator.
    4. Observations and faith. My views are motivated in part by the following experience. When I was in college at BYU, I took a religion class that discussed some of the evidence for the Book of Mormon. For example, we talked about the book coming from a very unlearned young man and the fact that the witnesses who saw the golden plates never denied their testimonies of that observation. I was astonished when my professor insisted that this evidence was not proof that the Book of Mormon was true. He told us we had to get our own spiritual conviction. I didn’t want to have to work for a spiritual conviction! I wanted the easy way out! My professor explained that those facts were just consistent with the book being true. God seems to give us just enough to help us see we aren’t crazy, but not enough to make it a mathematical-like proof. But, those who think otherwise can also find evidence for their position. Faith is required for either belief in God or belief in atheism. The principal evidence that God is the creator comes from the scriptures. That is what I believe and hold on to. Secondary evidence is the order, complexity, and beauty (see Alma 30:44). But, our atheist brothers and sisters have a different view from the same secondary evidence.
    I am not embarrassed about faith, but I think we have to do the spiritual work necessary to build faith. I find my faith strengthened by what I learn through science, including evolution. My views are also motivated by the scriptural statements that signs follow belief. In other words, faith must come first. Then we can see physical things through spiritual eyes. As was pointed out in the responses, people in the Book of Mormon saw the prophesied signs of Christ’s birth come to pass, but later excused them as mere happenstance (3 Nephi 1-2).
    5. For a less well-known but very inspiring account of how the church leadership dealt with one creation-evolution controversy many years ago, please see the story of the debate between Joseph Fielding Smith and Brigham H. Roberts published in BYU Studies: https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=6203.
    6. For questions about evidence for evolution, I suggest people start with the publication by the U.S. National Academy of Science and the Institute of Medicine (Science, Evolution, and Creationism, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2008). It is a thoughtful publication, is respectful of believers in God, and is available for free here: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11876/science-evolution-and-creationism. For example, one responder asked about evolution of whales and giraffes. He or she stated that some explanations are too simple. I encourage him or her and anyone else interested in such questions to research those questions more deeply. Start with the booklet from the National Academy of Science and Institute of Medicine.
    7. How did life start? That is currently unknown. Remember that evolution is an explanation for how life came to be from primitive or ancestral life forms. But, we cannot assume that the spark or first life form was some supernatural event or that this is the event that will prove God created the earth. This could have been a natural process, such as life being introduced from another earth. Again, the evidence that God was the Creator comes from the scriptures. They say that God was responsible. They do not say the creation was an unnatural, supernatural, or “magical” process. So, if I later learn that life came to be from inanimate things as a natural event, my faith in God as Creator will still be intact. Besides, how could we ever tell from physical evidence if something was produced “miraculously” or by a natural process?
    8. Evolution can’t produce biological complexity. This is not true. Lipson’s and Pollack’s engineering experiment proved that it can. So do the protein design experiments that I cited. Please look into those studies. The philosophical implications of these experiments are that a being more intelligent than us could have used these same processes to create us and our world. Just because artificial evolution experiments failed in some instances (pointed out by one responder) doesn’t mean they won’t work. They have worked for others, see the reference to Lipson and Pollack and the protein design papers. We humans are likely at a very elementary stage of using this technology. We should not be surprised at failures. The analogous experiments done in my laboratory have not always worked either. My lab’s experiments, Lipson’s and Pollack’s work, and protein design experiments have produced successful results by starting with something randomized. This doesn’t mean that things are happening by chance. Remember that coupling selection to the process means that this is not “an explosion in a printing shop producing a dictionary”.
    9. Intelligent Design. My comment was terse because the purpose of my essay was not to critique Intelligent Design (ID), and I considered leaving out any comment about that movement. However, for those who might think my ideas were part of that movement, I felt I needed to clarify that my thesis (that evolution is a constructive process and could have been used by God to form life on earth) was not the same as what the ID movement is proposing. That is the main point you should get from the section of my article on ID.
    The universe, earth, and living things already look designed. This has been acknowledged by many even before Darwin and Wallace. Today this is acknowledged, even by many who promote evolution as a godless, accidental process. They, however, put their faith in the idea that the “designed” earth just appeared by chance. My faith is that God is the creator. My view on the mechanism of that creation is that God did design the earth and that He could have implemented his plan through evolutionary processes. Again, if God used this mechanism, he used a principle of construction.
    ID proponents accept much about evolution, perhaps most things. But, the main premise of the ID movement is that some biological machines or processes are so complex that they could not have evolved, and therefore a different process must have made these objects or processes. I do not think ID proponents have yet demonstrated this premise is sound, and at least two prominent examples they proposed, the eye and the bacterial flagellum, have been refuted. Others have shown that the flagellum and eye could have evolved from simpler objects. My views closely match those of commenter bfwebster, who wrote, “The best way to build a large, complex system that works is to evolve it from a small, simple system that works.” The record of nature is consistent with bfwebster’s idea.

    • Dr. Belnap, thank you for the thoughtful article and responses to questions. I am very interested in any further thoughts you may have regarding the compatibility of an evolutionary point of view and teachings involving Adam and Eve.
      I understand from your reply above (re: #2) that you feel that evolution is compatible with a “fallen” world. From your article you indicate that the order of creation, while not perfectly matching the evolutionary timeline, does so in a broader sense (i.e. plants before animals, fish before land). Can the same sort of explanation be produced for seeming incompatibilities with the revealed nature of Adam and Eve?
      In particular, it seems that an evolutionary description of the origin of humans is at odds with the Mormon creation narrative in at least three ways: (1) Adam as father of all; (2) timeline (e.g. Adam lived ~6000 years ago); and (3) location (Joseph Smith puts Adam dwelling in Missouri). If you would be so kind, could you explain how you render these compatible?

    • “Evolution can’t produce biological complexity. This is not true. Lipson’s and Pollack’s engineering experiment proved that it can.”
      I’ll look into this further, but a first glance at Lipson’s Cornell University website has me scratching my head at your assertion. Lipson says:
      “My relatively broad spectrum of research projects focus on what I consider to be two “grand challenges” of engineering: (a) Can we design machines that can design other machines, and (b) Can we make machines that can make other machines. Both of these questions lie at the crux of understanding the engineering process itself, and progress on these fronts can offer huge leverage in our ability to design, make and maintain increasingly complex systems in the future.”
      http://lipson.mae.cornell.edu/
      This reads like a poster for intelligent design. In fact, he goes further (in the next sentence on the same page):
      “Biological life has answered these challenges in ways that dwarf the best teams of human engineers; I therefore use primarily biologically-inspired approaches, as they bring new ideas to engineering and new engineering insight into biology.”
      Yes, exactly. We see good design patterns in nature and want to adopt them for human engineering. So far this is straight up Intelligent Design theory. Maybe elsewhere Lipson indicates that he’s a dyed in the wool Darwinist? But if so, then his research activity as stated here would be at odds with that.
      Evolution. That word. I don’t think you think it means what Darwin and Dawkins would think it means.

    • “… the overwhelming majority of scientists attest that the record of nature unambiguously shows that evolutionary processes occurred and continue to occur.” That statement is either boringly obvious or wildly controversial, depending on the detailed definition of “evolutionary processes”. To folks like Dawkins, evolutionary processes means that all species of life arose from nothing besides random mutations and completely unguided natural selection. You seem to disagree with Dawkins on that point, but Dawkins would represent his view as the mainstream view. So your appeal to authority (that “overwhelming majority of scientists”) is just as damaging to your views as they are to my Intelligent Design viewpoint.
      As the late Will Provine, professor of Biological Sciences at Cornell University said: “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.”
      So who gets to decide which view of evolution is the “mainstream” one? If it’s a simple majority vote of scientists, I’m afraid the atheists probably win that vote.
      You can convincingly argue that the ideas of Dawkins, Provine, Darwin, etc. that are at odds with scripture are also wrong. I’ll buy that. You can argue that there is something that involves variation (without specifying the source of the variation) and selection (without restricting us to unguided selection) that can reasonably be called evolution, that can be observed, and I’ll give that some credibility. I’ll look at it. But this re-branded, re-purposed brand of evolution isn’t the default position we have to accept as an alternate to mainstream evolution. If we get to cut free from the mainstream, I’m going for Intelligent Design, as it it makes the most sense to me.

    • “I do not think ID proponents have yet demonstrated this premise is sound, and at least two prominent examples they proposed, the eye and the bacterial flagellum, have been refuted. Others have shown that the flagellum and eye could have evolved from simpler objects. My views closely match those of commenter bfwebster, who wrote, “The best way to build a large, complex system that works is to evolve it from a small, simple system that works.” The record of nature is consistent with bfwebster’s idea.”
      If you are referring to the Intelligent Design concept of irreducible complexity, first I have to really fault the evolutionists on that. I find that to be a compelling concept, as do many others. Therefore that question should have been asked and answered by Darwinists first. The fact that the Intelligent Design folks were the first to raise that issue indicates to me that ID folks often think deeper about the implications of Darwinism than the Darwinists do. The attempts at refuting the ID objections to evolution of the eye and flagellum that I have seen have been lame Darwinist apologetics that didn’t move me at all. Maybe you’ve seen better.
      In human engineering, yes it makes sense to build complex things from simpler things that work. That’s what I do for my day job. But we always do that with the end in mind. For example, the transistor was invented with the idea of making amplifiers and logic gates, which in turn would be used in radios, computing devices, etc. Airplane wings were invented with the idea that people would fly in airplanes. It’s all very goal directed. Looking at the eye, it seems foolish that someone would invent a lens and a retina independently, without having an eye in mind. And I can’t see what use either would be outside of an eye. Organs were invented with the living creature in mind that would make use of them. I really don’t see how component-based engineering points to anything except far-sighted design.
      “The record of nature” is not anyone’s trump card. There are multiple rational interpretations of it. Some interpretations are backed by a scientific majority, some by a scientific minority. But with supreme courts and scientists, sometimes the minority opinion is better.

  11. Can someone explain to me why an article like this is on Mormon Interpreter? If this was a site dedicated to Mormon biology students, or scientists in general then I could understand it. But for the run of the mill Latter-day Saints, what does it matter if they believe in evolution or not?
    Unless I’m a biologist it makes no difference to my job prospects whether I believe or not. I’m a programmer and my belief, or lack thereof, in evolution is going to have zero impact on my skills as a programmer, my ability to be hired as a programmer, etc.
    Belief or lack there of will have no more bearing on my salvation than my beliefs around hot dogs (which I do not believe are made for human consumption). As long as I believe in God, have faith in Jesus Christ, follow His prophets and the promptings of the Holy Spirit, repent of my sins, etc. I’m good to go.
    My understanding of the scriptures isn’t enhanced by belief in evolution. Whether I believe that creation was a literal 7 days of 24 hours event or an event that took trillions of years it makes no difference to anyone.
    Perhaps it could be argued that this is a matter of scientific literacy, but is this really the forum to be promoting scientific literacy? Are we next going to have an article on the health benefits of drinking a glass of red wine each day because of scientific literacy? And besides, unless I’m a biologist, how important is it for me that I’m literate in this one area of science? And if I was a biologist this would just be singing to the choir.
    Perhaps the authors are embarrassed that so many of their fellow members don’t hold a belief that they or the general population does. Are we then going to be subjected to articles by Latter-day Saints who believe in gay marriage and are embarrassed that so many of their fellow members don’t hold a belief that they or the general population does?
    From reading the comments I think that regardless of the intent, the only result of this article has been contention and anger on both sides. The creation is in the past and however it was accomplished it has little bearing on my day to day life. What really matters is whether we are kind to each other and this kind of article hurts is almost custom designed to lead to incivility (at least on this kind of forum).

    • Golden,
      Interpreter is a multidisciplinary journal that looks at all aspects of faith and scholarship. Since religious and scientific views intersect on the question of the origins and development of life, it’s completely appropriate for Interpreter to publish scholarship that looks at this important subject.
      (I don’t speak for Interpreter; this is my opinion on the matter.)

  12. For evolution to produce the life we see today, it needed time. Lots of it. Four plus billions years for the earth, 13 plus billion for the universe (to produce the elements necessary for life). What does this vast expanse of time imply for the preexistence? What were we — our preexisting spirits — doing during this time? Was there progression in any way analogous to that foreseen for the afterlife, and if so, why did it get us no further than the species Homo sapiens, whose origin and nature scientists purport to explain by wholly naturalistic processes? I can see a resemblance of Homo sapiens to other Hominidae, what I can’t imagine is Homo sapiens exhibiting nearly as close a resemblance to spirit beings who had progressed (in any conceivable sense of the term) for 13 billion years.

    • |And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me. And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth. And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.”
      — Moses 1:31-33
      The scriptures and the temple make it quite clear that “worlds without number” have been created in this universe before our particular planet was inhabited, and that “worlds without number” will continue to be created. Your question appears to assume that this Earth is the only inhabited planet, and that everyone was waiting for it.
      Joseph Smith taught in the King Follett discourse that we are “co-equal” (co-eternal) with Heavenly Father in our pre-existence. Setting aside for now the question of what the nature of our existence was as ‘intelligences’ (prior to receiving ‘spirit bodies’ from our Heavenly Father and Mother), the general concept is that we have always existed. So whether we wait a few years, a few million, a few billion, or a few trillion before obtaining a mortal body is irrelevant.

      • I don’t see how the number of other worlds — or even other universes — has a bearing on our own individual destinies on this world. Perhaps in another universe constrained by other physical laws a plan of salvation was proposed, accepted, and then enthusiastically implemented by the very agents whose destinies were at stake. Instead of allotting billions of years to the mere building of the set upon which the drama is to be played, the set is quickly built to specifications ideally suited to the working out of the plan of salvation on equal terms by all of its inhabitants. In this scenario the spirit/intelligences acquiring their bodies resemble the Saints arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, raring to go from day one, planting crops, laying out plots, building homes, fulfilling purposes. The worlds mentioned in your quote from Moses were created for the Lord’s own purpose, which is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). It seems to me that it is emphatically not a matter of indifference whether we — or any spirits — wait “a few years, a few million, a few billion, or a few trillion” to begin to fulfill that purpose. A purpose that bland has been bled of all meaning.

    • Since we don’t know when each of us became a spirit child of God, we don’t know how old each of our spirits is. The Book of Abraham implies that at least SOME of us who ended up being born on earth, were advanced enough to participate in the formation of the earth ( such as Abraham). The standard we look to is Jesus Christ, who was born into mortality, even though he was Jehovah before his birth. His divine characteristics were not constantly on display during his mortal life. We may have significant talents that remain hidden because we have not progressed far enough spiritually to responsibly exercise those talents. Enoch and Moses appear to have had enormous talents that they were able to exercise under God’s directions. We are told by God that, with his help, we can accomplish miracles, especially as we advance closer to perfection.

      • “We may have significant talents that remain hidden because we have not progressed far enough spiritually to responsibly exercise those talents.”
        But doesn’t this limitation nullify the whole point of free agency? How can I freely choose — and be held accountable for my choices — when a significant part of that which makes me me is hidden and not allowed to be brought to bear? I had a coach once who led us in the following prayer before games: “Dear Lord, In the battle that goes on through life, We ask but a field that is fair; A chance that is equal for all in the strife, And the courage to strive and dare.” To selectively withhold talents — for whatever reason — is to rig the game. Who decides what “talents” to withhold? Based on what criteria? If the whole person reaps in the afterlife what he or she sows in this, why is not the whole person tested? It appears to me that evolution more convincingly accounts for the limitations of the human spirit than any purported hidden talents.

  13. I do have a question for the evolutionists that for myself pertains to the discussion at hand. The scriptures and prophets are quite clear that at the time of Christ’s second coming there will be a great shift in the order of nature as the Earth moves from being a telestial world to a terrestrial world (and then a thousand years or so later from a terrestrial world to a celestial world). Do you find these claims credible? How do you think evolution will be affected by these changes?

    • The difficult faced in answering this question is the same as the difficulty with reconciling the fact of evolution with the scriptural accounts of the creation: Science and theology are two separate disciplines that are asking different questions and using different methods to arrive at their answers.
      Generally speaking, science addresses the “how” while theology addresses the “why.” You don’t go to a natural sciences textbook to find the purpose of life; nor would you turn to the scriptures for an explanation of DNA mutation rates and speciation.
      So the answer to your question, John, is “I don’t have the slightest idea.” There is no (known) scientific basis for such a transformation, so it cannot be observed or studied, therefore its effects are unknown.

  14. Please address different issues from this point on. Posts responding to posts have reached a limit of effectiveness and too easily move into personal arguments and discussions.
    After this post, comments not addressing something new will not be approved.

  15. PS, back when I was a freshman at BYU I saw two separate letters from President McKay stating that the Church has taken no stance on the Theory of Organic Evolution. One letter was in the possession of Harold Bissel, a professor of geology, the other owned by the dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences whose name I do not remember. Sadly, that was before the days of modern copy machines so I do not have a copy of either.

  16. I certainly agree that the Bible does not require creation in seven of our 24 hour days, nor do we know how long Adam and Eve frolicked around in the Garden of Eden before they ate the fruit. There are so many unknowns that about the only thing we can say for certain about how long the creation took is that it took seven of something called days but we do not know the relationship between that and our 24 hour day.
    I detail this in Chapter 3 of my book, “The Bible Doesn’t Say, What Biblical Misconceptions do You Have?” The book describes a lot of things people tend to claim the Bible says that it does not in fact say.

  17. A second reply to James Cutler and a reply to Mike Parker, and a point of clarification to those following this thread……
    The window for the evolution for hemoglobin is ninety day or less. For evolutionists, there is no luxury for time measured in years or millions of years
    As James Cutler points out, the hemoglobin alpha chain has 141 amino acids. But the complete protein is a tetramer of two alpha chains of 141 amino acids each and two beta chains of 146 amino acids each. The number 650 mentioned in my first comment is not derived from the finished circulating hemoglobin protein, but is derived from the hemoglobin chain as seen from the level of the DNA. Any mutation of evolutionary consequence must be taken from the hemoglobin chains derived from DNA level. At the DNA level, things become vastly more complicated since we must also take into account the additional unique permutations of DNA triplet base pairs that specify each amino acid in the final protein chain. This is where evolutionary mutation would need to occur if it were to have any lasting consequence.
    Aside from Cutlers ad hominem attacks, the fact still stands that hemoglobin has a mathematical specificity associated with it of such an order of magnitude, especially from the DNA level, that 50 billion years and counting cannot begin accommodate the permutations necessary to build a functioning molecule. He makes light of this fact, but in reality it doesn’t really matter since the red blood cell, having made its supply of hemoglobin, extrudes the nucleus and DNA and survives thereafter only 90 days in the body. So the real window for evolution is not measured in millions of years but in days! Having pointed this out, however, is not what I really care about. I am not really interested in playing the politically correct game de jure of evolutionary mutation because, in fact, after all, hemoglobin does not mutate. Show me mutating hemoglobin and I will show you a dead or dying patient. For evolutionists, the elixir of evolution is mutation, but in the real world of the living, cellular mutation is called cancer and death.
    I chose to discuss hemoglobin in context of evolution because it points to another real paradox for evolutionists. In my first reply to Cutler, I pointed out that in order to create any protein, including hemoglobin, amino acids can only be joined by breaching the potential energy barrier that requires the input of directed, organized, energy to create covalent chemical bonding, or in other words, an intentional reversal of entropy. There are only two places where this chemical bonding has been observed to happen: intracellular enzymatic reaction and in controlled experiment in the laboratory. The energy to achieve intracellular enzymatic reactions comes from cellular respiration, the oxygen for which comes from hemoglobin a priori. Hemoglobin needs hemoglobin in order to exist! In the first instance of embryogenesis, oxygen comes from the mother’s hemoglobin. There is no room for evolution in this equation.

    • Reply to Robertson:
      Copied and pasted from my initial response:
      “This objection to evolution is SO common, in fact, that it has actually been included in biology textbooks to warn students of the arguments being made to distort science and undermine scientific literacy, all in the name of the crusade against evolution (and, quite honestly, against a lot of other things in the natural sciences, but I digress). I quote from one such textbook: “Hemoglobin has 141 amino acids [or, rather, each of the alpha subunits has 141 amino acids, and each of the beta subunits roughly as many]. The probability that the first one would be leucine is 1/20, and that all 141 would be the ones they are by chance is (1/20) raised to the 141st power, an impossibly rare event.” The textbook then goes on to explain what is wrong with this reasoning, which I will also explain and illustrate below.
      This argument shows a lack of understanding of probability and statistics–probability cannot be used to argue backwards. If you were to write down a list of, say, several hundred amino acids, and then ask someone to write the same number of amino acids down in an ordered sequence without knowing about the sequence you just wrote down, then the chance of both people writing down the same list would indeed be impossibly rare. But what does that have to do with your ability to write a list of several hundred amino acids in the first place? Nothing. That impossible rarity has absolutely nothing to do with–and so cannot preclude or make ridiculous any claim about an act of–writing down the first such list of amino acids. Nor does that rarity have anything to do with long amino acid sequences evolving. No one, no matter how uneducated, will think that the theory of evolution posits that whole proteins got the way they are today by appearing in their current form out of thin air all in one instant. So, explaining that this is not how proteins evolve–all at once, with zero prior iterations–should be needless, in an ideal world.”
      And:
      “Those of us viewing this website will be familiar with the conference center in SLC. Well, here’s an argument with the exact same reasoning about probabilities as the one made above by Brent Robertson: The probability that a person sitting in the conference center during General Conference has a particular birthday is 1/365; the probability that everyone sitting in the conference center during General Conference would have the birthdays they do is (1/365) raised to the power of 21,000, since there are around 21,000 seats. An impossibly rare event! (By the way, this is unimaginably more rare than an event with a chance of 10 to the 180 or 10 to the 560.) How many googolplexes of years would it take for such an event to occur!? If anyone ever tells you that an event like General Conference occurred, don’t believe them! They’re wrong!
      Or, if you prefer an event not involving people, then think of any living thing having a birthday, and being in a large group of similar organisms all with their respective birthdays (or birth minutes, if we’re talking about microbes with fast generation turnovers). Or think of many grains of sand distributed by the wind all over a vast tract of land, with their respective coordinates in longitude and latitude. Any particular coordinate will be one in who knows how many possible coordinates–way more than 365 (the total number of days in a year) or 20 (the total number of proteinogenic amino acids in humans, or if you prefer, 21). The sort of reasoning displayed for us in the comment above would have us all believe that stuff like that just can’t happen–so don’t believe it! I hope by now it’s patent enough to all how bad this sort of reasoning is.”
      The foregoing quotations from my initial response are not an ad hominem attack (I’m just pointing out the reasoning–not the person–is flawed or bad), and have not been refuted by Robertson. But if Robertson continues with his insistence about not needing to, then it doesn’t matter since it’s fairly obvious what he is really doing (evading rebuttals). Patently confused claims that a 90-day survival time of DNA in the body after the red blood cell makes its supply of hemoglobin somehow being related even remotely to evolutionary timescales add incoherence but no real intelligible argumentation. My arguments stand. So … no, the “fact” doesn’t stand that protein evolution is an impossibly rare event. You actually have to say something to dismantle the reasoning copied and pasted for your convenience above. This isn’t a difficult concept to grasp. You made an argument to start out with, make another one that actually treats my counterargument, and doesn’t merely mislabel it.
      There is clearly so much in terms of basic concepts that need to be communicated here in order to straighten out that garbled part about the time for hemoglobin evolution, that it seems most productive to simply refer you to a textbook on biochemistry.
      I am sad to see that Robertson is stuck on this and the entropy fallacy in spite of the glaring lacunae in his arguments, without apparent interest in giving responses to specific points made in counterarguments that clearly undermine his reasoning.
      So, with no need to add anything beyond my intact rebuttals to the probability and entropy arguments, I wish you luck, Brent Robertson, in your own personal search for truth.
      Thank you for the short biochem review on tetramers.
      God bless,
      James Cutler
      p.s. For an educational experience on the homology of hemoglobin and the evolutionary story this data tells (also, on how mutations obviously did not lead to dying patients–for veterinarians, I guess?–in the deep past), there’s a fairly straightforward overview here: http://www.bio.davidson.edu/Courses/Molbio/MolStudents/spring2005/Heiner/ortholog.html
      Also, textbooks, as anticipated:
      Biochemistry: Concepts and Connections Plus MasteringChemistry with eText — Access Card Package, 1/E
      Appling, Anthony-Cahill & Mathews
      ©2016 | Prentice Hall | Published: 12/31/2014
      ISBN-10: 0321839765 | ISBN-13: 9780321839763
      Biochemistry, 4/E
      Mathews, van Holde, Appling & Anthony-Cahill
      ©2013 | Prentice Hall | Published: 02/16/2012
      ISBN-10: 0138004641 | ISBN-13: 9780138004644
      I would cite specific page numbers, but you’ll need to take a good look at the books’ contents in their entirety, since apparently there is a lot you need to brush up on. (Not an ad hominem, just shocked at the quality of the attempt you made to convince us about the time constraints of evolution of proteins like hemoglobin. I can be blunt sometimes, but I assure you I am not attacking you in any way.)

  18. Just a note on civility. Some of the comments on this post have made me sad. Br. Belnap didn’t accuse the prophets (or anyone else) of lying. I have a scientific disagreement with Br. Belnap, but I would be totally happy to have him as a member of my ward and a brother in my priesthood quorum. Please people, be kind.

    • Thank you for that timely advice, David. I am now regretting some of my own comments. I will be more kind and careful. I forget too easily that contention is the real problem.

  19. I’m still waiting for any evolutionist to answer my questions in my previous comment. If no evolutionist chooses to answer my questions, I can only assume that evolutionists have NO answer to these questions. My questions appeared in my previous comment, which said the following:
    I like the following sentence in the previous comment by Raymond Takashi Swenson:
    “The most basic point about the creation of life is that Darwinian evolution does not even attempt to explain it. Darwinism has to start with living cells with a DNA system that can be mutated. It says nothing about the transition from disorganized matter into the first functioning cell with DNA or its equivalent.”
    Could Dr. Belnap or any other evolutionist explain the above paragraph to me – that is, how evolution explains how non-life evolved into life?
    Also, I understand that no scientist has ever actually seen one species change into another species. Could Dr. Belnap or any other evolutionist please explain why scientists believe something they’ve never observed but believe only because of an interpretation of fossils? Shouldn’t evolutionists be more scientific and believe only what they observe?

    • Lanny, in this type of media, the best answer to why someone answers your questions is that they haven’t yet answered–not that they couldn’t or wouldn’t. Some people actually do other things in life and don’t check in with this kind of media very often.

    • “Could Dr. Belnap or any other evolutionist explain the above paragraph to me – that is, how evolution explains how non-life evolved into life?”
      There’s actually quite a bit of scientific literature that addresses this question. A Google search will provide more reading that you could wish for. Here’s a good place to start:
      http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/originoflife.html
      “Also, I understand that no scientist has ever actually seen one species change into another species.”
      That’s a common claim among creationists, but it isn’t true.
      http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

  20. A reply to James Cutler.
    You attack the messenger but still fail to refute the message. But wait! It gets worse form here! Next we see that evolution not only has no chance in time, but has no chance at all in the laws of physics and chemistry.
    For hemoglobin, and for that matter all proteins, we must assume that the hemoglobin protein as described above is being formed in the already living body! This has to be so in order to obey the laws of chemistry and physics. In particular, we must abide the universal second law of thermodynamics in physics which states that all random processes, such as evolution presupposes, naturally proceed to an increase in entropy and disorder. To join every amino acid together in the hemoglobin chain, we will need to reverse entropy and create chemical atomic covalent bonding between each amino acid in the chain and reduce disorder and create order to produce an organized chain of amino acids. In other words, to put a hemoglobin amino acid chain together, we have to reverse the natural downhill flow of entropy in the universe and join two amino acids together that don’t naturally want to exist joined together. These chemical bonds can only be formed by a focused, deliberate input of organized energy into the system. There is such a high energy barrier against these amino acids naturally coming together that to unite them we must grab them and hold them in place while we channel organized chemical energy into the atomic chemical covalent bond to unite them- each amino acid bond one at a time for 570 successive bonds in the exact specificity that we described above. In the living body, this is accomplished by enzymes, each one of which, like hemoglobin, is a complex system of amino acid chains forming an enzyme protein.
    These enzymes, found only in living cells, facilitate the formation of chemical bonds between atoms in such a way that they reduce the energy barrier needed to produce a chemical bond. Without enzymes these chemical bonds can only be formed on the lab bench and certainly not by accident in nature. 2 These are the immutable facts of physics and chemistry. To finish the story of the origin of hemoglobin, we now have to move on beyond mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Even they alone and undirected cannot explain the following observation.
    As mentioned, organized, focused energy must be channeled into a system to create covalent chemical bonding between the atoms linking an amino acid chain together. From where does this energy come? It originates from the complex oxidation-reduction reaction that creates energy from the transfer of electrons between oxygen and carbon. This energy is then captured and carefully transmitted to the enzymes facilitating the chemical bonding of amino acids. This process of generating energy is called cellular respiration. It is so named because the cell is taking in oxygen and it is this very oxygen molecule that is the indispensable ingredient in aerobic cellular respiration and energy production. However, as yet, from the viewpoint of the humble hemoglobin molecule, we are only in the process of forming it for the first time- the very molecule, hemoglobin, that itself is solely responsible for carrying the vital oxygen molecule from the lung to the cell in the first order of things. Thus, the cell cannot exist without hemoglobin and hemoglobin cannot exist without the cell. From this, we arrive at the inescapable conclusion that the whole system must be organized with intent and immediacy. All things must be intelligently planned and be in their proper order from the beginning

    • Ah, I see I have upset you, and for that I am sorry. I did not mean to attack you personally. I was just lamenting the deficiencies in your education. Consider the lament directed toward a much broader issue facing modern education systems in general.
      Since your reply contains no critique of my counterargument to your probability objection, nothing further needs to be added here on that subject. My counterargument stands.
      And now to proceed with the next argument you raise. As an aside, I make these replies for now; though if you keep coming up with fallacy after fallacy, I will eventually decide this is a waste of time if I get the impression that none of these obvious points of clarification about your mistakes mean anything to you.
      You’re right, it does get worse …
      Your first fallacy has now been compounded by yet another–perhaps even more famous and more egregious. Yet again, this new argument about entropy is so common that it is also included in biology textbooks warning students about flawed attempts to oppose the theory of evolution. It almost seems like you’re reading these out of a biology textbook, and stopping right before you get to the explanation about why these arguments are flawed. Now you may begin to understand the sense I get that this could be a waste of time for me, when I could just refer you to a science textbook containing the exact same explanation I’m about to give you. My next post may very well be a book title, page number, and subheading indicating where you can find a refutation to your next argument already published somewhere.
      The ‘evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics’ argument was first popularized among creationists by a man named Robert E D Clark. He had credentials, but was wrong anyways, as he himself later partially realized. He thought evolution to be “first and foremost a chemical problem”, needing to explain “how chemical molecules of gigantic complexity came into existence and have been able to arrange themselves in increasingly complicated ways”, and that evolution could “never involve any real rise in the degree of organization of an organism.” “If in past ages complex organisms ever did evolve from simpler ones, the process took place contrary to the laws of nature, and must have involved what may rightly be termed the miraculous.” “For this reason the doctrine of evolution can never legitimately form a part of naturalistic philosophical … thought”. (Robert E. D. Clark, ‘Darwin: Before and After: The Story of Evolution’, London: Paternoster Press, 1948, p. 127; also, Robert E. D. Clark, “Evolution and Entropy,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 75 (1943): 49-71).
      Though the concern over evolution and entropy had cropped up as early as the late 19th century, no anti-evolution argument from creationist Evangelical fundamentalists exploited this premature concern until after Robert E D Clark–for example, when a revised version of his argument was published in the book ‘Darwin: Before and After’, in 1948. After that, many creationist fundamentalists of that time took the entropy argument and ran with it, often without understanding the real issue as well as Clark did. You see, even Clark was actually aware that this entropy problem had already been resolved, having heard arguments about how part of the energy generated by hot steam can be converted into highly ordered work at the expense of the remainder. In other words, a huge net increase in entropy with the dissipation of heat from steam can mathematically conceal within it a smaller decrease of entropy as some of the energy is converted into work in a … (dah-da-da-dah!) steam engine, for example. Have you heard of a steam engine? (Sorry for the condescension, but the vacuity of these arguments that have already long ago been refuted a thousand times is getting to me.)
      Just like the steam engine example (or the entire industrial revolution, for that matter, all of which occurred–going from no machines to machines being made by other machines … kind of like cellular machinery–without violation of any natural laws), so too the biosphere here on Earth can decrease in entropy (i.e. increase in complexity and order). This is possible due to the input of the energy of the Sun, and the Sun’s massively greater increase in entropy (resulting in a huge net increase in entropy–not even close to violating the second law of thermodynamics).
      The second law of thermodynamics implies that a closed system cannot decrease in entropy. The Earth by itself is not a closed system, because it continuously receives large amounts of energy from the Sun. So, the Earth-Sun system increases in entropy–violating no natural laws–while the biosphere of Earth increases in complexity. Problem solved.
      By the way, thank you for that cursory review of cellular respiration. That was nice. Nothing wrong with it. Except that hemoglobin is not actually necessary for all cells to regenerate ATP (i.e. energy). Bacteria do not make hemoglobin, and the aerobic ones do use oxygen to drive cellular respiration. You have simply ignored the story of natural history that the theory of evolution tells us, based on genetic, molecular, and paleontological data, in your attempt to refute it. As long as you switch through incorrect representations of the view you’re opposing, you can come up with any number of flawed refutations of it.
      Just in case I didn’t make it clear already, that exact entropy-based reasoning against evolution can be used to deny that something like the industrial revolution could ever occur without violating natural laws. Humans in developed nations are now so dependent on machines that they would suffer seriously without them. How did the machines we use today get there? From factories with machines inside that make them. How did those factories get there? From other machines, like tractors and cranes, and what not. And how did those machines get there? We proceed in our review of history in this manner on and on back to the most primitive machines initially developed by lots of man-power and animal-power in the early days of the industrial revolution. Insofar as physics is concerned, the basic overview of natural history is not very different.
      But some can get hung up on stuff like this and think that it’s all circular, and conclude that it could not occur without violating natural laws.
      Anyway, why are flawed arguments embraced by people who are supposed to be educated in science? This is very troubling for education, especially in a time hundreds of years after the birth of modern science.
      Nietzsche once said, “The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists in defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” Please do us both a favor and stop disgracing my belief in God and yours by defending the belief with really really bad arguments.

  21. From a strict word meaning standpoint, it seems clear that the ideas of creation and evolution are mutually exclusive and that people on either side of the fence agree. Hence the conflict. From a statistical standpoint, without one having a great deal of faith it appears that natural selection has way too many barriers to overcome in trying to explain how random mutations can account for the evolutionary climb to ever and ever higher and more complex life forms. To say that God may have used “evolutionary principles” in His creations, one would have to assume that He programmed the DNA of each species to have a certain latitude of mutational changes available for any particular species to respond to different environments. Thus, for example, the essential trait of “dogness” would still be present in all the varieties of the dog family that have come about through natural or artificial selection. But, this is not evolution in its strict meaning of the randomness of natural selection but rather is programmed evolution, which is not really evolution but rather a type of creationism.
    It is easy to see how one could become brain washed by the evolutionary paradigm. Evolution in its “descent of man” sense has been apotheosized from a hypothesis to a theory, and despite all its gaps it is flexible enough to fit the evolutionary narrative derived from geologic time. But it does require a great deal of faith, more than I can muster as a layman.

  22. Also, there is considerable scriptural evidence that Satan, the Destroyer, not God, created viruses and such, and therefore they are not under the command to multiply only after their own kind. Satan is an evil intelligent designer (pun intended).

  23. Yes, the influenza virus is still an influenza virus- all of the same features that identify it as an influenza virus. It hasn’t become something new.. it’s playing a game that it is capable of doing- it has within it certain capabilities of expression just as our immune system has certain capabilities of forming matching antibodies against it after the flu shot. More to the point- we would not say that our immune cells were furiously mutating blindly and randomly at millions of times a second to come up with, just by blind chance, the right matching antibody. The economy of the body, not evolution, has the ability to match the antigen of the virus.

  24. Just a note on the comment I just published. I entered the numbers as scientific notation and I see that the post did not accept them as such and reinterpreted them. To clarify, the number 10560 posted in the comment is 10 raised to the power of 650, or a ten followed by six hundred and fifty zeros. The number appearing in the post as 10180, should read 10 raised to the power of 180, or in other words 10 followed by 180 zeros.

  25. I like the following sentence in the previous comment by Raymond Takashi Swenson:
    “The most basic point about the creation of life is that Darwinian evolution does not even attempt to explain it. Darwinism has to start with living cells with a DNA system that can be mutated. It says nothing about the transition from disorganized matter into the first functioning cell with DNA or its equivalent.”
    Could Dr. Belnap or any other evolutionist explain the above paragraph to me – that is, how evolution explains how non-life evolved into life?
    Also, I understand that no scientist has ever actually seen one species change into another species. Could Dr. Belnap or any other evolutionist please explain why scientists believe something they’ve never observed but believe only because of an interpretation of fossils? Shouldn’t evolutionists be more scientific and believe only what they observe?
    As far as the age of the earth and other elements, the answer of millions of years is obviously wrong. All matter has existed forever and thus is infinitely old. The only intelligent question about the age of matter, is how long has it existed in its present form. And the process of aging is NOT a constant – as we can see in humans; humans mainly grow between birth and 18 years; after 18 years we see little growth except in cases of getting fatter. Thus, even the aging process varies among living things just as it does with humans.

  26. In the pursuit of truth,
    Evolution is the definition of impossible! I am speaking from the viewpoint of a physician and chemist, with a BA in chemistry and an MD in medicine. For all to see, the evidence is very, very, strongly against evolution. When Darwin’s theory was misused as a guidepost to the past, the world, as yet, had no knowledge of molecular biology. Since then, the discovery of DNA and insights of molecular biology have easily disproven evolution. Take for instance only one example- the hemoglobin molecule. It is only one of thousands of proteins in the body that must function exactly and perfectly in order for the whole to survive. All missteps are fatal, and the few known single errors in the protein are associated with severe disease- surely not meant for survival of the fittest. The molecular specificity of the hemoglobin molecule has been calculated. Using the mathematics of probability and a computer to do the calculation, we find that the amino acid sequence of the hemoglobin molecule has a specificity of 10560. This is to say that given continuous mutation, there would be only one chance in 10560 that it would arrive at the right sequence of amino acids in order to function as a protein of hemoglobin. That is one chance in ten followed by six hundred and fifty zeros. For those of the big bang persuasion (I’m not one of them), and assuming that the earth has been around for 5 billion years, or to be generous, say 50 billion years, we have a big problem! On a cosmic scale, hemoglobin at 10560 must be compared to the number of seconds in a 50 billion year old planet. In 50 billion years there are only 10180 seconds. If hemoglobin were to mutate at a rate of ten trillion times a second since the beginning of the planet to arrive at the right sequence, then by the year 2015, it would still take tens of trillions of trillions of years more before one chance in 10560 had occurred. And this would have to be for all proteins being capable of surviving in a living body which by definition has not yet occurred! Yet hemoglobin only survives in the red blood cell for 90 days and then the red blood cell is destroyed by the body and recycled to a new hemoglobin molecule from scratch. Thus we have a complete failure of evolution in explaining even the existence of a single molecule. For those interested in the calculation of hemoglobin’s specificity, see David Foster’s book, the Philosophical Scientist, 1991. His work originated with the Oxford Club, a group of scientists at Oxford who were about to publish their work against Darwin’s theory in Britain at the outbreak of WWII. Unfortunately, they did not survive the war, but David Foster, a grad student at the time, expanded their ideas into the realm of the newly emerging insights of molecular biology and the computer driven computation of the necessary statistics of probability. Something that could not have been done or even attempted at the time of Darwin.

    • Those who understand probability theory will immediately recognize what’s wrong with this argument by Brent Robertson. I am truly and vicariously embarrassed to see this kind of fallacy used and reused by Christians in attacks on evolution. This probability argument is a common one.
      This objection to evolution is SO common, in fact, that it has actually been included in biology textbooks to warn students of the arguments being made to distort science and undermine scientific literacy, all in the name of the crusade against evolution (and, quite honestly, against a lot of other things in the natural sciences, but I digress). I quote from one such textbook: “Hemoglobin has 141 amino acids [or, rather, each of the alpha subunits has 141 amino acids, and each of the beta subunits roughly as many]. The probability that the first one would be leucine is 1/20, and that all 141 would be the ones they are by chance is (1/20) raised to the 141st power, an impossibly rare event.” The textbook then goes on to explain what is wrong with this reasoning, which I will also explain and illustrate below.
      This argument shows a lack of understanding of probability and statistics–probability cannot be used to argue backwards. If you were to write down a list of, say, several hundred amino acids, and then ask someone to write the same number of amino acids down in an ordered sequence without knowing about the sequence you just wrote down, then the chance of both people writing down the same list would indeed be impossibly rare. But what does that have to do with your ability to write a list of several hundred amino acids in the first place? Nothing. That impossible rarity has absolutely nothing to do with–and so cannot preclude or make ridiculous any claim about an act of–writing down the first such list of amino acids. Nor does that rarity have anything to do with long amino acid sequences evolving. No one, no matter how uneducated, will think that the theory of evolution posits that whole proteins got the way they are today by appearing in their current form out of thin air all in one instant. So, explaining that this is not how proteins evolve–all at once, with zero prior iterations–should be needless, in an ideal world.
      The inanity inherent in the reasoning used today to argue against the evolution of things like hemoglobin or any other protein is truly mind-numbing.
      Those of us viewing this website will be familiar with the conference center in SLC. Well, here’s an argument with the exact same reasoning about probabilities as the one made above by Brent Robertson: The probability that a person sitting in the conference center during General Conference has a particular birthday is 1/365; the probability that everyone sitting in the conference center during General Conference would have the birthdays they do is (1/365) raised to the power of 21,000, since there are around 21,000 seats. An impossibly rare event! (By the way, this is unimaginably more rare than an event with a chance of 10 to the 180 or 10 to the 560.) How many googolplexes of years would it take for such an event to occur!? If anyone ever tells you that an event like General Conference occurred, don’t believe them! They’re wrong!
      Or, if you prefer an event not involving people, then think of any living thing having a birthday, and being in a large group of similar organisms all with their respective birthdays (or birth minutes, if we’re talking about microbes with fast generation turnovers). Or think of many grains of sand distributed by the wind all over a vast tract of land, with their respective coordinates in longitude and latitude. Any particular coordinate will be one in who knows how many possible coordinates–way more than 365 (the total number of days in a year) or 20 (the total number of proteinogenic amino acids in humans, or if you prefer, 21). The sort of reasoning displayed for us in the comment above would have us all believe that stuff like that just can’t happen–so don’t believe it! I hope by now it’s patent enough to all how bad this sort of reasoning is.
      I am so sorry for using words like ‘inanity’ and ‘egregious’, which probably sound mean, but I am just struggling to come to grips with how humiliating this level of thought really is, especially among people who should have been educated in science and math.

  27. The actual leaders of the Intelligent Design movement support exactly the kind of guided evolution which Professor Belnap asserts is compatible with what scientists know about evolution. The fact is that the assertion that EVERY modification to DNA in earth’s history was made purely through natural accidental influences, and survival of some mutations purely through competitive reproduction and survival, is a broadly sweeping assertion covering the whole earth for over a billion years of the fossil record, and rarely is tested as to the specific aspects of living things. Intelligent Design advocates like Michael Behe do not reject such evolution per se, but suggest it is insufficient to explain 100% of the ingenious adaptations we observe in living things. If natural selection tells the whole story, showing how it applies in specific instances should be simple, but there are many cases where it is difficult, and I have read a lot of faulty assertions by scientists who claim to have done it but did not.
    The most basic point about the creation of life is that Darwinian evolution does not even attempt to explain it. Darwinism has to start with living cells with a DNA system that can be mutated. It says nothing about the transition from disorganized matter into the first functioning cell with DNA or its equivalent. Scientists who express confidence that they can figure it out are expressing faith in materialism and their rejection of God. But as a former computer software designer, I know that random events do not create computers, and do not create software that works, and that is what DNA is: a computer and software. There are uncountable ways to fail, and the notion that enough time will make up the difference carries the hidden assumption that something is persistent. But inanimate matter is not committed to trial and error until it achieves a goal.

    • Raymond, I think I agree with everything you said. But Bro. Belnap seemed to be critical of ID and I don’t know what he means by “using evolution.”

      • Modern scientists are at the point of modifying DNA, usually through splicing on DNA from another species. If a supreme intelligence such as the God we worship wanted to do so, he could clearly do DNA manipulation much more capably than we can. A scientist who does not want to believe in God can assert that the process of evolution is totally due to random mutations and differential reproductive success, and is not forced to believe in some active agent intervening. On the other hand, they can hardly claim that God, if he exists, could not affect this process, since he is smarter than we are, and we have a rudimentary ability to do jusr that. I read Professor Belnap to be making this argument. And as you npte, while he makes a perfunctory statement criticizing Intellient Design, he is advancing a similar argument to theirs. He appears to claim that the ID effort to identify evolutionary changes which are unequivocally artificial has not been successful, while I disagree. In any case, no one who is determined to rule out intervention by God is compelled by evidence which many of us find convincing; I have seen that over and over.
        I personally see the search for evidence of a superior intelligence being involved in writing the text of DNA as having close parallels to our discovery of information in the Book of Mormon, Book of Moses and Book of Abraham which could not have gotten there through non-divine, naturalistic processes. They are chuck full of information that Joseph Smith plainly did not know, and which even most scholars were unaware of in 1829. There is no rational naturalistic, atheist explanation for the appearance in these books of ancient “DNA” such as details of Arabian geography, including the Nahum altar and the existence of a well-watered costal “Bountiful”. There is no explanation for Joseph insisting the book was written.on metal plates, at a time before that practice was known to scholars. There is no edxplanation for the appearance of unmistakable chiasmus and other authentic ancient Hebrew characteristics. There is no naturalistic expanation for the matching between the Book of Moses material about Enoch which matches Enoch.books that were not translated into English for over a century after the Book of Mormon, even down to scenarios and names. There is no naturalistic explanation for the similarities between the Book of Abraham and ancient extra-biblical traditions about Abraham. When the material world cannot produce these things, concluding there was divine involvement is rational. And the same logic can apply to the content of DNA. Thus, the ID movement does the same thing that FARMS and now the Mormon Interpreter do.

    • Raymond, I am in total agreement. As a computer engineer with decades of software development experience, I find the comparison between DNA and software to be compelling. And yes, writing code takes intelligent design.
      The comparisons between undirected natural selection and genetic algorithms, on the other hand, are not convincing. When I was doing circuit design, we used genetic algorithms as a cost-saving measure to auto-route wires between chips and traces on chips. The result was often a mess that had to be cleaned up by human intervention. Genetic algorithms are grandly named as a marketing strategy.

  28. I agree with Professor Belnap’s thesis and his reasoning. Only an extreme interpretation of Genesis, which I call Young Earth Creationism, is at odds with an evolutionary history of life’s development and flowering on earth. YEC is also at odds with geology, cosmology and astronomy, and nuclear physics. It is also at odds with Catholic religious doctrine, which at least since St. Augustine has asserted that Genesis 1 is not meant by God to be taken simplistically, and which has embraced the Big Bang theory, developed by a Catholic astronomer, as scientific support for Augustine’s belief in creation ex nihilo.
    Furthermore, I would argue that YEC is incompatible with express LDS teachings about God’s work in the universe. D & C 76 reveals that Christ is the Savior of the inhabitants of innumerable worlds in the cosmos, which are at different stages of their development. The Book of Moses explains that there are so many inhabited worlds they are innumerable to man (but not to God), and that the creation account we have in Genesis 1 concerns the earth, our earth, where Moses stood. It is not a description of thE creation of anything beyond our own solar system, and does not comprehend the whole of time or space.
    Joseph Fielding Smith spoke about the possibility of prior earths being used to construct ours, but that in fact directly contradicts the ex nihilo perspective of YEC. Our Mormon materialistic creation takjes seriously the Hebrew of Genesis, and opposes any form of ex nihilo, whether YEC or Catholic. If we LDS would appreciate that first, then we would not have the difficulty accepting many aspects of science that show the earth is over 4 billion years old, and life has existed and evolved over that time.
    The point of the creation stories is to affirm what God tells us in many other places: He is in charge of the universe, he made it, and made life, and we and the earth are on course toward an upgrade in our material configuration.

  29. I am aware that “simple explanations” are sometimes used to teach certain principles, but I have found many of the simple explanations associated with evolution to have NO supporting details behind them.
    An example from one of my children’s textbooks describes the giraffe’s long neck as being the end result of a sort of competition for survival between short-necked and long-necked versions of the same animal — the longer necked version “winning out” (they can reach those high leaves, don’t you know). Simple. The details in all of nature, however, say that short-necked animals are just fine, in fact, nature could support animals of lots of different neck lengths. There is nothing that would “select” the short-necked creatures out of existence since they were perfectly survivable to start with. Another detail is the fact that the long-necked giraffes also need special structures in their feet and heads to control blood pressure — it is NOT simply a gene for long or short neck, as the textbook had stated.
    A family near us raises goats. I’ve seen goats trying to nibble on branches above them as far as they can reach. When can we expect to see a mutation of a goat with a long neck that can be deemed by nature as now more fit for survival while all other goats fade into extinction? Oh, so you say goats don’t need long necks to survive? “Exactly!”, I would respond.
    One could similarly look for the details in whale evolution from terrestrial animals, which the author mentions. I’ve seen the discussions on whale evolution and they still don’t provide the details that satisfy the logic regarding whale development.
    It’s probably not good to only make this a discussion of evolution itself, so I’ll offer another option to consider: If there are “worlds without number” there are also already in existence “fauna and flora elsewhere in the universe without number.” What about introducing animals to the earth at various intervals?

  30. Dr Belnap,
    Thank you for your contribution. I agree with much of what you say. But two things caused me some concerns.
    First, your treatment of Intelligent Design was so cursory, it was almost dismissive. You cited Miller’s 1999 book, but not Behe’s rebuttals. You also don’t mention Behe, Demski and Meyer’s other ideas and work. I get the feeling you aren’t familiar with Intelligent Design directly. Only through its detractors.
    My second concern is with your comment on putting faith in its proper place. That seems strange to me. Like its a weird hobby that we’re kind of embarrassed about and we keep it in the closet when real scientists are in the house. Elder Nelson was able to combine scientific knowledge and revelation to save a man’s life. I want to ask you, have you asked God how He created life? Have you asked Him how He might have used evolution?
    Again I thank you for your contribution and your scientific work. It’s so important for the world and the church.

  31. This article is proof that it is possible to believe in evolution and in the scriptures. Br. Belnap, your sincerity and passion are unmistakable. I can see that you do believe in both. This is a well-written and thoughtful article. I disagree with nearly every one of your arguments, but I’ll comment on just a couple.
    You seem to be arguing that the principle of intelligent design could not be possibly true, because 1) Intelligent design advocates are out looking for scientific proof of God, and 2) God wouldn’t allow there to be scientific proof of his existence, therefore no intelligent design. Both arguments are false.
    Intelligent design proponents are smart people who consider themselves to be merely following the evidence wherever it leads. They seem to be completely honest and sincere. In other words, they are just like you. They say their theories are not based on a desire to prove God’s existence scientifically, but on observation and reasoning. I see no reason not to give them the same benefit of the doubt that I give you.
    You seem to reject intelligent design because if it were true that an intelligent agent actually designed the earth and living things, and there was scientific evidence that such was the case, that would be too much of a good thing. That would go against God’s plan that we should live by faith, and therefore God would not allow it. Therefore any scientific evidence or theory that points to an intelligent designer must be rejected out of hand — for religious reasons! You are claiming that scripture and intelligent design are incompatible, therefore we must reject intelligent design. I find that argument to be plain wrong.
    Science, as you stated in the article, is “the record of nature.” It is about people observing things with their physical senses, writing down those observations, sharing that written record with others, and forming conclusions. For example Halley’s comet was observed in the year 1066. That observation was recorded and later correlated with other observations, and conclusions were drawn regarding it’s likely re-appearance in the future.
    This is exactly the nature of the evidence of the resurrection of Christ. There were upwards of 400 people who saw the Lord with their physical eyes after His death and resurrection. There were at least 2000 who saw Him in the new world. Two independent, written records of things seen with material eyes, felt with material hands, and heard with the material ears. How is this not scientific? Because the observers didn’t have advanced degrees? Because it wasn’t published in Nature magazine? The women who wove the Bayeux Tapestry commemorating the appearance of Halley’s comet in 1066 didn’t have advanced degrees either, yet a scientist would be a fool to reject their testimony on that account. Likewise, any one who is honest in heart should consider the record of observations provided to us and perform further experiments (as suggested in the text) to determine whether Christ really does live, and form conclusions as to His future appearance.
    No matter how scientific the evidence of God’s existence, that doesn’t take away agency nor the need for faith. Therefore, intelligent design and the scriptures are compatible.
    Note that Thomas managed to doubt the witness of ten honest men whom he knew personally. Likewise, the wicked Nephites in the Book of Mormon managed to doubt despite the verification of predictions made by prophets, such as the appearance of a new star on schedule. One of the hallmarks of good science is that it makes predictions that can be verified, yet no amount of such verification can deter the determined unbeliever.
    If you think that scientific evidence of God’s existence would take away the need for faith, consider this obvious fact: I and millions of your fellow Latter-Day Saints do not believe what is being taught about evolution. This despite the fact that a majority of evolutionary biologists think it is proven scientific fact. In a similar manner, atheists find a way to disbelieve intelligent design, despite the many compelling arguments put forward by scientists who favor it. Science doesn’t override agency at all.
    Br. Belnap, you are of course welcome to believe in evolution and scripture too. But you are wrong to imply that intelligent design is incompatible with faith.

    • Though I agree with Dr. Belnap’s essay, I also have to agree with your point, David, specifically about the fact that the claim of intelligent design doesn’t necessarily contradict anything we learn about the nature of God from scripture. I think I can agree with that point about compatibility and also with Dr. Belnap’s essay, because I noticed that what Dr. Belnap did say about intelligent design was simply that scientific claims coming from leading proponents of intelligent design have in fact turned out to be false; also, that belief in God does not require patent and unambiguous scientific evidence that is not in any significant way subjective.
      Even though it appears that researchers haven’t found any scientific data indicating that life as we observe it would be impossible without intervention from an intelligent agency, that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t some biological proof of God lurking out there waiting for us to discover it, right? Did I understand you correctly?
      Regarding eye-witness accounts of the resurrection, I have to agree with you. This point, however, does not actually bear upon the question of the validity of claims central to intelligent design. Right?
      Wouldn’t it be great to have scientific evidence from biology for the existence of God that is as compelling as the evidence for evolution? You said there were “many compelling arguments put forward by scientists” in favor of intelligent design. I would love to hear what those arguments are, because I have never been told about any or found any in my own personal research. Maybe this is because I haven’t really looked deep enough into it. To be clear, I’m interested in arguments/evidence demonstrating that, given the natural laws we’re currently aware of, biological complexity or certain aspects thereof would be impossible without intelligent intervention.
      I can’t wait to hear from you!

      • James thanks for your reply.
        “… what Dr. Belnap did say about intelligent design was simply that scientific claims coming from leading proponents of intelligent design have in fact turned out to be false;” Be careful about learning about Intelligent Design from its opponents. There are a lot of people with an axe to grind spreading disinformation about Intelligent Design. The most common smear is that Intelligent Design proponents are “creationists” and anti-science. I do not accuse Br. Belnap of engaging in disinformation, but am afraid he is influenced by others are guilty of such.
        “… it appears that researchers haven’t found any scientific data indicating that life as we observe it would be impossible without intervention from an intelligent agency” — I’m not so sure about that. I think there is definitely room for doubt that Darwinistic mechanisms are capable of explaining life. Read the book I recommend below for some alternative viewpoints. Regarding “lurking” biological proof — it isn’t lurking, it’s hiding in plain sight. I believe that all of creation is meant by God to teach us how to be good designers like He is. This is perhaps a radical position, and one that my Evangelical Christian friends don’t share — they don’t think we can or should become like God. They think that we should endlessly admire Him from a distance. My belief is that a study of science brings us closer to God by making us more intelligent, like He is.
        Correct, the doctrine of the resurrection is not central to intelligent design, and in fact there are atheist scientists who are Intelligent Design proponents.
        I recommend the book “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design” by Stephen C. Meyer. Meyer does a good job of explaining the philosopy of science and how it relates to evolution and other theories of the origin of life. He makes a strong analogy between DNA and software, and goes into detail explaining many of the details of protein synthesis (which I felt made the book worth reading by itself.) In that book you will find plenty of arguments and evidence based on real natural laws.
        One caveat: I’m partial to Intelligent Design myself, but I don’t buy *everything* Meyer says. For example, I got the impression from reading that book that Meyer might believe in creation Ex Nihilo, which I absolutely do not. There is no such thing as magic. I do not believe that God used “supernatural” means to create the earth, or to perform His other miracles. It is all nature, and God is the greatest scientist, glory to His name forever.

        • Thank you for your recommendation.
          Stephen Meyer eh? Are you sure he doesn’t have an axe to grind against conventional scientists and the theory of evolution? Based on the stuff he says on a prominent intelligent design blog–evolutionnews.org–it seems like he could be rankled toward the scientific community.
          I look forward to the book by Meyer. I hope it is better than the following description, in that it does actually contain some concrete, scientifically useful or intelligible arguments: “the book is supposed to be a science book and the ID movement is purported to be primarily a scientific movement—not primarily a philosophical, religious, or even popular movement”, but concludes “If the object of the book is to show that the Intelligent Design movement is a scientific movement, it has not succeeded. In fact, what it has succeeded in showing is that it is a popular movement grounded primarily in the hopes and dreams of those in philosophy, in religion, and especially those in the general public.” – Falk, Darrel (December 28, 2009). “Science & the Sacred » Signature in the Cell”. BioLogos Foundation.

          • “Are you sure he doesn’t have an axe to grind against conventional scientists and the theory of evolution?”
            Stephen Meyer doesn’t oppose conventional scientists, he *is* a conventional scientist. He and his Intelligent Design colleagues perform experiments, do research, publish in peer-reviewed journals, and act in a professional manner, just like their other scientific colleagues (sometimes *more* professional, IMO). Also, in the tradition of science, they ask questions and challenge the status quo. Richard Dawkins doesn’t have the authority to excommunicate intelligent design from the scientific community.
            I read evolutionnews.org from time to time. The latest blog post from Stephen Meyer that I could find there that was actually written by him (I don’t have time to listen to podcasts) is dated April 2, 2015. It was titled “What Should Politicians Say When Asked About Evolution?” It didn’t sound very rankled at all, in fact it was kind of intelligent. I don’t know what you ran into that sounded like he had a chip on his shoulder — maybe him responding to public attacks against him? That would be a trial to anyone’s patience.
            As for that book review, it sounds like the same-old smear — Intelligent Design isn’t real science, it’s religiously motivated, yada yada. My advice: Read Meyer’s book and judge for yourself.

  32. God specifically stated that He did not use evolution to create life. He commanded “every form of life to multiply each after its own kind in its own sphere and element.” Without God evolution of life from lower forms to higher is impossible.

    • Theodore,
      You comment presumes that the Genesis creation account (and its parallels in LDS scripture and temple worship) is meant to be be understood literally, from the perspective of a 21st-century Western reader, rather than from the perspective of a 1000 BC Israelite in the ANE. The context in which it was written was very different than the one in which you are reading it.
      Your comment also begs the question by not defining “kind,” “sphere,” or “element,” nor does it address what those words are in the Hebrew original and how ancient Hebrews would have understood them.

      • A better question is does God take the Creation and Fall as literal events? There are so many instances in Latter-day scripture where the creation, Garden of Eden, literal existence of Adam and Eve, and the Fall are spoken of as actual events and people that I don’t think they can just be written off as mythology or even mere symbology.
        For some examples of Adam and Eve being spoken of as real people see D&C 27:5-12 where Christ says that he will take the sacrament “with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days” or D&C 78:15-16 where we are told that Adam holds the keys of our salvation or D&C 107:41-43 where God talks about Adam’s appearance, ordaining his son to the priesthood, and his death; or D&C 116:1 where God talks about Adam coming at some future day to hold a meeting or D&C 137:1-5 where Joseph Smith reports seeing Adam in the Celestial Kingdom along with other actual people like Joseph Smith’s parents or D&C 138:36-39 where President Joseph F. Smith speaks of seeing Adam and Eve in the spirit world with the Savior. None of these statements reads like God and the prophets are talking in terms of myth or symbols. They talk about Adam doing real physical things like receiving priesthood keys (presumably by the laying on of hands), ordaining to the priesthood, holding meetings, dying, partaking of the sacrament with the Savior, being in the spirit world, being in the celestial kingdom, etc. Are God and the prophets delusional/liars or did Adam and Eve actually exist? And if they did literally exist (and it appears to me that God and the prophets certainly believe they did so) then why would we think that the events of the Garden and Fall are mere symbol and not literal places and events? The only reason I can come up with is the philosophies of men are being mingled with scripture.

        • John,
          I assume you would agree that George Washington was an actual historical individual. Did he actually do everything that is told about him in stories? For example, did he, as a boy, chop down a cherry tree and then confess that he did it?

          • Are you seriously equating stories from men with scriptures from God? When God speaks multiple times about Adam doing things like receiving the keys over our salvation and partaking of the sacrament with the Savior I tend to think He isn’t just making up tales.

      • Mike,
        Your comment obfuscates the obvious. The Book of Moses, Book of Abraham and the Temple version were all given by direct revelation in English.

        • Theodore,
          This still begs the question of are they meant to be understood literally in the sense that you read them. Just because they are revealed doesn’t mean they are meant to be totally literal.

      • Mike,
        Also, direct observation confirms in any language and at any time what is meant by “multiply each after their own kind,” as the law is still in place as to what species can interbreed and produce offspring.

        • What is your basis for interpreting “kind” to mean “species”? The scientific concept of a “species” was not developed for over two centuries after the King James translators chose the English word “kind” to represent the ancient Hebrew word *mispaha*.

          • Mike,
            You continue to obfuscate. If you considered sincerely what I wrote, it makes no difference what you call them. In context, and by observation, “kind” obviously refers to those life forms that can reproduce together. The law still stands. God clearly stated that He did not use use evolution to go from lower forms of life to higher, and observation in any age confirms that the law still stands.

    • In an evolutionary context, each animal does multiply after it’s own kind. A tiger is not going to give birth to a cheetah. Any changes from one generation to the next would be extremely small. The child of the tiger might able to run a bit faster, or jump a bit higher. They are still the same animal, same species.
      But spread those changes out over thousands of years and then look back & compare this current version of the tiger with the one from a few thousand years back.. and you’ll notice the differences that are imperceptible from one generation to the next.

  33. Re: The Fall–
    The OP suggests that Adam and Eve were *moved* from the Garden into this world. I think this is an important key to understanding the relationship between evolution and the Fall. Adam, in a literal sense, fell into this world — where evolution had long been at work — from a higher sphere.
    Now, how that relates to hominids that evolved on earth — I’m not sure. One thought that’s been gyrating in my head over the last decade or so is that the scriptures seem to speak of two different creations–one being spiritual in nature and the other temporal.
    And how that relates to Adam being formed from the dust of the earth — well, I’m not sure on that either. Except we know (through Joseph Smith) that spirit is matter, suggesting that Adam might have been created of “finer” stuff before he fell into this coarser sphere — and that’s a pattern that all of us follow as we consider ourselves Adam and Eve respectively.

    • I think the answer to the fall story and evolution is that the fall is myth, plain and simple. One cannot deny the evidence of evolution in biology and human thought. Further, it seems absurd to think that snakes can speak anyway. Nevertheless this doesn’t destroy the possibility that God was the original cause. However, the atonement would definitely need some reworking or maybe needs to be abandoned altogether.

      • @mythros
        I think this really does get to the real problem with evolution. The Fall and Atonement are so closely linked together that if the Fall (including the Creation) is not real then the Atonement is not real. At its heart, the theory of evolution is truly anti-Christ (against Christ and his works as creator and redeemer).

        • No fall, no Atonement. Classic example of Latter-day Saints being influenced (perhaps unwittingly) by other denominations (in this case, by a Seventh Day Adventist). Joseph Fielding Smith made that exact anti-evolution argument familiar among members of the LDS Church when he borrowed it from George McCready Price, and included it in his Doctrines of Salvation. The original dictum, as it came from Price, was “No Adam, no fall; no fall, no atonement; no atonement, no savior”. Joseph Fielding Smith worded it this way: “If there was no fall … then there was no need for a redemption” (D. of S. 1:143).
          But what would you say to a Latter-day Saint who understands what the church officially teaches about the Fall, namely, that its effects–sin and death (see, for example, the section on agency and the fall of Adam and Eve in Preach My Gospel)–are what make the Atonement necessary, and who also understands that no part of the theory of evolution is at odds with the reality of death or sin? Is there still some kind of negation of the Atonement from a theory that doesn’t negate sin or death? If so, how?
          People have been parroting Price (through Joseph Fielding Smith) a lot, but I’ve never heard anyone explain how that argument makes any sense after being examined for logical continuity as lightly as I have just done.
          Again, can a theory that doesn’t negate the reality of sin or death possibly negate the logic behind the need for an Atonement? If anyone can answer this question, that would be much appreciated.

          • My understanding is the Fall:
            Brought blood (prior to the Fall Adam and Eve were amortal because there was no blood) – Christ shed His blood and was resurrected with an immortal (bloodless) body;
            Brought physical death – Christ died and was resurrected thus overcoming physical death for all (i.e., men will not be punished for Adam’s transgression);
            Brought separation from God (prior to the Fall Adam and Eve walked and talked with God) – Christ was forsaken by Father and returned to Father (like physical death, men will not be punished for Adam’s transgression but will all return to the presence of God to be judged);
            Brought suffering into the world – Christ suffered beyond comprehension;
            Brought fallen world – Christ condescended to descend below all and rise above all.
            You could say that an evolved world could explain sin, death, suffering, and separation from God, but it can’t explain the lack of blood.
            The second article of Faith states “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” If there was no Adam’s transgression, then this scripture makes no sense. How can there be a first death without the first judgement and how could there be a first judgement without the first provocation and how could there be a first provocation without a first commandment?
            I think this best analog is to consider the millennial world which will be a terrestrial world like the Garden of Eden. A world in which we are told people will not die until they are 100 years old when they will be resurrected instantly, where people can walk and talk with God, when children will grow up without sin, etc.

          • (for some reason this website doesn’t allow so many comments, so this one is not in order)
            Thank you for your reply, John.
            Based on what you said, it appears there really is no conflict between the theory of evolution and the Savior’s sacrifice. Evolution doesn’t mean Adam didn’t transgress, nor does it mean Jesus was not resurrected with an immortal body. Evolution doesn’t negate the creation of a Garden of Eden. It basically doesn’t have anything to do with those kinds of things.
            Thank you for your comments.

          • James, it is not necessary to go to the Seventh Day Adventists to get the idea of “No Adam, no fall; no fall, no atonement; no atonement, no savior.” That concept is right in the Book of Mormon, especially 2 Nephi 2:22-27.

          • You’re absolutely right, it isn’t necessary. If you read my comment above, you won’t hear me say that it is. What I did say is something about how that reasoning used as an argument against evolution was spread around historically.
            It originated as an argument against evolution with Price’s dictum, and Joseph Fielding Smith caught on to that idea from reading Price. Joseph Fielding Smith also introduced Price’s flood geology to the Twelve when trying to convince them that the church should take a stance against evolution, in the early 1900s. James E Talmage, on the other hand (in the same quorum), saw nothing wrong with evolution (how could that be, when that exact objection to evolution is allegedly found in the Book of Mormon, as you claim?). Elder Talmage, who actually had training in geology, wrote that he could “see no reason why the evolution of animal bodies cannot be true–as indeed the facts of observation make it difficult to deny–and still the soul of man is of divine origin.” (Entries from the Journal of James E. Talmage, 1881-1926, Archives and Manuscripts,
            Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; [p.5]Mar. 16, 1884)
            And from lds.org (not as official statements of church policy) we can find the following information, including another quote from Talmage: “The different roles science and religion play is illustrated in a study of the dinosaurs. From the fossil record we learn that the dinosaurs were the dominant animals on earth between 225 and 67 million years ago. Some were carnivorous, others herbivorous. Some were small, while others were gigantic, weighing up to eighty tons and growing to lengths of more than ninety feet. The existence of these animals is indisputable, for their remains have been found in rocks all over the earth. What eternal purpose they played in the creation and early history of the earth is unknown. The scriptures do not address the question, and it is not the realm of science to explore the issue of why they were here. We can only conclude, as Elder Talmage did, that “the whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.” (“The Earth and Man.”)”
            https://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/09/i-have-a-question?lang=eng
            In case you’re wondering, that’s an affirmation of death before Adam and Eve right there.
            I understand the zeal members of the church feel in opposing something they think is at variance with the gospel. What that means is I understand the emotions involved. I once experienced those emotions too, regarding this very issue. Many other Latter-day Saints, besides Elder Talmage and myself (and the geologist quoting Talmage on the church’s website, above), have learned for themselves that this emotion isn’t necessary. The zeal with which members of the church oppose something they don’t need to oppose is misplaced.
            2 Nephi 2:22-27 is not an argument used by Lehi to oppose the theory of evolution. I’m sorry but it’s just not.
            Again, the idea that evolution can somehow negate the need for an Atonement is an idea that originated with George McCready Price, and has since spread all over the world. In this way, people who don’t know the history of the spread of ideas can come to believe that such ideas are taught in their own scriptures.
            Many members of the church learn their aversion toward evolution from the impact of leaders like Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R McConkie. Don’t ask me why so few know that their views are not doctrine, are not gospel, as illustrated by the antithetical sentiments of leaders like James E Talmage.

          • So, to be clear, it is true that the Atonement is needed because of the Fall. However, it is not true that evolution negates the need for an Atonement. That was my point from the beginning. I’m sorry if I did not make that clear before.

    • These issues, as well as many others, are addressed in the expanded proceedings of the 2013 Interpreter “Science and Mormonism: Cosmos, Earth, and Man” symposium that will be published early next year.

    • I think the scriptures are pretty clear on what is meant by Adam and Eve being born of the dust of the Earth:
      Moses 6:59 That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory;
      Being born of dust is equated with being born of water, blood and spirit – i.e., the standard symbols for birth. They were physically born the same way you or I were born. According to Brigham Young their parents were Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I imagine Dr. Belnap would say that either their parents were hominids or they never existed (which would make all of the prophets who have talked about actually seeing them liars or delusional).

      • “I think the scriptures are pretty clear on what is meant by Adam and Eve being born of the dust of the Earth”.
        Contrast that certainty with the following:
        “Moses 3:6–7. How Did God Create Bodies for Adam and Eve? President Spencer W. Kimball said: “Man became a living soul—mankind, male and female. The Creators breathed into their nostrils the breath of life and man and woman became living souls. We don’t know exactly how their coming into this world happened, and when we’re able to understand it the Lord will tell us” (“The Blessing and Responsibilities of Womanhood,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 72).” – from the Church’s site: https://www.lds.org/manual/the-pearl-of-great-price-student-manual/the-book-of-moses?lang=eng
        So, was Spencer W. Kimball right in 1976 when he said we don’t know exactly how their coming into this world happened, or are you right when you say that we’ve had the authoritative answer since long before President Kimball’s remark?

        • I don’t think the verses in Moses and President Kimball’s statement are mutually exclusive. Knowing one fact, that they received their physical bodies in a similar manner to everyone else, does not equate to “know[ing] exactly how their coming into this world happened”.

          • I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive either. Rather, it seems that your interpretation of Moses is what is at odds with President Kimball’s remarks.
            It’s great to speculate, and I don’t have any particular reason to reject Brigham Young’s beliefs about this (i.e., they could potentially be true), but I don’t know where they stand in relation to official church doctrine.
            Also, President Young’s comments don’t even contradict the theory of evolution, do they? If there is a conflict, what is it?

      • John
        Perhaps a better understanding of Hebrew could help our understanding of Adam “being born of the dust of the earth,” as you wrote. We are told in the Hebrew bible that man (Adam or אָדָם (ADM)) was made from and would return to the ground (אֲדָמָה (ADMH)). As you can see, ADAM (ADM) is derived from the word ground (ADMH). This seems to be a clear linguistic word play in Hebrew. Adam (ADM), came from and is a subset of ADMH, and will one day return to the ground from whence he came. A literalist approach using only English as its basis loses much of the intended meaning.

        • Yes, I’m aware of that word play. I studied Biblical Hebrew for four years at BYU. But I don’t think that negates God’s commentary on the meaning of the phrase in Moses.

  34. President Brigham Young’s belief that the physical bodies for Adam and Eve were created by our Heavenly Parents, who also created our spirit bodies had always made the most sense to me. In other words we are both spiritually and physically the children of God. When biologists speak about things like mitochondrial DNA showing that we had a common female ancestor umpteen millions of years ago, I assume that is true, only that she was an ancestor of our Heavenly Mother (probably thru her Heavenly Mother and on back thru her Heavenly Grandmothers worlds without end).

    • Actually, there appears based on the uniformity of human DNA to have been a bottleneck in the population of mankind about 10,000 years ago. All of current humans are descendants of a relatively small group of a few thousand ancestors.

  35. I wrote a post on this subject some years ago, starting with a quote from my own field (complex IT systems development):
    The best way to build a large, complex system that works is to evolve it from a small, simple system that works. — Information technology maxim (cf. Gall’s Law)
    I went on to write:

    As such, I have no problem with the concept that God would use various evolutionary mechanisms (including, yes, natural selection, geological time-scales, and random mutations) in preparing a world for us to live in. For me, such as approach is more efficient, less difficult, and less error-prone than an ex nihilo creation of the (quite literally, at least for us) incomprehensibly complex biological/ecological/physical environment in which we live. (In fact, one very fascinating area of computer science uses evolutionary concepts for creating more efficient software and hardware.)

    …and so on. As I concluded in my own article, “I think that a lot of our post-mortal education will consist of unlearning many of our cherished personal beliefs and assumptions, accompanied by a lot of forehead-slapping.”

  36. An interesting article. However, I wish the author would have provided some insight into the interplay between evolution and the Fall. Because the Fall is so integral to the Atonement, it seems to me that no discussion of the compatibility of evolution and religion is complete in the LDS context, without showing that the Fall (which introduces death), can be reconciled with long periods of mutation.

    • The scriptures explain that Adam and Eve were not mortal until the Fall. The hypothesis that no other living thing on earth was mortal until then is not an explicit statement of scripture. After an angel teaches them that their sacrifice of animals is a foreshadowing of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Adam and Eve rejoice in the offer of atonement and resurrection and eternal life, noting that if they had not fallen, they could have had no children. Thus the Fall was necessary for mankind to be born, and thus for mankind to experience mortal life and then death. The Fall endowed Eve and Adam with the power of moral agency. Animals lack moral agency, and they did not Fall with Adam. Since they did not Fall, mortality for animals is a natural part of their condition, not the result of the Fall.

    • It is strange that this article finds the time to talk about flowering plants and whales but does not attempt to reconcile evolution with Adam and Eve and the Fall. This is, to me at least, the major sticking point for combining faith with science.
      Scientists indicate that the smallest that the human population has been is 10,000 individuals ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck ) and that humans originated in Africa ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recent_African_origin_of_modern_humans ). However, Mormons believe in a literal Garden of Eden located in Missouri with a literal Adam and Eve from whom all people descend.
      In the most recent General Conference, Elder Holland said “the simple truth is that we cannot fully comprehend the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ … without understanding that there was an actual Adam and Eve who fell from an actual Eden, with all the consequences that fall carried with it.” (see https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/where-justice-love-and-mercy-meet?lang=eng ).
      It seems to me that the straight-forward interpretation of the material a typical Latter-day Saint will encounter is that evolution and creation ARE in opposition. I have often read that it is possible to accept both, but never the details on how to view such things as Adam and Eve in such a blended worldview. Any material/thoughts/links you have on the subject would be much appreciated.

        • Tom, that was a very informative article and I greatly appreciate that you shared it. The referenced Dialog article is particularly interesting ( http://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V35N04_33.pdf ).
          You note: “We have no official revealed answer, only theories and speculations – and we don’t usually speak of these at church because church is not the right place or setting for airing our speculations.” Which I agree with. However, as noted in the Dialog article, most of the correlated church material for classes and many Ensign articles are, in fact, negative toward evolution.
          There needs to be some setting where these things can be discussed. The location of Zarahemla and the Limited Geography Model are also not readily discussed in church classes, but much has been written on these subjects with a community attempting to reach some consensus on the matter. I simply wish the same could be said for evolution and origin of humankind. Many of the articles I read simply assert that they are compatible but don’t put in the hard work of actually making them compatible (case in point, this Interpreter article).
          To your credit, you do acknowledge some of the hurdles a blended evolution-creation account would need to address and you propose some possible lines of thought on those matters – this is exactly the sort of conversation I would like to investigate. Rather than make this comment even longer with my thoughts on your blog post here, I will simply thank you again for sharing a very informative post.

  37. Anything follows from a contradiction.
    The crux of the evolution vs. creationism debate is the truth of the scriptures and the reports of the prophets, who stood in the divine council and beheld the history of the world from the creation to the end thereof and whose reports comprise the scriptures.
    If evolution is the true and correct explanation for how we got where we are today, then the scriptures are false and the prophets are liars.
    It’s just that simple.
    Here is why this is the case.
    The claim of evolution is that solely undirected natural processes account for biological complexity, without remainder.
    The claim of creationism is that it is not the case that solely undirected natural processes account for biological complexity, without remainder.
    As these two claims are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive, at most one of them can be correct.

    • If there is a contradiction between the prophets and evolution, then can you explain the following to me?
      “Origin of Man.-“In just what manner did the mortal bodies of Adam and Eve come into existence on this earth?” This question comes from several High Priests’ quorums.
      Of course, all are familiar with the statements in Genesis 1:26, 27; 2:7; also in the Book of Moses, Pearl of Great Price, 2:27; and in the Book of Abraham 5:7. The latter statement reads: “And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man’s spirit) and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
      These are the authentic statements of the scriptures, ancient and modern, and it is best to rest with these, until the Lord shall see fit to give more light on the subject. Whether the mortal bodies of man evolved in natural processes to present perfection, through the direction and power of God; whether the first parents of our generations, Adam and Eve, were transplanted from another sphere, with immortal tabernacles, which became corrupted through sin and the partaking of natural foods, in the process of time; whether they were born here in mortality, as other mortals have been, are questions not fully answered in the revealed word of God. For helpful discussion of the subject, see IMPROVEMENT ERA, vol. XI, August 1908, No. 10, page 778, article, “Creation and Growth of Adam;” also article by the First Presidency, “Origin of Man,” vol. XIII, No. 1, page 75, 1909.”
      – Improvement Era vol. XIII, April 1910, No. 6
      Unless you can account for statements like this one (there are others, like Spencer W Kimball’s, that we don’t know how Adam and Eve’s coming into this world happened, currently found on lds.org in the Pearl of Great Price Student Manual under the question “Moses 3:6–7. How Did God Create Bodies for Adam and Eve?”), then nothing you just said makes any sense. So as of now, I personally can’t agree with you and agree with the prophets–that would be a contradiction.
      I’ll be looking forward to an explanation.
      By the way, did you read the article you’re commenting on? I’m wondering, because it clarifies that there is no scientific evidence precluding God’s existence and role as Creator, even in the theory of evolution. The occurrence of natural processes in biology does not preclude the existence of a Supreme Creator. So, I frankly cannot see how your depiction of “the claim of evolution” is really an accurate representation thereof. Unless you can show that your representation of the theory of evolution is accurate, and Dr. Belnap’s is not, then I cannot base my worldview on your definition of evolution. As of now, I don’t see how anyone can accept your depiction of evolution, or your depiction of the prophets.

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