I had been asked by one of the sister missionaries in my mission on one P-Day if I could write down my thoughts on evolution and the creation, (as well as in regards to Noah's Ark). They, having an investigator with questions concerning evolutions roll in the forming of this world, did not have an answer for his questions. This seemed to be a major hang up for him and the sister missionaries felt that I would be able to explain it to him. I'm not sure if that was the best choice, but I was nonetheless flattered and did my best to explain my humble and (at the time) weak understanding of such things.
In the six years from that experience questions have plagued my mind in regards to the creation. How did Adam and Eve fit into the creation? Could there be a literal garden they lived in? Was Satan really a part of God's plan to redeem us; he having such a large part that, without Satan, there could be no plan of salvation? I searched for answers to these questions and more and feel that I have a much greater understanding of the complexities in which God works through. I wish, in this paper, to discuss the roll evolution plays in the Creation Account and attempt to help shed some light on the issue that has become very opinionated and controversial in the Mormon church today.
One of the biggest concerns in the church, today, in regards to evolution, is that it not only discounts the account of the creation given in the Bible – specifying that it took 6 days and nights to create the universe – but that if evolution were true, were they in a garden? Did they evolve from a common ape ancestor? If so, how could this relate to the creation story? I would like to tackle this issue in two tiers: (1) God's roll in the creation. (2) Adam and Eve's and the garden's existence. Who were Adam and Eve? How does evolution effect or explain the Fall? I feel that there are many other important concerns and issues regarding this topic, but for the sake of this paper I wish to stick within the realm of the afore mentioned topics.
God's Roll in the Creation
There has been some debate in what God's roll in the creation has been. Or rather, how He had gone about creating the world, or for that matter, the universe. Two major and opposing sides have come about because of the multitude of views within the Christian community. The first of which, Intelligent Design (ID) and the other being evolution by natural selection.
Intelligent Design came about in the early days of American fundamentalism where, after being rejected time and time again, wanted “equal rights” for their ideas and their involvement in science. They coined the term Intelligent Design because of the disagreement in evolution regarding natural selection or random occurrence.. “In His [God's] creation of the world God implemented His “intelligent design,” and random occurrence [evolution] conflicted with “intelligent design.”1
William Paley, in his paper, Natural Theology, compares life – or the complexities within life – to a watch. He shows the reader how each part of the watch is in tune and created specifically for a purpose and reason. If one part were to become out of sync then the entire thing would not work. Or if one part had not been added the same effect would be found. However, he points out that in the watch, each part is specifically there for a reason, and that each has a specific function, saying, “its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose . . . If the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are . . . no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine.”2 Here, we have a definition showing us that all functioning in nature is a direct result from God's specific creation. Essentially, God created complexities exactly how there are now. And how they are not is the same as they have always been. However, there are problems with this way of thinking which will be addressed later on.
Evolution, through complexities, however differs greatly in its definition of what complexities are and how they are brought about. Steven Peck, argues that evolution proves a designer and “enhances and expands our view of God,”3 explaining that Darwin had read Paley and agreed that to explain complexities one would need to incorporate an ultimate designer. “Most scientists agree that evolution provides a sufficient explanation of design.” Design, indicating that there was someone behind complexities. Evolution, Peck explains, is an empowering idea because it is the only way to create complexity. Evolution makes available important concepts and adds to doctrinal concepts.
This debate has been ongoing over many fields. Sir Isaac Newton even embrassed the ancient idea, “argument from design”, (similar in idea to ID) that proof of a creator ca be seen through the natural world. “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”4 Newton believed in a God who was constantly active, intervening in the laws of nature when necessary. Leibniz disagreed with Newton. He asked how could God, the absolute embodiment of a perfect being, be so clumsy as to create a reality which needed regular maintenance?5
To illustrate the differences between the two concepts of creation/complexity consider the following:
In a room you have two computer programmers given the task to design a brand new, state of the art operating system (OS). The first goes about writing the program. He is experienced and writes a beautiful program in new imaginative and innovative digital objects. However, through time, the OS becomes outdated, needs upgrades, needs patched and fixes an occasional bug may appear and need fixing. The OS is still reliable, but but no more than any other program. The programmer must continually update his work. Although his operating system is continually updating and patching, it is still state of the art. The other programmer who had been hired to design the best operating system also builds a complex program. He is just as experienced as the first and programs something just and beautiful and imaginative and innovative. However, there is a difference. The second programmers OS is self fixing and self updating. If an error occurs it updates itself in the best possible way to accommodate any change. Any error, change, upgrade ever needed would be handled by the program itself. The OS is built around the complexities of the code.
With this example, it is easy to determine which of the two programs is greater and which of the programmers is greater. It is easy to pick out which of the two programs is more advanced. It is important to understand evolution and the creation. God, using evolution as his catalyst for creation only elevates our understanding of the creation. Evolution, or complexity, in creation is no longer an event, as James McLauchlan explains, calling on Howison's ten-point outline of his personal idealism. Creation rather than an event happening at one single instance is ongoing.6
But how do we account for the rest of the creation story. In accepting evolution we can rule out the six days of creation. Instead, understanding that it is an indication that God is the creator. But what about the garden, Adam and Eve, or the Fall. How does this view of evolution change those things?
Notes for Part I:
1M. Heller, Ultimate Explanations of the Universe, Part 3, DOI 10.1117/978-3-642-02103-9_20, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009, pp. 106.
2Paley, William, Natural Theology, (Edinburgh 1837), pp. 1-2.
3Peck, Steven, Crawling Out of the Primordial Soup: A Step towards the Emergence of an LDS Theology Compatible with Organic Evolution, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Vol. 43 No.1, 2010, pp. 1-36.