On Eternal Minds, Evolution, and Avatars

January 10, 2010    By: Geoff J @ 1:45 pm   Category: Evolutionary psychology

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.

104 Comments »

  1. I had similar thoughts watching Avatar, at least with respect to the way we temporarily inhabit our mortal bodies. But what you’re suggesting here seems to imply that spirits, as well, are a product of evolution. Is that what you intended?

    Comment by jonathan n — January 10, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  2. My orthodox (ha!) sister-in-law believes that Adam and Eve were the first two beings/creatures to have spirits begotten of our Heavenly Father. Those preceding them were not human in that sense, but evolution hit a point where bodies were ‘ready’ to become earthly tabernacles for the children of God.

    She believes He uses natural laws, and would name God as the author of the tendencies referred to in the previous post, no matter how literally the creation texts are interpreted.

    Comment by Téa — January 10, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  3. jonathan, looking at the concept of intelligences and spirits, one could see a spirit evolution of sorts, but I think of that as a pre-earth occurrence. Hadn’t thought of it as happening in mortality, though…

    Comment by Téa — January 10, 2010 @ 6:48 pm

  4. Jonathan n,

    No I am not suggesting spirits are a product of the organic evolution process here on earth. I lean toward the idea that spirits are beginningless.

    But there are some theories of spirits (variations on the spirit atomism idea) that could be considered comparable to evolution.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  5. Tea,

    Yeah I’ve heard that theory you mentioned. It serves to bridge the gap between evolution and a literal Adam and Eve for people who want to keep both.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

  6. I wonder if one of the reason why so many Mormons continue to resist evolution is because it threatens to disrupt our notions of descent from a single pair of primal parents and thwart our efforts to seal up the entire human family from us to Adam and Eve.

    Comment by Sterling Fluharty — January 10, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

  7. I think the understandable objections to evolution would be that:
    -Evolution can suggest the mind of man is deterministically emergent and not connected to a spirit at all.
    -Evolution can suggest God did not “make man in his image.”
    -Evolution can suggest that death was not caused by the fall, and thus is not overcome by the atonement.
    -Evolution can suggest lack of free-will

    I think theistic evolution has been able to deal with these issues, but these are the things I am most commonly aware of, none of which are dependent on Monkeys.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 10, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  8. As you said Matt, theistic evolution handles all of those concerns. So the fact that evolution “can” suggest problem x, y, or z does not mean it must or even really does suggest those problems.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

  9. I think most (not all) Mormons who reject evolution simply do so out of ignorance. Ignorance of the science (and the abundant evidence for it) and ignorance of our theology (and that it is not as closed to evolution as some suggest).

    Comment by Clark — January 10, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

  10. I think there is more than a clinging to creation and fall going on. There is also the idea of God having a flesh and bone body of human form, and the idea of the resurrection being our eternal destiny. Which leads to our bodies being more than just some arbitrary matter for our spirits to pilot.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 11, 2010 @ 6:54 am

  11. Clark: I think most (not all) Mormons who reject evolution simply do so out of ignorance

    What do you mean by “reject evolution”?

    The way many people use the term (unfairly in my opinion) “theistic evolution” is an oxymoron, not “evolution” at all, for example.

    However, if I were to guess, the vast majority of Mormons have no problem whatsoever with evolution (in the sense of common descent) with one exception – (modern) humans. I would guess that perhaps only 30% would be willing to accept common biological descent of humans and other mammals, for pretty obvious reasons.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 11, 2010 @ 7:56 am

  12. If one accepts the position that this is not the first planet upon which human-looking beings have walked than I ask myself which would be more efficient:

    1. Wait for an phenotypically and physiologically appropriate creature to evolve to serve as the bodies of our human spirits, or
    2. Use some already, fully formed, and suitable bodies to create the bodies for Adam and Eve.

    For my part, it seems that option 2 (radical panspermia) is the more efficient mechanism.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 11, 2010 @ 8:21 am

  13. GeoffJ:

    There is also something of a sacredness in Mormonism regarding our bodies. The body is a ‘temple’ is a common idea.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 11, 2010 @ 9:40 am

  14. Eric and Mark,

    I think you both make pretty good points. If we insist that God permanently looked like a human before earth existed then there is tension between the rather random aspects of organic human evolution of human bodies and that. I suspect a lot of theistic evolution believers out of Mormonism don’t have that constraint.

    Eric — I don’t know why our bodies would be less sacred if it turns out God used evolution to prepare them for us.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  15. A. Davis,

    Is that an argument against our theology or against evolution? While option 2 looks like it would be more efficient, the fossil record suggests that it’s is not what God did.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2010 @ 10:48 am

  16. I admit, I am one of the three that has not seen the naked smurf movie yet. I heard it was a major fail.

    Comment by Happy Lost Sheep — January 11, 2010 @ 11:30 am

  17. You heard wrong Happy Lost Sheep. It was stunning. Anyone who would like to discuss the movie can do so here.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  18. Jacob J: Is that an argument against our theology or against evolution? While option 2 looks like it would be more efficient, the fossil record suggests that it’s is not what God did.

    Neither. Just because evolution appears to have the potential to explain Adam and Eve doesn’t mean that must be the explanation.

    That’s not to say evolution hasn’t occurred. It apparently has been there for its purposes — purposes which can be different than creating vessels for humanity.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 11, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  19. Wow. Now I understand better the schism in the Church. Guys, maybe I’m an idiot, but I think that Adam and Eve were real people and that they were our first parents. I would rather listen to the word of inspired human prophets over the word of uninspired human scientists.

    No offense to scientists, but they remind me of children playing with different pieces of a puzzle and drawing different conclusions about each piece. We need to stop bickering about these things. It’s just a distraction. The Lord will reveal the mysteries of the universe in His due time. Probably during the Millennium.

    Comment by Sean — January 11, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

  20. A. Davis,

    That theory is not impossible, it just has problems explaining why human bodies are only a few DNA markers away from some of our “cousin” species. The obvious question would be: If God led the evolution of our primate cousins to make them genetically so much like us why did he have to transplant the humans separately? Also, are you of the opinion that the transplants interbred with the locals? I find that the transplant theories end up having entirely different sets of problems rather than solving the problems.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

  21. GeoffJ:

    I was refering to your post where you say things like ‘hit the eject button and move on’. This seems to hold the body as arbitrary rather than sacred, and as temporary rather than something that will be resurrected and be part of our eternal nature.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 11, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  22. There has been much ink spilt regarding the relationship between religion and evolution. As for me this is still an area with a number of unresolved questions. For example a common solution is given in post 2 that is God waited until suitable bodies had evolved then inserted “human spirits” into them. I find this solution unsatisfying for a number of reasons. (warning this is going to be long)

    1. I think you run smack dab into the paradox of the heap.
    http://www.logicalparadoxes.info/heap/

    Evolution at least in higher mammals operates on a very gradual scale. H. erectus did not one day suddenly give birth to a H. sapiens instead there is something like a continuum at one end you have hominids with the characteristics we define as belonging to H. erectus at the other end there is hominids with characteristics we define as belonging to H sapien. However it is very difficult to pick a cutoff point somewhere in the middle of the continuum and state on “this” side you are H. erectus and on “this” side you are H. sapiens. In evolutionary terms there is no such thing as a “first” man. Think of your offspring at they a different species than you? Are your parents a different species than you? This is how evolution by and large operates gradual changes that become apparent over large time scales but every succeeding generation is much like the last. Adam would have been much like his parents. And yet you either are or are not a spirit child of God which seems to require a “first man” contrary to how evolution in higher mammals appears to operate.

    2. This idea of “man” suddenly appearing in a population of existing H. sapiens leads to a number of puzzling circumstances. Where do Adams parents and contemporaries fit in? Remember they would have been physically very similar if not indistinguishable from Adam. If Adams parents did not have “human spirits” the only other option appears to be animal spirits. Did Adam love his “animal” parents how about his grandparents, his nieces and nephews? Adam may have been “hooked up” by God with a suitable partner. But it is also clear that all human beings are not descended from a single breeding pair of humans who lived in the relatively recent past i.e.( different convergence points for different genes, no genetic evidence of a severe enough population bottleneck). What then are we to make of this? We have a mixture of H. sapiens some with “animal” spirits and some with “human” spirits. How are they supposed to tell which is which? If a “human” H. sapien married a “animal” H. sapien is that bestiality? What of the children presumably they would have “human” spirits? Did they love their H. sapien but still “animal” mother? Did God cause some kind of red A for animal :) to appear on all the H. sapiens with animals spirits so everyone could distinguish which was which?

    3. How all this works with the sealing power. This is apparently one of the main problems Boyd K Packer has with evolution.

    “An understanding of the sealing authority. The sealing authority with its binding of the
    generations into eternal families cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts. Let me repeat:
    An understanding of the sealing authority with its binding of the generations into eternal families cannot admit to ancestral blood lines to beasts. That should be reason enough for any endowed and sealed Latter-day Saint!”

    (The Law and the Light)

    I do not quote him because I am attempting to make an argument from authority. I quote him because I think he makes a good point. Can Adam be sealed to his “animal” parents? Also remember Adam is not alone. There are a number of other individuals in his same circumstances what about them? Presumably they loved and where loved by their parents is there a “first generation” of humans that cannot be sealed together as a family with their parents?

    4. Problem of Evil and guided evolution. Traditionally LDS have believed our bodies quite literally look like Gods. This requirement seems to require guided evolution of some sort. Either directly or indirectly. For example God could have acted indirectly by setting up the universe such that hairless upright apes are inevitable. However God influencing the makeup of our physical bodies causes all sorts of problems with the problem of evil. It has been pointed out that creation ex nihilo causes problems with the POE that eternally existing human intelligences do not have. However clearly our human bodies have not eternally existed and just as clearly the make up of our physical bodies profoundly influences our decision making. It seems to me God playing a role in creating our physical bodies creates many of the same problems as God creating our souls ex nihilo.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 11, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

  23. Problematic or not, I find unguided evolution so improbable to be essentially an irrelevant option to consider when one adopts the view that this earth is not the first and our human forms have existed elsewhere on other worlds.

    But, I need not throw out evolution as an option at all. Indeed, I find it necessary. Our earth will be unique and different than others. Our ecological balance will be different. Whatever creatures are used to seed this planet would probably be given time to evolve and adapt. Even then, the new bodies for Adam and Eve would probably have been tailored to fit this planet (perhaps planting them in, oh, I don’t know, a garden while things are worked out).

    Comment by A. Davis — January 11, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  24. A. Davis,

    Well when push comes to shove something has to go. I am less anxious to give up human evolution than you are for several reasons — not the least of which is my current fondness for the explanations for human tendencies it provides. Call me worldly but I think pointing to evolution-driven tendencies usually works better than claiming Satan is tempting humans to behave like mammals.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  25. Indeed, all our puzzle pieces don’t seem to fit nicely. Personally, I’m quite fond an inhabited galaxy and the non-uniqueness of this earth. So, naturally I preference theories which accommodate that bias.

    I think pointing to evolution-driven tendencies usually works better than claiming Satan is tempting humans to behave like mammals.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with that either. While I believe in a literal and personified Satan, I don’t credit it him with my carnal temptations.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 11, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

  26. Uncertain,

    I do not quote him because I am attempting to make an argument from authority. I quote him because I think he makes a good point.

    I, on the other hand, am still searching for his good point. If he is going to ask me to reject the scientific evidence in favor of common descent due to a theological conflict it creates, it better be one heck of a theological conflict. In this case, he offers us a problem with so many possible solutions that I find it ridiculous to reject the scientific evidence based on this problem. I won’t tread into the murky waters of all the many possibilities that exist for how evolution can be reconciled with our theology, but consider this one point: the sealing authority already allows for adoption and unless you think every person is going to the celestial kingdom, you already have a model in which people are often sealed to different people than their earthly biological parents.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 11, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  27. A. Davis,

    Something about your #23 struck a chord with my admittedly limited and ever-evolving (no pun intended) understanding. As an engineer who has always been fascinated by and curious about the physical mechanics of creation, the concept of “The Garden” as the celestial “pre-deployment sandbox” to fine-tune *this* implementation of mortality for *this* particular planet in *this* particular corner of the universe just makes me smile.

    …in a really good way. Thanks! :-)

    Comment by Taylor — January 11, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  28. Hi Jacob,

    “I, on the other hand, am still searching for his good point. If he is going to ask me to reject the scientific evidence in favor of common descent due to a theological conflict it creates, it better be one heck of a theological conflict.”

    I agree, the problem is defining how serious of a theological conflict is “serious enough”. I dare say Elder Packer views this issue as “serious enough” to throw out common descent since he implicitly said as much. You don’t necessarily have to agree with him. At the end of the day how much of a theological conflict we are willing to tolerate is probably going to be highly specific to the individual involved. Hence arguments based on theological conflict may be more or less compelling based on who is reading the argument.

    “consider this one point: the sealing authority already allows for adoption and unless you think every person is going to the celestial kingdom, you already have a model in which people are often sealed to different people than their earthly biological parents.”

    Here is the problem as I see it. If you accept common descent then you necessarily accept a cutoff point where human is birthed by animal. Unless you accept being sealed to animals it necessarily follows it is literally impossible to seal the first generation of humans to their parents. The ideal is to seal parents to children in an eternal family. Granted this ideal cannot always be followed due to the free will decisions of those involved hence adoption by sealing of children in to righteous family’s etc. The problem of course is if common descent is real and if humans can’t be sealed to animals. Then there exists a generation of humans who quite literally “cannot” accomplish the sealing ideal and be sealed together as parents and children into an eternal family. Depending on how important the “ideal” is to you common descent may or may not be acceptable. Apparently Boyd K Packer viewed having at least the potential of an ideal sealing as important enough that he rejects common descent. Your mileage may vary.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 11, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  29. Eric (#21),

    Well we do hit the eject button and move on from our mortal bodies in every Mormon theory I know of. Of course most people assume we get new resurrected bodies that presumably look similar to our mortal bodies, but even that has a major caveat because the general theory is that people with deformities and whatnot with their mortal bodies will be upgraded in the resurrection.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

  30. Uncertain (#22),

    It seems like one of your main points is that evolution doesn’t jibe well with a literal Adam and Eve. I actually agree with this for many of the reasons you brought up. But of course I don’t have a problem with assuming Adam and Eve are allegories for all humans and were not literal historical people.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  31. A. Davis: the non-uniqueness of this earth

    I can see the appeal of this assumption. Some day we’ll know I suppose. I tend to lean on God’s bias toward “variety” as described in some of our liturgy as an offset for this.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

  32. Uncertain (#22): For example God could have acted indirectly by setting up the universe such that hairless upright apes are inevitable.

    It doesn’t seem to me that assuming God has always looked like a “hairless upright ape” is all that compelling either.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  33. Uncertain, if Adam & Eve were created from the dust by God, then who are the earthly parents they *must* be sealed to? It seems that parental sealing for Adam and Eve isn’t necessary in the literal creation story either…

    Comment by Téa — January 11, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

  34. I accept common biological descent for a variety of reasons, but I don’t think one can rule out extraordinary intervention on occasion. Resurrection seems evidence enough of that.

    That said, if common descent was the best way to produce the particular sort of bodies we have now, I think it would be inconsistent with the economy of God to intervene just so that people don’t feel uncomfortable about their biological inheritance.

    The spirit is what matters, not the flesh. There is nothing magical about biological inheritance. Just a bunch of bits, more or less. I think that there is necessarily something special about the evolutionary process itself, in terms of something uniquely spiritual (property dualism again).

    However, our relationship to our progenitors is ultimately only significant in spiritual terms. If we carry some genetic inheritance from a pre-Cambrian paramecium, it is not likely we can establish a close personal relationship with one, no matter how grateful we are for its contribution to the cause.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 11, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

  35. Nice post Geoff. As an evolutionary biologist at BYU, I find the resistance to evolution unfathomable. Evolution is the supporting structure of all of modern biology. People ignore it at their peril. The apparent conflicts between our faith and evolution mostly are in place by inappropriately incorporating fundamentalist Christian ideas into our beliefs. Mormonism has a rich history of being science friendly, it’s time to get back to that.

    Of course I chatter about that a lot.

    Comment by SteveP — January 11, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

  36. Geoff,

    Isn’t there a slight contradiction (or call it a tension, maybe) in the claims you are endorsing in your post. On the one hand you claim that our bodies are avatars for our spirits (although I’m sure you don’t want to endorse the somewhat naive dualism which this would entail). But then you think that our bodies, which were “grown” by evolution, are what control our behavior a la evolutionary psychology.

    Which is it that controls our behavior? If it is our spirit, then evolutionary psychology seems superfluous at best. If it is our evolved bodies, then the idea of a dualistic spirit seems a bit superfluous.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 11, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  37. Jeff,

    I don’t think our bodies control our behavior, I think they influence our behavior and natural tendencies strongly. This is in harmony with my previous posts on the natural man and veto free will.

    Also, obviously the movie would only serve as a loose analogy because because assuming our minds/spirits exist independently of these bodies, there is no question that here on earth our bodies are a major part of “us”. (I have noted elsewhere that this creates interesting problems with assumptions about our current identities persisting after our deaths.)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

  38. GeoffJ (29):

    But isn’t it a common belief that it is our actual mortal bodies themselves that are resurrected, i.e., Christ’s body no longer being in the tomb? Prints of the nails?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 12, 2010 @ 5:07 am

  39. Good point Eric. It is hard to say. On the one hand we have the assumption that everything wrong will be upgraded so in many cases that seems like a completely different body, on the other hand we have the Jesus example. Another mystery that is TBD I suppose.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2010 @ 8:33 am

  40. Geoff J: I can see the appeal of this assumption. Some day we’ll know I suppose. I tend to lean on God’s bias toward “variety” as described in some of our liturgy as an offset for this.

    I don’t mean to imply by non-uniqueness of the earth that this earth is an identical twin of other earths. I suspect certain animals are probably specific to this earth. Others will be found on other worlds but may have different traits. Heck, humans could even have different color skin (if the other earth orbits a bluer star, different adaptions will certainly be necessary).

    By non-uniqueness I mean to say that we are not the only human inhabited planet. We are not a “rare earth”.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 12, 2010 @ 8:37 am

  41. Geoff (#30)

    Hi Geoff,

    “But of course I don’t have a problem with assuming Adam and Eve are allegories for all humans and were not literal historical people.”

    Thanks for your thoughts. Viewing Adam and Eve as allegories does solve some potential problems but I think it creates others. For example:

    D&C 137:5
    “5 I saw Father Adam and Abraham; and my father and my mother; my brother Alvin, that has long since slept; ”

    If Adam was allegorical who did Joseph Smith see in vision?

    D&C 138:38-40
    “38 Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all,
    39 And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God.
    40 Abel, the first martyr, was there, and his brother Seth, one of the mighty ones, who was in the express image of his father, Adam.”

    Similarly who was Joseph F. Smith seeing if Adam was not a literal person? Also notice he mentions Seth was in the express image of his father Adam which strongly implies he was seeing real people and he noticed Seth looked just like his dad.
    Such statements are by no means unique there are a large body of scriptural and prophetic statements that strongly suggest Adam was a literal historical person.

    I would also add viewing Adam as allegorical does solve some issues but not all. For example you are still left with the problem of Man coming from animal which creates potential problems when dealing with sealing family members together. And there is still the mess of the first generation of “human” H. sapiens being intermingled with “animal” H. sapiens.

    I am not claiming reconciling evolution and traditional LDS teachings are impossible. I am simply pointing out possible problems that I believe a given potential solution should address. God inserting “human” spirits into properly evolved H. sapiens is a common answer I have heard attempting to reconcile religion with evolution. I find it somewhat lacking for the reasons I outlined here.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 12, 2010 @ 9:58 am

  42. Geoff (post 32) “It doesn’t seem to me that assuming God has always looked like a “hairless upright ape” is all that compelling either.”

    I agree stating the human body plan is some kind of eternal platonic form is not very satisfying. I think there is much in LDS thought that makes reconciliation with evolution easier than traditional Christianity. For example by and large the LDS church doesn’t have a tradition of hyper biblical literalism.

    On the other hand I think there are traditional LDS teachings that make reconciliation with evolution harder. One of these is the teaching our bodies are quite literally made in the image of God. It would be easier if LDS viewed “made in the image of God” as metaphorical as other christian faiths do.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 12, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  43. Yes, I am well aware of those scriptures Uncertain. As ever, something has to give eventually. I suspect that over time we will have to invoke the “section 19 principle” on more and more assumptions relating to Adam and Eve vs. evolution.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  44. Téa (33)

    “if Adam & Eve were created from the dust by God, then who are the earthly parents they *must* be sealed to? It seems that parental sealing for Adam and Eve isn’t necessary in the literal creation story either…”

    Hi Téa,

    You make a good point. I always assumed that the reason Adam and Eve in the traditional account are not sealed to their parents is because they didn’t have any parents. If they did have parents presumably it would be the ideal that they were sealed to them just like it is for all of us. The LDS ideal is for those of us who do have parents (or children) is to be sealed together in an eternal family unit. Irregardless of whether Adam and Eve had parents to be sealed to.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 12, 2010 @ 10:22 am

  45. Geoff (43)

    Fair enough, that was a great linked discussion very thought provoking.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 12, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  46. Uncertain,

    If they did have parents presumably it would be the ideal that they were sealed to them just like it is for all of us.

    But surely, the ideal is to have parents. Right? This alone should be enough to reject the traditional account for those who believe in eternal families.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  47. Jacob J (46)

    “But surely, the ideal is to have parents. Right? This alone should be enough to reject the traditional account for those who believe in eternal families.”

    I would say the ideal is to have loving individuals raising children whether or not they are the true biological parents is probably not as important. According to the traditional account Adam certainly had a loving and caring role model i.e.(God). For that matter in the traditional account God being directly responsible for Adams physical body could reasonably be viewed as Adams biological parent. What other definition of biological parents is there besides providing the physical form you are born into?

    Comment by Uncertain — January 12, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  48. What other definition of biological parents is there besides providing the physical form you are born into?

    Err… that’s not the definition of biological parenthood. By that definition Geppetto was the biological father of Pinnochio. Being a biological parent requires a donation of a sperm or an egg.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  49. “Err… that’s not the definition of biological parenthood. By that definition Geppetto was the biological father of Pinnochio. Being a biological parent requires a donation of a sperm or an egg.”

    You make a good point. Perhaps biological parent is not the best term. Although I think things start becoming fuzzy when someone is directly responsible for producing your physical form but they do it in unconventional ways. I think Geppetto can reasonable be viewed as Pinnochios parent although perhaps not “biological” parent. In any case this is a minor issue what is important is every child is raised in a loving and caring environment whether or not the providers of that environment happen to be it’s biological parents is not as important. Given Adam had God has a role model who not only provided his physical body but also provided a loving and caring environment. I think it reasonable to view God as Adams parent (in the traditional view). After all when a couple adopts and cares for a child it is reasonable to view them as the child’s parents.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 12, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

  50. Although I think things start becoming fuzzy when someone is directly responsible for producing your physical form but they do it in unconventional ways.

    Unconventional ways, like, say, evolution?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2010 @ 2:28 pm

  51. Unconventional ways, like, say, evolution?

    Hehe.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

  52. This may be a little too tangential to this post, but since we are talking about parenthood, I personally find it informative that Solomon, in the most famous example of his wisdom, chose not who the parent of the child was based on who was most likely the parent by genetic attributes, but based upon who loved the child the most. I think this speaks a lot to what our Father feels makes him truly our father.

    As for Adam and Eve, I still figure they were pre-mortal beings.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 12, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

  53. Perhaps we will someday rewrite our scriptures to fit with the science of the day. But until then, we are left to try and figure out just how our scriptures and the teachings of our prophets square with evolution.

    If I can, with just a wave of my hand, discount scripture that talks about Adam and Eve as allegory or in anyway less than real historical people, then with just a wave of my hand in the other direction, can as easily dismiss all of the scripture that talks about Christ being the son of God, the atonement, and yes, we can easily forget about the resurrection being anything more that a story to tell children to keep them from being afraid of the boogieman. :)

    Comment by CEF — January 12, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  54. If I can, with just a wave of my hand, discount scripture that talks about…

    Ah, but you can already do that CEF. In fact you don’t even need to wave your hands to do that. It’s one of the nice things about agency.

    PS — Most people already discount the notions that women started as male ribs, or that snakes used to be able to talk, etc. They also were not required to wave any hands to “discount” those scriptures and decide they were probably not literal historical accounts. We discussed the literal vs. figurative idea at some length here.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  55. “Unconventional ways, like, say, evolution?”

    Sounds good to me :). I am firmly convinced we are the product of an evolutionary process.

    Comment by Uncertain — January 12, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

  56. CEF,

    Just as we have to (rightly) worry about the slippery slope of discounting the Bible due to our current understanding of science, we also have to (rightly) worry about the slippery slope of discounting science due to our current understanding of the Bible.

    Consider the following four data points:

    1. Adam and Eve were the first people on earth
    2. The Earth was created 6 days before they were put here
    3. There was no death before they fell
    4. They lived appoximately 7000 years ago (given the reliability of the geneology from Adam to Moses)

    If we accept these at face value as literally true (for fear of brazenly discounting the Bible), then we really have to reject a massive portion of geology, cosmology, biology, and archeology. I honestly don’t know, are you ready to take a stand against all of these branches of science? If not, as I hope and suspect, then you are already navigating the waters of balancing Biblical claims with scientific ones.

    Recognizing that someone balances those in a slightly different way that you do on a given point is much different than believing that you accept the Bible while they reject it with a wave of the hand. Don’t you think?

    Comment by Jacob J — January 12, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  57. I’m pretty open minded about this. The only thing that doesn’t quite fit is that our bodies should look just like our spirits. If our spirits and bodies came into being by totally unrelated paths of creation or evolution, why would they look alike?

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 12, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

  58. I tend to think that the product of the Big Bang that we call our “universe” is a tiny part of the “multiverse.” Like a volcanic island in the Pacific it was completely sterile and devoid of organic life during its initial cooling off period. But later life came here from other regions of the multiverse, rather than evolve from scratch here. We know that life didn’t evolve from scratch on the islands of Hawaii, though it is found there and continues to adapt to changing circumstances.

    Twenty billion years is a long time, but, in my opinion, still infinitesimal in comparison to the time it would for intelligent life to evolve from scratch.

    On the other hand the multiverse has been around infinitely long. That’s plenty of time for evolution to produce intelligent life from scratch, over and over again.

    When the Jaredites came to this hemisphere they brought seeds, etc. and even fish with them. I think that is a type (or shadow depending on your point of view) of what Adam and Eve and their company did.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 12, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

  59. Why do you think our physical bodies should look like our spirits Forest?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2010 @ 8:08 pm

  60. Wave of the hand? No. More like wrenching mental effort. The scriptures are there for a reason – if they error in historical facts, we have to determine what real value those passages hold in other terms, lest we discard the whole thing as hopelessly beyond repair.

    The actual cause of the Fall and the nature of the state we are now in is far more important than mere timing. The Fall is the result of sin. We are fallen because we sin. The whole idea that God would inflict misery and death just so he could have the opportunity to save us doesn’t make any sense.

    That is where the (Adam-God inspired) theory that Adam and Eve fell *on purpose* goes deeply wrong. Shall we sin, that good may come? God forbid.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 12, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

  61. Geoff J: Why do you think our physical bodies should look like our spirits Forest?

    1. Jesus Christ specifically told us his premortal body looks like the way his physical body would look.

    2. The premortal spirit body that supports our consciousness is the same spirit body that supports our consciousness after death – and accounts of postmortal spirit bodies are that they are human.

    3. All things were created spiritually before they were temporally. Doesn’t make much sense to radically alter the template.

    4. Encounters with Lucifer and devils report these unembodied spirits as distinctly human. Supposedly Satan has sandy colored hair. :)

    5. The Holy Ghost is a “personage”.

    While there is no scripture that out and out states “our spirit bodies have 10 fingers and 10 toes, two eyes and a nose” I would be quite willing to wager that the consensual opinion of every single latter-day prophet and apostle is that our premortal bodies are human looking. Just for fun, maybe you can find me a reference to the contrary.

    Maybe there is some wiggle room to believe otherwise but I think the evidence to support the speculation of a premortal human form is far, far greater than most of the things we speculate about (such as speculating that Adam and Eve are allegorical figures only).

    Comment by A. Davis — January 13, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  62. Geoff – An couple of years ago, we had a discussion on LDS-Phil about Adam and Eve and for the first time and only time, I actually saw a consensus there. The consensus was, at least among those that took part in the discussion, is that we as a Church are tied to a belief in a literal/historical A&E. I think it was a non-member that pointed out our belief in Adam-On Di Amon, and that kinda of wrapped up the discussion.

    Jacob – Thank you for your kind tone and reasoned response to my little, (intended to be humorous) rant. It is not that I do not believe in evolution, I suppose I believe in it as much as Steve P does. And I would be the last person to say we should not teach it in our schools and universities. That is not the problem.

    If we are indeed tied to a belief in a literal A&E, and I believe we are, because without it, IMHO, we have no need for a Saviour. What would He save us from. One could say sin. But what sins? Without commandants from God to keep, the only sins one could commit would be sins against each other, punishable by civil laws, no eternal consequences would be involved.

    Without the story in the bible, we have no record of God ever inter-acting with man. No commandants have ever been given to keep/not break out side of the scriptures.

    Without a sin against God, we have no need of a Saviour, so as I see it, without A&E everything begins to break down, as least as far a Christianity goes.

    I realize we cannot take all scripture literal, but is is a *very* slippery slope we find ourselves on when we start to become a smorgasbord religion.

    I do not pretend to have the answers, I only come to places like this to hopefully find the answers. So far,I have found none, only more questions.

    Thanks again Jacob for being so kind as you have always been to me.

    Comment by CEF — January 13, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  63. Mark D – I agree with your “wrenching mental effort”. I suppose that is what discussions like this are really all about. And, using my words and your idea, if we are not very careful, we will throw the baby out with the bath water. That is what I am trying not to do.

    Thank you for being so kind also. You are a good man Mark, in good company with Jacob J of course. :)

    Comment by CEF — January 13, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  64. CEF,

    See the section 19 principle again. God seems to allow us to get “committed” to things that aren’t true from time to time. I suspect a literal Eden falls into that category.

    Further, I completely disagree with your idea that without a literal Adam and Eve there would be no reason for Jesus to come here as savior.

    when we start to become a smorgasbord religion

    Uh oh. I have bad news. We have always been a smorgasbord religion.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  65. Geoff – I doubt if you meant for your comments to be taken humorously, but they made me smile.

    Years ago, 25-30, I asked a Catholic Priest what position his church had on evolution. He responded by saying, “We are waiting for the scientist to show us the way on that one.” That might work for the Catholics, but for a church that claims to have modern day prophets and apostles, I am not sure it works as well. What do you think?

    What do you think we should do with our belief in Adan-On-Di-Amon? And maybe you could be so kind as explaining just how we need a Savior without a fall of man. And while you are at it, what about, “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

    I am not saying you can’t, but it would be a great help to me if you would do so. Thank you.

    Comment by CEF — January 13, 2010 @ 11:38 am

  66. CEF: Doesn’t it seem possible that the story of Adam and Eve is figurative even if there was actually an Adam and Eve?

    Geoff: Don’t you think there was a first person who was morally responsible as a mortal on this earth? Wouldn’t that be Adam?

    Comment by Blake — January 13, 2010 @ 11:42 am

  67. CEF,

    Well I tend to be open to more radical ideas than most people. Obviously there are atonement theories (like Moral Exemplar Theory) that would work just fine without any literal Adam and Eve if that were the case. However as Blake mentioned there are lots of possibilities.

    Also, I don’t think we look to prophets for information on science so to that extent I agree with the priest. Rather I think prophets show us how to develop revelatory relationships with God in our short time here as mortals. As I mentioned God has shown a remarkable lack of concern about humans (including prophets) being wrong about history and science in the past.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

  68. Blake,

    Good points. I suppose the question is if moral responsibility has a bright enough line as to designate one first couple as Adam and Eve. If that is the case this becomes a simpler puzzle to solve.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  69. Great post.

    Question #1 – if we are evolving beings destined for godhood, as He was, doesn’t that presume that lower beings evolved to become God, (just as lower beings evolved to become us) meaning that He is not the creator of all things, but came after a great deal of evolutionary processes?

    Question #2 – if we are part of the evolutionary process and are still evolving, wouldn’t we expect God to be evolved into a being very different from us, rather than looking just like us, as Joseph Smith described?

    Comment by green mormon architect — January 13, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

  70. Geoff J: “Why do you think our physical bodies should look like our spirits Forest?”

    A. Davis answered before I saw the question. The Brother of Jared saw a finger and then an entire image of the Lord. He said that he didn’t know that the Lord had a body of flesh and bone. The Lord answered him that what he saw was how he would look in the flesh. We take it to mean that he saw his spirit, but I suppose it could mean that he saw a holographic image of the Lord in his future form.

    On top of that we frequently hear Joseph Smith, Jr. quoted to the effect that if we could see our spirit, it would look like our physical body. Of course, this could be one of those vacuously true statements like “If 0=1, then 2=3.”

    It wouldn’t bother me if spirits turned out to be little round spheres of refined matter, as long as one’s consciousness is preserved along with some form of communication. Presumably a physical body enhances our ability to interact with some forms of matter, and without an inseparable connection to it a fullness of joy cannot be achieved.

    It seems likely to me that our bodies in their mortal state move in very slow motion from the point of view of a resurrected being or a disembodied spirit.

    [...because they run on an mixture of organic chemistry and electrical interaction. The chemical reactions involve enzymes that help bring together the molecules that are supposed to combine. This makes the reactions happen faster than they would happen without the enzymes, but they still involve a lot of random jiggling of molecules in search of partners. Nerve impulses, though electrical in nature, have a chemical component that slows them down from the speed of light to less than the speed of sound.]

    This leads me to believe that the inner workings of both resurrected bodies and disembodied (as well as unembodied) spirits are very different from our mortal bodies. If the inner workings are different, then why not the outward appearance?

    When horseless carriages came along, they used the same chassis as a regular carriage with a few modifications to accommodate the engine and the steering wheel. Presumably if we went back to horse drawn carriages, we would keep the streamlined form of modern automobiles with accommodations for the hitch, and extra trunk space where the engine used to be.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 13, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

  71. Hello Blake. Thank you for your interest on this. I believe the *story* of Adam and Eve is certainly figurative. What little I know about the ancients, is that they had a very different world view than the one we share. That being so, we have a very hard time trying to make sense of just what they had to say about things.

    But when we take our own scriptures along with 179 years of instruction by our leaders, I just don’t seem to find much room to leave out Adam and Eve as some kind of historical figures.

    I am not concerned as to when they lived here on earth, just that they did live here on earth. Other wise, I see no need for a Savior.

    One of the questions I asked the Catholic Priest, knowing his church was leaning in the direction of man evolving, was, “how does original sin fit in with evolution?” His response was, “aw, that is a good question.”

    I enjoy conversations like these, but if one is going to take a strong stand about evolution, then, to me, they should be able to explain how it all works, other wise, be willing to leave some room for the rest of us that do not have it all figured out. That would seem to be more gracious than trying to make us seem like uneducated fools.

    Comment by CEF — January 13, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  72. green mormon architect: if we are evolving beings destined for godhood, as He was, doesn’t that presume that lower beings evolved to become God, (just as lower beings evolved to become us)

    Not if we are eternal minds driving evolved bodies like avatars. Just because the bodies evolve (through reproduction and natural selection and whatnot) doesn’t mean the eternal minds do.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 13, 2010 @ 1:46 pm

  73. Don’t you think there was a first person who was morally responsible as a mortal on this earth? Wouldn’t that be Adam?

    What if responsibility requires a community? Then there wouldn’t be a first responsible person at all. (The argument for this is easy – responsibility requires reasoning and reasoning requires a language and language requires a community)

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  74. On the question of Adam and Eve:

    I believe that Adam and Eve and their party were similar to Lehi and Sariah and their party. They were a small-in-numbers, but significant-in-gospel-covenants, addition to a land that already had human inhabitants.

    When Lehi and Sariah came to the Western Hemisphere, there were already plenty of people here, including Jaredites or Jaredites remnants that had spun off Southward long before the utter destruction of their civilization. The main groups of Jaredites hardly ventured South of the narrow neck, because they reserved that land for a game preserve. We know from archeology that there were already primitive hunter and gatherer type peoples clear down at the Southern tip of Chile tens of thousands of years before the Jaredites arrived.

    Lehi’s party landed somewhere in between the Jaredite lands and the extreme South. The Nephites gradually worked Northward to the Land of Nephi, then further North to the Land of Zarahemla, then a little bit further North to the Land Bountiful, which was the southern limit of the Jaredite lands, i.e. their game preserve that was walled off by snakes for several generation.

    The Nephites didn’t venture in any significant numbers North of the narrow neck until late in the reign of the judges. The vastly more numerous Lamanites stayed South of the Nephites, probably mixing in with the earlier natives as far as the Southern extreme.

    If we believe the Lord’s prophecy concerning the remnants of Lehi in this land, then we believe that in the two thousand years since the end of the reign of the judges the remnants of the Nephites and Lamanites have mixed in with all of the other peoples of North and South America, in partial fulfillment of the prophecy, “In thy seed shall all of the kindreds of the earth be blessed.” (cf. eg. 3 Nephi 20:25 and 21:4)

    It seems to me to be statistically certain that Lehi and Sariah would fill at least one pair of slots in the genealogy chart of any living descendant of any indigenous tribe of this hemisphere.

    From a statistical point of view that is not saying much: It is more than a thousand generations since Lehi and Sariah set foot in this hemisphere, and a complete genealogy chart for a thousand generations would have more than a billion, billion, million (i.e. 10^30) slots for ancestors that far back.

    From another point of view, it says a lot: Lehi and Sariah were descendants of Joseph and Asenath, a descendant of Abraham and Sarah, … a descendant of Adam and Eve, who made righteouos covenants with the Lord concerning their posterity.

    So all of the people of the earth, including the indigenous Americans that the conquistadores treated as less than dogs, are heirs to the blessings of the family of Adam, no matter how insignificant a biological part of our genealogy Adam and Eve might be.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 13, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  75. Clark – Could it have been a community of two? :)

    Comment by CEF — January 13, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  76. Thanks CEF. Fortunately, we don’t really believe in original sin, certainly not the way the Catholics do, as sort of a spiritual pollution passed down along genetic lines from Adam to all his descendants.

    I think sin is a natural susceptibility of mankind. Someone falls when he sins and refuses to repent, establishing spiritual enmity between him and God. That is how Satan fell, and he certainly didn’t need a mortal body to do so.

    I don’t think this natural susceptibility necessarily has anything to do with evolution for similar reasons. It is not as if we need a physical body of the sort we have now to be susceptible to sin. All we need is consciousness, knowledge, and libertarian free will. Even without knowledge the consequences of transgression are nearly as severe. A little child can cause great harm in perfect ignorance.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 13, 2010 @ 4:54 pm

  77. CEF, probably two would be enough, but not necessarily. (I’m skeptical one could – but I don’t really have a strong argument beyond my sense that language can only develop in larger communities)

    I should add this doesn’t have much to do with my own view of Adam and Eve which is closer to the position Forest mentioned above. However if Adam and Eve are the first two beings who had the proper mutation to be responsible then that just seems somewhat problematic – if only because responsibility arises against this linguistic backdrop that I don’t think could happen if only one person had it. Rather I suspect responsibility would develop within a community as a whole which would then provide the backdrop to enable an individual to be responsible.

    Comment by Clark — January 13, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  78. Clark: What you call responsibility I call societal xpectations and demands of others. I don’t think that is moral responsibility at all.

    Do you reduce moral responsibility to linguistic practices? I suggest tat you don’t have a very thick notion of moral responsibility if you do. I suggest that I linguistic practices arose to account for our experience of being morally responsible and are not the genesis of those experiences.

    I suggest that according to the story of Adam and Eve itself moral responsibility arises when the first person felt guilt at being what he and/or she was. I think what you have in mind is not moral responsibility per se, but accountability. Accountability for sin begins when one is called to account — as Adam was by his awareness of his relationship with God.

    Comment by Blake — January 14, 2010 @ 8:18 am

  79. Hey Mark – Yes, we do not believe in original sin, but the Catholics do. My question to the Priest was to try and show how inconsistent it is to believe that man evolved and still believe in original sin.

    In the same way, I am trying to show how inconsistent it is to believe in the need of a savior if man evolved.

    Unless one can show where God interacted with man, and gave man commandants to keep, then, to me, any wrong doing that man does, should not have any kind of eternal consequences.

    So, if Adam never existed, when/where did God first interact with man? Where is the record of it ever happening?

    Comment by CEF — January 14, 2010 @ 10:06 am

  80. CEF: So, if Adam never existed, when/where did God first interact with man? Where is the record of it ever happening?

    Adam is Michael, the first archangel, right? I simply claim that if he was born on this earth six or seven thousand years ago, then he is presumably not the biological ancestor of all humans that have ever lived, because there is no shortage of evidence for people who lived tens of thousands of years before that.

    As to the date of first interaction, I would say that the power of the Holy Ghost has been felt in the lives of every living being from the beginning of life on this earth. There is an excellent plan to handle the situation of the generations that lived and died without a full knowledge of the gospel.

    Finally, as a matter of opinion, one might consider the idea that the Fall was a failure of a spiritual society that preceded the advent of physical life on this earth. Adam and Eve were immortal at the time, were they not?.

    A fall more than six hundred million years ago would allow for the advent of mortal life on this earth (and the corresponding plan of redemption) as a means for recovering mankind from the Fall, a fall with no physical death before it.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  81. Mark D.: Finally, as a matter of opinion, one might consider the idea that the Fall was a failure of a spiritual society that preceded the advent of physical life on this earth. Adam and Eve were immortal at the time, were they not?.

    Then it is a “failure” that has been repeated many times over. There are many “Adams” on many worlds.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 14, 2010 @ 12:30 pm

  82. Mark, I appreciate your trying to help me with this. Here is where I am coming form.

    As I said, I believe that evolution is real, I do not think that very many deny that as a fact.

    My problem, is that is seems like, and maybe I am wrong in this, that too many members talk about evolution as if it explains everything very nicely. It all makes perfect sense to them. And if an uneducated fool like me should ask them how it works, they tend to make you feel like an uneducated fool. :)

    As I see it, I have a big jigsaw puzzle mostly put together, and I have this picture on the cover of the box that has helped me do so. The problem, is that I can see that I do not have enough pieces left to finish the puzzle and the picture I can see developing, is not at all like the picture I have on the cover of the box it all came in.

    Maybe such things do not bother most people, but they bother me. I would like to, if not finish the puzzle before I die, then at least get the picture to look like the one on the box it came in. Or have someone explain why it shouldn’t look the same. Either way would be nice.

    Comment by CEF — January 14, 2010 @ 1:26 pm

  83. CEF, As for me, I don’t think unvarnished evolution explains virtually anything very nicely at all. Without property dualism or (horror of horrors) spiritual influences I don’t think that macro-scale evolution is possible at all.

    If it were, it would be impossible, practically speaking, to tell the difference between a zombie and a normal human being. It would also be incredibly unlikely that a “person” would have any particular susceptibility to spiritual things at all. I can’t say that the stapler on my desk is particularly sensitive to such matters. Nor do I have the slightest suspicion of its immortality.

    Comment by Mark D. — January 14, 2010 @ 11:37 pm

  84. Blake I think my position is more that to be responsible you have to be able to understand something “as wrong” but to understand something “as wrong” (as oppose to say how a dog acts when they do something they aren’t supposed to) requires language. But language requires a community.

    To make this claim is not to reduce responsibility to linguistic practice merely to make the more transcendental claim that if there is responsibility there must be language. One can then start investigating what is necessary for language. Different people have different claims here. (So Heidegger sees a background of practices as well as existential moods whereas Davidson sees shared experiences)

    This is actually all interesting relative to the Garden story since there’s the obvious question of how Eve or Adam knows partaking the fruit is wrong. They know God said not to do that, but knowing it is wrong is something else. And since they don’t know good from evil until after the fall one way to read the story is of their having the experience of disobedience necessary to have the linguistic understanding of good and evil. But of course that changes how we judge them entirely and perhaps our understanding of original sin.

    Comment by Clark — January 15, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  85. I think that Mark, A.Davis, and I are suggesting that Adam was the prophet of a dispensation of the gospel on this earth, certainly not the first dispensation in our local cluster of galaxies, and maybe not even the first on on this earth.

    In any case those who live without the law (whether between dispensations or before the first one) are heirs of the celestial kingdom. Joseph Smith was shown that some of the beasts in the Revelation of John represented kingdoms, but others represented resurrected creatures in the kingdom of heaven that were not of our biological species.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 15, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  86. Mark, I confess that while I can see property dualism as necessary for an emergent mind, I just don’t think ID has remotely made the statistical argument necessary to claim minds are necessary for the blurrily defined “macro-evolution.” (Which IMO tends to be circularly defined – macro-evolution being what is too statistically improbable to happen as opposed to all the things which were called macro by ID until a pathway was shown by biologists) But I’ll skip that debate which I know has been here before.

    Comment by Clark — January 15, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

  87. My previous post comment is in response to CEF’s statements:

    “In the same way, I am trying to show how inconsistent it is to believe in the need of a savior if man evolved.

    Unless one can show where God interacted with man, and gave man commandants to keep, then, to me, any wrong doing that man does, should not have any kind of eternal consequences.

    So, if Adam never existed, when/where did God first interact with man? Where is the record of it ever happening?”

    I would like to say, further that no matter how much evolution there has been, there have been plenty of problems in the last minute that could not be solved without a Savior. We need a Savior, and not just to take away feelings of guilt, which are just symptoms of the messes that we have made.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 15, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

  88. Forest, it was common in the late 19th century for many GA’s to adopt a kind of “destructive” creation wherein the world was destroyed and then repopulated. Even in the early 20th century many felt this explained dinosaurs and fossils (since they were merely prior creations on this planet that had been destroyed). Of course once you start arranging the fossil record by date and similarity that model falls apart.

    The analogous situation as others have noted is the Nephites. At one time most Mormons thought that, other than a small separated remnant of Jaredites who are then totally destroyed. Few believe that now and I think most of think about it much tend to see Noah in the same way. I suspect we ought see Adam in that fashion as well. (And of course Nibley suggests as much in “Before Adam” – although Nibley was still a bit too tied to Brigham Young’s views)

    Comment by Clark — January 15, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

  89. Clark,

    I agree 100 percent with this point of view (comment 88). Basically that is what I was trying to elaborate in comment 74.

    Correction to comment 74:
    Replace “one thousand generations” with “one hundred generations” back to the time of Lehi. The 10^30 pedigree slots comes from 2^100, not 2^1000.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 16, 2010 @ 2:19 pm

  90. Mark, Forest and others that tend to believe in some kind of literal Adam and Eve, I really appreciate your help on this. It is nice to see that one does not have to be as uneducated as one like me to believe is such things. I have another analogy I would like to try and see if I get any further with the others that do not believe in a literal A&E and still believe in the need for a savior.

    I could make this real complicated, but I think the basics should do to make my point. None of the following is real, I just made it up to make a point.

    There is a religion on an island that has been isolated form anyone else for as long as time has been recorded. They believe that the earth is flat and if one sails too far, they will fall off the earth and go straight down to hell.

    However, if one believes in their savior, they will not have to say in hell, but this savior will deliver them out of hell at the end of this earths life.

    At some point in time, they discover that the earth is not flat, and no has ever nor will anyone ever fall off the earth. My question -

    Since the whole foundation of the religion was based upon a false premise, do these people still need their savior to save them form hell?

    I know there are a lot of active members of the Church that do not believe in A&E and still believe in the need for a savior, but until they explain how, I just do not get it. To me, it would be a religion built upon a false premise, how could it be true?

    Comment by CEF — January 18, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  91. Yesterday our Sunday School lesson was on the creation. It was the same lesson one would have heard in the Church 100 years ago. *Nothing* was said about the creation story could be figurative in some ways. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut, even tho I keep my mouth shut all the time now.

    There have been a number of blogs talking about the creation story lately, and all of them talk about how nice it is to belong to a church that is not tied to a literal A&E and how free we are to believe that the story is only figurative.

    I can only say, that they do not go to the same church as I do. I can only wonder how long this gap can continue to grow between what I have seen called Internet Mormons and chapel Mormons? Because, to me, there is a huge gap growing between the two.

    Am I the only one that has noticed this happening, or are we just that much different here in Oklahoma?

    Comment by CEF — January 18, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

  92. CEF, those who think Adam and Eve purely allegorical would say we need a savior inherent to our becoming fallen as Adam was. That is they take the story to refer to the becoming human of spirits from the pre-existence and Adam to be a type for all spirit children of our father.

    Note I don’t hold Adam to be purely allegorical, primarily because of the encounters with him by early saints, because of his holding of certain priesthood keys that needed restoring and because of his roll in the last days. I think those texts are far more problematic to the allegorical view.

    As to your other point, I think it’s just the historical accident of who happens to be your teacher and who is in your class. While our lessons didn’t bring up the figurative issue, clearly people were asking about principles illustrated in the story rather than the historic issues.

    Comment by Clark — January 18, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  93. CEF: I can only say, that they do not go to the same church as I do. I can only wonder how long this gap can continue to grow between what I have seen called Internet Mormons and chapel Mormons? Because, to me, there is a huge gap growing between the two.

    I think the divide you mention is specious at best. There is some discussion on the phrase.

    Internet Mormons vs. Chapel Mormons FAIR article
    MADB thread (there are a few)

    Comment by A. Davis — January 19, 2010 @ 9:09 am

  94. Clark – Thank you for your help. I am glad to see that you have not changed your mind about Adam and Eve. I am sure you are correct about it depending on the teacher, and I would add, who might be your leaders.

    We have a new Bishop and he teaches at OSU. I have not gotten to know him, but he seems to be different than any one we have ever had here. They had to redesign the ward boundaries so as to include him in our ward.

    By the way, I am glad you are better and hope all is well.

    A. Davis – On the other blogs, I saw comments like, “I am so glad that I go to a church where I can believe in the science of the day and not tied to a historical Adam and Eve.” That is not a real quote, but it is close enough to make my point.

    At church Sunday, a sister said, “I am so glad that I belong to a church with apostles and prophets that teaches the truth and we know that Adam and Eve are real and that we did not come from apes.” That is much closer to a real quote.

    Perhaps you see that kind of divide as specious, but that is not the word I would use to describe it. I think Clark is correct about this, it probably depends more on the ward you are in and maybe less of a real divide. At least I hope so.

    Comment by CEF — January 19, 2010 @ 10:27 am

  95. Oh, there are plenty of Mormons who might have views which may differ from a more scientifically biased viewpoint. No one denies that. But the “divide” is nonetheless a creation of fiction and a purpose driven phrase with a ploy.

    At an ad-hominem level, the coiner of the term is an individual who is quite active in anti-LDS-apologetics. He is also very, very creative with his accusations. The Maxwell Institute has its budget reduced from $39 million to $5. FAIR has been ordered to go “Chapel”. There is a “Packer Faction” and an “Oaks Faction”. And many, many more.

    Anyway, I encourage you to read the MADB thread I linked.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 19, 2010 @ 10:36 am

  96. Ironically, evolution offers us a new proof of the existence of God. Here it is in outline:

    Case I. Evolution is so common that we shouldn’t be surprised that intelligent life has evolved from scratch on this planet in less than five billion years. In this case add in the following information to the mix: the remnants of the big bang include more than an hundred billion galaxies similar to ours, and each galaxy has billions of stars similar to our sun, and current astronomy is giving more and more evidence that stars tend to have planets circling them. Conclusion the remnants of our big bang are teeming with life. If that is the case, what makes us think that we are the most advanced civilization? Since the earth is only five billion years old, and we have detected billions of galaxies that were already like ours is now 15 billion years ago, there must be millions of of civilizations in our big bang that are billions of years more advanced than ours. If we couold meet any of the most highly evolved creatures of those civilizations, to us they would be indistinguishable from gods.

    Case 2. Tghe other extreme: Evolution of intelligent life from scratch is so unlikely, that there would be only an infinitesimal chance of it happening on a random planet like ours in a period of trillions of trillions of years. [This is what i believe.] Put this case together with the following quote from the January 2010 Scientific American in an article “Looking for life in the multiverse”

    “Amazingly, the prevailing theory in modern cosmology, which emerged in the 1980′s suggests that “parallel universes” may really exist – infact, that a multitude of universes would incessantly pop out of a primordial vacuum the way ours did in the big bang.”

    In other words, the primordial vacuum has been “spawning” big bangs more or less like ours in a process called “inflation” that has happened infintely many times infintely far back in the history of the substrate vacuum that spawned our big bang.

    In case 2, it would be much more likely that life evolved elsewhere in the multiverse where there has been adequate time (an infinite amount of it) than that it evolved from scratch here, and that it has been propagated here by some infinitely advanced creatures.

    This is analogous to life on the big island of Hawaii, which was once a sterile volcano. Nobody thinks that intelligent life evolved from scratch there. Life was propagated there by birds, wind, and the Samoans that came from far away and brought there favorite plants and animals with them.

    Case three: somewhere in between cases one and two. Adapt the two arguments accordingly.

    Personally, I believe that case two is the reality.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 19, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  97. Of course, orthodox Christians would say that these highly evolved creatures are not like the God they believe in. But we Latter-Day Saints have nothing against gods that have progressed from a primitive state similar to ours.

    So orthodox Christians would not find this argument convincing. But how about open minded cosmologists? How can they deny the existence of creatures in the multiverse that are gods compared to us? And if they exist, then why deny that some of them might be responsible for getting life going here? Indeed, under case two, the mathematically most likely case, propagation of life by intelligent beings is the only tenable explanation for our existence.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 19, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

  98. One more comment. Is Jesus Christ the Savior of all of the other worlds? No. He only does what he saw his father do. Are they the only two? I don’t think so. What about the passage in Moses that says that God has created worlds without number by the power of his “Only Begotten.”

    “Only Begotten” is a title. All of the inhabitants were “begotten sons and daughters of God,” so “Only Begotten” cannot be taken literally. But some people, including many church leaders, have found a way out; “Only Begotten” must mean “Only Begotten in the Flesh.”

    The scriptures don’t say that, and that assumption is not needed to explain the term. “Only Begotten Son” means the birth right son. In the New Testament Paul says that Isaac was Abraham’s Only Begotten Son. How a Ishmael? Wasn’t he begotten in the flesh by Abraham?

    The “Only Begotten” is the person put in charge of a world. God gave to Jesus “all judgment.” He’s in charge of this world. There were other “Only Begottens” in charge of other worlds. At least that is the best explanation I have seen so far.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 19, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

  99. Forest Simmons: But how about open minded cosmologists? How can they deny the existence of creatures in the multiverse that are gods compared to us? And if they exist, then why deny that some of them might be responsible for getting life going here? Indeed, under case two, the mathematically most likely case, propagation of life by intelligent beings is the only tenable explanation for our existence.

    Well, I wouldn’t say that a level II multiverse model is the most probable or even plausible. I can list at least three major problems.

    1. The probability of any bubble universe having constants that yield a universe suitable for life is so small that many cosmologists have to appeal to the anthropic argument to explain our existence.

    2. Our universe, or at least vast chunks of it, will eventually be annihilated by a new bubble universe or universes which will spawn inside our universe.

    3. If we accept the model as being largely complete then communication between bubble universes is non-existent. There is no capacity for peer-involvement of celestial civilizations of different bubble universes, even if we set aside the vast improbability of any two bubble universes having compatible/similar celestial civilizations.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 20, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  100. A. Davis: Good points!.

    some responses:

    1. If bubble creation has been going on infinitely long, then even if only 1 in a google of universes turns out to be compatible with ours, there will still be infintely many of them: any standard positive percentage p of infinity is still infinity, no matter how small p is.

    2. Granted that current understanding entails eventual annihilation of bubble manifolds, the gods who brought us here must have a way to get us out when the time is right (still several billion years away).

    3. I don’t believe that the model is anywhere near complete. But even if fundamental physics is basically correct despite its lack of a satisfactory theory of quantum gravity, there are still various topological possibilities up for grabs. Suppose that our “bubble” was connected to another bubble by a “worm hole.” From a large space-time distance that worm hole would be indistinguishable from a black hole, or for that matter, from the space-time singularity that “spawned” our bubble.

    True I based my sketch on a level II style multiverse, but that was just for definiteness. Some of the other multiverse theories allow parallelism that should have easier gaps to bridge. The quantum mechanical omnium could even have some reconvergence of branches.

    I’m ending my responses here, but in another post I would like to slightly recast my main point that if evolutionists carry their theories to a logical conclusion, they will find that conclusion is that there must be creatures somewhere that are infinitely more advanced than we are. If they are infinitely more advanced than we are in intelligence, power, and goodness and niceness (as Maxwell Smart would say), then what is to stop us from calling them gods?

    Answer: The only thing to stop us from calling them gods is an unnatural expectation of deity fomented by philosophers in the tradition of the early Christian apologists who substituted Neoplatonic Greek Philosophy for the Hebrew understanding of God.

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 20, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

  101. Oh, I don’t argue with your definition of god (though others here will). The cosmology, yes. I don’t think we have to make any appeal whatsoever to a multiverse theory. I think it needlessly complex and adopts as many speculations into science as we often make in these reaches of theology.

    Nonetheless, you might enjoy “The New God Argument” by the Mormon Transhumanist Association. I’m a critic of the argument. You might like it. Seems to share of several of your points.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 20, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

  102. In my sketch of an evolutionary proof of the existence of gods, the two extremes cases we considered (evolution from scratch is extremely easy or hard, respectively) both come up with a common conclusion: that the universe is teeming with intelligent life. In the first case it is because of the easiness of evolution, and the vast number of planets similar to ours in the observable universe. In the second case, our observable universe is too recent for intelligent life to have evolved here from scratch; it must have been brought here from a much more ancient place. In the first case, there must be millions, if not billions of civilizations in our own observable universe that are in advance of us by billions of years. In the second case, whoever brought life here (from some other place)must be even more advanced than that.

    But between the two extremes is it possible that the probability of intelligent life evolving from scratch on a planet like ours in five billion years is somewhere between say one in a billion and one in a trillion? If that is so, then it would mean that we are probably the only intelligent life in our galaxy.

    This would put the atheists in the very same logical position that they have held against creationists for the last few hundred years:

    Five hundred years ago, the commonly accepted view was that this earth was the center of God’s attention. Then astronomers showed that we are part of an heliocentric system. This was offensive to established religion, becasue it cast doubt on the idea that earth and man were the centers of god’s creation. Bruno was burned and Galileo had to recant or suffer a similar fate.

    As time went on more blows came from science: our sun is only a typical star near the outer edge of a typical galaxy of billions of stars. [Of course this did not surprise Joseph Smith or readers of the Pearl of Great Price.] Then we find that our galaxy is just a typical spiral galaxy in a local cluster of galaxies, which is a typical cluster in a local super cluster of clusters of galaxies, etc. And now maybe our whole observable universe is just a infinitesimal part of some kind of wider multiverse!

    All of our specialness is gone! If God made us, taunted the atheists, then why did he make us so ordinary? Couldn’t pure chance have done just as well?

    However, if this pattern is carried to its logical conclusion, we are going to find out that our web of life on this planet is nothing special either; we are typical in every way, including in the development of life. To posit anything else is to go against all of the history of science in the last five hundred years, and to say that life on this planet is just an extreme atypical coincidence, the very kind of claim of specialness that atheists have been holding against believers for the last couple of centuries.

    So the intermediate ground between the two extremes is not tenable. It contradicts the whole thrust of the history of science, which is that when we finally understand something, we say, “Of course, that is what we should have expected all along!”

    When we really understand why life is so ubiquitous, we will say, “Of course, it couldn’t be any other way.” Some atheists, will then say,”See, I told you there was a logical explanation!”

    When we point out that the ubiquity of life entails the existence of super advanced beings, they will say, “Of course, but that’s not what I meant by gods.”

    Mormons can say, “You should have listened to us, instead of the philosophers that gave you unrealistic expectations about god. Joseph Smith gave the correct explanation two centuries ago!”

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 20, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

  103. A. Davis, thanks for pointing me to that website. I don’t have a strong attachment to any particular theory of what might be beyond our observable universe, but I do believe that the twenty billion light year diameter (in time and space) of our observable universe is tiny compared to the extent of reality.

    By the way, if I had more time (which I don’t) I would suggest that you, Mark D, and I get together and write the book, “One Eternal Round,” that Nibley was working on before he passed away. It wouldn’t be the same book, but somebody needs to write it. Maybe you and Mark could manage it without me:)

    Comment by Forest Simmons — January 20, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

  104. Thanks for the invite on the book thing. I’m still working on an article about a hard physicalist interpretation of spirit matter and intelligences. Unfortunately, some key pieces yet elude me. So, I’m still stuck on that.

    Comment by A. Davis — January 21, 2010 @ 6:28 am

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