No doubt many of you have seen the movie Avatar which is breaking all kinds of box office records this winter. For the three of you who don’t know, in the film humans in the future are mentally connected to test-tube-grown alien bodies and essentially act as pilots to those bodies in the story. This idea of minds powering bodies is pretty common in religions around the world where the assumption is that each of us is a spirit piloting a mortal human body and as soon as our body dies our spirits essentially hit the eject button and move on. This concept is certainly at home in Mormonism where it is not uncommon to hear analogies about hands and gloves to describe the relationship between spirits and mortal bodies.
So with that as a backdrop, it is not entirely clear to me what the theoretical objection to the idea of human evolution among Judeo/Christian religionists would be. The stereotypical objection is that evolution means human bodies “evolved from monkeys”. As far as I can tell the awfulness of this prospect is supposed to be self evident. But of course the awfulness of the idea that our ancient biological ancestors were “monkeys” isn’t self evident. If we are just pilots of these present bodies then why should we care at all how these bodies came into existence in the universe? Now I can understand that Biblical literalists would be concerned about having to give up some hyper-literalism in their interpretations of the Bible to accept human evolution and they might not like that. But beyond that it seems to me humans shouldn’t really care much how our species came to be on this planet.
I see plenty of good reasons to accept human evolution though. First there is all that pesky scientific evidence that supports it. Second, I find lots of arguments from evolutionary psychologists quite persuasive in explaining human nature and tendencies. I think the EP arguments are especially useful in explaining the differences between men and women.
I mentioned in a previous post the strange bedfellows that the evolutionary psychology and certain socially conservative ideas make together. There is no denying that a document like the Family Proclamation finds a surprisingly high level of support in the thoughts of some evolutionary psychologists.
It seems to me that there is real promise in combining the idea that our bodies are in fact designed via evolution with the idea that we also have free-willed spirits that are currently fused with and piloting our mortal bodies. Not only is there real promise in it, I suspect that the support of evolutionary theories might become necessary to defend some of our socially conservative beliefs in the public sphere in the decades to come.