Monkey Man

October 6, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 7:58 pm   Category: Before Abraham,Eternal Progression,Scriptures,Theology

So I was listening to the song Monkey Man by The Specials this afternoon and it dawned on me that I haven’t written a single post on Mormons and evolution here at the Thang. That changes today. (I’m always thinking of how to tie posts in with radio.blog anyway…)

First let me direct you to the blog called Mormons and Evolution. The chaps there have done a fine job covering their chosen subject – so much so that they seem to have exhausted their material as of late. If this subject interests you then you will want to spend some time digging into the posts and discussions over there.

So where do I stand on the subject? Well, as of today I lean toward the idea that the evolutionists are right and that the world largely did come to the point it is at today through evolution. Having said that, I think the part they are missing is Adam.

As I understand the evidence, I see no reason to get bent about the general idea of evolution as a faithful Mormon. Our scriptures and temple narrative leave plenty of room for it as far as I can tell with the several “creative periods” of undisclosed length leading up to the introduction of Adam and later Eve in to this world.

And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters. (Abr. 4: 2)

How long did the Gods brood over this planet prior to Adam’s arrival? — Could have been hundreds of millions of years as far as we know. I have no problem with the idea that God’s organization of the earth used the mechanism of evolution. I’m not sure why any Mormon should.

Now having said that, I suspect that part of the reason some Mormons do get worked up about this subject is because some (not all) former church leaders held very traditional creationist views of the creation of the earth. Of course the problem with that is that most traditional creationist views are ultimately grounded in the idea of creatio ex nihilo (or creation out of nothing) – a doctrine Mormonism rejects.

So if evolutionists have it mostly right one might ask: What about Adam? My current take is that humankind really did evolve up to a point where their bodies were very similar to ours today (a mere 6-8 thousand years ago if you believe standard calendars). At that point the visitor Adam was introduced here. It was the introduction of Adam that started human history as we know it. I believe Adam probably was divine in some sense (our doctrines make it pretty clear that Michael was part of the earth creation presidency after all). Like later angels and even Christ himself, Adam had a very specific mission here. He brought incredible light and knowledge with him – not only the plan of salvation but also more fundamental things like writing, reading, and even sciences I suspect. His introduction to the planet inaugurated the civilized world. I suspect nearly all ancient religion originated with Adam (and thus the uncanny similarities of religious rites all over the ancient world that Nibley and others have written so much about).

Of course this model does entail the idea that Adam’s seed intermingled with the people who were already here – thus the title of this post. (Perhaps this is what the verses of about the sons of God marrying the daughter of men are related to?) Is this really anything to get freaked out about? I don’t think so. God watched over and even guided the evolution of the world until a real form of humankind existed here. Then he sent Michael down to start the Big Play that is our probationary state. Adam and Eve are the parents of all living people both literally and figuratively. Figuratively because they were the planet’s first modern people; literally because their DNA is in every living person.

So why should I care if in addition to descending from Adam and Eve my body also is the product of evolution? Is that something that should bother me? If so; why? I existed before I got this body and I will continue to exist after I leave it. I like the body I got here. It seems to work just fine. And further – it allows me to progress and repent if I choose to. Because of that I just don’t get bent when I get called a monkey man.

[Associated video: The Specials on BBC 1979]

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26 Comments »

  1. Wow. Serious crickets chirping the morning after. I guess evolution is so played out that no one wants to say another word about it… Good to know I guess.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2005 @ 8:55 am

  2. I tend to agree with your scenario. However, you forgot the hall mark of evolution’s critics: No Death Before the Fall!

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 7, 2005 @ 9:11 am

  3. Yeah, I have personally lumped NDBF among the doctrines that have their original roots in creatio ex nihilo. I think it is one of the traditions of men that even some church leaders inherited. I know of no actual revelation or vision from God confirming it.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2005 @ 10:03 am

  4. It should be noted that while the M&E site has been relatively slow as of late there are reasons for it. 1) Jared and Christian have always been a little slow in posting, choosing to focus on quality rather than quantity. They might be a little slower in posting now, but not much. 2) As to myself, I have a lot more material which I could post but have simply not gotten around to it for one reason or another. I guess my point is that there is still a lot of ground which somebody could cover and that nobody should consider the possibilities even close to exhausted.

    Now, turning my attention to Geoff’s post.

    I think that the doctrine of a universally inherited religion has been far too broadly applied by many Mormons. While there are certain trends in world-wide religions, these similarities should not be exaggerated. The actual differences are actually quite large and significant. Luckily, no major doctrinal point hang on that issue.

    The similarities, I suspect, should be attributed not to a commonly inherited culture, but instead to a commonly inherited human nature. I highly recommend reading this article which is basically a summary of Pascal Boyer’s wonderful book “Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought.” In the book, but not so much in the article, Boyer takes serious issue with the typical secular explanation for religion and its origin, saying that they tend to beg as many questions as they answer and are, in the end, rather shallow at best. Instead, he spends his time putting forth deeper reasons which account for religious practices and their vague global universality.

    Boyer’s claims are far better at accounting for not only the strange similarities, but also the huge differences which exist. Not only that, but his model is much better at explaining why there seems to have been forms of proto-religion among humans (and maybe even Neandertals) for the past 70,000 years or so. The concept of Adam being dropped into earth as the first religious person is simply untenable in my opinion.

    As is the idea that Adam was the first being with a “soul.” Both Neandertals and what would eventually become modern day humans engaged in numerous practices which should be considered art. Not proto-art or anything like that, but full blown art. I also question how introducing Adam as the first person with a writing system is an error which fails to account not only for “proto-writing” but also the fact that full blown writing has been created independently in at least three societies (fertile crescent, china and mesoamerica). I think Jared Diamonds account in his Guns, Germs and Steel to be far more plausible (though not entirely inharmonious with) than the stance which Geoff seems to borrow from Nibley.

    Calling Adam the first person to be created in “God’s image” is also problematic, though Geoff does not claim this straight out. Should the “God’s image” spirit be considered a heritable trait by mendelian genetics? When a son of Adam mixed with the daughters of men would their children have a “hybrid” spirit, or would it be an all or nothing affair? Do we only have spirits that are descend from ones which were in God’s image? If it is an all or nothing affair then isn’t it almost inevitable that there remain a vast majority of people who now live which do not have “God’s image” spirits? While it is possible to claim that an Adam who lived 6,000 years ago is the common ancestor of all now living, it is very unreasonable to claim that this one person’s genes have made any kind of difference in the world wide population which would be significant in any way. Here I am especially thinking of the New Guinean high landers which are arguably the most culturally and genetically isolated people in the world.

    While Geoff’s model has some strong points, namely the candid acknowledgement of creationistic influences in the church hierarchy, I’m afraid that he is building his protective surrounding wall too far outside the cities boundaries and will thus run out of materials before the wall is big enough to make any difference. In other words, in trying to protect too much, he will simply not have the resources to form a coherent picture as more evidence and information comes in about our human origins.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — October 7, 2005 @ 10:46 am

  5. Jeffrey who?

    Welcome back bro. You’ve been missed. I’m not surprised that my first evolution post awoke you from your long bloggernacle slumber though.

    I am pleased to see your input here. You ae clearly somewhat of an expert on this subject. You seems to be attributing some beliefs to me that I just don’t cling to, though. In fact I found nothing in your comment that I overtly disagree with. The key phrase you used was: “though not entirely inharmonious with”. In other words, I found nothing you said inharmonious with my high level view on the subject.

    For example, I see no reason to believe that we as humans have some genetic religious predispositions. That is not exlusive of the idea that Adam appeared on the scene with much better religion and more truth (or even that he preached it in a fashion that best could be absorbed based on genetic predispositions). I have no problem with the idea of some forms of writing before Adam appeared. That does not preclude the idea that Adam appeared with better writing skills and techniques. (In fact, if people weren’t starting down the writing path already then it seems like it would have been too much of a leap to be able to adopt what Adam provided). Perhaps there are some thing that are inharmonious but I have not yet heard them.

    I too think this “soul” idea that some preach is ludicrous. Doesn’t Mormon doctrine teach that every creature has a spirit? I don’t get it.

    So again, I’m not sure where you think I’ve built protective wall here but I suspect you might be guessing wrong…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2005 @ 11:53 am

  6. Boy you weren’t kidding about the crickets chirping.

    (Warning: This will probably be the longest comment ever.)

    “You ae clearly somewhat of an expert on this subject.”

    I hope that I never hear or read anybody saying that about me ever again. I view it as an insult to the religion, the science and the real experts engaged in both. Not only that but it becomes an open invitation for critics to declare open season on me and my ideas. That said, thanks for the compliment.

    I’m glad that I am attacking views which you do not agree with, for as I’m sure you understand I wasn’t trying to attack you so much as some bad ideas which some people have, including Nibley. (I have serious issues with his ideas surrounding evolution.) Perhaps my comment should be read as a supplement rather than a substitute for your post. Nevertheless, I do think that some of the positions which I present, while not directly contradicting one another, should not be forced together either.

    1) Regarding our “genetic religious predispositions” I think that care should be taken. E. O. Wilson tried to describe these dispostions in his book “On Human Nature” but ended up not doing so well. His ideas basically amounted to the now typical “reasons” for religion that Boyer rightfully attacks: people want comfort, people seek social cohesion, religion provides a ground for social ethics and so on. Nevertheless, Wilson’s basic position that we as human beings have certain genetically inherited cognitive dispositions (which by no means amount to genetic determinism) which do provide for certain universal tendencies. Boyer’s book investigates this claim as it applies to religion, taking many of mankinds universal cognitive dispositions and showing how these can account for the universality which can now be observed in religion. Of course on this account one should be careful not to define “religion” too broadly, for we clearly cannot and should not do so in any case.

    Boyer points out that

    a) Super natural agents vary widely. Sometimes there is only 1 god, sometimes many. Sometimes animals are gods, sometimes inanimate objects like rivers, mountians or statutes are. Many religion don’t even believe in a god at all! Some believe god to be an alien.

    b) Some gods die. Some are immortal, some go through endless cycles of reincarnations, some are totally mortal such as clan chiefs.

    c) Many spirits are stupid. Sometimes God is all the omni’s and sometimes he is stupid (think of the Greeks). Sometimes rituals are intended to trick god.

    d) Salvation is not always a central preoccupation. Sometimes they only believe in the here and now. Sometimes there are ghosts and sometimes there is no after life at all.

    e) Official religion is not the whole of religion. Within every community, no matter how concerned with orthodoxy, belief still varies greatly. A great many of ethical monotheists in the world still believe in witches and ghosts and the like.

    f) You can have religion without having “a” religion. Take for instance those who pray to their ancestors. Why would they ever pray to other people’s ancestors? There are no different “religions” from which to choose. There is only religion which can be practiced.

    g) You can also have religion without having “religion.” Some don’t even have a concept of religion at all. Religion is culture and politics all in one. There is no separation between the sacred and the profane.

    h) You can have religion without faith. In many religions there is no such thing as “believing in” something or having faith. Thing are the way they are and there is simply no belief about it. It’s like asking you if you believe in mountains. The question and concept simply doesn’t make sense.

    When considering all of the “religions” independently we see that there is a vastly greater diversity than most appeals to experience and intuition may suggest. Of course the similarities which are most often appealed to are those with which we are most familiar, the religions which are most famous do to their being accepted by most people (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddism).

    These religion share many similarities due to their dealing with very similar situations: they must survive and spread better (this is a form of cultural evolution) than other “religions” in an environment with selective pressures governed not only by human cognitive dispositions, but by the constraints imposed by a large, beauracratic society which is also aware of other cultures and religions. Given these constraints, it would be a miracle if these 5 world religions were not similiar.

    Of course this doesn’t and indeed shouldn’t preclude an exchange of relgious ideas as you suggest in the post for this is clearly what happened with J->C->I and also from H->B. But taking the similarities between 5 of the most popular and most mutually influencing religions as examples of the unity which exists among the 1,000 of religions which actually exist is a grave error indeed.

    That there are similarities due to religion spreading (cultural evolution) is simply indisputable. That there are also similarities due to universal cognitive propensities (genetic evolution) towards religion is also indiputable. Most would agree that the first works within the context provided by the second, however, rather than either the other way around, or some account of independent contexts.

    Nibley’s account of Adam’s religion spreading everywhere, thus accounting for the universality, should count for something, but not much. Not only is it far too simplistic, but it doesn’t really account for all the relavent data very well either.

    2) I don’t think that we can simply ignore genetics when talking about Adam and his relationship to us either. Of course here, however, is where we get into issue regarding methodological naturalism and the like. A full mapping of embryological development has yet to be given, but there is really little doubt to suppose that science is ever going to find some step in which no naturalistic mechanism cannot account for the observed phenomenon. Such is also the case with a full mapping of our cognitive faculties as well, though religious people will naturally be more inclined to reject this statement. The question is, as Clark has already noted, “Where is the soul and what job is left for it?”

    This question should not be left out of our account of Adam and human evolution either. While the human genome project has finished listing our genetic sequence, it has a long ways to go before it actually details what “genes” do what and how. Nevertheless, few geneticists doubt that a full account can and will be given.

    If Adam was in any way special in his nature, it must have had something to do with his genetic sequence. Are we really going to maintain that Adam was exclusively in the image of God or should be include to a varying extent his contemporaries and his imediate predecessors? This is the issue of “essentiality” for evolution maintains that due to its usual gradual nature, there is really no essential difference inherint in certain species other than those differences which eventually emerge due to the very long and gradual process speciation which occurs over MANY generations.

    If Adam was special (and there must have been something genetic about it) and his contemporaries were not, then what about their children? What about the very diluted nature of Adam genetic influence of the New Guinean highlanders? What about us, for by any account we are vastly more the descendents of hominids than we are of Adam. It would seem that we are almost descendents of Adam by name only. Are we less “in God’s image” than Adam and his direct descendent were? Are some lineages more “in His image” than others?

    Or does God simply assign spirits which are in His image somewhat arbitrarily based upon distant and genetically insignificant relations as opposed our human nature? These are issues which argue fairly strongly against an interpretation of Adam being the first in God’s image in any traditional sense.

    3) This leads directly to the other characteristics which you attribute to Adam. Why was Adam’s religion, writing and science so much better than everybody else’s? He had a veil of forgettfulness just like everybody else. Of course we can say that God taught him, but this brings us back to the question of why He didn’t teach any of Adam’s contemporaries or predecessors.

    This also doesn’t take into account the significance of culturally selective pressures. One of the point of Diamond’s GG&S is that if there is simply to advantage or use to a techonology then it will simply not be taken up. Numerous examples can be given of inventions which preceded their re-invention by hundreds of years only to be forgotten and lost due to selective pressures. In fact, type set writing is an example of this.

    Thus, in a tribal setting, writing and the like will simply be forgotten. It is only when there is a need for it, deriving from rather than causally producing a growth in population, that writing will be able to survive. But in such circumstances, it will not only survive, but also will be adopted as well, either by invention (as in the three cases mentioned before) or borrowing.

    The problems associated with the idea of technology flowing from a solitary unprecedented cultural source such as Adam are similar to those associated with genes flowing from a solitary unprcedented genetic source. It doesn’t match very well with experience or observation. Research and Design (R&D), as Dennett is very fond of pointing out, is spread out over a significant number of individuals and time in both genetic and cultural evolution. Quantum leaps are not only rare, but are almost always deleterious.

    If Adam was a solitary, unprecedented source of technology then we would expect to find far more uniformity in ancient techonologies. We wouldn’t expect to find significant precedence in these innovations. We wouldn’t expect to find independent sources of comparable quality spring up under similar cultural conditions. But unfortunately such is not the case. The idea that techonological R&D is a process which is spread out over many individuals and many generations.

    Now of course Adam could have been the “Isaac Newton” of writing in that he was “the inventor” of sorts, but this seems to make Adam not all that special either. Just as Wallace discovered natural selection at about the same time as Darwin, Leibniz discovered calculus at about the same time as Newton. This seems to indicate that cultural context is probably the main source of innovation rather than the individual. Had Newton not been born at a time after Bacon, Descartes and Kepler I think it is very safe to say that it simply would not have happened.

    Applying this same reasoning to Adam, we have seen that Adam couldn’t have been that special genetically speaking. We have also seen that he probably wasn’t all that special cognitively or technologically speaking. He doesn’t seem to be all that special religiously speaking either. Why should we consider him to be all that special?

    In the end I guess your position may or may not be inconflict with these findings. First of all, we have to admit that the scenario where Adam shows up and has a huge influence on mankind (culturally and/or genetically) would have a certain amount of predictive consequences. As would the view that there was no solitary filter through which human evolution (cultural and/or genetic) had to pass. The observed phenomona confirm better to the later rather than the former. In this sense there is a methodological conflict.

    Of course one can avoid these conflicts by simply saying that Adam was a rather special individual working within the context of cultural/genetic evolution. But now there are other issues which must be dealt with: Why should Adam be considered all that important? Are we really talking about the same Adam anymore at all? And this without even approaching the issue of the fall. (BTW, how do you view the fall with regards to evolution?)

    Sorry about the long comment.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — October 7, 2005 @ 1:17 pm

  7. Dude, your writing prolificacy is truly astonishing at times…

    When I said you were “somewhat” of an expert that could have been read to mean an expert relative to the rest of us. But don’t sell yourself short — the specific topic is Evolution and Mormonism and since that specific field is not too crowded I think you probably are a bit of an expert in that specific niche.

    Here are a few thoughts.

    1.) While you make a very strong case that religions of today are very dissimilar even if there are some similarities among the most popular ones, my point is passing in the post was more about striking similarities in some of the rites the ancient cultures performed. A Nibley favorite was the coronation ritual (that some scholars feel is played out in the transferal of the crown from King Benjamin to his son in the BoM). These rites in the ancient world are not the same as doctrines now. The idea that I think has some merit is that these similar rites did not spring forth independently but originated from a single center place — presumably Adam. The more time that passes the more that connection dissipates though and such rites are influential but largely unrecognizable now. But that does not seem to be the case 2000+ years ago.

    I think you are assuming Nibley was extrapolating the idea farther than I have actually seen him do so.

    2.) If Adam was in any way special in his nature, it must have had something to do with his genetic sequence.

    I’m not so sure about that. I think the best model to compare Adam against is Jesus Christ. Are you certain there was something in Christ’s genetic sequence that made him noticeably different than, say, Peter? It could have been, but it is not necessarily so. In fact, some Christologies might insist that it is not so else Christ was not truly human and thus could not actually empathize with us. I am just noting that you are overlaying a lot of theological assumptions when you make statements like that.

    3.) This leads directly to the other characteristics which you attribute to Adam. Why was Adam’s religion, writing and science so much better than everybody else’s?

    Again, I think the best comparison is Christ himself. Why was his religion better than anyone elses? Well, for one it is because he was divine before he arrived here. Yet I am assuming some level of divinity for Adam before he arrived here too. Christ also passed through a veil yet his influence on the world a mere hundred or two years later was immense. Why not assume a similar thing about Adam? (Without an atonement of course). We have more details about Christ’s arrival here (through Mary being overshadowed and conceiving) than we do about Adam and Eve, but I see no reason not to assume some similarities between them in terms of their lives and influences on the world.

    You may be right about the technology thing, but I don’t know why it must be so. As Christ has shown, occasionally an inhabitant of this world is indeed a quantum leap ahead of everyone else. And as Christ has also shown, his influence pulled the world ahead in his wake…

    Comment by Geoff J — October 7, 2005 @ 4:43 pm

  8. 1) The way I’m interpreting Nibley is according to a statement he made, I think it was in either Approaching Zion or Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, in which he was defending Pres. Joseph F. Smith statement on the matter. What JFS seemed to be saying, and I could be wrong, is that ALL religion stems from Adam and has since then been corrupted. This is totally wrong. Nevertheless, cultural sharing is obviously a factor.

    The issue of rites and ordinances is one which Boyer dedicates an entire chapter to in his book and was one of the main influences for my series on baptism and the social contract. He points out that rites tend, but not always, but tend to have a few things in common: 1) they tend to have something to do with death, 2) they have something to do with contamination and/or purification which is related to death, 3) they tend to deal with passage from one state to another which gives them the appearance of magic (the wedding somehow “makes” a female a wife).

    The purifying nature of ordinances has to do with the activation of the contagion system in our cognitive tool box, a system which is also over-activated in those who suffer with OCD. Things can never to too perfect, pure or clean. Many of these actions which are associated with cleansing make these rites very good attention getting devices.

    A corpse in ones presence is a sure way to activate this cognitive system as well. It also deals with a slightly counterintuitive state of affairs where ones mother is there in front of them, but not really, thus serving as an even greater attention grabbing device.

    Further insistance will be placed upon these rites by the fact that if they are not performed then the communal magic seems not to happen. If a couple is not publically married, the changes which are supposed to happen by societies recognition of this change in state of affairs will simplly not happen. For a people completely ignorant of all sociology and psychology this can be explained with little else than magic, thus serving as yet another attention grabbing device. A coronation would fall into this category.

    Now of course not all similarities in religious rites can be explained by these 3 points, but an awful lot can. Clearly there is a significant amount of cultural sharing, especially in the middle east where religions really did tend to derive from one another. I must stress again, however, that placing an exaggerated emphasis upon the middle eastern religions, as Nibley clearly did, can hardly be considered an accurate representation of religion in general.

    2) I see your point here about Christ but I think the situation here is a little different. My point is that if Adam wasn’t significantly different, genetically speaking, from his contemporaries and predecessors, then by what means can we really deny them the status of full blown children of God just like us? This would seem to place more emphasis on happening to have Adam somewhere in our ancestral line rather than some sort of appeal to our human natures. Any appeal to anything characteristic other than our human natures which would set us apart as sons and daughters of God seems a bit arbitrary and a little bit ad hoc.

    For the record, I think that we simply must accept that Christs genetic sequence would be significantly different from his contemporaries. This is obviously total speculation.

    3) We can compare Adam to Christ in this aspect if we want, but I don’t think that accomplishes what you want it to. Christ really didn’t bring any body of teachings which we all that revolutionary or had not been taught by somebody else before him. Christ’s teaching were VERY similar to his apparent teacher, John the Baptist. These teachings were actually not all that unique they both being two among numerous apocalyptic prophets. Here, of course, we are dealing with the historical Jesus, which I take John Meier and Bart Ehrman to be relatively good guides, John having published some of his material in Dialogue.

    Regarding Christian influence in the years after, I think that Paul’s teachings were far more revolutionary than Jesus’. He turned the religion of Jesus into the religion about Jesus. Of course I haven’t said anything about the atonement, which can simply not be explained by cultural influences, but I really don’t think that by way of new and revolutionary teachings Jesus is the best model for us to take.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — October 8, 2005 @ 8:30 am

  9. What JFS seemed to be saying, and I could be wrong, is that ALL religion stems from Adam and has since then been corrupted. This is totally wrong.

    I think you are right that it is wrong to say all religion descended directly from Adam. But it is certainly not a stretch to hypothesize that some religion did. Nibley was especially interested in certain ancient coronation rites that appeared all over the ancient world with such similarities that it seems extremely unlikely that they sprung up independently.

    if Adam wasn’t significantly different, genetically speaking, from his contemporaries and predecessors, then by what means can we really deny them the status of full blown children of God just like us?

    I never made that claim.

    I think that we simply must accept that Christs genetic sequence would be significantly different from his contemporaries.

    Why?

    Christ really didn’t bring any body of teachings which we all that revolutionary or had not been taught by somebody else before him.

    This may be largely true but I think it misses the point. Even if we ignore Christ’s teachings (which were first introduced by Adam anyway), we cannot ignore the atonement and his condescension. Aside from the obviously crucial atonement, the other vital thing about Christ is that he was a full fledged God that condescended to live among us. That fact is crucially important. Talk up Paul all you want as a preacher and theologian, but the fact is he mostly wanted to preach about the fact that God became a man and in the process atoned for all of us.

    If Adam was divine then his arrival here is also an example of divinity living among us. Now we need not go all the way to the Brigham version of the divinity of Adam for this to matter. Jesus Christ could still be greater than Adam for this to matter tremendously. But the fact is that if we go with this then the Big Play started with a condescension and is resolved by another condescension. In fact Paul himself seemed to allude to this idea with his talk of the first Adam and last Adam. The Fall of the Divine Adam is inextricably intertwined with the atonement of the Divine Christ.

    With Adam, a Divine person arrived, Fell, and introduced true religion to the earth. With Christ a Divine person arrived and atoned for that Fall. (BTW — I still see no need for a unique genetic code in either condescension story.)

    Now about the hard line between who are children of God and who are not — I think it is probably an incorrect notion. I don’t buy the idea of spirit birth to begin with and I think that Abraham 3 points strongly to the notion of a continuum of intelligences that has God at the top of the line and then goes down from there through all life.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2005 @ 7:58 pm

  10. I believe it was Joseph Smith who JFS was extrapolating the idea of all religion coming from Adam from, which is a perfectly senseable idea, if you think of Adam as pre-cromagnon\pre\dinosaur\pre-historic etc. Perhaps, however it is more appropriate to say all religion comes from God. I think Jeffrey is right about “pre-adamites” (I can’t believe I’m using that term) being also Children of God. The Question is, what is and isn’t a child of God? We Know Humans are created in God’s image and are thus children of God, but what about the current fauna of the earth? What Status do they have?

    As far as Evolution goes, I know it is simplistic, and usually provokes the “You must have watched too much Captain Kirk as a child” but I still am not opposed to thinking that the Fall worked like the Atonement, in that it was infinite and went forwards and backwards in linear time.

    Also, Something I posted on a while ago was the fact that there was definitely Sin before the Fall, so why not Death?

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 8, 2005 @ 9:42 pm

  11. Thanks Matt. Let me point out that I also said “pre-Adamites” could and probably should be considered children of God (though as you implied, I think that might be on a continuum as well). As you might be able to tell from my comments here already, I like your other points as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 8, 2005 @ 9:58 pm

  12. I see that on some points Geoff and I agree while on others we are speaking past one another. (Boy that’s a first! :0)

    I shall label your paragraphs so that I won’t have to paste so much in hopes on keeping my comment short.

    1) I pretty much agree. I imagine that we will disagree to what extent Nibley’s theory is right, but we both acknowledge that either extreme simply isn’t plausible.

    2) It’s true that you never said that all children of God are sons of Adam, but I’m curious as what importance will be left to Adam if we don’t at least give him a title similar to this? BTW, I’m still anxious to heare your views concerning the fall.

    3) The reason why I think Christ’s genetics sequence must have been different stems primarily from the mechanism of his birth and secondarily from the fact that we maintain his nature to be different than ours. I’m really not prepared to argue for anything more than that so my suggestion here isn’t really all that radical.

    4) Being divine and performing a somewhat private, though universally important act shouldn’t be considered introducing anything by way of culture or technology. Christ’s actions were really important, but His teaching weren’t all that revolutionary. Paul, however, was pretty much the other way around.

    I should probably make my point about considering Adam “important.” There is a religious view of Adam which says that he is really important. There is also a secular view which says that there wasn’t really anybody in our evolutionary past which really fits a description which could approach his claimed importance. Each view makes prediction about what we should observe if each were the case and the secular one wins by quite a bit. Now of course one can try to harmonize the two views by making thier prediction more or less the same but there are two big problems with such a tactic: 1) it is purely ad hoc, 2) if the predictions of an important Adam are pretty much the same of no Adam at all, how important could this Adam really have been?

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — October 10, 2005 @ 12:58 am

  13. Interesting conversation. I’m glad to see Jeff back.

    I think Joseph F. Smith was the first to articulate the idea that religious similarities are a result of apostasy since Adam. I believe it was in response to the rise and growth of “higher criticism.” Joseph Fielding Smith used a similar trick to explain “cave men.” Their lack of technology and so forth was a result of apostasy and the loss of the Spirit.

    Adam is a tough one. I don’t have any good answers, and Jeff has read more on the mental transition to modern humans than I have. I guess the only thing I have to say is that just because we have difficulty drawing lines does not mean that God doesn’t draw lines.

    We talk about the age of accountability being eight years old. But I doubt there is any one moment when a child understands right from wrong. Nevertheless, God has drawn a line at eight. Perhaps his judgments will transcend that line–I have no idea what data will shape those judgments. But for the moment, we have a line drawn. We can ask all kinds of questions about that line, come up empty handed, and decide that the line is bogus. But that does not mean a line does not exist.

    I think this can be applied to the question of Adam. Jeff asks challenging questions that we don’t have answers to. I am in no way criticising his questions, or the search for better answers. I just think we have to keep in mind that just because we don’t see a physical basis for a line does not mean that a line does not exist–that’s all.

    Re: M&E, It has been slow of late, but it isn’t dead. I feel like I’ve had a good run at venting my spleen–I need to start thinking of more material. Even if it is slow, I hope people find the material useful. It’s kind of a hybrid between current conversation and reference material.

    Comment by Jared — October 10, 2005 @ 12:24 pm

  14. Jeffrey (#12)

    Ok, so since we can agree in principle about the need to avoid extremes in this question of the influence Adam had on ancient religion, we can tackle a few other things.

    I think one of the problems you and I occasionally have in exchanges is that you are good at building conceptual structures based on foundational assumptions you are comfortable with. Then I have problems with the foundation and you assume I am having problems with the structure you are building instead.

    A fine example is this children of God and sons of Adam point you have brought up. I’m not sure what it really means and why it matters. Perhaps you can back up and help me understand what traditional beliefs you are responding to. Here is what I think we’re talking about: It seems that a lot of people believe that Adam was the first “child of God” on the earth. If so then it would be a problem to assume that full-fledged humans had evolved and were already here when Adam arrived. But I don’t think there really is such a thing as “spirit birth” per se. Therefore I don’t see a need to draw the hard line between children of God and not children of God that many see (though I admittedly probably used to). I suspect you and I are on the same page with this — is that right? So basically my assumptions tell me this is really a non-issue.

    I think this genetics sequence thing is very important. The Christology implications are huge and I think they are just as huge regarding Adam. I am working under the assumption that there was no significant difference between the genetics of Adam or Christ and the rest of us. The actual answer to this question (whatever it may be) has major theological implications.

    Regarding culture and technology — I am willing to back away from the causation stance I implied in the post regarding Adam. There is little question that the timing basically works but you could be right that it was a correlation thing and not causation. I am flexible on this enough to consider the idea of Adam as great prophet; above Joseph Smith and more akin to Christ himself.

    Since we believe we all existed before arrival here and this life is a probationary state — it doesn’t matter that much to me how the probationary stage was set. Maybe I am missing something on this why I should care though… If so feel free to set me straight.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 10, 2005 @ 12:27 pm

  15. Jared,

    Interesting points. Perhaps I am extending the application of Abraham 3 too far but I don’t believe that there must be an abrupt break of any kind (between humans and non-humans; children of God and non children of God; etc). I think our scripures state pretty clearly that intelligences in the Universe are on a continuum and that assuming there is such a break flies in the face of that notion.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 10, 2005 @ 12:36 pm

  16. I forgot about your views concerning the spirit birth. With that in mind, your post becomes a little less problematic, however it should be acknowledged that most Mormons won’t read the post that way.

    I guess the real issue which remains is “How do we define Adam?” Why should we care about him? Does he have any importance at all? Of course we can say that there was a man who was religious named Adam a long time ago, but so what? How is this any different from the existence of a religious man named Zenock? I’m sure this question naturally leads to questions concerning the nature of the fall which is where a considerable amount of curiosity lies for me with regards to your post.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — October 10, 2005 @ 12:56 pm

  17. I don’t think anything I said in the post remotely refers to spirit birth… Do you mean most Mormons believe in spirit birth and therefore will overlay that assumption onto the post? If so they would probably find things to object to there.

    I think you are right that the nature of the Fall is the next important question. The reason Adam is very different than Zenock is the reason Jesus is very different than John the Baptist. Jesus was a god before his arrival here and though not to the same degree, I believe the same thing largely applies to Adam. (I think it is no stretch to claim Michael stands next to Christ in authority/seniority. Brigham believed he was ahead of Christ while nearly all other church leaders since put him behind Christ.) So regarding the Fall, I only have vague hunches about it. I think it must have served a crucial function in our probation but I’m not sure of any details. It does seem to me that it stands as a bookend for our people here. The Fall on one side with the Atonement on the other side. A divine person condescending to perform each deed. The structure is interesting: The Fall is the beginning of the first act, the atonement is in the middle, and the two stars (Michael and Christ) are slated to show up together for the grand finale.

    So basically, I’m saying I don’t really understand the fall still, but I know it matters.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 10, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

  18. That’s exactly what I meant. Namely that only so many entities which have come to earth are spirit children of God and an entity is either a spirit child by birth or not at all. This, as you can probably see, will not sit well at all with most readings of evolution.

    The reason why I keep trying to force your hand on the fall is because associating it with Adam is where serious problems develop. We can say that Adam was divine, but again, unless he did anything of any importance whatsoever, so what? The fall would definitely qualify as an important act, but this is exactly where evolution exerts a strong force. How does the fall effect us and why should it? First of all, it didn’t seem to introduce any physical death into the world, and judging by the nature of Adam immediate predecessors and contemporaries there doesn’t seem any good reason to suppose that they couldn’t sin, so it would seem that his introducing spiritual death is out the window as well.

    Of course some people such as Matt have advocated a “timeless” fall but I think that this begs more questions than it answers. Questions regarding free will come up, question which neither compatibilism nor libertarianism are very well equipped to handle as Blake has shown. This timeless nature of both the fall and the atonement doesn’t seem to square with mormon doctrine very well and seems to bring up a serious question regarding both the temporality of God and issues of backwards causation. I simply don’t think it is an option in the Mormon context.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — October 10, 2005 @ 3:22 pm

  19. Hmmm, interesting points about the Fall. Have you come to any resolutions about it?

    I can say that not really understanding the Fall doesn’t worry me too much since we don’t really know that much about the details and mechanics of the atonement either. But it is definitely worthy of deeper investigation I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 10, 2005 @ 5:45 pm

  20. Here is the theory which I have suggested in the past:

    Dismissing the fall altogether is a notion that most members are simply not going to be willing to give up. But why is this? Is it the fall as we commonly understand it that cannot be rejected or the effects from and reasons for the fall which are more important? I suggest that it is the second, though saving the first would be icing on the cake. After all, Mc Conkie’s strong adherence to the doctrine of the Fall stems from two things: 1) his desire to maintain the credibility of the scriptures and 2) it’s association with the atonement which shall be dealt with shortly.

    The doctrine of the fall is as follows and surely any attempt at reconciliation must account for such things:

    1. It was an introduction of physical death for those involved.
    2. It was an introduction of spiritual death for those involved.
    3. It was an introduction of the ability to physically procreate, again, for those involved.
    4. It was an introduction of knowledge in one form or another to those involved.

    I have left these statements rather vague (i.e. “those involved”) for good reason. First, and most obvious yet least persuasive, is that abiguity makes reconciliation easier. Second and more persuasively, we already saw that organisms have been dying and procreating for billions of years. We cannot say that the fall introduced death and procreation into the earth with the fall of two human beings about 6,000 years ago. There is no evidence for these notions and if one is to accept any form of evolution, even IDC, we simply must reject such ideas.

    Thus, we cannot apply the ideas Mormons commonly maintain about the fall to the entire earth and its history. Whatever the fall was, it was not the introduction of death and procreation to the earth. Whatever the fall is meant to describe, it is to that and that alone that we should also apply the introduction of spiritual death and knowledge.

    Well, what could it have been? Some of you already know my theory concerning this issue and I will describe it now since I can think of no other event which these ideas could refer to in Mormon doctrine. It makes little mention of Adam and Eve but such shall be taken up in one of Mc Conkie’s later objections.

    Before I go on the describe my theory, I should first address another category of “alternate falls.” These other attempts at reconciliation invoke an isolated fall where death and procreation were happening outside of the garden of eden. I find such attempts unsatisfactory for a couple of reasons.

    1. We do not have a common ancestor which lived a mere 6,000 years ago which could have introduced any of these things to all of humanity.
    2. Such a limited account of the fall seems to destroy the point of the fall all together, since it is supposed to be a description of all of mankinds predicament.
    3. It seems very contrived and somewhat desperate. Though all attempts at reconciliation will seem that way to a certain degree, we should avoid excess.
    4. Such schemes, as we will see in reviews of Skousens’ Earth in the Beginning and B.H. Robert’s The Way, the Truth and the Life, usually posit someform of mass destruction of life around 6,000 years ago. This simply isn’t true.

    Some things to remember about the fall. Accounts of it tend to be closely intertwined with ceremony (the temple) or are rather legendary (genesis). Though I don’t presume to actually do so right now in too much detail, we must separate, the ceremony from the story and the myths from the historical kernal. In the ceremonial setting, the point is not to learn about Adam and Eve. It is to learn more about yourself. The genesis is objective history, it is a story with a point. With this in mind I will continue.

    What we know about life before the fall is:

    1. Adam was in God’s presence. God walked and talked with Adam.
    2. Adam lived in a paradise, whereever this was, it was not “here.”
    3. Adam had an immortal spiritual body of sorts. It is difficult to tell what this actually means.
    4. Adam was ignorant in that he had not gained some form of knowledge which seems to be an experience of good and evil. He could only progress spiritually by subjecting himself to spiritual and physical death.
    5. Satan was present was also present here in God’s presence. Only after goes against the Father is he banished.
    6. Adam was childless. This seems to be related to the nature of his spiritual body.

    After the fall the conditions were as follows:

    1. Adam was cast out of God’s presence. We no longer had relatively easy access to God, but instead had to pray for “many days” for an angel to come.
    2. Adam was cast out of paradise into was is termed a lone and dreary world. In other words we was sent “here.”
    3. Adam became mortal. He received a mortal body just like we have now.
    4. Adam could now have children. Again, just like we can with our bodies now.
    5. Adam began to gain knowedge and progress spiritually.
    6. Satan was also was cast out of the paradise. He then came to the lone and dreary world with Adam to tempt him.

    If these events do not describe the Garden scene, what could they describe? An interesting question, especially when we consider that the name Adam means man or mankind (hence my reason for not mentioning eve, sorry ladies). If we replace Adam with mankind in all of these points we recognize these as describing something else, namely the pre-existence!

    Now how this idea of the fall would work with our ideas of the premortal counsel would be a fun chore for another day, but we must admit that the parellels are startling. The story of our coming to earth and the story of the fall, seem to be telling the exact same story. Why not just consider them to be one and the same story, namely mankinds fall from heaven? This could be a valid way of reconciled the doctrine of the fall with evolution.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — October 11, 2005 @ 9:17 am

  21. Great stuff Jeff.

    And very well laid out as well. I think you make a very compelling case here. I would be willing to buy the idea of a non-earthly Garden of Eden. In my cursory check of modern scriptures I saw nothing that specifically required the Garden of Eden to be literal or here on earth. Of course there are statements by modern prophets including Joseph that claim it was literally there. I’m not sure if that was declared to be revelation or not though. Have you researched that? If it is just a Zelph-like deal then I don’t know why there should be too much problem with it.

    I do think that there is probably a much bigger problem with a non-literal Adam though. And I don’t think Adam as first prophet covers it — I still favor Adam as divine visitor and as bookend to Christ. I think it fits the scriptures and revelations best while also reconciling best with the other evidence. What do you think?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 11, 2005 @ 5:53 pm

  22. Jeffrey:
    I think this is a very interesting concept. I think the only issue is it muddies the waters a bit with the Michael- Adam distinction, but is pretty agreeable. I also have some confusion on the Atonement’s relation to all this, but, again, I don’t feel it is irreconcialable. Perhaps this could even be a post council in heaven pre-existence? I mean it is self evident it is “pre-mortal”.

    Comment by Matt Witten — October 12, 2005 @ 9:52 am

  23. Sounds good, but how do we reconcile Joseph teaching that the Garden of Eden was here in the America’s, specifically Adam-ondi-Ahmen?

    Comment by Hyrum — October 18, 2005 @ 2:53 pm

  24. I think that the widely held acceptance of evolutionary theory is the result of gross misunderstanding and academic indoctrination. What is the evidence for evolution? Let’s take the fossil record for example; that’s always used as one of the evolutionist’s big guns. In most cases, very little is found of hominid fossils, leading to ambiguity when trying to identify the creature. Of course, that doesn’t stop it from being widely hailed as the long-sought “missing link”. A “missing link”? Tell me, if we find some old bones in the dirt, how can we prove they have any evolutionary relationship to us at all?? Is that not inferring beyond the data at hand? Afterall, those fossils aren’t found with a stamped label “1,000,000 years old, ancestor to humans”. It’s just old bones for pete’s sake! How can you tell that there’s ANY evolutionary relation between us and them! This demonstrates a serious flaw in logic. It’s assuming that macroevolution is possible in the first place (which, by the way, has never been observed, ever. It must be believed)and that any strange bone found is automatically an evolutionary ancestor. Do you really think scientists have a super-human ability to be able to determine those questions simply by looking at old bones? Evolutionary theory is full of story-making. You have to IMAGINE it happened this way or that; nothing is actually testable or observable. Unless, of course, you have access to a time machine. That takes evolution outside the realm of science and into the realm of BELIEF.
    The same thing applies to the question of the age of the earth. Most average people just assume that scientists have proven that the earth is billions of years old, because of carbon dating and similar methods, and also because of familiarity with the geologic column. First of all, the only place the geologic column exists is in the text books. It is fiction. And as far as radioactive dating is concerned, how do you know it is accurate? I mean, there’s no way you can possibly check your answer short of a trip to the past in a time machine. And further doubt is cast on it when outrageous dates are frequently obtained from radioactive dating on living specimens! For instance, the living snail that was carbon dated as being 27,000 years old! If you want to believe the earth is 4.6 billion years old, you’re welcome to, but there’s just no scientific way we can possibly KNOW that. People say, “But the earth looks old!” Now how would we know that? Have any of us in our lifetime seen the formation of a planet and watched it for billions of years to know what a billions-of-years-old earth should look like? Any conclusions about the age of the earth, or organic evolution, are strictly matters of belief.
    So fellas, I don’t think you’ll find me converting to the religion of evolution any time soon. I think the scriptures are clear in their teachings, and I actually believe them.

    Comment by Ryan N. — June 2, 2006 @ 9:46 am

  25. If it isn’t apparent from my other recent comments, I think the model Jeff G. describes in #20 is basically right. It is true there was no death before the Fall. However the Fall happened more than six hundred million years ago on a spiritual earth quite different from this one, and probably involved a whole civilization, not just one or two people.

    Comment by Mark Butler — August 14, 2006 @ 8:55 am

  26. Mark,

    See my follow up post taking Jeff’s #20 and expanding on it here. I then expanded further on the Eden as allegory theme here and here.

    The Before Abraham category has all of these posts.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 14, 2006 @ 9:37 am

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